While the California Central Valley is interesting, we heard the call of the desert winds. But first we had to climb out of the valley, and this was up a surprising grade. Not as high as the Kicking Horse Pass in the Rockies, but the Tehachapi Pass, through the mountains of the same name, rises to almost 4,000 feet, and it’s quite a climb on Highway 58. Thereby hangs a tale.
Lunchtime came and went, and nowhere pleasant to stop. So we took what we thought was a parallel byway, since it was labeled Tehachapi Loop. It worked for lunch, since there was a wider part for us to park.
“The Loop” turned out to be quite remarkable, and warranted a plaque. It was the American version of the Canadian “spiral tunnels”, as a way to drag trains up grades that were just too much. This one was on the surface, other than where it crossed over itself.
Regrettably, no trains came along, but there were a couple of crows. This is not remarkable, until we looked way up, and saw a seriously large bird above them. It tucked in its wings and dropped, missing one of the crows by inches, and flying really close to us. A magnificent golden eagle, and the flying display continued until the crows reached shelter in some trees.
One up for a lack of GPS. This scenic road was excessively challenging with the trailer on the back, and went on for many miles before bringing us back to the main highway. We would never have taken it had we known … but then we would have missed the historic railway engineering, and the “dog-fight” between a golden eagle and two endangered crows!
Down then into the Mojave Desert, and a most interesting overnight site in Barstow, made notorious in various films, including “The Right Stuff”. Many military types in the bar, and tall tales were told. Along this stretch we took a side road, and this proved to be the famous Route 66, the first paved road across the USA in the 1930s. It has likely never been paved since, and it was a bumpy twenty three miles before we could edge back onto the freeway.
On again across the Mojave on Interstate-40, which proved to be marginally more hospitable than the road to Las Vegas … but this is relative. Actually, the distant scenery was magnificent, and after another climb through the Sacramento Mountains, we came to Needles, and then south to Blythe … right on the Colorado River. This used to be huge, but a combination of dams and the need for irrigation has reduced it to a more manageable size.
Actually we went the extra mile, to the East Bank, and we were in Ehrenberg, Arizona. River Breeze RV Park was exceptionally well run, and right on the Colorado, so we stayed an extra couple of days. This partly to soak up Arizona sunshine, but also because of the company.
Wes said he was from Alberta, which fooled me, since he had a “Native American” look, and most people who look like this in the Southwest are actually “Latinos”, many with native ancestry. “So what did you do, Wes, before you retired?”
I examined my conscience, and then asked what sort of things he did.
“I was a pilot.”
That did it … we talked flying, and I was in awe at his exploits, flying into remote northern communities to sort out whole varieties of problems. He was a Cree, and did admit that this helped when dealing with the native people. “Ah yes,” I said, “after you had got the plane down on their lake or bit of ice!”
A most interesting man, and proof positive that not all folk in RVs are as dull as I am!
On to Quartzite, Arizona This is famous (or perhaps notorious) for its huge gatherings of RVs, largely because the desert camping is free, and all kinds of events take place there. We took a brief look, but went on to Yuma. This is sand dunes and irrigated fields, and not our favourite locale. So we headed east to Gila Bend and south into Ajo.
Ajo is a formerly prosperous mining town, quite close to the Mexican border. Now it is supported by “snowbirds”, and indeed has some nice RV parks. The square and church are well laid out, and clearly this town has a large dose of civic pride.
Flowers were a feature in Ajo, and a welcome sight in mid-November.
John … with suggestions and helpful criticism from Elaine.