Day 7, Tues. May 15: On the road by 5:30 am. 33 degrees out and wet, but skies seem to be clear. The wood steps to our cabin were very slick, could be ice. Did not go out to see the night sky last night, because it was overcast and rainy. This morning the small patch of visible stars was hard to enjoy as I would have to stand with my head back like I was doing the Limbo walk and stare straight up. Sure way to get a neck ache.
What an exalting way to do my morning devotions, going south in a warm car, the sun coming up on our left illuminating the snow capped mountains on our right; the majestic Sierra Nevadas. Like the Psalmist I say “Praise the Lord all you mountains and hills and streams.” We passed grazing cattle in meadows that stretched out to touch the beautiful sun kissed mountains. Their crowns of snow look pink in the morning light.
Fields, farms and small towns pass by our windows as we drive south following the mountain range on our right. We see irrigation water spraying on the dry grass where cattle are grazing. First time I have ever seen irrigation used to water fields for feeding live stock. We stopped in Bishop, California at a gas station. Topped off our tank and bought coffee. The man inside said GPS has sent many tourist to enter Yosemite from the west in winter when the road is closed. After our experience driving here we have learned one thing for sure, “You have got to respect the mountains.” There are no easy fast roads through the Pacific Crest to get your vehicular from point A east of the range to point B on the west side. There are only two such routes, curvy switchbacks, CA-120 which goes through Tioga Pass elevation 9,945 feet and CA-108 that takes you through Sonora Pass elevation 9,265 feet, but they are both closed in the winter and sometimes into late spring.
We sped down US-395, a very nice four lane highway. The mountains became less ominous and they no longer were snow capped as we progressed further south, just brown sloping rugged hills, dotted with pine trees on either side. It was 64 degrees by 9 am. The road seems to follow a natural valley, not through dynamited granite walls like the ones we drive through on Mountain Parkway in Southeast Kentucky, or the tunnels constructed in the 1930s through the Allegheny Mountains along the Pennsylvania Turnpike.
We soon bored with the monotonous drive, and began reciting things we learned that all tourist should know. Here’s the final four we came up with, wisdom from the road that we would like to share with newbies.
4 Things All Tourist should know:
- Whatever you have heard about a tourist destination, know that is probably no longer true.
- If there is a Lowes, Wal-Mart, CVS, Olive Garden and McDonalds then this town is like every other in the US and not worth stopping in.
- When visiting National Parks, visit during the day and spend your nights outside the park at the Hampton or Holiday Inn where you will have WiFi, big screen TV, and free breakfast.
- Always have a state map for each state you will be driving in. Better still, have a Google print out of your driving instructions. Cell phones lose their friggin minds when trying to navigate in mountains and Navigation Ladies inside the dash love to send you down the most obscure county roads just to cut off 3 miles of your trip, saving miles, but costing hours.
We ate breakfast around 10 just east of Barstow at a Subway/Shell Station.
By 11 am we were approaching Needles and it was now 83 degrees. We soon had the same issue we had coming into California; in desperate need of a rest area for over 100 miles. We saw a sign Rest Area 25 miles. Ron said, “I gotta go.” We had already passed two facilities that were closed. The next sign Rest Area 1 mile, instilled hope in us. Then we came to the actual exit, only to find it blocked by orange cones and a sign, Closed for repairs. A loud collective roar erupted from all four persons in our vehicle, “AHHHHHH —then. “What the f…k?”. Next Rest Area 75 miles.
Just inside Needles we stopped at a DQ to pee and ended up with shakes and cones. Before we got back on the expressway Joe decided to give the Nav Lady another chance and entered the address of the Quality Inn Airport in Phoenix into her matrix. I had already Google Mapped and written out the directions the day before, just in case she lost her mind again. So when Nav Lady wanted us to exit at Five Mile Road, the most obvious thought came to me “WTF?” We were going to take exit #9 to AZ-95 South on the other side of Needles and then to I-10 to Phoenix. The only logic I could surmise with her directions was to get us to take some lesser roads to cut across the arch in I-40, a straight line on county roads through the desert, to save us a few miles. We ignored her and so for the next 5 exits she told us to get off the interstate and actually backtrack so we would bend to her will. We began to wonder if she would ever give it up and just recalculate. Once we crossed into Arizona she wanted us to exit on AZ-95 south, which we did.
We traveled south through beautiful landscape and soon we were following Lake Havasu on the right. We stopped at a park where we used the bathroom and took a few photos of the lake and hills. As we drove through Lake Havasu City we saw signs for the London Bridge, which was dismantled and moved there in 1971. We picked up I-10 and headed east toward Phoenix, stopping at a rest are again. Hot and dusty, 96 degrees, cactus and sage and brown packed dirt with black rocks jutting out of the earth for no particular reason. By the time we got to Phoenix it was 100 degrees.
Once in the city, traffic slowed to a crawl. We found the Quality Inn, checked in by 4 pm and scheduled a shuttle to the airport for 7 am the next day. Joe and I headed back out to return the rental car at lot near Phoenix Sky Harbor Airport. Joe called Uber, the car arrived in exactly 11 minutes, and in 20 we were back at the hotel. We ordered pizza to be delivered to our room. Food, shower, TV and cruising Facebook. Chill until morning.
Day 8, Wed. May 16: Non eventful nonstop flight back to CVG. With our loss of three hours, we were home with our dogs by 5:30 pm. We had a great vacation. Another memorable time with our dear friends and traveling buddies Ron and Rita Hopper. I love documenting our travels so we can always go back to revisit and relive all the places and experiences that we had, especially those that may have faded in our minds with time.
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