Saturday, October 6, 2012

Day 31 - Bakersfield, CA to Las Vegas, NV

I really needed to give Bakersfield another chance. I thought that a good night's sleep would probably change my perspective.  Two good things about Bakersfield:  the water didn't taste too bad compared to some of the places we've stayed where it tasted like dirt or chlorine or both and the sunrise was beautiful. 

Most of the West is suffering from a severe drought and has been careful of water usage for quite some time.  The signs noting which Water Storage District we were in were something different for us.  But even with the water problems I was also very surprised to see a sod farm as we were leaving the city.  This was a sod farm that was being irrigated in order to grow grass for lawns.

There are also the requisite number of oil wells in the area.  You'd think the price of fuel would be lower here given that it is coming out of the ground right around any given corner.

This is a very long train moving very quickly down the tracks directly next to our campground.  The first one that went by scared the wits out of me.  Once I knew what it was I was okay with it.  These continued through out the entire night.  It was surprisingly easy to sleep right through the commotion.

Only a few minutes drive brought us to a completely different scene as we headed toward the Tehachapi Pass.  This would take us through the Tehachapi Mountains from the San Joaquin Valley to the Mojave Desert and take us up to about 4000 feet elevation. 

The Southern Pacific Railroad crosses the mountains at this pass as well.  The Tehachapi Loop takes a circuitous route and the track actually loops over itself in order to lessen the grade to about 2%.  I borrowed this photo from Wikipedia.

The scenery was beautiful and had such a calming effect after yesterday's drive down 99.  The few clouds in the sky helped to keep the temperature down a bit as well.  It reached a tolerable 88 degrees today with 13 percent humidity.

The Pass is one of California's largest wind resource area.  Prominent among many is the Tehachapi Pass Wind Farm.  The mountain top is covered with wind mills and it was very windy up here.

Somebody had a very bad day.  This accident happened right in front of us.  Brett thought at first that somebody had blown their engine but the car had hit the barrier and then swung completely around to face the oncoming traffic.  We stopped but there was a lot of other help and everybody was okay so we continued on. 

The Mojave Desert (named after the Mohave tribe of Native Americans) occupies a significant portion of southeastern California.  This plant is a Joshua Tree (yucca brevifolia).  If you see a Joshua Tree, you are probably in the Mojave Desert.  These must be incredibly tough plants to survive in this place.  If it can survive the rigors of the desert it can live for hundreds of years (some have been known to live for thousands).
The Twenty Mule Team borax ads were based in fact.  There is still a Twenty Mule Team Road.
A large borax deposit was discovered in 1925 and Boron came into existence.  This borax deposit is now the world's largest borax mine and the largest open pit mine in California.  Other places of note in the Mojave were the Hyundai Kia proving grounds and Edwards AFB.

We needed to stop at a rest area so that I could document the whale in the Mojave.  She does look beached doesn't she?

The rest area offered several useful things such as this helpful warning to watch out for rattlesnakes.  I think I'll start checking my shoes before I put them on in the morning!

And refrigerated vending machines.  Not just for soda or for ice cream but for candy as well.  We noticed this when we started to eat Brett's Skittles and they were cold.  Now that I think about it, it makes lots of sense.  The desert heat would reduce any snack to a pile of goo if it sat out there for very long.
Notice that the vending area is also a nice place to play.

There are also lots of other people all on their way to Las Vegas as well.  I especially admired this fellow's shoes.  You don't see bright orange shoes everyday.  At least you don't see them on somebody who isn't a clown.  A lot of people seemed to need to advertise where they were going.  I lost count of the rear windows painted up with "Vegas or Bust" or "We're Going to Vegas".
And all the most interesting vehicles stop at the rest areas.  Isn't the name "Rain for Rent" just great?  Their website says that they have been setting performance standards for complete liquid handling solutions since 1934.  I'd like to think that when it is just too darned hot you can call them and they will come and make it rain in your yard.
And the rest areas have rest area attendants who have their very own uniforms of dayglow
green t-shirts.  I think that their job is to sit on the bench that a traveler might want to use and to play with their iPhones.  Brett reported that the men's room had no soap and no paper towels.  Maybe there is some other kind of attendant who takes care of those things.
Just in case there were any doubts that Las Vegas would be fun, the Nevada welcome center wants to set some expectations.  This roller coaster casino was just one of quite a few roadside attractions at the border.

Welcome to our little parking lot campsite at the KOA at the Circus Circus in Las Vegas, NV.  We already knew what we were in for so it was no shock to find the pavement filled campground.  There are a few trees around the edges and the sites at the very ends of the rows have some grass in their little islands.  The campground hosts are very nice and they gave us lots of helpful information about seeing the sights.  One of the recommendations is to leave the vehicle where it is and take the bus.  For $8.00 you can get a 24 hour bus pass that will take you to all the hotels and casinos in this area.  We are right on the end of "the strip" and convenient to a lot of the sights.

While preparing dinner, the microwave stopped working.  I was beginning to feel tense wondering how I could possibly continue roughing it without my radar range!  But it must have just gotten itself all worked up and once it had a chance to rest it came back to life.  YAY!  After dinner we decided to explore a bit.  We thought that since it was dark it would be cooler but it wasn't.  So in 88 degree darkness we set off to find the front of Circus Circus (no small feat as it turned out) and then to walk down the strip a bit.

We spent a bit of time inside Circus Circus and quite a bit of time outside looking for a door!  It is probably much like the other places in that it is a combination hotel and casino.  The theme for this place is the circus.  There are carnival type games and amusements as well as live circus acts intermingled with all the gambling.  I played $1.00 in a slot machine and won 20 cents!  Then we sat down to watch a circus act.
  First there was a juggler who wasn't very good but all the kids liked him.
And then there was the Amazing Alexandra who performed with a net suspended from the ceiling.  She would spin and wrap herself up and then unroll herself and perform various feats of flexibility.  All to the delight of the many children in the audience.  I was quite surprised to see so many kids up and about.  Maybe the circus theme is a draw for them here.  We'll see what it's like at the other places tomorrow.

I set a $10.00 limit on my gambling so I still have $9.00 left to go.  Maybe I will win another 20 cents.
I wasn't sure what to expect from Las Vegas.  My first impressions are that it is not nearly as glamorous as it is made to look in the movies and on television.  There are a lot of very ordinary people here, dressed in ordinary clothing.  Some are gambling, some are wandering around with beers in hand and some are pushing their kids around in strollers.  There are a lot of foreigners here.  Brett remarked that he couldn't understand any of the several conversations he was able to hear because nobody was speaking English.  Why do so many of the people drinking beer in the street look so young?  Smoking is allowed in a lot of places in Nevada so there's that.  It is hot, it is crowded, it is like a big mall in lots of big buildings, there are slot machines in the Seven Eleven,  there are a lot of restaurants and there are a lot of shops in which to spend your money.  And we are having fun!

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