Sunday, October 29, 2006

Las Vegas, Nevada to Carrizo Plain, California

The Las Vegas building frenzy continues unabated

My internal alarm went off at 6:30. I felt good, refreshed. The sun just about to rise. Packed up, then sat down to work on some notes.

Looking around Janie and Otto’s house, I’m amazed at the number of “things” they’ve accumulated. It has taken lots of money to do this. In contrast, I have so little to show. Not a single piece of furniture! Very interesting.

When Janie and Otto joined me, we sat around leisurely sipping coffee, talking about reunion/travel/wedding ceremony plans, sharing leftover cake from last night.

In the still morning air, a brown pall of smog hangs over the Las Vegas Valley. Air pollution seems so incongruous with the desert landscape.

Janie and Otto wanted to take me out for breakfast (and I certainly wasn't about to protest.) They have over $900 in "meal credits" with the Station Casinos! A result of considerable time spent at the video machines. So, we went out to the Green Valley Ranch's Grand Café. An excellent breakfast. I took my leave around 2:00. They were going to stay on at the casino to watch the Denver Broncos football game.

One of the sports gaming areas in Green Valley Ranch

Janie and Otto on the left. Moments after I took this photo, I was firmly told "no photographs in the casino." Apparently, it's part of the "privacy law". I didn't know there was such a thing in the U.S. anymore. I guess being caught in the casino is akin to be caught with a prostitute.

Denver Broncos fans!

Now isn't this an insult to even the dumbest person? An odd-looking "pine tree" in the Las Vegas desert landscape.

A crazy, rambling ride toward home. From Las Vegas to Pahrump, Death Valley Junction and up into Death Valley National Park, through Furnace Creek, the lowest point in the country.

A hazy afternoon discouraged me from taking the camera out. (Any photos would have an exaggerated bluish cast seen in many of my photos.) I just enjoyed the ride. What an awesome landscape!

Many BMW motorcycles here. This country "belongs" to them.

It became obvious that much of the smoke and haze over this land was blowing in from the Los Angeles megalopolis.

Crossed Panamint Valley and the Panamint Range after sunset, turning south toward Trona and Ridgecrest. Out in these parts, there are no lights to orient you, and the winding roads can at times be disorienting. It demands more energy of the rider.

Ridgecrest is now a moderate-sized city and provided a bit of relief with its broad, well-lighted boulevards. But I was soon off in the dark again, a solitary rider winding my way over the dark Sierra Nevada mountains to Lake Isabella, then down a narrow, twisty canyon to Bakersfield.

Bakersfield is trashy and ugly in its sprawling development. It's a city I avoid whenever possible. I'm afraid I can't think of any redeeming value it can offer.

Finally, I came to Taft, that transplanted Midwestern oil town. Beyond it, the stinking Elkhorn Hills oilfields. And beyond them (and thankfully, upwind) is the Carrizo Plain. Even in the dark, I can find my accustomed campsite out here. It's off the dirt road that runs up the plain, a few hundred yards up a power company access trail.

Camped around 9:30. It’s cold. The road is more washboard than last visit (by late summer the dirt road has taken a pounding from vehicle suspensions.) The wild grasses have dried and been knocked down by wind and animals, so there's not quite as much cover for my "hiding place". But I'm typically up and out before the rangers come on duty in the morning.

About 450 miles today.

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