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Travels with Grama

Destination Unknown

"Thelma & Louise" At Their Best - Road Trip 2010

This year it is definitely "Destination Unknown". We simply headed south with no real plans on where we were going to end up. There only seemed to be one objective - head south and get away from the cold weather.

2010 Destination Unknown Photo Album

To Page 2 - Yosemite to Calgary

Saturday June 12 - Calgary to Butte

As usual it took us a bit of time to get out of town. By the time Doreen picked me up, we were an hour behind schedule and then we had to return to her house to pick up the food she left in the fridge. Our plans to leave at 9:00 am became reality at 11:00 am.

Ha ha Doreen! I told Steve we would be on the road by 11 even if we planned to leave by 7 am. It's just the nature of the beast. By the time we remembered everything, gassed up, stopped at the bank and finally to Timmies - we'd be right on schedule. The reason he was laughing is because you were telling him almost word for word what I predicted. We're scary.....

It wasn't long before I was into click mode.  We knew then, we were really on holidays.

We decided to get off the I-15 as soon as possible so just south of Shelby MT, we took a side road over to Hwy 89 and then south again on 287 back to Wolf Creek. Turned out to be only 15-20 min longer and what a beautiful drive. NO traffic except for a stream of bikers likely heading for Glacier Park and half dozen cars, we had the road to ourselves.

We got to Butte and stayed at the Rocker Inn again, except this time we were early enough to get a main floor room. We had a nice supper at Flying J and home in bed by 9.

Great First Day on the road.

Sunday June 13 - Butte to Beaver

After hitting the hay early and asleep by 10:00 pm we were out of bed and rolling by 9am. Weather was still cool 53° in Butte and we figured we would have to get to Salt Lake City before we would have heat. It started to get warmer at first, but by the time we reached Salt Lake City the temperature had dropped again.

We had a bit of a chuckle just before reaching Utah when we realized we were almost 1300 km from home and still had no idea where we were going. The weather to the east isn't looking promising so out came the maps. What now? Maybe California?

Tooele, Utah

We took the side trip to Tooele to visit our friend Icy for a half hour then headed down Hwy 36 south - once again, the objective to avoid hwy 15.

Faust Pony Express Station, Utah

Along this route are several Pony Express station markers. Faust Station was operated by Henry J. Faust, who was a native of Germany. He went to California from Missouri with the 1849 Gold Rush.

He wasn’t too successful with his endeavor and since he had joined the Mormon Church, came to Utah in 1851. In 1860 he accepted a position as a station manager and part-time rider with the Pony Express.

We never hit any rain until driving into Tooele and while we visited the sun was shining. From that point on it rained all the way south on Hwy's 36, 6/50 and then Utah 287 to 21 into Beaver. There has been more rain here than in all the trips combined we've done through this state.

Beaver, Utah

Settled by Mormon pioneers in 1856, Beaver was one of a string of Mormon settlements extending the length of Utah. These settlements were, by design, a day's ride on horseback apart, explaining the regularity of today's spacing: either 30 miles apart, or 60 miles apart where intervening settlements failed or were absorbed.

Beaver is the birthplace of Butch Cassidy a notorious western outlaw. We stayed at the Butch Cassidy Best Western again. If the clouds don't lift - the trip over Hwy153 mountain pass doesn't look promising. We won't know until morning.

Monday June 14 - Beaver to Las Vegas
1600 miles from home and we are still "destination unknown". We decided this morning to try and head out on Hwy 153 over the mountain and see what happens - go as far as we can go or turn around if we have to. By the time we checked out of the motel, that idea was thrown out the window. The hotel clerk advised us that the road is still snow packed and the entrance gate is closed. With all the storms around us, we decided to head to Vegas for tonight - the only agenda was to get into some hot weather and leave the storms behind.

Zion National Park, Utah

We had breakfast at the hotel and started down the I-15. It wasn't long before we were re-routing again.  As we were passing the signs to Zion Park, we realized neither of us had ever been there, so.... left turn and off to Zion and maybe ?? we'd go to Page for the night instead. We arrived just before noon and boarded the shuttle through the park touring for the next three hours. By mid afternoon it was 91° above and we were starting to feel like we were really in southern Utah instead of Alaska. Hwy 9 east out of Zion was closed until 4pm for construction so rather than wait, we decided to continue with the original plan to spend the night in Vegas.

Zion National Park 2010 Slideshow

Valley of Fire State Park, Nevada

South of Mesquite, NV, we turned east on Hwy 169 to take the short loop through the Valley of Fire. The $10.00 cost to drive through the Valley of Fire seemed like a bit of a rip-off but we bit the bullet and paid the price.  For an unseasoned traveller it would be quite spectacular, but when you've spent as much time touring larger, more breathtaking red rock locations that are free, this didn't measure up.

Valley of Fire State Park is Nevada's oldest state park. It covers an area of 34,880 acres and was dedicated in 1935. It derives its name from red sandstone formations, formed from great shifting sand dunes during the age of dinosaurs.

These features, which are the centerpiece of the park's attractions, often appear to be on fire when reflecting the sun's rays.

While we were at the Visitors Centre - which was closed - we were lucky enough to see a small herd of mountain goats.

There are some rocks that look like piles of cow patties which I appropriately labelled "Dino Dung".

Vegas Disaster

We rolled into Vegas at 8:30pm - DISASTER!! On checking in at the Riviera Doreen realized she didn't have her wallet. We searched the car high and low - no wallet. The last time she used her Visa was for gas in Hurricane, Utah. We phoned the gas station and the McDonalds connected to it, but no luck - nothing turned in. We left my cell number with them just in case.

Fortunately, we had some cash on hand to pay for two days at the hotel and internet. The next three hours were spent on the phone and emails cancelling all her bank cards, Visa, paypal automatic payments and anything else she could think of. Fortunately, her drivers license and birth certificate were still inside her passport folder which was not with her wallet and since we don't travel with great amounts of cash, only about $100 was in the wallet.  Visa arranged to provide her with emergency funds wired to a Western Union the next morning and she emailed her office requesting some back up funds so finally at 1:30 am she could breathe easy and get some sleep.

Now wouldn't THAT make a great Visa commercial? All that panic then her sleeping like a baby!!

Now that the panic had subsided - Doreen suddenly realized her skin wasn't flushed, it was red from sunburn. The day wasn't a write off after all.

Tuesday June 15 - Vegas to Zion and back to Vegas

In response to her email, Doreen's office called to say funds would be available and my husband Steve could pick it up and deposit the cheque in my account as my bank cards were safely in my purse. In the meantime, we went to Western Union and picked up the cash Visa had wired her.

So with our slight disaster under control, off we went to the factory outlook to buy some tank tops and a new wallet for Doreen. While I'm in the change room, my cell phone rings and it's a Utah area code. Good news .... the gas station phoned to tell us that someone had handed in her wallet, but there had been a shift change and the night clerk hadn't been told the wallet was locked in the office which would explain why no one knew anything when we'd called.

So back up I-15 to Hurricane - 125 miles - to pick it up. The wallet was intact, all credit cards and cash not touched. Doreen tried to find the good samaritan but no one knew who the young man was. She wanted to give him the cash in the wallet for his honesty. It was a nice feeling to know that there are honest people wherever you travel.

Zion National Park, Utah

By the time we reached Hurricane, it was after 4:00 pm which meant Hwy 9 east through Zion Park would be open. There is a park fee but we'd purchased a National year pass (and lost it) the day before but with wallet retrieved and pass in hand, off we went. We spent another hour or so touring and then turned around and headed west again.

The Longest Mile

On the maps we received on our Zion tour the day before, we had seen something about a tunnel.

Tunnel is phrasing it mildly- it is actually a 1.1 mile hole straight through the center of a mountain. It was quite incredible and Doreen dubbed it "the longest mile". Since she is afraid of being underground in caves, I think she was beginning to hyperventilate before we got thru the end. And.... we did it twice.

Eight hours and 350 miles later, we were back in Vegas.

Riviera Hotel, Las Vegas, Nevada

I took pictures of the room because we both had the feeling it would be our last trip to the Riviera. We'd heard that the Pool Tournaments were being moved from this location and honestly - the Riviera is badly in need of an overhaul and new management that gives a damn. For example, Doreen's bed had a flat sheet on the bottom which would be OK, except it was a sheet for a single bed and didn't even cover the mattress. The towels were as hard a rocks - no softener in the wash and I swear the beds were the same ones being used as when I started coming to this hotel in 1992 - I know the bedspreads were. Seems like they are just trying to cut small corners. We had the feeling another dinosaur is going to feel the effect of dynamite. Too bad because walking into the lobby felt like "coming home" after all those years of playing tournaments there.

The Riviera opened on April 20, 1955 as the first high-rise and the ninth resort on the Las Vegas Strip. The Riviera is one of the oldest and most famous casino resorts in Las Vegas. The Riviera also broke new ground in its design: previously, Strip resorts resembled roadside motor courts.

The opening of the Riviera, along with the Dunes and the Royal Nevada casino resorts, within a month were the subject of a famous issue of Life Magazine, on June 20, 1955 with a Moulin Rouge show girl on its cover. The headline was Las Vegas—Is Boom Overextended? and a story about how Las Vegas had built too many hotel rooms to be profitable. Liberace was the featured headliner at the resort's opening, and for many years afterward.

Wednesday June 16 - Las Vegas to Williams, AZ

We got off to a slow start today. By the time we were out of Vegas it was nearly noon. We stopped at my favourite - IHOP - for breakfast, then headed down Boulder Hwy to Laughlin. Temperature was 103°. At the gas station in Bullhead City, I found out that Silver Creek Road, a 13 mile gravel road, cut straight over to Oatman rather than going down thru Ft Mohave and over, so away we went. The guy at the gas station said we needed a four wheel drive but it was in better shape than most of the back roads we've travelled on.

Oatman, Arizona

We were late getting into Oatman and most of the donkeys had left for the hills and the shops were closing for the day. It was a bit of a disappointment to see that Brenda, one of the local proprietors was already closed (we hope just for the day) as we were looking forward to seeing her again. One donkey came over to our car and stuck her head right in Doreen's window for a little attention and carrots. Attention she got, but no carrots.

Cool Springs, Arizona

While looking at an interesting model of a motorhome/van in the Zion parking lot, I had chatted with it's owner about our travels and he told me of a couple of things that piqued my interest. One was that the little station at Cool Springs, east of Oatman was operating again so while in the area, we decided to check it out.

Once again we headed east over the Sitgreaves Pass and the winding narrow roads. It's hard to imagine Model T's making this trip.

It was nearly 6 PM when we arrived at Cool Springs and were pleasantly surprised to see that the store had a variety of memorabilia and gifts. We visited with George (the manager) and were thoroughly entertained for a full half hour. George and his family are the only ones living at this isolated location. Finally, he kicked us out. Truthfully, his words were "hurry up and shop and get the hell out so I can close". George was a pretty big guy so we weren't about to argue. By the way, George wears a pink ball cap "because he can" and he is the only person in all our travels that had the guts to outright ask if we were gay. He said it wouldn't be a problem for him and Doreen's answer was "well it would be for me". I responded, my hubby probably wouldn't appreciate it either. Laughing, we left and headed east on Route 66 towards Kingman. George had recommended the Best Western Kings Inn there but it was still too early to stop so we just kept heading east.

Cool Springs Service Station was built in the 1920s and eventually had a cafe, a bar, and cabins. But Route 66 was bypassed in 1953, and the station was abandoned in 1964. Adding insult to injury, its ruins were blown up for the 1991 Dolph Lundgren/Jean-Claude Van Damme film Universal Soldier.

Ned Leuchtner purchased Cool Springs in 2001 and in 2004 rebuilding construction was completed. Today, Cool Springs is open for business. Whether you are looking for a Route 66 Beer or to purchase souvenirs, Cool Springs can provide it. There are no restaurants or gas services - just a cool refreshing stop and down home history.

Williams, Arizona

Williams is a city west of Flagstaff. It lies on the route of Historic Route 66, Interstate 40, and the Southwest Chief Amtrak train route. It is also the southern terminus of the Grand Canyon Railway, which takes visitors to Grand Canyon Village.

Because of its location near the South Rim of Grand Canyon National Park, Williams is a major tourist stop and has many inns and motels. Restaurants and gas stations serve mainly tourists rather than local residents, especially during the summer and holiday seasons.

Williams is named after William "Old Bill" Williams, a mountain man and trader who often trapped in the area.

We decided to go as far as Williams for the night and while looking at maps, I discovered where the other point of interest was that the couple at Zion had told us about - Jerome Pass. It was just a short hop from Williams and south of Flagstaff. So... we had a plan for the morning after all. We rolled into Williams about 8:30 pm and stayed at the Travelodge. Beds aren't the best, but the room was clean and the sheets fit.

Doreen was comparing our travels as to how far we were to other years and said to me "we are two days behind". My response was "How can we be behind when we have no place to go?".

Thursday June 17 - Williams Circle Route to Kingman

Jerome, Arizona

We left Williams and drove east on I-40 then south on Hwy 17 to Hwy 89A thru a pretty community in the hills called Sedona, which leads into the mountain pass to Jerome, AZ. Jerome is unique in the fact it precariously sits on the side of the mountain and the streets are on different levels all the way up. The road curves thru town and then winds upward for miles back down to the desert floor again. The streets are extremely narrow and the doors to shops and homes are basically at the edge of the streets.

Jerome is a town in Yavapai County, Arizona. According to 2006 Census Bureau estimates, the population of the town is 343. In 1915 the population of Jerome was estimated at 2,500. The presence of silver and copper was known in the area around what is now Jerome, since the Spanish colonial era when Arizona was part of New Spain.

Jerome became a notorious "wild west" town, a hotbed of prostitution, gambling, and vice. On February 5, 1903, the New York Sun proclaimed Jerome to be "the wickedest town in the West".

The mining town was established on the side of Cleopatra Hill in 1883. It was named for Eugene Murray Jerome, a New York investor who owned the mineral rights and financed mining there. Eugene Jerome never visited his namesake town. Jerome was incorporated as a town on March 8, 1889. The town housed the workers in the nearby United Verde Mine, which was to produce over 1 billion dollars in copper, gold and silver over the next 70 years.

Backroad to Nowhere

We turned off 89 onto Hwy 96/97 through the desert onto Hwy 93 north. A venture onto a desert road to travel the back way into Yucca didn't turn out so well. About 10 miles in, we came upon a washout that was still full of water. We could see that vehicles had gone thru but couldn't tell how deep it was. So we turned around. We did try and find an alternate route north but there was no signage to give us an end result. It was getting a bit late and we didn't want to end up driving another couple of hours to find ourselves at another dead end or in some rancher's laneway. He may not want to operate a bed and breakfast. So finally we gave up and returned to Hwy 93 which joins up to I-40 and back to Kingman.


The saguaro cactus along this road were really fascinating and since we were likely the only ones within miles, we were able to stop and capture some great pictures.

The saguaro is a large, tree-sized cactus species in the monotypic genus Carnegiea. It is native to the Sonoran Desert in the State of Arizona, the Mexican state of Sonora, a small part of Baja California in the San Felipe Desert and an extremely small area of California. The saguaro blossom is the State Wildflower of Arizona.

Saguaros have a relatively long life span. They take up to 75 years to develop a side arm. The arms themselves are grown to increase the plant's reproductive capacity. The growth rate of saguaros is strongly dependent on precipitation; saguaros in drier western Arizona grow only half as fast as those in and around Tucson, Arizona. Some specimens may live for more than 150 years. The largest known saguaro is the Champion Saguaro. It grows in Maricopa County, Arizona, and is 45.3 ft tall with a girth of 10 ft. Saguaros grow slowly from seed, and not at all from cuttings.

Doreen, in her infinite wisdom, decided to place our mascot "Willie" on a cactus to get some pictures. Not only could she not get him off the plant, when she did, the poor thing was imbedded with needles that were worse that porcupine quills to get out. Poor Willie !!! Last year we dumped you off the cliff on Hwy 261 and this year you get rear-ended by a cactus.

Kingman, Arizona

On the recommendation of "George" at Cool Springs, we stayed at Kings Best Western in Kingman. What a great place!! Top notch accommodations under $100 and we ended up with a suite. And mustn't forget the beds - those comfy beds. Can't say enough good things about King's Inn. And we had supper at IHOP which was a fantastic way to end the day. Good food and a good night's sleep.

Lt. Edward Fitzgerald Beale, a U.S. Navy officer in the service of the U.S. Army Topographical Corps, was ordered by the U.S. War Department to build a Federal wagon road across the 35th Parallel. His secondary orders were to test the feasibility of the use of camels as pack animals in the southwestern desert. Beale traveled through the present day Kingman in 1857 surveying the road and in 1859 to build the road. The road became part of Route 66 and Interstate Highway 40.

Kingman, Arizona, was founded in 1882, is the county seat of Mohave County, Arizona.

Friday June 18 - Kingman to Primm

We did a late checkout to take advantage of the hotel guest laundry and about noon we headed west on Route 66. We were excited because we had only ever travelled Route 66 going east. The scenery would be totally different.

Cool Springs, Arizona

We stopped again at Cool Springs to visit with George and buy a Route 66 Beer and some souvenirs. We made sure to thank him for his recommendation of the Kings Inn but didn't have a lot of time to chat as this time the store was full of travellers and he was busy regaling them with the history of Cool Springs.

We snapped a few more pictures with the different lighting and proceeded on to Oatman. We weren't disappointed in the scenery. Travelling from east to west - the "abyss" side of the mountain was now directly out my side of the car and many times I couldn't even see the edge of the road - just the long drop down. One of the pitfalls of having the drop side of the road on my side is this: Doreen laughs so hard at my reactions (curses) - that she starts tearing up and can't see to drive. I strongly feel this is not a position of security I'm sitting in. Again there is that feeling that death could be imminent but smacking her upside the head just doesn't seem friendly. I must ponder this problem and come up with a resolution.

Oatman, Arizona

Oatman was everything we remembered. We parked and headed up the street just in time to witness the cowboys' street gunfight. The town was full of tourists and donkeys - just like the website claimed and we were happy to find Brenda and her "covered wagon" was open for business.

We went to Brenda's kiosk to get carrots but as we arrived we watched her last bag being sold. We visited with her for an hour or so and got quite a bit of history of how the town and it's burros have survived. Brenda told us that the young burrows are auctioned off each year as they have to keep the herd to twelve adults. The adoptive families go through an extensive investigation to prove they are equipped to care for the burro.

We also found out that Splotches, the male, was hit by a car in January, 2009. Tragically, he suffered quite a while before they found him. Another distressing thing we learned was that a six week old baby burro had been kidnapped in 2009. Heartbroken, the mother wandered the street calling for her baby. Someone in a camper van just picked it off the street at the edge of town. It is unlikely it even survived if the people are stupid enough to steal it.

The town people have no financial assistance to help with the health and care of the burros. If a burro is sick or hurt, they have to pay for it out of their own pockets or from the small donations made by tourists. One burrow was 9 months pregnant when a car hit her and she broke her ribs. The vet was called and the residents paid the bill of $1,000. The good news was that the burro recovered and the baby survived. It really comes to light when visiting with someone like Brenda just how much most of the town people care about the burros. They might be a tourist attraction to us, but all the burros are truly pets to people like Brenda. She knows everyone of them by name and is affected deeply when one is injured or lost.

We also met one of the gunfight actors, Fred. We had an interesting conversation with him about the making of the movie Tombstone. One of his friends was a stuntman in the movie so the inside information he gave us was quite interesting.

Oatman Arizona 2010 Slideshow
Finally it was time to say goodbye. Unfortunately there are no motels in Oatman. By late afternoon the shops close, proprietors head for home and the burros head for the hills. This time we exchanged emails with Brenda and promised to keep in touch - and of course to return again.

Joshua Tree Hwy 164 Nevada

We crossed over to Fort Mohave south of Bullhead City, back to Laughlin and up Hwy 95 again to Searchlight NV and turned west onto the "Joshua Tree highway" (Hwy 164) into California. Once we reached I-15 we backtracked just over the Nevada border again and spent the night in Primm.

The name Joshua tree was given by a group of Mormon settlers who crossed the Mojave Desert in the mid-19th century. The tree's unique shape reminded them of a Biblical story in which Joshua reaches his hands up to the sky in prayer.

Ranchers and miners who were contemporary with the Mormon immigrants also took advantage of the Joshua tree, using the trunks and branches as fencing and for fuel for ore-processing steam engines.

This tree has a top-heavy branch system, but also has what has been described as a "deep and extensive" root system, with roots possibly reaching up to 36 ft away. If it survives the rigors of the desert it can live for hundreds of years with some specimens surviving up to a thousand years.

Primm, Nevada

We stayed at Buffalo Bills which is a really super hotel and only $23. a night. I guess they make their money in the casino and food which was actually reasonable. We took the new monorail between hotels and gambled away $20.00. Well Doreen did anyway - I made 80 cents. I tricked Doreen into riding on the log ride and by the first corner she realized that was just a roller coaster in disguise and began using my name in vain. By the second drop we were soaked.

Primm (formerly known as State Line and often called Primm Valley, after one of its casinos) is a tiny community in Clark County, Nevada, primarily notable for its position straddling Interstate 15 where it crosses the border between California and Nevada. It sits at the edge of Ivanpah Dry Lake.

The community's economy is based on its three casinos, which attract gamblers from Southern California wanting to stop before reaching Las Vegas 40 miles to the north, or as a last chance to gamble before leaving Nevada. The community's hotels also serve as reliever hotels on the occasions when Las Vegas hosts major conventions. All of Primm's residents are workers at the properties and their families, and the employee housing is an apartment complex, the Desert Oasis. We have heard the financially it has problems but you wouldn't suspect it. Friday night and the place was hopping.

Lots of things to make this a great day - and only 150 miles total driving.

Saturday June 19 - Primm to Bishop

We left Primm after grabbing coffee and egg mcmuffins at McDonalds and went southwest on I-15. Good thing we only had about an hour on this road because it was full of idiots passing in the slow truck lane and cutting in on civilized drivers forcing them to slam on their brakes. Never a cop when you need one.

Death Valley National Park, California

We turned north on Hwy 127 at Baker up to Shoshone and then headed into the southern end of Death Valley on Hwy 178. This was new route for us and we travelled most of the way on the valley floor. One spot at Badwater was 212 feet below sea level with Dantes' Viewpoint 5000 feet above us. Totally flat white bed as far as you could see till the next mountain range.

Continuing on,we had an early supper at Furnace Creek and then hit the road again to get out of the valley before dark. We passed through Stovepipe Wells and up the long climb thru the west pass.

Death Valley is a desert located in the southwestern United States of America. Situated within the Mojave Desert, it features the lowest, driest, and hottest locations in North America. Badwater, a basin located within Death Valley, is the specific location of the lowest elevation in North America at 282 feet below sea level. This point is only 76 miles east of Mount Whitney, the highest point in the contiguous United States with an elevation of 14,505 feet.

The lowest temperature recorded at Greenland Ranch was 15 °F in January 1913. The average annual precipitation in Death Valley (Greenland Ranch Station) is 1.58 inches.

Death Valley holds the record for the highest reliably reported temperature in the Western hemisphere, 134 °F at Furnace Creek on July 10, 1913 just short of the world record, 136 °F in Al Aziziyah, Libya, on September 13, 1922.

We were going to stop at Lone Pine but the rooms only had single beds left so we phoned ahead and booked a room in Bishop - the same town we stayed in on the last trip into this area.

Tomorrow we head for the Yosemite National Park mountain pass - IF - it's open. The east side of the mountain range still has snow on it and doesn't look very inviting.

To Page 2 - Yosemite to Calgary
Next - 2011 - St. Augustine