Jun 232010

America really is a land of contrasts, and probably no more so than in the American West. That fact was brought home to us yesterday in our drive from Williams, Arizona to Bakersfield, California.

We left Williams, at almost 7,000 feet, about 9:30 in the morning, and before long we had begun to drop down into the desert, with scrub brush and cactus replacing pine trees.

A few miles outside of Kingman we stopped for fuel at the Loves truck stop, and then we continued west on Interstate 40. Just before we crossed the Colorado River into California, we came to a long construction zone, with traffic down to one lane as they painted new centerline stripes.

Unfortunately, whoever they gave the job of placing those orange plastic cones on the roadway to must have been having a bad day, because the cones were about 1/3 of the way into the only lane we had left, forcing big rigs to run with their left wheels on the narrow shoulder. Most of the cones has been run over and were laying down, several right in the road where there was no way to avoid hitting them. Most were crushed flat, but one stuck up enough to thump the front of the motorhome, leaving a scratch that we hope we can rub out.

It was 72 degrees in Williams, and in Needles, California it was 106. We sure were glad we had our air conditioner to keep us cool! Interstate 40 through the Mojave Desert is mile upon mile of nothing. Some mountains, lots of semis, bumpy roads, and not much else.

Miles of nothing

Mojave Desert highway mountain view 2

Mojave Desert mountain view

Interstate 40 ends in Barstow, and from there we took State Route 58 west past  a stretch of black lava beds, then an expanse of desert covered by salt/gypsum deposits, near Boron. 

Lava beds

Salt gypsum deposits Boron

We passed Edwards Air Force Base, and then began the long uphill climb to Tehachapi. Here the scenery became much better, as the barren desert gave way to yellow grass covered hillsides.  In the spring, when they have had some rain, this area is green and beautiful. But even now, the scenery is pretty dramatic.

Tehachapi view 5

Tehachapi view great 3

Lines of windmills top the hills, generating electrical power, and railroad fans love to come here and watch the trains wind their way up and downhill, and through the tunnels.

Tehachapi windmills

From  Tehachapi Summit, we had a series of 5% and 6% downhill grades, and our exhaust brake did a fine job of holding our speed in check. I just stayed in the right lane and let faster traffic go around me.

Highway 58 Tehapachi 4

Highway 58 Tehapachi 5

As we dropped down into the Central Valley, we entered a land of irrigated farms where they grow everything from grapes, almonds, and citrus, to every kind of produce.

Irrigated farm fields

Traffic was frantic in Bakersfield, where we got on State Route 99, and we were glad to get through it safely and put the city behind us. A few miles north of Bakersfield we stopped at the Flying J to top off our fuel tank, and they had one of the tightest entrances I have ever seen at an RV fuel island. The entrance was narrow, there was a deep hole cut into the pavement, and sawhorses were intruding into the entrance to make matters worse. Even though I tried to avoid it, my rear tires ran over the curb getting in. We’ll avoid this stop in the future.

From the Flying J, it was just a few miles to the Elks lodge outside of Wasco, where we got a back-in RV site with water and 30 amp electric for $10 a night. Nothing fancy here, just blacktop, and unfortunately, lots of dog crap around where you have to plug in your utilities. Why can’t some people clean up after their critters?

According to our cell phones, we have excellent high speed Verizon EVDO signals here, but we had a terrible time trying to make or receive calls, and even with our Wilson external antenna and amplifier, we could not stay online for more than a minute or two at a time.

There were three other RVs at the Elks lodge, but except for brief hellos with our neighbors, we didn’t have time to visit. I had covered 468 miles since we left Williams, but we weren’t done yet. We drove the van back 15 miles to Bakersfield for dinner at Hodel’s Restaurant, a very nice buffet style place that has been in business for decades.

Ben Langworthy and Sandy Atwood from Teepee Creepers met us at the restaurant. Terry has been corresponding with Ben ever since she ordered us both a pair of his super comfortable moccasin style slippers a while back. Ben and Sandy have a fifth wheel, and we had a nice visit as we discussed their company, the RV lifestyle, and life in general.

I’m afraid I wasn’t great company. I was worn out from the long miles behind the wheel, and my energy level still is way down from the crud I had over the weekend. After we said our goodbyes to Ben and Sandy, Terry drove back to the Elks lodge, and I wrote the blog and tried to get it to post on the poor internet connection.

Today we only have about 130 miles to Oceano, and if we can indeed get into the Elks campground, as the host assured us we could, we plan to play tourist, eat more seafood than they can catch, and just have fun for a few days.

Thought For The Day – Every mother hopes that her daughter will snag a better husband than she managed to do, but she’s certain that her boy will never get as great a wife as his father did.

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Nick Russell

World-Famous, New York Times Best Selling Author, and All-Around Nice Guy!

  9 Responses to “A Land of Contrasts”

  1. Thanks for the photos today. We were through there two years ago and today’s reminder was delightful. Our best to the birthday lady. Enjoy your days of loafin’.

  2. We been there, all those places, and all we can say is you are right about the scenery and the roads, both delightful and repugnant. Now get some rest, enjoy the attractions, and we’ll read about all of that in the Gypsy Journal.

  3. The photos make me homesick for the west, but we will be there next April heading to California. It was nice that Terry did not have to have her birthday dinner at the Flying J. Enjoy the California Coast and the further north you get the prettier they get Stay safe

  4. Nick & Terry,
    Had a great visit with you guys last night at Hodel’s. We didn’t get a chance to
    really celebrate Terry’s Birthday So “Happy Birthday to you, Happy Birthday to you,
    etc. Have a great trip to the coast and hope the June Gloom stays away and you
    have nothing but sunny days.

    Ben & Sandy

  5. These are the posts I love the best. Seeing your pictures and reading your words, I feel like I’m RV’ing already. Armchair RV’ing!!!


  6. I’m sorry the Wasco Elks Lodge was disappointing. We’ve stayed there multiple times and never had a problem with pet droppings. We are dog owners who DO pick-up and it is very frustrating to see piles — especially in the dark or after it is too late. 🙁 Go enjoy the coast.
    – CoolJudy

  7. Nick, We ran into the same idiotic placing of the orange cones here in Texas from Jasper to Lufkin just a few days ago.

    As to getting fuel in the RV lanes at Flying J and others. We gave up on that a long time ago. The few cents of savings are not worth the hastle. And the truck pumps fill faster.

  8. Nick,

    I read your blog everyday and truly enjoy it. I have just one question……. Being a retired couple like my wife and I, why would you ever travel nearly 500 miles in one day? It boggles my mind. When we were working and had only 2 weeks for a vacation, then yes, we would do the same. But being retired now, we are in no hurry to get anywhere. We take our time to enjoy things.


  9. Joe,
    Just to clarify, we are not retired. We earn our entire living by publishing the Gypsy Journal and the various RVing guides we produce, from the seminars I present, from our rallies, and from the commission we make when people click those little Google ad links in our blogs and websites. But, if one has to work, it’s a pretty good gig,and we love it.

    Okay, as to the long day of driving, I much prefer a 200 to 300 mile day. But we sometimes find ourselves pushing that, as we did on this trip. Because we stayed longer in Show Low due to some family health issues, and then we lost time while I was sick over the weekend, we had to push to get to Bakersfield in time to meet the folks from Teepee Creepers. Besides, as hot as it was, we didn’t want to stop anywhere in the desert.

    Wednesday was a much easier day, 150 miles, and now we’ll be relaxing here on the coast for about a week.

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