Wednesday, 15 July 2015

The lights of LA or How Bandits Held Me Up in the Black Mountains.

Finally, the bright lights of Hollywood are in the distance. 

8 days, 4781 miles, 10 fill-ups of gas (though some just partial), 6 car washes and of course images, images, images. 

Mile upon mile of endless roads, some paved, some partially paved and a lot just good old dirt, actually clay. 

Introduction to the 32oz/79¢ diet Coke (dangerous things). Discovering that besides the best coffee on the road (never did come across a Starbucks) nearly all McDonalds have FREE Wi-Fi.  Oh, yes, experiencing the McDonalds cashiers apologizing that their soft drinks are all one price, $1, and only come in large, 32oz.  I could never remember and always kept asking for medium.

This last westward leg took me to some very interesting places.

Left Kingman, AZ heading for Oatman AZ, in the high country, high up in the Black Mountains (yes this is Route 66).  Again, distances on the map that appear as meer inches making one think they can be travelled in a few hours, but traversing the vast open desert is another matter and eats up more time than any map can imply.  
Typical Dirt Road

Dusty desert road, mile after mile after mile.  HOT my cars outside temperature gauge read 117F. When you step out of the car it’s very similar to opening the oven door to sneak a peek at that Christmas turkey.  The blast of hot air almost knocks you over. 
Hot, Hot, Hot

Desert Beauty

Arizona's version of our super mailbox

The heat aside, the beauty of these dusty roads is that your speed is reduced and you take in a lot more of the country.  Despite it being desert, there’s a unique beauty to the land.  None of those ugly highway billboards cluttering up the landscape.  Just landscape. Can’t tell you the number of time I stopped and got out, despite the heat, to just stand and soak up my surroundings.  One thing that has to be kept in mind is that this too is rattlesnake country and yes I encountered a few.  Dass would love this place :-)

Climbed towards Oatman and I mean climb.  My GPS looked like a bowl of spaghetti as the road appeared as just one 45-degree turn after another. Also, a very narrow road system with nothing separating you from 1000 foot drops.  Came across just one enterprising endeavour, Cool Springs, on the entire road from Kingman to Oatman, unfortunately, it was closed.  
An Oasis but the door was locked. Sure hope passerbys had their own water.

The Desert Consumer All

The GPS and the Mountain Road
Arrived at Oatman and at first thought, oh well, just another hamlet of a few old deserted buildings.  WRONG…  turned the bend expecting to clear the town and ran smack dab into “Hollywood in the Hills”. 
Not What I was Expecting
Now talk about American entrepreneurship.  This place was a real tourist trap on steroids.  The buildings appeared to all be original and well preserved.  You know how many small towns have a “town drunk” well Oatman have their “town donkey”. Yup (as they say out here), these lovely gentle creatures freely wander the street, happy to eat whatever the tourist feed them.  Definitely worth spending some time here.  But watch it, even though it’s 5568 feet up, it’s dangerously hot.  

Left Oatman and descended towards Topock but a short way out of town I was waylaid by local bandits.  Even the mountains have their dangers not, just the big cities. 
First the Road Block

Then the Approach

Then the Demand

OK, maybe these bandits weren’t brandishing a six-shooter but they had a well-orchestrated plan.  In groups of 4-6, they see you coming and one would proceed to wonder to the middle of the road and just stand there.  Once they had you stopped the others would wander from car to car to see what they could relieve you of.  Food that is.  I had one stick his head right into my car looking for treats.  I saw another guy reach into the open door of the SUV, in front of me, and take off with a whole bag of chips.  Much to the delight of the passengers.

Topock compared to Oatman was going from sublime to the ridicules.  Topock is nothing more than a bend in the road, under a railway underpass.  BLIP.. you’ve shot past it.  Its biggest claim to fame is that they have a lake and it’s right on the state line. One side of the underpass is Arizona the other side in California.


Let me just say for the record that the LA freeway at rush hour makes rush hour in Toronto look like a Sunday afternoon drive.   To boot, I’m convinced that US cars aren’t sold with turning signal, probably an accessory, as the drivers either don't have them or know how to make them work.   

No, come to think of it, they don't use their signals because it’s just too darn difficult to hold your cell phone in one hand and that 32oz drink in the other and also work your turn signal. Watching these non-signalling drivers zip across three and four lanes (in a single move), in LA rush hour traffic, going a zillion miles an hour, takes some getting used to.  Once you get the knack it’s really fun.

I'll be in LA for seven to ten days and then start the drive back.  Not reversing on R-66 but rather motoring through the Bradshaw Mountains onto Sedona, turning north to Flagstaff, Page, Monument Valley and join up to I-70 where I'll swing eastward.

This blogging, on a nightly base, is a very time-consuming procedure so don’t be surprised if I only blog a few times on my return trip.

This certainly is a majestic country and definitely worth seeing more of.

More to come (maybe)…

No comments:

Post a Comment