Friday, July 29, 2016

Los Angeles to Las Vegas

The Journey

One day travel from Los Angeles to Death Valley.
One day travel through Death Valley to Las Vegas.

The Route 
Los Angeles, Ca Hwy 14 to Redrock Randsburg Rd to Randsburg, CA > Trona Rd to Hwy 178 to Hwy 190 into Death Valley National Park Hwy 190 to State Line Rd to Bell Vista Rd to Pahrump, NV > Hwy 160 to Las Vegas, NV

Traveling North from Los Angeles past Ridgecrest, CA, you will encounter signs for the "town" of Ballarat.  Take the short detour down the bumpy 3-mile dirt road to Ballarat, which sits in the shadows of the Panamint Mountain Range

Ballarat was founded in 1897 as a mining town, and in its heyday had over 500 residents and at least seven saloons.  The town died when the nearby Ratcliffe Mine was closed in the first decade of the 1900s, and it is now one of many ghost towns stranded in the American west.  

Over the years, various residents have moved into Ballarat to have a town all to themselves, and a few have left relics which post-date the town's natural life.

In the 1960's, the infamous "Manson family" lived briefly in a secluded ranch just south of Ballarat and left graffiti in the town; in the 1970s, a hippie celebration attended by approximately 2000 people ended badly as nearly 200 of them contracted Hepatitis from bad drinking water.

The day we visited, there were some temporary residents who had 'moved in.'  After using their restroom, it was explained to me that I would need to gather a bucket of water from a tub to pour down and "flush" the toilet.  As a guest in their home, I of course obliged!

From Ballaret, we climbed over the mountains and descended into Death Valley National Park.
*It's a long way down to the lowest & hottest point in the USA.

Death Valley National Park is a diverse desert wasteland.  Sand, salt, and sulfur combine to create a surreal landscape.  
 *On the way down into Death Valley you pass by - and go below - sea level.

*Playing with a rock in the Death Valley sand dunes.

*Relaxing on an old wooden fence at the old Harmony Borax Works.

*Heading further down

 *Standing in Devil's Golf Course, a massive area comprised of large, jagged rock salt formations.  Tread carefully around these!

*The white, sandy bottom of Badwater Basin

*The lowest point in the USA

A storm tried to climb the mountain as we approached Artist's Drive, a one way loop through multi-colored sedimentary mountains 

Though the storm never caught us, it did send a washout across the road.  We discovered that washouts are common in the American southwest, where rain water can quickly carve channels in the soft soil and create rivulets that build up enough to cross the road.  We forged this one.  If that litte Honda up ahead could do it, so could we!
*Had to make a stop at the next gas station for some clean up

We left Death Valley NP and snuck out of California between two storms.  We were then escorted by big, puffy clouds and giant rock walls into Las Vegas, NV.

Las Vegas has become a seminal, somewhat seedy, departure from real life for Americans.  But how did it become a mirage in the Desert (with a real Mirage resort, which is home to the best show in Vegas, Love, a Circque Du Soleil show set to Beatles music and themes)?

Like Ballarat, it is the ghost of a western boom town with gambling and other uninhibited pursuits.  But while Ballarat's ghost lies peacefully in its grave, Las Vegas is a zombie enlivened first by the decidedly east coast Mafia in the 1950's, and now by the mostly east coast corporate interests of gambling conglomerates (including Trump Entertainment Resorts, Inc.).
 *The Luxor and Mandalay Bay

*Ceasar's Palace

*Inside The Venetian, where Gondolas  can take you around the river to different parts of the resort.

My wife was the lucky one during our visit to Vegas, and turned $2 into $1.80.  Not bad!

Stay tuned as we travel from Las Vegas to Utah and visit Zion and Bryce Canyon National Parks, then pass back through Arizona across Lake Powell and stop at Horseshoe Bend.

*Zion National Park

 *Bryce Canyon National Park

*Horseshoe Bend near Lake Powell, Arizona

Monday, July 11, 2016

Flagstaff, AZ to Los Angeles, CA

The Journey

Two days for travel and sightseeing

The Route 
Flagstaff, AZ Route 66/I-40 to Hwy 95 to Lake Havasu City, AZ > Hwy 95 to Parker, AZ Hwy 62 to Joshua Tree National Park > Hwy 74 to Palm Springs, CA Hwy 79 to Hwy 60 to Los Angeles & Hollywood