Monday, October 8, 2012

Day 33 - Las Vegas, NV to Flagstaff, AZ

Today we left Las Vegas and headed for Flagstaff, Arizona.  Another driving day means another random list

We didn't unhook the truck from the trailer while we were staying in Vegas so we hadn't bothered to fill the fuel tank.  This meant that we had to find a station with diesel before we left Dodge (so to speak).  We didn't really want to head out into the great beyond with less than a quarter of a tank full.  Thankfully we departed early on a Sunday morning so there really wasn't much traffic.  Gas Buddy (yay!) showed us the way to a Western Petroleum station that was on our route but it was on the left side of the road across four lanes of traffic with a fairly narrow entrance.  The amazing Brett got us parked at a fuel pump without even breaking a sweat.  A nice man pumped gas for us and we exchanged pleasantries about where we have lived and traveled.  That narrow entrance would bite us on the way out.

See the dent?  No worries, that was there when we bought the truck.  But the red paint around the dent is new and it came from the post that we hit on the way out of the gas station.  I'd say that the truck's previous owner had done something similar.  Once we cleared the post, we were back out on the street but headed in the wrong direction.  This caused our next best maneuver which was a U-turn on a Las Vegas thoroughfare.  We are 53 feet from truck bumper to rear camper bumper and the turn was a sight to behold.  But we were now headed east.  Yay Brett!

Las Vegas is a big sprawling place in the desert surrounded by mountains.  From the look of it, the Las Vegas Valley is pretty much filled with "civilization".  Las Vegas started as a stopover town for pioneers traveling West and it was also a staging point for mines that surrounded the area.  Judging from the terrain that we saw today, I would be a very happy pioneer when I saw the Las Vegas Valley.  Even if it isn't very green, it is flat.

As is typical of neighborhoods in Western cities, there were lots of houses that all looked basically the same.  Many, many houses.

Oh good heavens!  Mountains!  Are we going to have to climb those?

Why yes.  And then some after that.  Twenty miles from Las Vegas (mostly uphill) is Boulder City, NV whose claim to fame is that it is the home of the Hoover Dam.  The city was originally built as housing for people who worked on the dam.  I found it interesting that it is one of only two cities in Nevada that prohibits gambling.  You can see a part of Lake Mead from the road.

And now we continue our winding way up.  Las Vegas is at about 2,000 feet and Flagstaff is at nearly 7,000 feet.  So we would climb about a mile in elevation in less than 300 miles today.  At times it felt like we were doing it all at once.  This is the road as it winds toward the exit for the Hoover Dam visitors center.  We did not go to see the dam because we were pulling the whale.  RV's are searched and the parking for them is not directly at the center but calls for quite a long walk back.  Maybe another time.  This landscape is absolutely desolate.  There is not a plant growing on theses rocks.  And the rocks are very dark which just adds to the ominous atmosphere. 

After we finished with that climb, the landscape changed a bit.  It is still very desolate but the color of the rocks is changing.  Water is the chief sculptor in these parts.  There must have been a lot of water rolling over these hills for a very long time.

We stopped at a turnout and learned that there is a large herd of Bighorn Sheep who call this area home.  When the highway was built, the sheep couldn't move around as they used to so wildlife overpasses were built and they seemed to work just fine.

Here is the whale parked at the turnout just east of Hoover Dam.  The people parked beside us were returning from a trip to Lake Havasu.  They reported that they did not like it there.  There were too many noisy, drunk college kids and the wind blew all the time.

From the turnout we could also see Willow Beach on Lake Mead.  It was odd to see lots of vehicles pulling boats and personal watercraft around.  Boating is a big recreational activity in the area.

And there was a good view of one of the wildlife overpasses which I hadn't even noticed when we drove under it about 5 minutes before.

Much of the day was spent in terrain like this traveling through towns with names like Dolan Springs and Chloride.  Many signs were offering land for sale but I'd be wondering if this was land with water or just land you couldn't possible do a thing with.  I want to know where the people who live out here work and buy their groceries.  And I want to know WHY they live here.  Dolan Springs is a very poor town that has signs advertising that it is the gateway to the Grand Canyon Skyrim.  I cannot determine why is has Springs in its name.  Chloride is the oldest, continually inhabited mining town in Arizona.  The name came from the silver chloride found in the hills (that's the stuff used in photographic emulsions).  There are still 250 people living there.  We also passed Mineral Park Mine which is a large open pit copper and molybdenum mine. 
These mountains which appear to spring up from nowhere are all that is left from volcanic eruptions.  The softer, surrounding rocks have all eroded away.

For 50 miles we saw signs advertising Gus's Jerky.  We had to stop and Brett had to buy a package of beef jerky.  The man loves his jerky!

Kingman AZ looked like an oasis with all the green (which comes from irrigating the landscape).  It is another sprawl in an otherwise bleak land.

This is where we saw the signs warning of slow trucks for the next 16 miles.  Let me translate for you:  you will be climbing steadily uphill for the next 16 miles and your engine will be whining at you.  But never fear.  The road will flatten out for a couple of miles, it may trick you by going downhill for a few yards but then you will climb again.

And you will be greeted by more rocks than you ever felt existed in the whole world.

It was getting to be lunch time but the next rest area was advertised as 82 miles away (and it turns out that it was closed).  We had to improvise a lunch stop.  At the next highway exit we found a spot where all the crumbled up pavement from roadwork was dumped and where there was a big parking area.  This was the view from the back window at lunchtime.

Brett had to get a picture of the metal grates across the highway entrance ramps.  These are to keep the cattle from walking onto the road.  It looks like Brett is afraid to cross it too!  They must work.  We didn't see any cows on the road.  But then again, I think we saw about 20 cows the whole day.  They must have been on another of the hundreds of acres that it takes to nourish one cow in this place.
The terrain is wide open for the last stretch and it is easy to see what is coming.

Gone are the cars with the "Las Vegas or Bust" signs in the rear window.  Today I saw a rear window that loudly proclaimed "We will miss our chicken".

One last climb brought us to another terrain.  This is a volcanic soil plain dotted with small evergreens.  Finally as we get close to Flagstaff we see the open forests of Ponderosa Pine.  Real trees again!

We will be staying in Flagstaff for three nights at Black Bart's RV Park.  This is a shabby little park that has seen better days but it has a distinct western vibe to it.  There are many permanent residents here, the sites are gravel and not necessarily well maintained but it will do just fine.  The best feature is Black Bart's Steakhouse.  This is an enormously popular restaurant that serves an excellent steak dinner.  The wait staff also double as entertainers.  While you eat, various members of the staff are singing along with a very talented piano player.

Our drinks server took our order and then went up on stage to sing Boogie Woogie Bugle Boy!

I thought it would be nice to end with some food art.  This was an excellent piece of aged sirloin, perfectly cooked with all the typical steak dinner sides.  I must now digest my dinner.

No comments:

Post a Comment