We planned to put on a lot of miles today, and we did. We drove from Williams, AZ to Tulare, CA, which is about 520 miles. The only sight seeing we did was through the windows of the car, but there was much to see. We left at 7:45 AM and it was setting up to be a very hot day. By 9:45 the temperature hit 100 degrees (we wondered if the car display would do 3 digits, and it did) and that was only the beginning. It went as high as 109 degrees, but most of the trip held around the 108 degree mark.
Much of the day was spent driving through the desert. The scenery changed constantly, but it was always desert. At times it was more grass, at times it was more trees, there were occasional houses and dirt roads to connect them to the outside world, I guess. We encountered many craggy hills with desert plants growing out of the rocks, and the road weaved around them, between them, over them and sometimes through them. And the colors of the canopy was a blend of tan, gray, peach, and orange. Around Kingman the hills got higher and through the tops of them grew monuments, like statues. And I thought, like clouds it would be fun to look at them long and hard and imagine all sorts of things that they might be.
We crossed into California when we crossed the Colorado River. And the river gave life to the land around it. Even though we could no longer see it after we crossed it, we knew where it was, because there was a lush green carpet on both sides of where the river ran. And California gave us what I have always pictured the desert to be…sand and yellow plants and cactus...or is it cacti? And the cactus was in bloom, with big beautiful purple flowers on top of each spiny stick. And the view was hazy, which confused me because the air is as dry as dust.
Rest areas…I have to comment about rest areas. I-40 in the western states, has few or no rest areas. If they exist, they are very far apart. And since the towns with facilities can be long distances apart, one would expect that rest areas would be important in the desert. However, today was an example of what can make or break your day. Our route had two rest areas documented in California. And the first was after a long stretch of nothing. I was eagerly looking forward to having a pit stop. Half a mile before the posted rest area was an exit with a gas station. We opted for the rest area. But…when we got to it, it was CLOSED!!! And the next exit was 88 miles down the road. Steve did the prudent thing and put on the brakes and took the service U-turn and we went back to the last exit. And I was so glad he did. Beware of the signs if you drive in the desert. They lie. We encountered several that were "closed for repair" where no one was repairing them. They clearly had been closed for a long time.
OK enough of that. As we drove on we saw a large area where black covered the ground and I thought there had been a fire, but it turned out to be a large carpet of lava rock. We have encountered this several times, but we have never seen the actual volcano. We passed two solar power plants. And what I was waiting to see for the second time…the Mojave Airplane Graveyard, which is clearly visible from CA-58. And we saw a gold mine in Monolith. It just looked like a huge pile of yellow dirt.
As we passed through the Sierras in southern California, we saw train tracks hugging the mountain sides and weaving along, sometimes around and sometimes through them. And I saw a freight train. And it was stopped. I followed it with my eyes along its path and discovered the reason why. It was broken apart into several sections and I saw two box cars overturned and falling down the slope of the hill. I took out my trusty Iphone and discovered that two trains had derailed at this very place 3 weeks ago.
We finally passed through the curtain that divides the Mojave Desert and the lush agricultural land of the San Joaquin Valley. And we drove past miles of citrus groves, grain fields, vineyards, and nut trees…could not tell if they were almonds or pistachios…maybe both. Everything was very green and planted in neat rows. And finally we landed in Tulare, where we are settled in for the night. Tomorrow, Sequoia National Park.
By the way…the photos I am posting today were all taken from the car. It just was not feasible to stop for photo ops. So please ignore the bugs splattered on the windshield. They weren't part of the scenery.