Aug 26 2007

Yosemite Camping Trip

Last week Christine, Sam, Rece and I went to Yosemite. We camped out 4 nights and enjoyed getting away from the rat race for a spell. As usual, I took a bunch of pictures, though not quite as many as on other trips. For those who want to check them out, you can find the Flickr set here.

Here’s how the trip went (warning — this is a very long story):

Day 1: Tuesday

We took off in our rented minivan after work. Our goal was to get through the traffic of SoCal and stay in a motel somewhere up in the high desert. The traffic was awful, so we opted for the (longer) scenic route over the San Bernardino mountains. The timing of it would bring us to Crestline in time for dinner. The original plan was to visit Cappelletti’s Pizza, but they were closed (which was unusual), so we settled for Billy Bear’s Restaurant instead. The food wasn’t bad, but it definitely wasn’t Cappelletti’s Pizza.

Following dinner was a scenic drive down the backside of the mountain, down to the high desert. We drove by Silverwood Lake, which brought back memories of a bike riding adventure my friends and I had more than 22 years before. Our drive ended at the SpringHill Suites Victorville Hesperia (our motel), where we were happy to find air conditioning.

Day 2: Wednesday

After filling up on a delicious breakfast at the motel, we began our long desert drive up highway 395. For those of you who don’t already know; this stretch of road goes through the very heart of BFE. The high desert does have its charms, but how much sand, dirt, rocks, scrub brush does one need to see?

It wasn’t until we were at the base of the Sierra mountains before the towns we passed through became quaint and interesting. Of note were Lone Pine, Big Pine, and Bishop, where we stopped for lunch. We drove by a place named Bar B-Q Bill’s-Oney’s (I’m tickled that they have a website), and it just called out to our adventurous food nature. The place is an old-style BBQ place with (real) wagon wheels and old west paraphernalia decorating the place. With our bellies full of shredded BBQ beef sandwiches and fixins, we continued on our journey north.

Along the way we were reminded of an episode of California’s Gold when Huell Howser visited Mono Lake. We spotted signs for the lake and noted on our map that it was at the base of the mountain where we’d be camping. There was no way we were passing up a chance at checking it out for ourselves. I just realized how big of a dork that made me seem. Hmm. Spotting Mono Lake to our right and highway 120 leading up to the Tioga Pass and into Yosemite National Park, it was a no-brainer for us to decide that Mono Lake would have to wait … and so it did.

Driving into Yosemite National Park I was in awe; the rugged granite mountains and glacier-cut cliffs — the Sierra Nevada mountains are a sight to behold. Even this late in the summer one can still see areas of ice/snow in the high peaks. We had to laugh at ourselves as we realized we had all gasped aloud as we rounded a corner of the road and came into view of Ellery Lake, at an elevation of 9538′. The views just kept on coming, too.

We arrived at the park entrance just short of 4:00 in the afternoon. I was a bit worried that we’d be stuck with a bad campsite, since the reservation I had was for an unspecified campsite at Tuolumne Meadows — they assign you one upon arrival. As luck would have it, there were only a few sites still open, but it didn’t make much of a difference; our campsite seemed just as good as any other.

We quickly set up camp and stowed our food items away in the bear proof food locker provided by the park at each campsite. We then went about the business of making dinner (delicious fillet mignon!) and getting settled in. Rece and Sam went to the campfire circle to join other campers in whatever it was they decided to do around a campfire.

After dark, we all walked to Lembert Dome in order to participate in a star gazing session with one of the park rangers. It started with a short walk in near-total darkness up a path through the woods (we weren’t allowed to use our flashlights), up to a huge slab of rock where we could sit or lay down and take in the star-filled sky. We learned about some of the stars and constellations and where to find Polaris (the North Star), among other things. Having had quite a full day, we turned in right after the star gazing.

Day 3: Thursday

As I type this, I’m realizing how incredibly long this story is — and I still have 3 more days to go! Believe me, I’m doing my best to keep it brief while providing enough detail to go over all the main points of the trip. Anywho …

Thursday was a day for something different, and not at all within Yosemite. We decided to pay a visit to Mono Lake and the old, abandoned mining town of Bodie. The Mono Lake museum and visitor center was a very nice facility and provided some fascinating information of the lake and other local history. From the museum we drove around to the South Tufa, where we viewed the odd tufa formations.

After a short visit (but longer than we anticipated — it really was more interesting than we had originally thought), we drove up to Bodie. The signs warning that snow was not removed beyond a certain point didn’t deter us one bit, we braved the paved road, which eventually became a well-graded dirt road a few miles away from the town.

The town of Bodie is a very interesting place to visit. Not only is it fairly remote, but the idea that people traveled to it on foot, horse, and wagon more than 100 years ago is simply amazing. The other thing that boggled my mind was that the population got as high as 10,000 people! We did the self-tour and took some pictures of the place. It was a warm day and we were still feeling the effects of being at a much higher altitude, so we weren’t as motivated to check out every little detail as we might have, but it was a very cool experience, nonetheless.

The amount of gas in the rental by the time we arrived at Bodie gave us reason to be concerned a little. So we made for the nearest town, hoping that it would have a gas station. Lucky for us, Bridgeport, the seat of Mono County, had all we needed. We took a short nap in the minivan at a park, then went out to Pop’s Galley for a bite to eat. This was a nice little establishment with the owner(s) working the counter and grill themselves. The burgers were pretty good (and the fried clams — mmm!) and I just felt at home there.

After lunch, we decided to head back to Yosemite and drive into the park further. About half-way between Tuolumne and Yosemite Valley, we turned around to go back. Along a straight, open stretch of road I dark form lumbered into the road, about 100 yards ahead. I stopped the car and it dawned on me that we were looking at a bear; not quite a cub, but definitely not an adult. “That’s a bear!” I marveled, which got the attention of everybody. We didn’t have much time to look at it, let alone grab our cameras, before it saw us and took off into the woods. We cautiously drove by the area it crossed and managed to spot it running between the trees. It was a very cute little fella! Having had such a late lunch, we ended up skipping dinner and turned in to bed early.

Day 4: Friday:

Friday morning was pretty damned cold — even I was cold, and that’s saying quite a bit! This helped motivate us to get up and off to a pretty early start. Today our goal was to check out the Yosemite Valley and see the main attractions of the park.

The drive there was beautiful, as one might expect. We noted at how quickly the temperature rose as we descended in from Tuolumne. Upon arriving in the valley, we also noted at how many tourists there were. I was a bit surprised, as our campgrounds, despite the fact that they were full, was not so crowded. These also turned out to be many of the same type of people I enjoy getting away from in the city. Accepting our fate, we made the most of it and checked out the local store — buying t-shirts and post cards and such.

On the way down, we had checked out the various hikes that were down in the valley and opted to try hiking to Mirror Lake. After finding a place to park in the over-crowded parking lot, we made our way to the trail head. We had a nice wander through the forest on the edge of the valley campgrounds. We inquired with a family of hikers about the lake, to which the husband replied, “It’s more a mirage than a mirror at this point,” and went on to explain that the lake was all but dry right now. Not seeing a reason to continue on with the hike in the heat without the reward of a cooling lake to dip our feet into, we went back to the car and promptly drove back to our campsite.

It might seem as though our trip to the Yosemite Valley was a total bust, but it really wasn’t. The looming glacier-cut cliffs and scenery is a marvel. Had it not been so hot and muggy, we might have tried a different hike. The biggest issue that we introverts had was the fact that there were too many people!

Later that afternoon, Christine and I left Sam and Rece to entertain themselves while we took a quiet hike along the Tuolumne River. Almost immediately we happened upon a mother deer and her two fawns foraging for food along side the river. Our walk was restoring our spirits and I could feel a sense of peace come over me.

Day 5: Saturday

Another cold morning and we busied ourselves with the daily routine of coffee (!!), campfire, and breakfast. We were preparing for our upcoming hike to Elizabeth Lake that we finally felt up to taking on as we had acclimated to the higher altitude.

Strapping on our water bottle slings and backpacks, with cameras in-hand, we made our way to the trail head to Elizabeth Lake. The trail was easy to find and we began our ascent. The first part of the trail wasn’t very difficult, until around a quarter mile in, where the grade increased. Our being a little out of shape and trying to hike uphill in thinner air made it so we had to make quite a few stops to catch our breath. Part way up we swapped the backpacks with those who were only carrying water bottles. This balanced things out, allowing us all to enjoy the trail up more.

After a little over a mile, the trail leveled out more and we no longer needed the breaks to breathe. The terrain was less rocky and we spotted Unicorn Creek that flowed out of the lake, when water levels are higher. The ground was almost as green as the canopy above, with a clear blue sky and plenty of shade. When we came out of the forest to a clearing, I knew the lake must be close.

My intuition proved to be correct and we spotted the lake beyond the clearing after a little more walking. I could sense Sam and Rece’s mood change to excitement as the deep blue water came into view, our pace quickened. As we sat on some rocks along the lake, enjoying the cool breeze, we quickly put down our bags and started removing our shoes. I was the first to venture out and soothe my feet in the cold mountain waters. Christine remained on the shore, taking pictures.

We took a moment to grab a quick snack and recharge our batteries, then started off along the trail that went around the lake. We spotted some bear prints at the water’s edge, renewing our hope (and hope against) catching sight of a bear again. The entire time we spent at the lake was peaceful. We only encountered about a dozen other people total at the lake, each seeming to be as at rest as we were, enjoying the views.

Lunch was an interesting venture. We stopped at an outcropping of rocks at the base of Unicorn Peak to take a cat nap in the sun. The rest was short, but reviving, and we pulled out the things we brought along for food. This consisted of beef jerky, dried apricots, trail mix, and 4 MREs. The type of MRE we had brought was spaghetti and meat with sauce. These were warmed using chemical hot packs that were activated with water. Bracing against something disgusting, we each took a bite and were pleasantly surprised to discover that they weren’t half bad: almost the same as Chef Boyardee, but with a more mature flavor. It’s good to know that our military forces have some basic, but decent fare when out in the field.

Rece took the lead of our hike back down, followed closely by Sam. Christine and I took a more relaxed pace going downhill. It was surprising to see so many people hiking up the trail in the warm midday sun, going towards the lake. I was thankful that we had started out much earlier for this reason. After our return to the campsite, we rewarded ourselves by walking over to the Tuolumne River Grill for an ice cream cone. I then turned in for a nap.

After a restful (and long) nap, I felt great! We prepared our dinner of Dinty Moore Beef Stew and camp stove biscuits. I hadn’t mentioned it before, but Christine volunteered to be in charge of food for our camping trip. I think she did an amazing job and came up with some creative and delicious ideas to keep us fed.

After eating our fill and cleaning up, Christine, Rece, and I went out for our last walk in nature to watch the sunset over the Tuolumne Meadows.

Later that night, as Sam & Christine slept, I sat by our little campfire, I was waiting for Rece to return from the campfire circle activities, warming my hands at our dwindling campfire. I looked up, feeling the presence of something, and saw a deer standing 10 feet away, within the glow of our lantern. It looked at me in that pause, then moved off, back into the shadow of night.

Day 6: Sunday

Sunday turned out to be the coldest morning of the trip. It was just the motivation we needed to get our camp packed away and ourselves into the car. I was impressed that it took less than 45 minutes for us to all wake up and pack the minivan.

Oh, did I mention that there were no showers at near our campsite? Because of the low water levels, they were turned off. So our entire trip was without showers. I think we all smelled so bad that we didn’t notice how bad the rest smelled.

Our first order of business, after coffee (!!), on the road was to find a shower, then eat breakfast. We ended up stopping in Big Pine for the showers and breakfast. Feeling much better having cleaned ourselves, we stopped at a little restaurant (I forget the name) that looked like a cute little local family-owned business (the types I like to go to when I’m out on the road). Sadly, the staff wasn’t really friendly (but not rude), the service was horribly slow, but the food was decent enough. I just know that I won’t be going there if I find myself in the area again.

The trip home was rather uneventful, as we were all tired and cranky. We didn’t stop any place, aside from potty breaks, getting gas and once more for lunch/dinner at Pepe’s Finest Mexican Food in Fullerton.


All in all, I’d definitely rate this trip to be on par with our journey to Arizona earlier in the year. Christine and Sam are great travel companions. I’m looking forward to our next adventure!

This entry can’t believe that it took an entire week to finally write, edit, and publish this story.

Jul 17 2007

Back to San Simeon

This weekend Rece and I went on our annual camping trip to San Simeon. Christine joined us this time around and we all had a great time. There’s nothing like getting into the outdoors and relaxing.

While we were there, we decided to take one of the Hearst Castle tours. I had been there once before, when I was 17, so my memory of the place was pretty much swallowed up by the 17+ years that followed. Aside from vague recollection, the place seemed completely new to me. I must say, the castle is quite a sight!

I’ve posted pictures from our trip on my Flickr account, for those who want to see them.

This entry is still adjusting to being back in the real world.

Jul 11 2007

Off to San Simeon!

I’m sitting here waiting for a load of laundry to finish drying so I can go to bed. I had to restart the dryer, since the clothes were still damp. Damn jeans.

In case you were wondering: a pack of Wrigley’s Spearmint gum holds up amazingly well through a wash and dry cycle — but the individual foil-wrapped sticks of gum will end up in the lint trap, outside of the main pack. Gotta love having kids.

We’re waking up at 5:30 a.m. so we can be on the road around 6:00 a.m. and get through L.A. before traffic starts to get bad. We were smart and packed the car tonight, with the exception of the food and a couple of small items.

This is going to be a great trip! You can count on there being plenty of pictures.

This entry will be sleeping in a tent tomorrow night!

Mar 7 2007

Don’t fall into the Grand Canyon after getting your kicks on Route 66

All right, here’s the long-promised post about our recent trip to Arizona. Laziness stepped in and made fun of my footwear while I found excuse after excuse to just not do it. It’s taken me 3 days to complete, so be prepared for a very long post…

The school district in which Rece & Sam (Christine’s daughter) attend school gives the kids an entire week off in observance of President’s Day … making it President’s Week. Christine and I decided that this would be a great opportunity for us to take a trip to the Grand Canyon, so we both arranged for the time off and started planning for it. We were able to work in a good variety of places to go and see, while allotting plenty of time for us to stop and check out anything we found interesting along the way.Day 1: Sunday
This was to be our driving day. The plan was to drive to the eastern-most destination on the first day and work our way back. I volunteered to do the driving and we hit the road around 7:00 am — then immediately stopped for some breakfast burritos, and then got back on the road around 7:45 am.We made excellent time all the way out until some place between Barstow and Needles, CA — where I ended up getting pulled over and given a speeding ticket. The cop cut me a very generous break (reduced the clocked speed by more than 25 MPH) and we continued along our merry way, albeit at a more conservative rate of speed.

Can’t really report much about day 1, since it was all pretty much driving. The kids were getting along fine and Christine was happy to snap pictures out the window as we made our way way down the open road. We did stop in Winslow, AZ to stand on a corner just before sunset. Yeah, we are a bunch of dorks. Our destination was Holbrook, AZ to stay in the Wigwam Motel (an old Route 66 location). We arrived shortly after sunset and I made sure to take some pictures of this very cool location.

Day 2: Monday
Christine was up at her usual early-bird hour but let us sleep in. I told her that on this trip we’d wake up earlier and to not let us sleep in again … we had places to go and people to see! We started off by begging for change and then had a delicious breakfast at Joe & Aggie’s Cafe and I wrestled with a dinosaur.

Our first destination of the day was the Petrified Forest. We marveled at the vast emptiness and beauty of the painted desert. It really is amazing what can happen over the course of millions of years.

We had decided that we’d travel along old Route 66 whenever we drove westbound, so we made our way doing just that. We did our best to look for the abandoned portions of the road that are no longer passable — many of which you can see just off to one side or the other of I-40. It was almost a bit of an obsession for me to hypothesize the original road based on mounds of dirt, telephone poles and the terrain. Christine, to her credit, was very tolerant of this behavior. In between the Petrified Forest and the Meteor Crater, we stopped at a couple of little towns, a museum, and the Jack Rabbit Trading Post.

Our next planned stop was literally little more than a hole in the ground: the Arizona Meteor Crater. About 50,000 years ago, a chuck of metal 150 feet across fell from the heavens and struck the earth at around 28,600 miles per hour. Now that’s impressive! While we were there we were treated to a snow flurry with some of the largest snowflakes I’d ever seen. Rece was excited, since he had never been in falling snow before. The museum exhibits were top-notch and it was all that I had expected it to be, and more.

So we turned off the I-40 and on to a road that I thought was old Route 66. It very well may have been, but I couldn’t have been sure. It wasn’t until we were driving into Flagstaff that I realized something that seemed rather ironic: we had forgotten Winona! By this time it was getting late, so we made straight for Williams, AZ where we had reservations at the Canyon Motel (another old Route 66 location). This was also the city where we’d be catching a train the following morning for our first peek at the Grand Canyon. Check out the link to the motel and read all about it. It really is an interesting place and we decided to make our home base for the next 3 nights.

Day 3: Tuesday
One of the highlights of our trip was that we’d be taking a ride on the Grand Canyon Railway. We were up bright and early, ready for breakfast. The owner of the motel had suggested we give Old Smoky’s Restaurant (another old Route 66 original) a try: they had all-you-can-eat pancakes and biscuits and gravy. How could we pass that up? If you like pancakes, especially the kind that are bigger than your head (and probably your appetite), then this is the place to go. Rece was the only one to order the all-you-can-eat pancakes, and he only managed to eat little more than 1/2 of the first pancake he was served.

We wanted to be sure that we had our train tickets (we hadn’t booked them prior) so we got to the train station as soon as they opened. Seeing the benefit of having a bar in our car, we opted to go for the club car, instead of coach, which wasn’t all that much more expensive. After poking about the train station for a bit and snapping some photos, we boarded the train and were on our way up to the Grand Canyon.

The ride up was a great way to unwind and enjoy the Arizona back country that you wouldn’t ordinarily be able to see. It was a 2-1/2 hour ride up to the Grand Canyon station, during which we were entertained by some period character actors and singers, and our cabin girl, Amy, who also served as our bartender. She suggested a walk along the canyon’s south rim that would give us a good view and enough time for lunch and still have plenty of time to catch our train for the trip down.

We journeyed out to the canyon and stood there slack-jawed, caught by the beauty and sheer scale of it all. The trail along the rim was mostly level and proved to be an easy walk. We stopped and took pictures at every opportunity. After having lunch, we took one more look at the canyon before heading back for the train. Aside from having to tolerate one bratty little kid, the afternoon ride was just as pleasant as it was in the morning. One of the acts they did for entertainment was for our train to be boarded by bandits who robbed the passengers.

With a full day of adventure behind us, we decided to order pizza and eat it in our room while watching TV, then turned in for the night.

Day 4: Wednesday
The previous day’s trip to the canyon was more like a reconnaissance mission for this day’s journey; where we planned to drive back to the Grand Canyon and see it in greater detail. We went east, to Flagstaff, AZ and then north, geocaching along the way up to the eastern entrance of the Grand Canyon National Park. We caught as many parts of Route 66 we could along the way and enjoyed the change of scenery in this area.

The first stop once inside the park was at Desert View. This is where the Watchtower is located. The view from the tower is astounding, let alone the architecture of the tower itself. We drove the road along the entire south rim until we got to the Canyon View Information Plaza, where we had a late, but light, lunch. Continuing on we reached Hopi Point, where we awaited the sunset.

Watching the sunset while at the Grand Canyon is a visual experience. The changing light and shadows give added dimension to the crags and cliffs of the canyon. Details of the sedimentary layers show in greater contrast and you can almost fully understand why so many people come here from all around the world to marvel at the natural beauty. Water and time are the primary tools that nature used to paint the desert and cut into it to form this masterpiece.

Thinking ahead, Christine had the wisdom to rent us a 4WD Jeep Liberty for our trip. This allowed us to take a road less traveled out of the Grand Canyon. Just after sunset we set off down Rowe Well Road, a dirt road I had spotted during our train ride down the afternoon before. It was in excellent shape, and obviously well maintained, so I wasn’t really worried about running into any problems, but it definitely added to the adventure of the trip and gave us a different perspective of things. We bounced and shook our way down this little road in the dark until eventually we popped out on the highway back to Williams.

After a quick bite at Cruisers Cafe in town for the only mediocre meal of the trip, we turned in for the night.

Day 5: Thursday
We allowed ourselves to sleep in a little later before taking off. We cheated for breakfast and made a quick stop at the McDonald’s drive-thru and then went in search of a small section of Route 66 we had missed the day before. We resumed geocaching and eventually found ourselves at a dead-end down a very bumpy dirt road, next to a small reservoir with no place to turn around. I had to back up a bit before it was wide enough to make a 7-point turn and get us out of the area. I was really enjoying the freedom of 4WD!

Our goal was to continue driving along Route 66 wherever we could find it and geocaching along the way. I had pulled a list of caches dotting the highway and we ended up finding most of the ones we went after — except the one above where we ended up down a dead-end dirt road in B.F.E., of course.

We stopped in Ash Fork for a geocache and happened upon a very well-done Route 66 museum. The lady there gave us some great information about the area and the old highway. In case you didn’t already know, Ash Fork is the flag stone capital of the US!

One place I had heard of was the Sno Cap Drive In, located in Seligman, AZ. The guy who owns the place purportedly had a running gag about offering people “slightly used napkins”. Unfortunately, the place was closed for the season and wouldn’t open again for a couple more weeks … no, really it wasn’t one of his typical gags that he’s apparently known for pulling. He had a sign posted to this effect, including a request to just slide our money under the door. I really wish I could have met Juan Delgadillo in person. He seems like quite a character — wait, I just read while looking for a link that Juan passed away on June 2nd, 2004. His sons still run the business and continue the tradition of zany antics that their father was known for. I really feel that I missed something now.

From Seligman we made our way down the old highway through the most boring and remote part of our trip so far. Wow! There’s nothing out here! It was like this until we got to the Grand Canyon Caverns. Anxious for something to do, we decided to check out the cavern tour and were glad that we did. The tour was top-notch and our guide did an excellent job in keeping it both entertaining and informative.

From this point and on for quite a ways, Route 66 can definitely be considered to be in the middle of nowhere. What few businesses and towns there were, are no more. They’re either completely gone or closed up and left to decay. We stopped at one cool little place in Hackberry, AZ that was now almost completely abandoned, save for this one information stop and general store. John, the owner, chatted with us for a few minutes while the kids pet his dog. If you’re ever out this way, by all means take the time to stop in and buy a drink and/or a snack and meet him for yourself. I’m sure he’d appreciate the business.

There was a geocache that required the finding 6 other caches in order to obtain the coordinates to find it. We found some of those along this part of the old highway along with some others as we made our way towards Kingman, AZ, where we had decided would make a good place to stop for the night.

Arriving in Kingman, we decided on a place to stay and got our room. Afterwards we went out to find a few more geocaches. This one was a 4×4 adventure, I have to tell you. I insisted on trying to find a road of some sorts to the top of one of the hills behind our motel to the cache that was on it. Finding one, I put the car into 4WD and made the rocky and slipper ascent. It wasn’t too far up that we found ourselves at the end of the road with nothing but a telephone pole in the way. It was in a tight spot and I was afraid of attempting the drive backwards down the crazy road we had drove up. The alternative was to use the loop at the end of this road that appeared somewhat unstable and wedged under the support cables for the telephone pole. Taking a deep breath, I made the turn down and narrowly avoided getting stuck in a very difficult spot. The Jeep Liberty is quite a machine and managed do what I wanted it to do and got us out of there.

After the 4×4 excitement, I was ready for dinner. We drove up and down Route 66, looking for something that appealed to us. The Dambar Steakhouse sounded good and we splurged for a hearty steak dinner for the last night of our trip. The food was damn good at the Dambar! Though something in what Christine ate triggered an allergic reaction. She took something to counteract the symptoms and we settled in for the night.

Day 6: Friday
I was happy to discover that Christine’s symptoms had not become worse during the night and that she wasn’t in need of a visit to the ER, as she was feeling better and able to continue on our journey. Our motel included a hot buffet breakfast that wasn’t all too bad, even though they ran out of juice and couldn’t seem to get any more of it. It was good enough to satisfy our hunger and get us back to our trip.

We geocached along old Route 66, the portion that wound its way up the Black Mountains before they rerouted it around the mountains (and then restored this portion after the I-40 took its place. This was some barren and oddly pretty country. We decided to skip the gold mine tour and make our way to Oatman, AZ which is advertised as a historic, almost ghost-town like spot. It was anything but that. It’s more of a tourist trap with little history education value at all. We still had fun wandering the shops and just accepting it for what it was: interesting.

It wasn’t long after this that we were back to the I-40, right at the Colorado River (and California border). We again had some difficulties in finding drivable portions of the old highway, but it just made the trip that much more interesting. At one point we found ourselves in a wash, under I-40 looking for a geocache. I became a little concerned when I noticed rain clouds in the distance, but we managed to find the cache and avoided the rain (and potential flash-flooding).

The further west we went, the less there was to see along old Route 66. State highway 95, where it departs from the I-40, headed north towards Nevada, is also old 66 for a ways until it breaks off headed west again, through a rather boring expanse of land near a town called Goff’s. It was around this town (which is now little more than a bunch of closed buildings and scattered homes that appeared to still be in use) that we happened upon a traffic jam of sorts. For whatever reason, we passed a line of trains stopped on the tracks. They were still running and some were just pulling up behind the others. Maybe it was the boring part of the trip that caused us to find this so interesting, but I’d never thought I’d see a traffic jam made up of mile-long trains before.

Eventually the highway meandered its way back down to the I-40 again and crossed over, so it looped south. This stretch of road is where on many maps you’ll see towns named Essex, Danby, Chambless, Amboy, Bagdad, Siberia, Klondike, and Rag Town. Most of these places are now either falling to pieces or completely gone. Essex, or what’s left of it, is still there, Chambless too. All of the businesses are closed up and left to suffer the effects of time unhindered.

I was rather looking forward to being able to claim in my recounting of the trip how we went to the far reaches of the Earth to Siberia, and then to the deserts of Bagdad — but we went right on through them, without seeing so much as a sign or structure that might indicate we had arrived. It was a little disheartening to think that, not all that long ago, this area had plenty of people passing through, providing business for these little towns. The I-40 changed all of this for good.

Amboy was the one place we stopped that seemed almost poised to make a comeback. We stopped there to find a geocache out in front of Roy’s (you wouldn’t believe how tickled I was to find an actual website for the place) and noticed that the motel and cafe seemed to be relatively well maintained. They were still closed, but had current newspaper clippings on the windows telling of how the owner of the Juan Pollo restaurant chain had recently bought the entire town and was in the process of having the place restored so it could return to business once again. The post office was still in business, which I’m assuming is a good sign that things are completely dead out this way. If they manage to resurrect the town of Amboy, I’ll definitely want to pay them a visit.

The last place we tried to visit along Route 66 for the trip was the Bagdad Cafe (which is nowhere near the previously mentioned town, oddly enough). Formerly named the Sidewinder Cafe, the cafe was renamed after the movie based on the location was made. We were planning on having dinner there, but found it to be closed for the night. They apparently close at 6 pm during the winter. Seeing us outside, the owner was nice enough to let us in and check out the place and have a cup of coffee … she even took our picture.

From this point we finished up the remaining miles of Route 66 until we arrived in Barstow, CA. From there we got back on the interstate and made our way home. This was definitely a vacation to remember for a lifetime.

I’m sure I forgot to include some of things that happened along the way, but I figured it was best to get it up. If I remember something interesting, I might write about it later. I posted 177 pictures out of the more than 1600 photos we shot while on our trip on my Flickr account.

This entry didn’t think it would take so long to get this damn entry written!

Mar 2 2007

It wasn’t a lie

I really did intend to post about the vacation Rece & took last week, but I just haven’t found the time. I’ll see about getting it written by the end of the weekend. With nothing planned but a haircut, it should be possible.

This entry hopes you forgive its transgressions.