Tuesday, September 6, 2011

On the Road Again - Day 1

Last October we got our Via magazine with a picture of the new Hoover Dam Bypass Bridge (Mike O'Callaghan - Pat Tillman Memorial Bridge), whose construction was almost complete. We immediately decided we wanted to see it. And, since we were so close, why not drive on to the Grand Canyon. Since neither of us has seen either site, and had dreamed of these destinations since childhood, a road trip was born. Oh, and since we were going anyway, why not take in both North and South Rims of the Grand Canyon, Bryce Canyon, Zion, Monument Valley, Glen Canyon, Mesa Verde, Canyon de Chelly, Flagstaff, Sedona, Prescott, Joshua Tree and San Simeon--in 4 weeks.

On The Road Again

"We're on Vacation!" This is how Claire always greets me as we begin a new holiday or adventure. Today we covered 435 miles from Davis, CA to Beatty, NV, mostly driving down highways 99, 120 and 95 going in and out of CA and NV, and ending in beautiful downtown Beatty. We could have made better time; but, we opted for the scenic route--and we weren't disappointed.

We went from suburban to urban to forest to desert terrain, within a context of overriding grandeur of scene and scale. I know that Montana is "Big Sky" country; but, Montanans have nothing on Californios. We drove for miles and miles seeing nothing but plains and valleys reaching out to range upon range of rolling mountains. There was oak, sagebrush, granite, mesquite, one coyote roadkill and another live one trotting along through the desert--and the occasional oasis of an agricultural ranch. We did see a few cows in this Western country, but actually too few to mention in more than passing.

The Waving Wheat It Sure Smells Sweet. This is not Oklahoma, but, it sort of looks it from here.

The Desert From the Road. Just part of the varied and multicolored--well, mostly yellow flowers and pink mountains--scenery along the way.

Mono Lake. This is just past the point where we turned south and then east after coming out of Yosemite.

Lunch by the Road. We forgot the bread for our turkey sandwiches! Despite elaborate planning preparations, we drove off without it. Turns out lunch was delicious without it. And, we don't have to worry about what to do with all our stale bread.

The journey, today, took about 9 hours, which is longer than we anticipate for most driving days. We had to make one stop for gas because we were nervous--we were down below a quarter tank and had not seen a gas station for over an hour. We stopped at Esmeralda Market at mile marker 8, Dyer, NV. The clerk was very friendly, cheerfully pointing me toward the restroom--for which I was desperate by this point. This was the cleanest gas station restroom I have seen in 60 years. But, the gas was $4.39 a gallon! This is NV, and we were remote--and glad to have the peace of mind of a full tank.

Government Work. Can you spot what is wrong with this partial image of a government sign?

We were disappointed to learn that our Motel 6 swimming pool is actually in another Casino/Motel about 100 yards back down the road. But, it was walkable, and refreshing--both the pool and the hot tub; best of all, we had the entire place to ourselves. This will also be our dinner venue--they seem to have the only cafe within walking distance. We were shocked to find that we could scarcely breathe in the casino on the way to the restaurant--this was the strongest concentration of the odor of smoke that we had ever encountered.

Claire's Meal

Chuck's Meal

For dinner, Claire planned to have salad and a bowl of chili. The chili came with a half inch layer of melted cheese and tasted like it came out of a can--this after asking for just a light amount of cheese. She forgot to ask for dressing on the side and the Caesar salad came so drenched in sauce that she couldn't eat much more than the chicken. I fared much better, ordering the special--roasted pepper hamburger, medium rare, with deep fried potato chips. It doesn't get much healthier than this. I found it delicious but so filling that I did not have room for dessert at the ice cream parlor on the way back to the motel. This place is destined to become a Denny's--a card at the table informed us of this; I think, sadly, this will be a step up.

Dinner came to $27.56 with tip; the motel was $57.87; gas was $41.48. So, breakfasting at home, purchasing a Senior Lifetime National "Park" pass for $10 in Yosemite and lunching out of the cooler on the way, the day cost us about $136.91. I guess this is going to add up quickly, with a month on the road.

A word on the lifetime pass for seniors: This is good for free entrance for the cardholder and three guests into any National Park, Monument, Forest or Bureau of Land Management property for life--such a deal! (This does not include access to the sovereign domains of Native Americans.) Now, if we can only manage to keep our parks open.

Thanks to the Interstate Highway System, it is now possible to travel across the country from coast to coast without seeing anything. ~ Charles Kuralt