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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.