WINTER

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NOTE:

The details below are a true record but the names of people have been changed to protect their identity.

The numbered points are only there to force the map generating program to reflect the actual route taken and need not necessarily have anything to do with the text.

Day 1 - Thursday, February 4 - Lincoln, Nebraska, to Tuchmcari, New Mexico

             For LP's eighteen-day holiday we had two main destinations planned for our trip, the first in Mesa, Arizona, where we would be visiting our neighbors, Fran and Otto Sander, from Lincoln. Our second destination was Aptos, California, to visit with Josh a friend with whom LP used to work in Toronto and whom we had not seen for about eight years.
 
             With this in mind, we had decided on driving to Mesa via the shortest route and as quickly as possible. We would also do the same thing on our return from Aptos to Lincoln. It being winter, the weather would be the only factor which could interfere with these plans, and, although it did provide a new experience on the way home, we still made the trip from the Pacific Coast to Lincoln in three days instead of the four days we had allowed.
 
             We left home about 7:30 on the morning of 4th February and drove from Lincoln, Nebraska, to Tucumcari, New Mexico, a distance of 647 miles in 13 hours. It was a pleasant sunny day, not too cold and not too hot. Our first stop after leaving home was in Hutchinson, Kansas, where we had a lunch break. Soon after leaving Hutchinson we crossed the Arkansas River, a 1,900 mile-long river which originates in Colorado.
 
             We stopped for gas along the way and made one more stop before leaving Kansas. This was at a rest area on the banks of the Cimarron River where a high-level railway bridge crossed the wide river valley. This river begins in New Mexico, but only a few miles south of the Colorado State Line.
 
             After leaving Kansas our route took us across the panhandle of Oklahoma, the northwest corner of Texas, and into New Mexico. Crossing the New Mexico State Line we entered Mountain Time, thus gaining an extra hour, but since it was already dark it did not make any difference!
 
             We arrived at the Best Western Discovery Inn, Tucumcari and were settled in our room by 7:30, pleased that we had made such good progress.

The day’s total - 647 miles
Trip Total - 647 miles

Day 2: Friday, February 5 - Tucuncari, New Mexico, to Payson, Arizona

             We made an early start this morning and were on the Interstate (I-40) by 7:30. It was another pleasant day, the sun shining and a few scattered clouds, but we did experience a strong head wind.
 
             A few miles before Albuquerque, we left the highway to drive up Sandia Crest, which, at an elevation of 10,678 feet, commands a great view over the city from the east. On reaching the summit, however, we were in the clouds and could see nothing. It was also snowing lightly.
 
             Returning to the highway we were soon in Albuquerque but did not stop. We had spent some time in Old Town and the Plaza when passing through in 1998. Driving through the city the highway crosses the Rio Grande River, the headwaters of which are in Colorado.
 
             We did pause briefly along the interstate at a Scenic View overlooking the Laguna Pueblo, through which we had driven last year looking for the mission church. About sixty miles west of Laguna we crossed the Continental Divide, elevation 7,275 feet.
 
             Our lunch break was a little on the late side but we wanted to have this in Gallup at a restaurant we had been to previously, the Ranch Kitchen, which has excellent Mexican food.
 
             Gallup is near the New Mexico/Arizona State Line and less than fifty miles west of that is the Painted Desert Petrified Forest National Park. By now we needed gas and had contemplated driving through the park especially since it had rained when we were here last time. However, storm clouds were gathering in the area and seemed to be getting darker by the minute. As it was already quite late in the day we decided to return to the highway. Painted Desert Petrified Forest National Park would have to wait for another time and better weather as it seemed pointless trying to take pictures again under similar conditions.
 
             We left Interstate 40 in Holbrook, (pop. 5,800/El. 5,080 feet), and from there we would wend our way in a south westerly direction towards Phoenix. Almost immediately we crossed the Little Colorado River - this starts near the Arizona/NewMexico border south of the junction of US-60 and US-180. It flows into the Colorado River just inside the eastern boundary of Grand Canyon National Park.
 
             Within 29 miles the road had climbed to 6,000 feet and soon after we ran into rain. We began to notice patches of snow along the side of the road, then the rain turned to snow and by the time we reached Heber it was snowing quite heavily. It was also starting to get dark and against our better judgement we decided to press on. As we continued, however, I realized we were missing a very spectacular area, the long descent down the Mogollon Rim.
 
             After leaving Heber there had been many signs to watch for elk in the area, and, although I had not expected to see any, one ran across the road. Later we saw a herd of about eight elk.
 
             At 6:30 we entered Payson, (pop. 8,400/El. 5,000 feet), our destination for the day, and booked into the Best Western Paysonglo Lodge.

The day’s total - 547 miles
Total since leaving Lincoln -1,194 miles
Trip Total - 1,194 miles

Day 3: Saturday, February 6 - Payson to Mesa, Arizona

             We had a leisurely continental breakfast at the motel and left shortly after 8:30. Compared with previous days Payson to Mesa was a very short run for us! Although still in the mountains, we sighted the first giant saguaro cactus.
 
             Stopping for a picture, I discovered that my camera would not work and was probably in need of a battery! I suddenly felt glad that it had been raining when we decided against driving through Painted Desert Petrified Forest National Park because I would not have been able to take any pictures anyway!
 
             It was not long before we came to the first traffic light on the outskirts of the sprawling metropolis of Phoenix and its surrounding communities. Sixty-nine miles after leaving Payson we were stopped at the traffic lights at McDowell Road and across the intersection we saw the sign, "Welcome To The City of Mesa."
 
             We arrived at Sanders' - shortly after 10 o'clock, 78 miles from Payson, and 1,272 miles from home - an easy two-day trip.
 
             Otto took me to the Mesa Regal office to register our presence there. After lunch my first priority was to buy a battery for my camera, and after that, we went to the covered Mesa Flea Market. It was huge where I think you could buy almost anything, including maybe even a kitchen sink! I was able to buy some of the things I wanted for playing Dominoes, also a couple of lovely T shirts and some salsa and jalapeno jelly to take to Josh.
 
             In the evening we went to a Nebraska Potluck dinner at the Mesa Regal Community Center, a get-together for folks from Nebraska. Following the meal we were entertained by a magician, also from Nebraska. As this event finished early, we were able to play some dominoes when returned home.

The day’s total - 78 miles
Total since leaving Lincoln - 1,272 miles
Trip Total - 1,272 miles

Day 4: Sunday, February 7 - Mesa, Arizona, to Laughlin, Nevada

             Getting up this morning Fran told us it had been decided we would all go to see London Bridge at lake Havasu. We went in their car, so I made a note of the mileage in order to keep track of how far we travelled. I did not take my tape recorder!
 
             We left Sanders' in the Mesa Regal Resort at 8:40, taking the shortest route to Interstate 10 west, along which we travelled to within 19 miles of the California border, exiting at Quartzite, (pop. 1,900/El. 875 feet). Before leaving the Interstate Fran pointed out the large number of trailers and motor homes which were parked throughout the low scrub. Quartzite has got to be the craziest place I think I have ever seen.


From AAA Tour Book
     "The winter population of this desert town swells to 1 million during January and February because of the gem and mineral shows in the area. The Pow Wow Rock Gem and Mineral Show began the rockhound winter migration to town in 1965; now eight major shows entice gem enthusiasts, collectors and jewelers to Quartzite to buy and sell."


             We reached Parker, (pop. 2,900/El. 420 ff), at 11:45, and decided on having lunch at the Blue Water Casino - excellent fries and great New Orleans chicken.
 
             Arriving in Lake Havasu City, (pop. 24,000/El. 575 feet), we drove to the west side of the famous London Bridge and back before parking the car. Then we walked around the area, crossing the bridge on foot.


From AAA Tour Book
     "Lake Havasu City captured the worlds attention in 1968 when industrialist Robert P. McCulloch Sr. bought the London Bridge. Originally built in 1831 by architect John Rennie, the multi-arch bridge resided over the Thames River until 1962, when it began to sink into the river. Dismantled stone by stone, the bridge was brought over from London and reconstructed over a man-made inlet on the Colorado River."


             From Lake Havasu City we went north to Interstate 40, then west into California, crossing the Colorado River and entering Pacific Time Zone. We did not bother to change our watches because we crossed the Colorado River and the time line twice more before the day was over. We returned to Arizona from Needles, California, drove north to Bullhead City then west into Nevada where we spent the night at the Edgewater Casino and Hotel in Laughlin.

Day 5: Monday, February 8 - Laugnlin, Nevada, to Kingman, Arizona

             We enjoyed the buffet breakfast at the Edgewater Hotel before checking out and getting on our way. Our room, a lovely one on the 21st floor only cost $30.52. It was 9 o'clock Pacific Time (10:00 by our watches) when we left.
 
             After driving through Laughlin (pop. 3,000/El. 540 feet) to see the rest of the town, we headed north, first through a small settlement called Cal-Nev-Ari, which I thought was a strange name at the time (it is located in the southern corner of Nevada and equidistant from both California and Arizona!) then through Searchlight (El. 3,560 feet), where there were quite a lot of Joshua trees.
 
             We skirted to the west of Boulder City (pop. 12,600/El. 2,507 feet) and at Henderson (pop. 64,900/El. 1,881 feet), about six miles short of Las Vegas, we turned off for Lake Mead. We spent a few minutes at the Lake Mead Marina before going on to the Alan Bible Visitor Center.
 
             Overlooking the lake and surrounded by a botanical garden of desert flora, the Visitor Center offers films and exhibits about natural and cultural history. I enjoyed watching two roadrunners darting among the shrubs and cactus.
 
             Between the Visitor Center and the Hoover Dam we spent ten minutes at a Scenic Overlook. The hills were very dry and barren and I commented, "If there are mountain sheep around here I wonder what do they live on!" LP's response, "Welfare!"
 
             The Hoover Dam, completed in 1935 and which holds back the Colorado River in Black Canyon creating Lake Mead, straddles the Nevada/Arizona border. After parking the car in a multi-tiered parking garage, a far cry from when I was last here in March, 1960, and joined the throng of visitors who had come to see this engineering marvel in the desert.
 
             During our two-hour visit we went on the 40-minute guided tour into the bowels of the dam and to an area outside at the base of the 726-foot high dam, one of the highest ever constructed.
 
             We left at 3:45 and soon after driving across Hoover Dam into Arizona we spotted some mountain sheep, females and their young, on a hillside and a few miles further on four rams. Shortly after 5 o'clock we arrived in Kingman (pop. 12,700/El. 3,334 feet - founded 1882), and since there are no towns between Kingman and Phoenix, we booked into the Best Western Kings Inn. From here we were able to walk to the adjacent restaurant for supper.

Day 6: Tuesday, February 9 - Kingman to Mesa, Arizona

             Following a continental breakfast we left Kings Inn at 8:30, went east on Interstate 40 for 15 minutes then turned south for Phoenix on US-93, Wickenburg 108 miles and Phoenix 163 miles. There were wonderful views of layers and layers of mountains. There were lots of Ocotillos, a few Joshua trees and soon saguaro cactuses started to appear.
 
             Several miles after Wikieup (El. 1,980 feet) the road narrowed as it wound through rocky canyons in the mountains we had seen earlier in the distance. About this same time we encountered road construction, creating a four-lane, divided highway, a route which I am sure will see a lot of heavy traffic!
 
             The area was very rocky as if someone had come along and piled them up. One rock has become a recognizable landmark, its shape being like the head of Pluto. I couldn't help wondering if the terrain here had anything to do with the naming of "Nothing" a nearby settlement.
 
             The scenery changed as we came to a forest of Joshua trees, and from Nothing to Wickenburg US-93 is known as the Joshua Forest Parkway. The road traversed a wide expanse of flat, low-scrub country between mountain ranges. Then leaving the plain behind as we approached Wickenburg we could see more layers of mountain ranges.
 
             About 10:30 when we arrived in Wickenburg (pop. 4,500/El. 2,093 feet), which was founded 1863. Our attention was first drawn to a large statue, "Thank You for the Rain", by Joe Beeler, 1988, in a small park adjacent to the Desert Caballeros Western Museum. We found this to be an excellent museum containing dioramas depicting the town's history, including a re-creation of an early Wickenburg street scene. Also ancient native artifacts and a collection of gems and minerals are on display and the gallery has some noteworthy works by Western Artists.
 
             In the painting, "Guides of Mystery Valley", 1983, the artist, Melvin Warren, has masterfully painted the lead horse such that as you walk by the painting from right to left the horse turns and follows you! Another interesting painting was "Cowboy's Dream" 1940 (oil on board) by Len Megargee, 1883-1960. In this one you need to study the clouds and you can find a lady on horseback!
 
             Before leaving Wickenburg, we had a quick lunch at the Burger King, and within half an hour we had reached the beginning of Sun City, part of the Phoenix metropolitan area, and the long drive, nearly one and a half hours, across the city to Mesa. We arrived back at Mesa Regal at 3 o'clock.
 
             After unpacking the car we went to visit Otto's brother, Roger, who had arrived from Iowa. Later LP and I took Fran and Otto out to supper at the Organ Stop Pizza. The food was good and the entertainment great.

The three-day round trip total - 709 miles

Day 7: Wednesday, February 10 - Mesa to Gila Bend, Arizona

             Fran and Otto tried to persuade us to stay until Thursday, but they were expecting more company a few days later, so we decided we could make good use of an extra day.
 
             We left Fran and Otto at 8:45 with the intention of taking the interstate south towards but not all the way to Tucson. About 22 miles south of the junction with Interstate 8 we passed a large ostrich ranch, and 10 minutes later left the freeway at Marana (El. 2,000 feet) for gas. After this we only had a short distance left on the freeway before turning onto the road to Saguaro National Park.
 
             We entered the National Park at 11 o'clock and drove directly to the park Visitor Center. Here we watched the slide presentation at the end of which the screen rose to the ceiling and curtains were drawn back from the huge window which overlooked the desert. It was quite breathtaking. Back in the outdoors I strolled along the short trail around the Visitor Center, then, on our way back to the road we stopped so I could walk round the Nature Trail loop, reading the interpretive signs along the way.
 
             Before heading south and west we made a detour to Tucson Mountain Park, driving to the top of Gates Pass. From this point we could look east over Tucson and west over the Old Tucson Studios. Returning to the valley we stopped at Old Tucson to ask directions then we were on our way to AZ-86 west. Although it was already 1:45 we had only covered 136 miles, so we did wonder where we would spend the night!
 
             We could see a rugged mountain range in the distance and as we approached it the road appeared to go to the north of the range. Then I noticed an observatory on the top of the mountain and recalled having read something recently about Kitt Peak Observatory. This was the Kitt Peak Observatory, at the top of a 12-mile, very steep winding road, which we did not take.
 
             "Kitt Peak National Observatory is operated by the association of universities for research in astronomy incorporated under contract with the National Science Foundation."


From AAA Tour Book
     "Kitt Peak National Observatory, 56 miles s.w. of Tucson off SR 86, is located on the Tohono O'odham reservation in the Quinlan Mountains of the Sonoran Desert. Reputed to be the largest optical telescope facility, the observatory contains 24 major research instruments, including the world's largest solar telescope as well as the Myall 4-meter telescope. The three-building research facility, part of the National Optical Astronomy Observatories, monitors solar, stellar and extragalactic activities."


             Between mountain ranges there are wide expanses of fairly flat desert with lots of prickly pear cactus, the occasional saguaro, some ocotillo, teddy bear or chollo cactus and lots of mistletoe on the many palo verde trees.
 
             All along AZ-86 there were numerous crosses at the side of the road and most were highly decorated, many with shrines and statues of Mary.
 
             We passed through Sells (pop. 2,800/El. 2,674 feet) which was originally known as Indian Oasis, but was renamed in 1918 in honor of Indian commissioner Cato Sells. The town is the headquarters of the Tohono O'odham Indian Reservation. Many saguaro cacti grew in the region. About 30 miles further along we found ourselves in a mountainous area, where once again we could see layer upon layer of mountains ahead. There are a lot more mountains in this area of Arizona than what I had expected.
 
             We turned south at the junction of AZ-86 with AZ-85 in the town of Why - I have been unable to find out why Why is called Why! Five miles later entered Organ Pipe Cactus National Monument, a 516-square-mile preserve of the Sonoran Desert.


From AAA Tour Book
     "The organ pipe cactus thrives within the United States primarily in this preserve."


             We drove another 17 miles through some pretty spectacular scenery before reaching the Visitor Center, but in that time saw no evidence of the cactus for which the park is named.
 
             During half an hour at the Visitor Center we were able to view the slide presentation and obtain information about the park for a future visit! Since it was too late in the day to go on either of the scenic drives within the park, it was suggested that we could see a hillside covered with organ pipe cactus from the nearby campground area.
 
             After this we returned to AZ-85 and decided to go south 5 miles to Lukeville on the US/Mexican border before heading north. When we turned around in Lukeville to retrace our steps, it was 5:20 and we had done 177 miles since leaving Mesa. We have since regretted that we did not enquire about accommodation in this border town!
 
             Ten miles north of Why we passed through an area with huge mining operations and beyond this entered the town of Ajo (pop. 2,900/El. 1,740 feet), which was founded in 1854, and was home to the first copper mine in Arizona. Driving through the town I observed some beautiful white mission churches and Southwestern-style buildings.
 
             From Ajo it was still about 40 miles to Gila Bend where we had decided to spend the night. North of Ajo the road passed by an area of rocky peaks, probably the Crater Mountains. Although there was still a lot of colour to the west from the sunset, it was dark but not completely black. We arrived in Gila Bend (pop. 1,700/El. 735 feet) at 6:45, found a motel, then went for supper at Los Taquitos, a Mexican restaurant.

The day’s total - 359 miles
Total since leaving Mesa - 359 miles
Trip Total - 1,631 miles

Day 8: Thursday, February 11 - Gila Bend, Arizona, to Indio, Cailfornia

             After leaving the motel but before leaving Gila Bend we went to McDonalds for Sausage Egg McMuffin breakfast, and we were on our way through town to AZ-85 north by 8:15 with only 34 miles to go from I-8 to I-10. We realized that when we reached I-10 we would only be about 40 miles from Phoenix - good progress for one day!
 
             When AZ-85 ended at I-10 a sign informed us that Phoenix was 38 miles, Los Angeles 344 miles. We knew it would be at least two days before we drove through LA but did not want to hazard a guess as to how many miles we would have to travel to cover the 344!
 
             On entering I-10 we travelled some of the same route covered with Fran and Otto four days earlier, and LP and I spoke about our impressions on seeing the countryside for a second time in less than a week. We both thought the same thing! When we passed this way the previous Sunday it looked very desolate, but now did not look as much so, probably because since then we had seen areas more desolate. We find driving through supposed "desolate areas" are neither dull nor boring!
 
             We left the Interstate at Quartzite to get gas, a half-hour expedition due to all the traffic and the large number of trailers and motor homes clogging the gas stations. After leaving Quartzite the highway goes through one of the mountain ranges and coming out of that there was a very wide valley ahead, then more mountains.
 
             At 10:53 we crossed the Colorado River and had to stop immediately for a California inspection station where we were waved through. Having entered Pacific Standard Time, it was now only 9:55. We passed an orange orchard with young trees only about three feet high, but already bearing fruit. The gardens and orchards would be irrigated by waters from the Colorado River.
 
             As we went further west, however, blowing sand made us aware that we were crossing a desert. There was a really strong wind blowing and the dust or sand was so thick it obliterated the mountains to the north of us. The small shrubs surviving in this desert appeared to be growing out of hillocks because all the sand around them had blown away. Another thing I noticed were the call boxes or telephones along the highway at every mile so stranded travellers were never far from communication. On the other hand there were no mileage posts along the side of the road nor were the exits numbered! We found this to be true anywhere we travelled in California.
 
             From Blythe (El. 265 feet) at the Arizona/California State Line the road climbed to 900 feet at Desert Center, and crossed Chiriaco Summit (El. 1,710 feet) before we turned off for Joshua Tree National Park 23 miles later. Entering the park the road climbed through rocky rugged mountains with hardly anything growing on them. It also crossed a number of very large washes which could flood in the event of flash rains. Sand encroached on both sides of the road.
 
             We only spent 15 minutes at the Visitor Center (El. 3,000 feet) where it was windy and cold. We both felt the rangers at the Visitor Center were the worst that we have ever encountered in any National Park; they seemed very surly and not at all interested in their job!


From AAA Tour Book
     "Joshua Tree National Park covers more than 870 square miles ... This California desert country contains striking granite formations and mountain ranges rising from flat valleys about 3,000 feet above sea level to elevations of 5,518 feet. The many spectacular desert plants include Joshua trees, cactuses, ocotillos, smoke trees, palo verde, piñon pine, Mojave yuccas and a fina array of spring wildflowers."


             My main reason for visiting this park was to see the Joshua trees, and like the organ pipe cactus in the park bearing that name, the Joshua trees were strangely absent. We would have to drive many miles before seeing them. On the other hand there was so much more to see than just Joshua trees.
 
             Having crossed a range of mountains and passed some big rocks piled up on top of each other, the road started to descend but, before reaching the valley floor, followed along the side of the valley rather than going down directly into it. Once in the valley, we cross Fried Liver Wash, a name which must have a tale to tell!
 
             We stopped for about 20 minutes at the Chollo Cactus Gardens, where I walked around the trail and took lots of pictures.


From the leaflet for Self Guiding Nature Trail
     "You are now in the low desert country of the Pinto Basin, a place of extremes. As summer approaches, the basin begins to pulsate with heat waves that can exceed 115°F daily (46°C). The sea of creosote bushes appears like a mirage of shimmering green, and the mountains are transformed into a haze of flickering blue. Seldom does more than a scant four inches of rain fall here within a year's time."


             A few miles beyond the Chollo Cactus Garden as the road rises from the valley we paused by some very large rocks and discovered the interpretive sign "Where Two Deserts Meet." Joshua Tree National Park is one of the few areas where the contrast between the high Mojave Desert and low Colorado Desert can be seen.
 
             Soon after leaving the big rocks, now about 27 miles from the Visitor Center we started to see a few Joshua trees. We stopped in the area of Jumbo Rocks for about 15 minutes at the sign for Skull Rock where I walked a short distance along the trail among the rocks. I neither like leaving LP in the car all the time nor do I particularly like hiking alone, so I did not go as far as I might have had I had company!
 
             Shortly after leaving Skull Rock and near the turnoff for Queen Valley (El. 4,460 feet) we noticed a snow-capped mountain. After taking a picture of this mountain near the Sheep Pass turnoff, we pulled in behind another car where the occupant was photographing two coyotes. We spent about 10 minutes at this location. Just as we turned off to go to Keys View there was another coyote on the road.
 
             The Joshua trees through Lost Horse Valley (El. 4,384 feet) were quite thick, also very large. Keys View (El. 5,185 feet), at the end of the road, was very cold and extremely windy. We had been warned at the Visitor Center about the wind at Keys View by the ranger who almost seemed to be discouraging us from going there. There was no question about the wind, but I would not have missed the view for anything.
 
             Keys View is an outstanding scenic point which overlooks the Choachella Valley a mile below ... Indio's elevation is -22 feet ... to the mountains reaching an elevation of 10,805 feet on San Jacinto Peak. Before the day was over we would be in Indio.
 
             Returning from Keys View we continued for 16 miles, passing one of the park campgrounds, Hidden Valley and again there were a lot of weird rock formations, sort of knobs of large rocks stacked on top of each other. It was 16 miles from the Keys View turnoff to Joshua Tree which lay just outside the park boundary.
 
             After almost 4 hours and 67 miles we left the park and returned to civilization! Another coyote ran across the road in front of us, however, even though we were now in among the houses of Joshua Tree. Turning onto CA-62, with the snow-covered mountains in front of us, we headed towards Palm Springs. Before turning off on Indian Avenue the road descended quickly as it wound through a canyon into the valley.
 
             Near the junction of CA-62 with I-10 there was a very large wind farm, indicating strong winds must blow through this valley. There were so many windmills it was impossible to count them as we drove by.
 
             Driving through the heart of Palm Springs, (pop. 40,200/El. 466 feet) it looked very beautiful, but also very expensive! After leaving Palm Springs we entered La Quinta,(pop. 20,4444/El. 40 feet), and after that Indio, (pop. 36,800/El. -22 feet). We made our first stop in Indio at Shield's Date Farm, where we saw a slide presentation about the propagation of dates and went into the courtyard where we could view the date palm close up. We also enjoyed a date icecream, bought a variety of dates, as well as grapefruit and oranges. The citrus fruits were bought here as opposed to Arizona because of the California inspection station. After almost an hour it was time to look for a motel.
 
             We stopped first at a Best Western, but finished up at Motel 6 with a room for about a third of the price! We drove down the road to a small Mexican restaurant, Mexico Tipico, for supper. We had a very good meal and I thoroughly enjoyed my whole schnapper on a bed of rice!

The day’s total - 359 miles
Total since leaving Mesa - 718 miles
Trip Total - 1,990 miles

Day 9: Friday, February 12 - Indio to Westminster, California

             We left the motel early, drove to McDonalds for breakfast and were on our way by 7:30, taking CA-86 south east! After leaving Indio we passed acres and acres of palm trees, an "orchard" of palms and orange trees in alternating rows, orange groves and vineyards. There were also market gardens, and other fields covered with plastic with small styrofoam cups about 12 inches apart over each individual little plant or seedling. In another field all the plants were up and all the cups had been removed. As I remember from my childhood in Kalgoorlie on the border of the Great Victoria Desert in Western Australia, desert soils can be very productive provided there is water. Here in the Coachella Valley the land is irrigated by waters from the Colorado River.
 
             There were extensive vineyards as we approached the north end of the Salton Sea. This body of water, which is below Sea Level, lies to the east of the road on which we were travelling. We turned off the highway to go into Desert Shores, a collection of holiday cottages, but there really wasn't anything to see there.



From from AAA Tour Book
     SALTON SEA

     "The 35-mile-long, 15-mile-wide Salton Sea, 20 miles south of Indio, is one of the world's largest inland bodies of saltwater."


From Natural Wonders of the World, Readers Digest, June 1991

     "Salton Sea ... owes its existence in part to nature and in part to man. Over the course of its long and varied history it has been by turns an arm of the ocean, a landlocked lake, a dry, sunbaked salt flat and a salty lake once more. .... At one time the entire basin that contains the lake was the northern end of the Gulf of California which lies between the Mexican mainland and Baja California. But eventually the Colorado River's huge delta grew into a damlike barrier across the upper gulf. With little inflow of fresh water, the resultant lake gradually dried out as the water evaporated under the scorching desert sun. In historic times all that remained of the bygone lake was an expanse of white-encrusted flats known as the Salton Sink

     From time to time, shifting channels of the lower Colorado flooded the sink, creating short-lived lakes that soon evaporated. But in 1905 the river broke through a levee built for an irrigation project and began to flow into the basin in torrents. By the time the gap was repaired two years later, the newborn Salton Sea was a lake about 40 miles long and 90 feet deep.

     In the following decades, the Salton Sea shrank substantially as evaporation lowered the water level. Today, however, its level has become more or less stabilized. Stretching off to the northwest are the rich farmlands of the Coachella Valley and to the southeast, the Imperial Valley, both heavily irrigated with water channelled in from the Colorado. Thus, with the aid of man, runoff from irrigation projects is about equal to loses through evaporation."


             Returning to the highway and continuing south the mountains on our right receded to the west and the surrounding countryside was flat and desolate looking. I noticed a stack of beehives so concluded there must be something here for the bees!
 
             Turning west on CA-78 we traversed the desert leaving the Salton Sea behind. Except for the mountains surrounding the valley, the scenery reminded me somewhat of the country we saw out by Silverton, near Broken Hill in New South Wales, Australia, when we were there with Debbi from Canada. Also, crossing this dry sandy desert makes me think of the time when I flew down from Ralston, Alberta, in a DC-3 and how I could not get over the fact of all these mountain ranges with desert in between, a fact I could not quite grasp.
 
             Leaving the California Conservation Desert, as this area is called, the road started to climb into the mountains. There was a large number of ocotillos growing here and I noticed the name of a place, Ocotillo Wells, soon after which the road entered a State park. Some of the Ocotillo were beginning to flower - we could see the red flowers at the top of the dry spiny stems. We have been in Saguaro National Park, Organ Pipe Cactus National Monument, Joshua Tree National Park and this could almost be Ocotillo National Park! There were so many ocotillo growing here.
 
             Within 27 miles of leaving the Salton Sea we had climbed from Sea Level to 1,000 feet where we started to see a lot of agaves growing, also smoke bushes and cholla cactus. In another 8 miles we were entering Grapevine Canyon and passed the 2,000 feet elevation, also a marker for two miles of winding road through the canyon in steep rocky mountains with nothing much more than agave plants growing on them.
 
             The road continued to wind through the mountains and we had just gone down a very long hill with the mountains in front of us but we could not tell which way the road would be going! The scenery was changing considerably as we began to see some very large trees and at one point the trees formed a canopy over the road. The mountainside was covered now with a lot of trees, including some conifers. As we climbed the countryside changed completely. What a wonderful drive!
 
             As we came into the outskirts of Julian (pop. 1,300/El. 4,220 feet) I noticed the roads had interesting names, such as Whispering Pines Drive, Sunshine Drive and Canyon Road, names which probably describe the area well. Six miles beyond Julian we took a twenty-minute break in Santa Ysabel (El. 2,984 feet), where we had stopped to purchase gas. Leaving Santa Ysabel the hills were grassy and cattle were grazing.
 
             Then before my eyes there appeared an avenue of gum trees, and we could smell the eucalyptus. Seeing gum trees always excites me and, probably more than anything else they are what I miss most from Australia. We also saw a lot of horses and these along with the gum trees and white fences reminded me very much of Oakbank in the Adelaide Hills. There were even blackberry patches.
 
             The road started to wind through another canyon, Ocean Canyon. This was about three miles before entering Ramona (pop. over 40,000/El. 1,440 feet), located in the middle of mixed farming country. Huge gum trees lined the main street of this historic looking city. At the junction of CA-78 with CA-67, we turned onto CA-67, which would take us into El Cajon and San Diego.
 
             From here it was only 25 miles to El Cajon. After passing the sign for Poway City Limit, (El. 525 feet) we rounded a curve and it looked as if the ocean would be visible were it not for the yellow smog! The road made another long descent down through the mountains and when we were almost at the bottom we entered Lakeside, (El. 405 feet), where CA-67 became a freeway for the last few miles into El Cajon.
 
             We arrived in El Cajon (pop. 88,700/El. 435 feet) at 11 o'clock, stopped to ask for directions to Johnson Street and were both surprised and pleased to find we were within a few blocks of where we wanted to be! We spent over half an hour at Harbour Lights where I bought some T-shirts, delivered my lighthouse registration slips, was given a complimentary gift and enjoyed looking at their lighthouse display.
 
             Within 5 minutes of leaving Harbour Lights we joined Interstate 8 to drive west into San Diego (pop. 1,152,500/El. 11 feet). We decided against any sightseeing here as our next main destination was Aptos just south of Santa Cruz, and it would be better to stop here when we would have more time. As we entered San Diego City Limit many varieties of flowers created a mass of color on the embankments at the side of the freeway.
 
             Interstate 8 ends at the Pacific Ocean, but we left it at its penultimate exit, Mission Drive, immediately crossed a bridge over the San Diego River, then, near Sea World, turned onto West Mission Bay Drive. From here we drove north through the seaside communities, at times the road being right on the ocean front.
 
             We passed through La Jolla's downtown shopping area. In Del Mar the median was full of different kinds of flowers, as well as gum and flame trees laden with blossom. In Solana Beach there was so much congestion caused by construction I think it took at least five minutes if not more just trying to get through one intersection, the light before Solana Vista Drive where an arrow pointed to The Plaza in Solana. Entering Carlsbad, we passed a large power plant right on the shoreline! In the heart of the village, with its English-looking buildings, strelitzia was in flower in median.
 
             I had expected to reach Santa Barbara that night and LP, having driven along this road from San Diego 25 years ago wanted to show me this ocean road, SO from El Cajon to Oceanside we just drove not stopping anywhere to explore! In Oceanside, just before the ocean road is swallowed by I-5 to go through Camp Pendleton we paused for lunch at the Monterey Bay Canners Fresh Seafood Restaurant. I had Mahimahi with fresh vegetables (very good) and baby potatoes.
 
             After lunch there was a hectic half hour drive on I-5 until we left again to go into Capistrano, parking beside the San Juan Capistrano Mission where I visited the mission compound


From Jan/Feb Mission Calendar & Guide
     "Begun in 1797, the church took nine years to build and was dedicated in 1806. On the morning of December 8, 1812, a massive earthquake struck ..... the walls crumbled and the domes caved in ...."



From Jan/Feb Mission Calendar & Guide
     "The Great Stone Church is the Mission's priority preservation project. The scaffolding erected around the structure holds the walls in place, but as funds are raised an internal support structure will take the place of the scaffolding."


             Even though scaffolding from the ongoing preservation project of The Great Stone Church was present, I wish I'd had my tripod and could have spent more time here.
 
             After leaving the Mission we travelled along the Pacific Coast Highway. Realizing that it was too late to go as far as Santa Barbara and not wanting to get too far into metropolitan Los Angeles we decided to stay on the southern extremities of the city. LP found a Best Western in Westminster five miles off the Pacific Highway and we did not venture out again!

The day’s total - 268 miles
Total since leaving Mesa - 986 miles
Trip Total - 2,258 miles

Day 10: Saturday, February 13 - Westminster to Aptos, California

             After cereal for breakfast in our room we left the motel at 7:40 and going along Westminster Road we passed a lot of oil pumps. Five miles from the motel we turned north on CA-1, and were back on the Pacific Coast Highway, which we followed for the next 50 miles through Los Angeles. The diversity and disparity of neighbourhoods was most striking. In one area bars covered the windows and doors of stores, also the houses, and 10 minutes later there were Mercedes and Lexus dealerships.
 
             After Long Beach the highway veered away from the coast, entered the City of Los Angeles, (pop. 3,485,400/El. 320 feet), and returned to the coast at Redondo Beach. Continuing on, CA-1 passes under a runway at LAX (Los Angeles Airport) and six miles later we entered Santa Monica, ( pop.86,900/El. 57 feet), a popular ocean resort bounded by LA on three sides and the Pacific Ocean on the fourth.
 
             In Santa Monica the Pacific Highway becomes a freeway for a short distance before making a sharp turn north and going along the coastline. To the right were high cliffs parts of which had been eroded away. You can see where there have been mud slides along the high cliffs following exceptionally heavy rains during the El Niño year.
 
             The first sign for Malibu, (pop.11,700/El. 5 feet), alerts the traveller to 23 miles of scenic beauty. The road was still at the bottom of the cliffs and on our left at one point there were homes right over the water. It was a very interesting area all through here with houses built on cliffsides and the efforts to stabilize the ground from sliding were visible! We passed the site of the closed John Paul Getty Museum, which has been relocated in Brentwood and further along we passed the Pepperdine University where Kenneth Starr, the Independent Council investigating President Bill Clinton, was to be the Dean of Law.
 
             Later the road was on top of the cliffs again and some houses on the ocean side appeared to be under reconstruction. The effects of El Niño resulted in landslides which caused some homes to fall into the ocean. Back near water level the road passed beach parking and there were no houses for a short distance. Gradually the houses thin out and we finally seem to be in the country, seeing more countryside than we had since coming into El Cajon.
 
             Entering Ventura County near the western end of the Santa Monica Mountains National Recreation Area, the road was clinging to the face of the cliffs about 10-15 feet above sea level. A lot of stacked container "boxes" formed an interesting barrier between the road and a slide area, where there were unusual cliffs displaying the strata of all the various layers of sands which were laid down eons ago.
 
             As we drove north the mountains receded eastward leaving wide flat plains for market gardening. In one area we saw from the road a lot of people with hoes weeding small plants, and in another area people working in the fields of what looked like strawberry plants. Other crops included red leaf lettuce. As we enter Oxnard, (pop. 142,200/El. 45 feet), there were acres and acres of gardens.
 
             Throughout this area we were travelling a four-laned divided highway and frequent signs indicated the freeway started or ended although the speed limit remained the same. We finally decided that these signs were there because either side roads entered the highway or there was controlled access! Entering Ventura, (pop. over 100,000/El. 35 feet) the Coastal Highway and US-101 become one and remain so for about 33 miles beyond Santa Barbara. From Ventura, on US-101, Santa Barbara was 25 miles and San Francisco 364 miles. Between Ventura and Seacliff the freeway ran along the coastline at the foot of bare cliffs.
 
             Just beyond the exit for Seacliff, there were working oil pumps by the road and opposite, a jetty extending out to a small island with palm trees on it. High eroded cliffs continued along the side of the road.
 
             When I was last in Santa Barbara in December 1960 there was no freeway through the city and now we had the choice of twelve exits! Entering Santa Barbara, (pop. 85,600/El. 33 feet) we parked the car close to downtown where we spent nearly an hour and a half. The city has continued to maintain its Spanish character through its orange-tiled roofs and many Spanish street names. From where we parked the car we walked up State Street, stopping to walk through El Paseo (where I bought my woven fabric in 1960!), and on up to the County Courthouse. From the tower we had a great view of the city including the Santa Barbara Mission with the Ynez Mountains in the background.


From AAA Tour Book
     "The County Courthouse was built in 1929 and is a fine example of Spanish-Moorish-style architecture. Architectural highlights include specially-designed windows, staircases, balconies, turrets, ornately carved doors and archways. Murals and Tunisian tile decorate the interior, while the tower offers fine views of the city and coast."


             Returning to the car we drove to the Visitor Center on the Promenade where I was able to enquire about the existence of a certain Moreton Bay Fig tree, planted in 1877. I had seen and photographed this particular 156-foot-diameter tree, a native of Australia, at the end of December 1960 and later heard that it was growing in the path of a proposed freeway across the city. I was delighted to discover that the tree had won its battle over progress! I was sad, however, that so many people ignore the request to refrain from climbing on the tree.
 
             After walking all around the Moreton Bay Fig tree we returned to the Promenade where we had our lunch at Eladio's Restaurant. The three and a half hours we spent in Santa Barbara went all too quickly, but it was time to hit the road again. It had started out as a nice sunny day but clouded over as the day wore on. Leaving Santa Barbara the road closest to the coast was US-101, the freeway, which went west for about 30 miles to the Gaviota Rest Area, then, turning inland, went through a short tunnel and entered a canyon. We had already turned onto CA-1 when, several miles from the rest area US-101 crossed Gaviota Pass, (El. 918 feet).
 
             CA-1 headed north through rolling hills covered with grass to Lompoc, ( pop. 40,000+/El. 104 feet), nicknamed the Valley of the Flowers. "The region produces up to 75% of the world's flower seeds" (National Geographic's Driving Guides to America, California), the flowers blooming May through September.
 
             We saw a lot of blossom on the gum trees as well as gardens, vineyards and orchards. Sometimes we were driving through very green, grassy hills and at other times wide valleys where there were lots of farming, vegetables, fruit, strawberries, and some cattle. There were also some oil pumps to be seen.
 
             We stopped in Guadalupe, (pop. 5,000/El. 85 feet) for gas and, a mile out of town, there were sand dunes to the west of the road. Also, as we were leaving Guadalupe, huge gum trees, with lots of blossom on them, lined the road and in some places formed a canopy over the road. We caught a glimpse of the water again as the road made a steep descent winding down into a flat valley full of market gardens of all different kinds of vegetables. At the end of the valley there were sand dunes along the seashore.
 
             Driving through Oceano, (pop. 5,000/El. 25 feet), it appeared to be quite a resort area, and, on checking the AAA Tour Book, discovered that "The Great American Melodrama and Vaudeville presents 19th-century vaudeville shows, melodramas, comedies and thrillers." Soon after Oceano CA-1 is again swallowed by US-101 for the ten miles into San Luis Obispo, (pop. 43,000/El. 230 feet). Arriving here at 4:45 and being within a few miles of the coast, we decided to start to look for accommodation, and thus we would have a whole day to enjoy the scenic coastal road from Morro Bay to Aptos!
 
             Having stopped first at a Best Western where there were no vacancies, we turned onto Morro Bay Boulevard, but none of the motels in the area had any vacancies. LP realized that this was Saturday of a long weekend, with Valentine's Day on Sunday and President's Day on Monday, so he suggested that we may be more likely to find accommodation inland along US-101. Having made this decision, we turned off CA-1 onto CA-46, a road which would take us 22 miles across the hills of the Santa Lucia Range to Paso Robles.
 
             During this time the sun set and, even though it was just after 6 o'clock, it was quite dark when we reached US-101 and Paso Robles. Driving past motel after motel, the red signs, "NO" ... "NO" ... "NO" ... were prominent! It was the same story in San Miguel, and when we made enquiries here we were told there was nothing until maybe King City, if we were lucky! There were no vacancies to be had anywhere! We decided that if we were driving that far we might as well call Josh from the cell phone, and if convenient, drive through to Aptos!
 
             We wasted a lot of time around Salinas trying to find CA-183 to cross back to CA-1 near Castroville. It was dark and raining, but we eventually saw a policeman who wrote out some instructions. We returned to US-101 north, finally exiting on Espanola Road, CA-156, which took us to CA-183 and on to CA-1. Josh had e-mailed me excellent instructions for finding his place once we reached Aptos. We arrived at his place at 9:20 in time to join the birthday party of another house guest!

The day’s total - 429 miles
Total since leaving Mesa - 1,415 miles
Trip Total - 2,687 miles

Day 11: Sunday, February 14 - Aptos, California

             Today we had a lazy morning around the house and a late breakfast. In the afternoon Josh took us to Fry's Electronics, a huge store in Sunnyvale (between San Jose and Palo Alto). On the way home Josh took us out to supper at a Vietnamese Restaurant in San Jose.

The day’s total - 0 miles
Trip Total - 2,687 miles

Day 12: Monday, February 15 - Day trip to Monterey, California

             It was decided that we would go to the Monterey Bay Aquarium, but would take two cars so Josh could return to do some work, leaving us to spend more time there. LP rode with Josh and I followed. Sometimes we left the main road, CA-1, so Josh could show us some of the points of interest.
 
             Soon after leaving the little beach area of La Selva we were in farming country with fields of vegetables or strawberries and vineyards. Just as we had seen yesterday there were a lot of acacias in bloom all along the side of the road.
 
             We stopped at Monterey Bay Academy, a property which had been bought from the government by The Seventh Day Adventists for $1.00 following World War II. The buildings were POW camps for Germans, who liked this area of California so much they returned later, and hence there is a fairly large German population here.
 
             The greenhouses, visible in the distance, are used for the production of cut flowers, a thriving business in these parts. There were also extensive fields of strawberries. The ground is mounded to almost a foot above the furrows in between every two rows of plants. Often the soil is covered with plastic and the plants are just growing out of little holes, thus eliminating weeds and keeping the fruit clean.
 
             We rounded a bend in the road and there was a very wide valley between the hills, a valley of rich-looking soil with acres and acres cultivated and ready for planting. There were a lot of people working in the fields and at this point some were laying down plastic and putting the little plants through the holes and some were laying out the irrigation pipes. The main crop seemed to be strawberries, but some plants looked as if they could be cabbages or cauliflowers.
 
             After this we came to an area where artichokes were the predominant crop, but strawberry patches could still be seen. Further along, the road ran parallel with the sand dunes of Moss Landing State Beach and to the left, there was a Wildlife Viewing Area, the Elkhorn Slough Reserve, with lots of water fowl. Also, just ahead on the left was a huge power plant, and opposite, on the right, was a large marina.
 
             We turned off CA-1 for Moss Landing Harbor. The following is what I taped of Josh's commentary whilst stopped here.


From Josh 02/15/99

     This is Moss Landing and the big plant behind us which you went by the other night is a power plant. Ships are brought in here with petroleum to run the plant so there is a petroleum offloading place.

     There is an active community that lives on these boats. Actually I came down here with a woman who lives with her sister on a boat out here. She is a psychiatrist and her sister is a lawyer and they are both out of work like some of us ne'er-do-well grey hairs.

     Anyway, the reason I stopped here was to point out to you the building with the green roof over there. It is the Monterey Bay Research Institute which is part of the Monterey Bay Aquarium. The ship where they do all their oceanographic research is normally stationed here, but it is out right now. I didn't see it when we came in.

     So it is kind of a neat spot here. It is also a great place to stop and get fresh fish and stuff, and there is a famous bar at the corner where we turned off the highway. Called the Moss Landing Bar, it has money taped to the ceiling, at least $10,000 worth of dollar bills, including some foreign currency. It is a good place to stop to have a beer.


             We returned to the highway briefly, and, driving by acres of artichokes, there was a sign, "Fresh Artichokes For Sale." Near Castroville we made another detour where the road ran between fields of artichokes. They were growing as far as the eye could see! Continuing on after stopping for some pictures, I noticed fields of carrots and lettuce with sprinklers watering the entire area.
 
             Passing a Dole building as we re-entered CA-1 south, there were still many fields of artichokes and in the background sand dunes, with the ocean just on the other side. A lot of people were working in the fields. It is no wonder that here in California Mexicans are employed to work the fields, because they probably work in all kinds of temperatures and for a lot less pay. When you see the amount of work involved here in the fields, it seems rather mean expecting to pay low prices for produce at the store.
 
             Upon entering Marina City Limit a sign indicated that San Luis Obispo was 123 miles, but I think we did about 40 extra miles when driving north on Saturday while looking for somewhere to stay. Next came the city limit for Sand City, an appropriate name because sand drifts came right down to the side of the road and there was a sign:Beware of Drifting Sand across the road." As we entered Seaside City Limit the view looking across the bay to Monterey was beautiful.
 
             Since leaving Josh's, and including our detours, we had only driven 33 miles when we arrived at Monterey City Limit, (pop. 32,000/El. 25 feet). We exited the highway at the first exit and, as we drove into the city, we passed an interesting place with huge logs and roots around it and some wonderful wood carvings. We also passed Old Fisherman's Wharf, Monterey Harbor, established 1845.
 
             The road entered a tunnel as we turned towards Cannery Row and on to the Monterey Bay Aquarium. We parked the cars in a parking garage ($5.00) and from there we walked to the Aquarium where we spent almost four hours. Josh took us in as his guests, so I don't know how much it was. He walked around with us for some time then left to return to Aptos and work.


From AAA Tour Book
     MONTEREY BAY AQUARIUM

     at 886 Cannery Row, is one of the largest aquariums in the world. Dramatic displays of more than 500 species of marine life in more than 100 galleries and exhibits include a 90-foot long recreation of Monterey Bay, a two-storey sea otter exhibit and a three-storey kelp forest. The tanks are maintained by a flow of 1,500 gallons of fresh sea water per minute.


             LP and I visited other parts of the Aquarium and before leaving we had a wonderful lunch of clam chowder in a sourdough bread bowl. We returned to the car via Cannery Row, and, from the parking garage, we continued around Monterey Bay through Pacific Grove. It was a beautiful drive along the coast, a pelican and cormorants sitting on the rocks, and lots of red hot pokers in flower at the side of the road. The tide was out and breakers crashed over the rocks, a view which an artist was capturing on canvas. We were following the signs for the famous Pebble Beach "Seventeen Mile Drive." We stopped near the Point Pinos Lighthouse, but it is only open Thursday through Sunday.
 
             Seventeen Mile Drive, a scenic route from Pacific Grove to Carmel, is a toll road through exclusive, privately-owned Pebble Beach. Spanish moss was hanging on the trees as we turned towards the toll gate at the Pacific Grove entrance, where we were given a map listing 21 points of interest along the road. The AAA Tour Book recommends allowing at least 1 hour to complete the drive! Although we did not stop at all the places listed, we left the area by the same gate 2 hours and 20 minutes after entering.
 
             The following is a list of the points of interest where we paused in this wonderful area:
 
# 5 Spanish Bay with wonderful surfing beach and golf course to the left in the sand dunes.
# 6 The Restless Sea.
# 7 Point Joe, where we saw seven deer to the left of the road.
# 8 China Rock.
#10 Bird Rock.
#13

Fanshell Overlook, watching the breakers roll in. After this we passed through a forest of cypress trees.
#14 Cypress Point Lookout.
#15

Crocker Grove. In this grove are the oldest and largest Monterey Cypress trees in existence.
#16

Lone Cypress. This is the famous tree seen in so many pictures of the Monterey Peninsular.
#17 Ghost Tree.
#18



Pescadero Point, the northern tip of Carmel Bay. Here there were wonderful windswept cypress as well as dead stumps of cypress which have been reinforced to save them because of their shape and to let people see how wind had influenced their growing pattern.
# 1


Shepherd's Knoll. This was a very interesting spot as we could see the coast to our right, a huge bay, but could not figure out how it fitted into the map?! Actually it turned out to be Monterey Bay!
 

             Exiting from the same gate we had entered we turned onto CA-68 to take us to CA-1 and thence to Aptos. Back in artichoke country we were stopped in a long line of traffic near the junction of CA-183 and CA-1. This was shortly before the power plant near Moss Bay and would be where LP and I had joined CA-1 Saturday night on our way from Salinas to Josh's. Traffic was slow at this point because two roads were merging into one lane. It was also the end of the long weekend! We came to a standstill again by Moss Bay Oyster Landing Restaurant. We commented on how early and abruptly daylight ended as it was quite dark by 6:20.
 
             We arrived back at Josh's at 6:35 and enjoyed a pleasant evening at home. Errol, another house guest, prepared a pasta supper.

The day’s total - 104 miles
Total whilst staying in Aptos - 104 miles
Trip Total - 2,791 miles

Day 13: Tuesday, February 16 - Day trip to Big Sur, California

             We decided on another day trip to the south along the coast with the idea that we would cover the area between Monterey and Morro Bay! We did not leave Josh's until 10:20, then made several stops before reaching Monterey. First we had to get gas, then we spent half an hour at Moss Landing Inn for a beer and coke so we could see all the dollar bills Josh had told us about - #10,000. There were also some business cards, left, LP said, by those to cheap to leave a dollar! We added to the collection and if you ever happen to be there and looking for our dollar, look on the door jamb of the men's restroom, about two feet from the floor on the right hand side!
 
             Adjacent to this bar and right at the turnoff for Moss Landing is a restaurant called The Whole Enchilada, which may be worth a visit next trip. Having opened the bar, by being the first customers for the day , we left to continue south on CA-1 even though it was now raining quite heavily. I don't know what happened to the California sunshine but we were not seeing much of it!
 
             The next stop was made at LAZZERINI FARMS - Artichoke World Market where I had seen the sign for artichokes the previous day. I was shocked to find how expensive everything was and decided that I was not paying $2.00 each for artichokes! Besides they did not look particularly fresh. I could buy better ones in Nebraska sometimes for half the price and here we are right beside the field where they were growing! [As it turned out the week after we returned home beautiful, large, fresh artichokes were selling for 85¢ each]. However, I did buy a jar of marinated artichokes.
 
             There were many things for sale, including a blank notebook in the shape of an artichoke and LP's comment was, "That's a book of secret recipes!"
 
             A little further down the road we stopped again, this time at The Thistle Hut where I did buy some artichokes, which looked very fresh and were three for $5.00. The fourth one was $1.70!. I decided to return to Lazzerini Farms to get a gift for Josh, a bottle of dipping oil. By this time it was almost noon and we had only done 19 miles!
 
             Within another twenty minutes we had passed the exits for Monterey and were turning off CA-1 onto Ocean Drive to drive through Carmel-By-The-Sea, a lovely town with very interesting buildings, art galleries and stores. It could almost be called quaint. It was a very pretty little spot, but judging by the look of the shops you would need a lot of money to stay and shop here.
 
             Ocean Drive was a continuous descent to the waterfront, where, in spite of the dark grey sky, I took two pictures of Carmel Bay. Whilst here I thought that we might look for the Carmel Mission, but we missed the signs and returned to the highway.
 
             It was 12:45 when, only three miles further along the road, we exited again, this time for Point Lobos State Reserve. To enter the reserve we had to pay $6.00 (senior rate) for a day pass, which would also be good for all the state parks as we drove south along the coast! However the number of parks we would be visiting diminished considerably when we emerged from Point Lobos two hours later!
 
             The first point of interest was Whaler's Cove where there was a seal in the water and a number of various birds, including cormorants and an egret. I climbed the trail to the top of the headland and in doing so saw a sign warning about Poison Oak.
 
             Leaving Whaler's Cove there was Spanish moss hanging from the trees and we were driving through a pine forest on our way to the next point of interest, Cypress Grove South Shore. Point Lobos is one of two areas where a naturally growing stand of Monterey cypress trees remains on Earth. We had seen the other stand on the Seventeen Mile Drive the previous day.
 
             I pulled into the Sea Lion Point parking area where I left LP in the car looking out to sea whilst I hiked around the .8-mile, 30-minute Cypress Grove loop trail in the Allan Memorial Grove. Quoting from the Point Lobos State Reserve pamphlet:


     These cypresses, which formerly extended over a much wider range, withdrew to these fog-shrouded headlands as the climate changed with the close of the Pleistocene epoch 15,000 years ago. The outermost trees, surviving in the teeth of salt spray and wind, their roots seeking nourishment in cracks and crevices, mirror the forces of nature and time.

     Point Lobos State Reserve was originally acquired to protect these gnarled trees.


             I had a guide booklet explaining the various points along the trail through coastal scrub and woods to cliffs with dramatic and spectacular views. The half-hour walk only took me an hour and eight minutes! I found it all most interesting and just beautiful. I even saw a couple of deer grazing on a grassy knoll.
 
             After returning to the car we drove to the end of the road within the reserve, then back to leave the park and continue south "for another three miles!" according to LP. Driving through Carmel Heights we thought the houses clinging to the cliff faces on both the ocean side and the other side of the road looked very expensive. A lot of acacias were in bloom. After this we were on what I would consider "The Ocean Road."
 
             Progress was slow as we paused for pictures here and there and had to stop several times for road construction or more likely road and bridge repairs. We saw a lot of sea lions, their heads bobbing in the water. We stopped at what may be the highest point on Big Sur, but we were only guessing as there were no information signs.Passing Point Big Sur there was a beautiful green field between us and the ocean with lots of young cattle grazing.
 
             Then, to my surprise we passed through an area with some redwood trees, and about half a mile further on more giant redwoods. Twenty three miles from Point Lobos and seventy one miles since leaving Josh's we took a forty-minute lunch break at Fernwood Resort, a Lodge, motel, gift shop, groceries and dining room. A sign announced that Fernwood was biker friendly and on display in the dining room were two beautifully woven wicker motor cycles!
 
             We realized that we could not go any further south, so having had our meal we headed north for Aptos. We had to stop for a red light at the Bixbie Bridge crossing and from here we could see that there was a really big swell in the water below with huge waves lashing against the coast. Near Carmel-By-The-Sea we started to get into some heavy traffic. We decided that it sure had been a miserable day as far as rain and fog were concerned, but we had fun anyway. I just didn't expect to have any very good pictures! Point Lobos, as it happened, was the only park we visited! It was almost six o'clock when we arrived back at Josh's where we had the artichokes for supper as well as quiche.

The day’s total - 135 miles
Total whilst in Aptos -239 miles
Trip Total - 2,926 miles

Day 14: Wednesday, February 17 - Day trip to Santa Cruz California

             After a relaxed and leisurely breakfast we decided to go in a different direction for today's drive going west around the northern end of Monterey Bay. We took the freeway into Santa Cruz where we drove through the campus of the University of California Santa Cruz (UCSC) to see the library in the redwoods. LP had been impressed with this building years before and was anxious for me to see it, too.
 
             We stopped at the information booth by the entrance to get a map of the campus and ask about the library. There were actually two libraries, the main one and the Science Library. At first the road went through open countryside, hilly fields overlooking Monterey Bay and the city of Santa Cruz, before entering the redwood forest.
 
             As school was in session parking on campus was at a premium, and, with changes that had taken place since LP's last visit, as well as ongoing construction, it was not easy to find our way around even with map in hand. Before LP decided we were in the wrong location, I walked around and in the Science Library while he stayed in the car. We did find parking in another lot near the main library, but to get to it we had to follow a trail through the forest and over a foot bridge across a deep ravine.
 
             LP was generally disappointed because he could not find the view which had left such an indelible impression on his mind. On the other hand, it being my first visit I found it an amazing campus and incredibly beautiful. The university was founded in 1965 on a 2,000-acre portion of the Cowell Ranch, and before leaving, we stopped near the entrance by the remnants of some old buildings we had seen when we first arrived. They were the remains of the Historic Cowell Ranch. It was here also that I saw some eschscholtzia (that is California poppies) blooming.
 
             By this time lunch was on our minds so from the campus we drove down to the bay, parking the car near the end of the Santa Cruz Municipal Wharf at the corner of Pier and Beach Streets. We had a wonderful walk to the end of the pier and enjoyed seeing sea lions and pelicans. We had our lunch (seafood chowder in sourdough bread bowl) sitting on the pier gazing out across Monterey Bay. We could hear the barking of the sea lions as they lounged around on the wooden beams under the wharf.
 
             We drove along the street closest to the beach but could not see the water for the fun park along the boardwalk. This was established in 1904 and consists of an adventure center, a casino built in 1907, a carrousel dating from 1911 as well as other displays. It might look nice at night when brightly lit, but did not impress me in daylight and for me it was an eyesore!
 
             Turning around we went back past the pier and made Lighthouse Park our next stop. The Lighthouse, home to a Surfing Museum, was closed (closed Tuesday and Wednesday). Here there were a lot of surfers in the water and many people looking on. We spent about an hour in the area after lunch stopping here and there to enjoy the views and watch the surf.
 
             Then we wended our way over to CA-1 north, which follows the coastline to San Francisco. We passed a number of market gardens and a field of artichokes. It had been a lovely sunny day with a few clouds around, but as we drove north there was fog rising off the water at the same time as the sun was shining. The road was hugging the cliff at the water's edge and the surf was pounding down on offshore rocks sending up great clouds of spray. Soon after crossing the San Mateo County Line we came upon Pigeon Point Lighthouse and turned in to see it. We were unable to park anywhere and it looked as if the buildings around the lighthouse were being used as a hostel, or maybe a conference center?
 
             Año Nuevo State Reserve, best known for its large colony of northern elephant seals, lies a few miles south of Pigeon Point whilst six miles to the north there is another wildlife viewing area at Pescadero Beach Park.
 
             From here, leaving the coast behind us, we crossed over CA-1, passed a field of leeks and drove on through Historic Pescadero, (pop. 500/El. 30 feet), established in 1856. We followed the narrow winding road into the hills. It was very scenic - in places waterfalls gushed out of mountain sides, there were a lot of homes and farms scattered through the hills and lots of blossom on trees.
 
             Twelve minutes after leaving the coast we were deep in a redwood forest, with ferns clinging to the cliffs and well below us was running Pescadero Creek. It was quite dark but beautiful with the trees overhanging the road creating a tunnel. In Loma Mar a grocery store and lovely homes were scattered in the woods. After passing the entrance to San Mateo County Memorial Park we had to negotiate a number of hairpin bends as we gained elevation.
 
             Still climbing, but having emerged temporarily from the forest, the sun was shining and we could look down and out to sea. We thought that maybe we were over the crest because we started to descend and return to the forest, which was so thick it was very dark driving through it. At the junction with Alpine Road we turned to the right into Heritage Grove Redwood Preserve. This was an extremely narrow road, single lane in places. Finally I found a spot where there was enough room to pull up and stop. Several hundred yards before this there had been some giant redwoods. Here, where we did stop it was so damp the tree trunks were green with thick moss, and a wooden fence had a thick covering of moss.
 
             This narrow road was still climbing considerably so we were not at the crest earlier! Once again in my travels I was truly amazed thinking of what must have been involved in the surveying and construction of a road such as this. We appeared to go over a crest shortly before turning onto CA-35, Skyline Ridge Road, a major road compared to the one we had just traversed. LP said, "Now it gets boring ... a full width road, double lines, speed limit signs ... " However, we would still be seeing a lot of redwoods, especially after turning off CA-35 onto CA-9.
 
             Unfortunately it was too late to take the 17-mile scenic route CA-236 through the redwood forest in Big Basin State Park. In fact, by six o'clock, when we got into the big redwoods it was quite dark. LP made the comment that if we were in a place which had 22 hours of sunshine I would still say that we did not get away early enough!
 
             After leaving Boulder Creek and shortly before returning to Santa Cruz we were stopped at a red light for a one-lane road. There has been a landslide, not across the road, but the other side of the road had slid down the hill! We arrived back in Santa Cruz at 6:30 leaving CA-9 for CA-1 to Aptos, where we were to meet Josh at his office. From there the three of us would go for supper, our treat, but Josh was to choose the restaurant. We went to the Cafe Rio, which had a nice ambiance, but the service was disappointing.

The day’s total - 122 miles
Total whilst in Aptos - 361 miles
Trip Total - 3,048 miles

Day 15: Thursday, February 18 - Aptos, California, to Winnemucca, Nevada

             We had hoped to make an early start, but Josh convinced us that the worst of the traffic would be over if we stayed for breakfast. So we ended up leaving Josh's place at 9:50, considerably later than expected, but we had until Sunday to get home. LP had checked the weather channel and didn't think that we would run into any problems!
 
             After only 7½ miles on CA-1 we turned onto CA-17, the route which would take us 25 miles over the mountains to San Jose. When we passed the sign, WINDING ROAD FOR 8 MILES, the road was also climbing and we were in the clouds. The cloud or fog was so thick, it was what we would call a pea-souper in South Australia. When we were more or less over the mountain and as we came down out of the clouds, the sun was trying to shine and we began to see shadows.
 
             Leaving CA-17 we turned east on I-280 which became I-680 north, and after about 20 miles we left the freeway for CA-84 to Livermore. We were not confused - we had a map! We could have stayed on interstates all the way to I-80, but chose not to. There were cattle on what looked to be rich grazing country. All the hills were very green, but there were no trees on them. The road narrowed and the speed limit was reduced from 50 to 25 mph as we climbed over a hill, and going over the crest there was a town in the valley below.
 
             Nearing Livermore, (pop. 56,700/El. 486 feet), trees were covered with blossom, vineyards lined both sides of the road and there were a number of different wineries. LP knew a lot about Livermore, all to do with nuclear physics and it was quite interesting listening to him talk about a subject he obviously had knowledge of. After thirty-three years of marriage I am still surprised periodically about LP's accumulation of obscure general knowledge!


From AAA Tour Book
     "the principle community in Livermore Valley, a scenic area with vineyards and cattle lands. Sycamore trees, some more than 2 centuries old, grow along the banks of the Arroyo del Valle ... Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory Visitor Center presents a broad-based display of the scientific technology developed at the laboratory and highlights the laboratory's research on new energy sources."


Although a limited number of tours are given you have to be over 18, and non-US citizens must make reservations for a tour 45 days in advance!
 
             Just out of Livermore we joined I-580 where we started to see some strangely shaped wind-driven generators. As the road climbed it brought us closer to the hundreds of windmills on the tops of the treeless, grass-covered hills. I-580 was a very busy highway, with four lanes each way and lots of trucks.
 
             Leaving I-580 it was 14 miles on I-205 to I-5, then 54 miles north to I-80, our route for the remainder of the trip home. When we joined I-5, we were in Lathop (El. 18 feet) and passed the exit for CA-120 to Yosemite. Being on this road was a shock to the system; there were so many semis on the road and it looked extremely busy. I-5 is the main north-south route on the west coast. We have seen it in San Diego, CA, in Blaine, WA, and now here in between.
 
             Driving north on I-5, Stockton, (pop.210,900/El. 14 feet) appeared to be an industrial area. There was either smog or fog, with a weird smell which I thought more like smog! This city, connected with San Francisco Bay by a channel 60 miles long and 37 feet deep, was the first of California's two inland seaports, Sacramento being the other. From Stockton Sacramento is 39 miles and Portland, Oregon, 636 miles.
 
             North of Stockton the countryside was very flat with green fields and irrigation ditches. As well as dairy farms, we passed a number of vineyards and saw a sign for a winery. The number of vineyards increased as we went further north with vines on both sides of the road and as far as the eye could see.
 
             On entering Sacramento, (pop. 369,400/El. 25 feet), it was almost 12:30 and we had driven 150 miles since leaving Josh's. The temperature was 51°. We left I-5 for US-50 and Business I-80, drove another ten miles and stopped for gas before joining I-80. Having had a late breakfast we neglected to have lunch in Sacramento, a fact we were to rue as the journey progressed!
 
             We had entered I-80 at 1 o'clock and within 9 miles, near Rocklin, (El. 250 feet), we ran into rain and fog. We were only 113 miles from Reno, Nevada! Five miles beyond Rocklin, we entered Loomis, (El. 399 feet), and in another three miles we were greeted with a sign:
 
CHAINS REQUIRED OVER DONNER SUMMIT

Less than a mile and a half after this sign we came to Newcastle, (El. 970 feet) and reached the elevation of 1,000 feet in another 1.4 miles and just 18 minutes after entering I-80 in Sacramento! It was very cloudy and raining quite heavily, so we couldn't see much of anything at all. I was concerned about chains being required, but LP thought that we would probably be OK!
 
             In another 12 miles we were at 2,000 feet and 12 miles beyond that 3,000 feet. Tuning the radio to weather information there was a continuous broadcast as to which vehicles would be permitted through the check point and it became obvious to us that we did not qualify and we would be turned back. We not only had to have chains, but they had to be installed before we could proceed!
 
             Between 3,000 and 4,000 feet, a distance of 8 miles, we left the freeway twice, the first time looking unsuccessfully for somewhere to purchase chains, and the second time at the Gold Run Shell service station, where we were able to get chains for a price ($59.00). It was 2 o'clock when we reached 4,000 feet and we had managed to travel 52½ miles in an hour.
 
             We had the radio on listening for information and instructions ... 4W vehicles must have chains on board and must have four wheels engaged ... semis could only have one trailer, not two ... and there was something about cars pulling trailers not being allowed through. All other vehicles must have chains in place on the driving axle ... driving and breaking axles on rigs must all have chains. There was a lot of static so it was difficult to hear everything, but you certainly got the sense that "they" meant business and unless you complied you would be turned back. People in orange or yellow vests could install your chains for a price ($20.00). LP tried recording the radio message on my tape recorder, but it was too muffled to be understood.
 
             From 4,000 feet snow covered the hillsides and at 5,000 feet the rain turned to snow. Then there was another sign:

CHAINS REQUIRED 1 MILE AHEAD
SPEED LIMIT 30 MPH MAXIMUM
 
             We stopped a short distance before the Nyack Road exit to have our chains installed, an operation accomplished in 5 minutes, and as we left, we were instructed not exceed 30 mph. Almost immediately we were stopped in heavy traffic. We then moved ahead very slowly to pass through the check point, located right at the Nyack Exit-161, where vehicles not meeting the requirements were made to exit. Every vehicle is checked. What an experience! We had never been through anything like this before.
 
             By 2:15 we had been checked and were ready to proceed. There was a lot of snow on the ground, and at first it seemed only to be snowing lightly but within minutes this changed. Big flakes were coming down thick and fast and there was a lot of slush on the road. Had LP learned anything on the weather channel in the morning about the conditions going over Donner Summit, we may have been discouraged from setting out at all. Then we would have missed all this excitement!
 
             The road was snow covered as we passed the Yuba Gap exit, the road not having been ploughed since the previous exit. The snow cover was becoming quite thick on the road and was probably almost rubbing the bottom of the car. The snow banks where the ploughs had cut them off were about 4 feet high on both sides. We passed a snow covered sign which couldn't be read, but was the size and shape of the elevation signs.
 
             By 2:50 we reached 6,000 feet and the snow banks were much higher than our van, maybe 8-10 feet high. There was a lot of snow accumulating at the side of the road below the snow banks. We saw a sign board with Donner on it, but the rest of it was covered in snow and we wondered if we had reached the summit. This was just before the exit for Soda Springs and Norden, but on checking the map we found the Summit was after the Soda Springs exit
 
             We passed three snow ploughs, two on the right and one on the left as we went over Donner Summit, elevation 7,239 feet, at 3:08. After this there was a steep 5 mile downgrade, and at 3:15 we reached Truckee Town Limit, elevation 6,050 feet. It was snowing heavily and in parts was almost like a white out. We passed the westbound inspection station at 3:25, 1 hour 10 minutes and 28 miles after we left the eastbound check point! This inspection station, built across the road, is really the main inspection station for entry into California, but serves a dual purpose for such occasions as monitoring the traffic when weather in the pass requires it.
 
             The trees were so laden with snow, they were very white. Within 32 miles of Reno there was still a lot of blowing snow, but the afternoon seemed to be brighter. We reached the area where chains were being put on, on the other side of the road, and it looked as if we should be able to have ours removed somewhere in the same vicinity. There were not as many people around to do this job and LP had to take the chains off himself!
 
             I had wanted to stop earlier, but LP said, "Not yet." Now here he was stuck, no boots, not knowing what he was doing, getting freezing cold, and filthy dirty!
 
             Seven minutes had passed and LP only had one side off. Then he was asked for help by a lady travelling on her own to remove her chains! Eventually another man stopped and very kindly took off our other chain and helped the lady, too. It had only taken four minutes for an expert to install the chains, but 25 minutes to remove them! We had driven with the chains for only 38 miles but 2 hours had elapsed between installing and removing chains!
 
             It was still snowing slightly, but mostly it was raining and there were no snow banks and no snow on the road. At 4:20 we entered Nevada, the road, following the valley of the Truckee River. The Truckee, which flooded Reno last year, was now a racing river. There was no snow in Reno as we bypassed the city on I-80. We were still coming out of the hills (mountains), but they were a lot lower, bare desert-like hills. They had quite a lot of black on them which looked like volcanic rock similar to that around Yakima.
 
             We were able to see a bit of blue sky ahead as we approached Fernley where we finally took a rest break. We pulled into the Silverado Casino, but decided not to eat here. Rather we would pick up something at McDonald's! We were in Fernley for only 25 minutes when we returned to I-80. The road went fairly straight in a northerly direction. To the east of us was a range of snow-covered mountains and in the big wide valley between us and them there were many salt lakes or salt pans. At 6:15 there was still a bit of light in the sky, but basically it was dark.
 
             It was 7:15 when we left I-80 at Winnemucca, (pop. 6,100/El. 4,324 feet) and were booked in at the Best Western Holiday Motel ... end of the day's travel. After unpacking at the motel we walked across the road to the Red Lion Casino, which had a very nice dining room where we had our supper.

The day’s total - 451 miles
Total since Aptos - 451 miles
Trip Total - 3,499 miles

Day 16: Sunday, February 19 - Winnemucca, Nevada to Evanston, Wyoming

             We left the motel, having had a very good night, went across the road to the Red Lion Casino for breakfast, got gas and were ready to get on the road by 8:15.
 
             Leaving Winnemucca to continue our homeward journey, we were now able to see that the town where we has spent the night was surrounded by snowy peaks. The mountains looked beautiful with the morning sun shining on them. There were wide expanses of flat country between the various mountain ranges.
 
             Near the Golconda exit, where we paused for pictures, we saw a lot of horses, 50 or more. Soon after this we reached Golconda Summit, El. 5,154 feet. The snow on the mountains made a wonderful backdrop to the beautiful colors of the flat valleys.
 
             At 9:30 we took a ten-minute break at the Rest Area just after Dunphy. Here there was an interpretive sign about the Beowawe Geysers, but I was unable to distinguish any steam rising from them. We pulled into a truck parking area at a summit, but this spot did not warrant a picture, and soon after reached Twin Summit, El. 5,672 feet. About two miles later we went through Emigrant Pass, El. 6,114 feet. It was an incredibly beautiful day. There were times when we were driving under the clouds and it really felt cold then, but in the sunshine it was warm.
 
             The clouds and sunshine enhanced the beauty of the whole area. There was a great variety of colors in the land, either the soil, the dry grasses or the sagebrush all contributing to this beauty.
 
             As we approach the next range I was wondering where the road went because it appeared to be going straight into the hills, and in fact this was exactly what happened. Shortly after the town of Carlin the road went through a tunnel, and upon exiting there were hoodoo-type rock formations to the left of the road. Actually there were twin tunnels for the highway as well as two railway tunnels. I had noticed the Humbolt River before entering the tunnel and again after the tunnel! I wondered what course it had taken!
 
             Ten miles from the tunnel we passed the exits for Elko and the road continued to cross mountain ranges and valleys. Rounding a corner near the Ryndon and Devil's Gate exit, the mountain range ahead had a lot of snow on it and the tops of the mountains were in cloud. Twenty miles further on I took a picture from the car as I was driving and did the same thing again in another 10 miles!
 
             We decided that we were at a higher elevation in this area because there were small patches of snow along the roadside and in between the sagebrush right down to the road rather than just on the distant mountains.
 
             It was almost 11 o'clock when we passed the junction of I-80 with US-93 in Wells (pop. 1,300/El. 5,625 feet). It was here at Wells that we joined I-80 when we came south on US-93 from Twin Falls, Idaho, with Jen, my sister, in 1997. From here also US-93 continues south to Ely and to Great Basin National Park. I took two pictures in the vicinity of Wells. From here it was 59 miles to Wendover on the Nevada/Utah border and 181 miles to Salt Lake City.
 
 
             Pulling into a parking area when only minutes past Wells, there were flakes of snow fluttering down. Then crossing Independence Valley I was once again trying to see where the road went as we came towards the next range. Last time it turned north and went round the end of the range. This time we came to a sign:

WHEN FLASHING CHAINS OR SNOW TIRES REQUIRED

and, although there were a few flakes falling, the road was dry. I decided the sign meant that we were going up and over, rather than around! Then I could see a gap and the road entered a canyon. It was really spectacular going through here, vertical rock cliffs on one side, snow-covered cliffs on the other, and caves in the rocks. We pulled into a parking area on Pequop Summit, El. 6,987 feet and here we had to walk over ice to reach the rest room.
 
             It was an absolutely gorgeous day. Twenty miles east of Pequop Summit I took a picture of Pilot Peak, El. 10,716 feet, its summit hidden in cloud. In another 14 miles we came over the top of a hill above Wendover and the view was of the salt flats.
 
             We left I-80 at 11:50 in Wendover where we spent the next three and a half hours at the Rainbow Casino! We had a wonderful lunch (only $10.54 for two, senior price) and had fun playing the slots, particularly "Wheel of Fortune". We won enough to pay for our lunch and a little to spare.
 
             Immediately after returning to I-80 we entered Utah, and were back in Mountain Standard Time, which meant it was an hour later! Driving across the Bonneville Salt Flats there seemed to be a lot more water than we'd seen previously. After leaving Nevada I was watching the clouds over the mountains ahead and there appeared to be dark clouds and heavy precipitation in one particular area. Then it spread over a much greater area and I suspected that it was snowing!
 
             As we reached the east side of the broad expanse of the valley of the Bonneville Flats, we were driving in sunshine, and occasionally in the shadow of an overhead cloud. Lots of dark stormy looking clouds hung over the mountains in the entire Salt Lake region. By the time we drove past Saltair on the shore of the Great Salt Lake, the tops of the peaks in the Wasatch Range were hidden from view by dark clouds.
 
             We felt that we were making good time until we reached the western outskirts of Salt Lake City where a sign was posted that I-80 was closed and we would have to detour on I-215 south of the city. What a long detour! We drove 25 miles before returning to I-80 east of the city at the foot of Parley's Canyon.
 
             On reaching Parley's Summit, El. 7,000 feet, we stopped for gas. It was very cold; there was snow everywhere, large snowflakes fluttered and icicles were hanging from the buildings.
 
             We crossed the state line between Utah and Wyoming at 7:25 and immediately left the highway at the first Evanston exit. We decided that the Best Western was too expensive, so went to the Prairie Inn motel at which we had stayed previously. It was snowing when we arrived there at 7:40, the end of a pleasant day.

The day’s total - 442 miles
Total since Aptos - 893 miles
Trip Total - 3,941 miles

Day 17: Saturday, February 20 - Evanston, Wyoming, to Lincoln, Nebraska

             It was very cold when we emerged from our room at the Prairie Inn Motel, so it did not take us long to pack the car and get under way. We were on I-80 shortly before 8 o'clock, not knowing what kind of winter weather we might encounter. By Exit-30 the road was in very bad shape with snow over it and some icy patches, but by Exit-34 the road was much better again and looked as if both lanes were relatively dry and clear.
 
             After going through the Green River Tunnel, the extreme cold morning when we first set out was becoming a glorious sunny day, pleasant for driving. Between Green River and Rock Springs I found myself thinking about April 3, 1997, when I drove to Vancouver for Anna's wedding. That day the road was covered in ice and I followed the sander all the way from Rock Springs to Green River.
 
             At 10 o'clock we cross the Continental Divide, El. 6,930 feet, the first of two in Wyoming. From here the highway enters the southern end of the Red Desert in the Great Divide Basin. The area has no outlets, east or west, for any rivers to reach either the Atlantic or the Pacific. The AAA Tour Book describes the Red Desert as "an area of moving sand dunes second in size only to the Sahara Desert."
 
             We started to get quite a lot of cloud cover and could certainly feel the difference in the temperature when the sun was hidden.
 
             About five miles before Rawlins, (pop. 9,400/El. 6,758 feet), we again crossed the Continental Divide, El. 7,000 feet, this time the eastern boundary of the Great Divide Basin. The sun was still shining after we had gone through Rawlins, yet there was the odd snowflake falling softly and there were snow clouds ahead on the mountains. Thus far we had been lucky enough not to have been held up on our homeward run, but at this point it sure looked as if our luck may have run out!
 
             By now we began to see a few cars on the road. Practically all the vehicles we had seen previously, going both directions, had been semitrailers whilst cars had been few and far between.
 
             We crossed the North Platte River and several miles later in Walcott there was blowing snow on the road. This is where US-30 joins I-80 going west, also where I entered the highway after being detoured in Laramie onto US-30 in April 1997 because adverse weather had closed that section of the interstate. This is also where WY-130 ends after going through the Medicine Bow Range.
 
             It started snowing heavily, creating almost whiteout conditions, but the road was still open! The snow blowing on the surface of the road was like a writhing snake. By the time we crossed the Medicine Bow River the snow quit for a time and we could see patches of blue sky.
 
             There was a long row of wind turbines along the crest of a hill, something which I could not recall having seen before! When we were level with the end of the row we could see that there were three rows of turbines. We also noticed that there was a lot of snow to the south along the road and back into the fields, along with row upon row of the ever present Wyoming snow fences and large snow drifts behind them. Yet to the north the fields were bare.
 
             Looking ahead there were very low clouds on the mountains, probably another snow storm in the Happy Jack area, the highest point on along the entire length of I-80. We were driving under clouds again and could not see Mount Laramie, El. 10,274 feet, at all. We did see our first herd of antelope, however, and a little further along another herd. It wouldn't be Wyoming without at least seeing some antelope.
 
             As we came into Laramie I recognized the exit where all the traffic had been rerouted onto US-30 when the freeway to Rawlins was closed ... and here it was snowing again! Having missed two downtown exits we decided to get off at Grand Avenue, the next exit, and go back. It was 12:05 when we left the interstate for Laramie, (pop. 26,687/El. 7,165 feet).
 
             I drove west along Grand Avenue looking for the main street with the idea of having lunch at the restaurant where Mary and I had supper the night we stayed in Laramie. When I finally found the Cavalryman Restaurant it was closed (The hours: 4:40 - 10:00 PM all year)!
 
             We bought gas, I think the cheapest all trip - 78.9¢/gal., and LP found this really neat place to have lunch, the Restaurant Library and Brewing Company. The tables, antique looking, and of different styles and sizes, were arranged around a circular, hardwood floor below a dome; there were a lot of books on a shelf which surrounded the main area. We were told that the building was a club at one time and the beautiful floor a dance floor.
 
             As we drove back along Grand Avenue there were still some clouds and it was snowing to the south, but the sky ahead was blue with white fluffy clouds. It was a lot clearer than it was earlier when we first stopped in Laramie, but I still suspected that we could get snow at the summit. We returned to I-80 at 1:50 having enjoyed our sojourn in Laramie. Now it was only 44 miles to Cheyenne.
 
             Great! The sun was shining as we went up through the canyon and over the pass, and it looked as if the road construction which had been going on for years was completed. Coming through here on all previous occasions there had been construction in progress. We drove up the mountain in sunshine, but as we went over the Summit, elevation 8,640 ft, we couldn't see anything in the valley below. It looked as if we might run into a snow storm, but it also looked as if it could be to the south in Colorado!
 
             Nearing Cheyenne we could see wind turbines in the distance to the east and working oil pumps on the hills overlooking the city. We left I-80 to take I-25 north to Pettra . She works for US West in the Cheyenne office and LP had arranged to meet her when we passed through. It also gave us a pleasant break in a long day, a day which became longer because I decided it might be an idea to make a run for home!
 
             We returned to I-80 at 3:50 after an hour and 25-minute break. We found there was no snow east of Cheyenne. We returned to "The Good Life" when we crossed the Wyoming/Nebraska State Line at 4:20. We saw a herd of antelope to the north and some buffalo to the south, although the latter were probably being raised commercially.
 
             Soon after crossing the South Platte River (flowing, not frozen) we were at the junction of I-76 with I-80. This was at 5:40 and darkness was closing in fast although there was still some light in the western sky from the sunset. At 6:20 we entered the Central Time Zone, and suddenly it was 7:20! No wonder it was dark!
 
             We ran into snow again when we left the highway in North Platte where we decided to have a meal break and get gas for the last leg into Lincoln. We had dinner at Perkins, filled the gas tank and were back on I-80 by 8:55. The road was wet and it was snowing. Sightseeing for this trip was over! At 10:15 we passed the exit for Kearney, at 10:47 the exit for Grand Island and at 11:20 we were back at York, where we had turned south on US-81 seventeen days earlier.
 
             It was almost midnight when we left I-80 for US-77 south to Van Dorn. We stopped at Super Saver to get milk and arrived home at 12:20, 15½ hours door to door from the motel in Evanston to home.

The day’s total - 823 miles
Total since Aptos - 1,716 miles
Trip Total - 4,764 miles



Lincoln to Mesa 1,272 TRIP TOTAL 1,272
Phoenix to Aptos 1,415 TRIP TOTAL 2,687
Aptos to Lincoln 1,716 TRIP TOTAL 4,764
TRIP with Fran and Otto 709 miles
OUR GRAND TOTAL 5,473 miles



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