After 12 days on the road (albeit a few relatively stationary in Portland and Albuquerque), I made it back to Olympia on Tuesday and have started to edit hundreds of photographs. I traveled over 3,200 miles, spent approximately $300 in gas and another $200 for cheap motel rooms and camp sites. A couple hundred more for food, National Park entry fees and souvenirs and the result is one long, epic story and plenty of memories. Priceless.
The first day on the road, I zipped though Oregon and Northern California. I didn’t take any photographs, as I was most interested in getting some miles between myself and Olympia. I stayed in a nondescript Motel 6 in Redding, powering through the Central Valley on Highway 99, which at times was infuriatingly backed up. Hence the bumper love tap I gave to the person ahead of me who slammed on their brakes as the person ahead of them made a left turn with no signal. Yeah. Dude and friends were okay and so was I, and no damage was done to either vehicle. In fact, the fellow was pretty adamant that we didn’t need to exchange information, which was somewhat suspect but hey, I was on the road and didn’t want to think about higher insurance premiums. Anyway, I obviously made it an additional 2,600 miles home with no vehicle problems.
It wasn’t until Southern California that the landscape became interesting for me, through Alvin and Golden Bluffs and Barstow. At this point, I veered off the highway and took a couple ranch exits, winding my way through single lane backroads. You can obviously see where Golden Bluffs gets its name.
Hiking around one of the bluffs, I stumbled upon, literally, the one of the most dramatic scenes I have ever laid eyes upon.
Continuing, the landscape increasingly became more desert-like until I was actually driving through the Mojave Desert. Toward sunset, I began noticing groves of Joshua Trees, finally stopping at a rest stop to hang out with a particularly good looking specimen. Apparently, it takes 100 years for one of these trees to grow 30 feet. An informational display at the stop stated that these trees are actually in the lily family! They are also known as Yuccas through most of Southwest.
Finally, I made it to Barstow. I stopped at an Inn on the outskirts of town. I was somewhat disturbed when the women behind the bullet proof glass in the lobby asked if my stay was for a day, a week or a month. Walking to my room, it was apparent that people actually lived there, and had for a long time. In my room, I found a towel elephant cutely displayed on my bed. It seemed oddly out of place and pathetic in its optimism. As I checked out the next morning, I discovered that the inn was located directly next to a huge high security state correctional facility.
As I made my way into Arizona, I had no idea what the day had in store…