Day 1: Vegas to Yuma, AZ

Thursday, 13 June 2013 23:49
Print Email

Get your kicks hereDay One was a trip through some of my current stomping grounds, Nevada and Arizona. And it was a hot one. Final stats for the day were 385 miles in 8 hours of driving and about 11.5 hours of total travelling--that's a longer day than I'm planning on doing regularly, but I need to get through the desert relatively briskly to avoid overcooking.

After a couple of false starts leaving the house, I topped off with gas, stopped in at the Bagel Cafe for a little sustenance, and got going. The car was behaving itself nicely--having five forward gears and a good alignment job really changed the character of the car for the better. First stop: Hoover Dam.

Farewell from Vegas

Although I've been to Hoover Dam on several occasions in the past, I had not yet had an opportunity to see and drive over the new bridge they built across the Colorado just south of the dam. Plus, Hoover Dam itself is pretty spectacular, so since I was in the neighborhood I paid a visit. I started out with the walk across the bridge over the river, then drove across the dam itself (mostly because I thought Route 93 still went through). I had a nice chat with a guy on a Harley who was driving up from Prescott, AZ to Snoqualmie, WA, and we shared similar opinions on the lack of air conditioning when the thermometer starts pushing 110. I turned around and went over the bridge toward Kingman.

Spin this fast enough and hook it up to a generator, and you'll get electricity Always impressive The new bridge over the Colorado at Hoover Dam

This was the first solid run at speed in the heat for the car, so I was keeping a pretty close eye on the temp and oil pressure gauges. Everything was running right where is should be, although the motor would pick up about 10-15 degrees on longer hills. I also got the opportunity to be a good Samaritan about halfway to Kingman...I came across a big blue duffel bag in the middle of the road, then about 100 meters later a large pink knapsack. Both looked really clean and not "abandoned", so I thought to myself "Somebody lost those off a roof rack, and not that long ago." I spun the car around, picked up both bags, and then picked up the pace toward Kingman, hoping to catch up with whoever lost them. About 15 miles later, I came up on a Ford Explorer that was having some pretty obvious issues with its roof rack security, so I pulled up next to the guy and held up the pink bag, thinking that'd probably be most recognizable. He got that look on his face that the people in the audience at Siegfried & Roy used to get when they had no idea how they did those illusions...obviously, his first thought was "How did that guy climb up on my roof and take that bag?", but then he quickly figured it out, and we pulled over and I gave him his luggage and helped him get things a little more securely tied down, and then we were both on our merry ways. He did compliment the car and gave me a couple bottles of water, which was nice.

Once I got to Kingman, I transitioned over to the old Route 66. I figured no US road trip would be complete without some time spent on the Mother Road (and I'll probably spend some time on the Lincoln Highway in the midwest, too), so cruised through 'old' Kingman. Lots of remnants of older hotels and other reminders of when that was the big road through there. It felt a little like Radiator Springs from 'Cars'. I also stopped to check out one of the big old Santa Fe locomotives they had on display, so I was simultaneously in the midst of two classic songs. Gets one thinking as to why nobody writes songs about highways and rail lines anymore--maybe Lady Gaga should do one about the Amtrak Northeast Corridor and the New Jersey Turnpike; she could call it "Misery in Parallel" or something. Probably wouldn't be as much of a toe-tapper as those other two, though.

The Mother Road On the Atchison, Topeka and the Santa Fe

The old Route 66 (aka "Oatman Road" now) is in a bit of disrepair; it's pretty bumpy, and it's still at its original (narrow) width. Come to think of it, that's probably authentic anyway. It's a fun road though; they didn't have the wherewithal at the time to make the big grades and cuts that they did when they started building the big interstates, so it goes around obstacles and terrain instead, which means lots of elevation changes and curves, which in a little Roadster means "fun". I stopped at a restored original gas station from the '20s (which doesn't pump gas anymore), and cruised through Oatman, where the wild burros are apparently in charge of the town. Once I got down the hill from there into Fort Mojave, I figured I'd probably had enough sun for one day, put the top up at a gas stop, and knocked back one of the ten liters of water I'd end up drinking today.

No gas today It did look remarkably like Radiator Springs Racers...
Burros having their way with the hardware store in Oatman More burros, wondering what parts of my car might be edible Good warning, but if you don't know what a burro looks like, here's a couple examples

 From there, I headed south through Lake Havasu, formerly of "London Bridge" fame, now mostly known for "Girls Gone Wild" on the lake. I stopped and checked out the bridge, but there were no girls around, wild or otherwise. Having the top up was keeping the direct sun off of me, but it was still really hot--about 106 outside, and probably 110 or so in the car. Luckily I'm kind of used to that from living in Vegas, but I don't generally sit in it for hours at a time. I kept pounding liters of water.

Felt like all of 107 to me The actual London Bridge, re-assembled in the middle of the desert. Inexplicable.

After that, it was a trip over another dam, this time Parker Dam. I almost did the dam trifecta by visiting Davis Dam in Laughlin too, but I couldn't quite bring myself to travel back north after Oatman. Parker Dam is not as impressive as Hoover Dam, but still pretty neat. What's really neat is all the development and parks along the river downsteam of the goes on for miles, with lots of waterside restaurants, homes, hotels, boating, you name it.

Parker Dam, one of many big dams on the Colorado. Lots of bridges over the river too, rail and otherwise. They don't try too hard to keep you out

By this point, the heat had peaked for the day, and I was sweaty and dusty and relatively nasty after a couple hundred miles of driving with the top down through the desert. After passing several little "day use" parks and turnouts while heading south, it occurred to me that I'd been travelling next to one of America's legendary rivers all day long, the mighty Colorado. Even though some of its former might has been tamed with all the dams along the way, it was still full of cool, fresh water, and it was right next to me, so I took advantage of that and went for a swim to cool off and wash off some of the road grunge. I had packed a bathing suit at the very last minute at home, and even went so far as to put it on the bottom of the pack, thinking "I may never use this". Figures; swimming on Day 1. I didn't stay in too long, as I'd been warned by one of the locals in Oatman that the burros " to chew on convertables for some reason--tops, seats, whatever. Don't let them get too close." I would have been pretty annoyed to come back up from a swim to find the car being eaten by burros, but luckily I managed to avoid that.

No, a burro didn't take this picture.

After that, there wasn't much other than a hundred miles of desert between me and Yuma, AZ, my designated stopping point for the night. I jumped back on 95 and cruised south, making a brief pitstop at the US Army Yuma Proving Grounds, where they had some pretty impressive guns on display. When the Army has got something to prove, they prove it in Yuma.

Tomorrow, we're headed west toward San Diego. It should be cooler out on the coast, which will be a nice change of pace. I was briefly contemplating a trip into Mexico since I'm only about 5 miles from the border here, but a quick check of Google Earth imagery showed mile-long car queues to get back across the border into the US, so I'm thinking that's a pretty normal state of affairs there. The Datsun probably wouldn't appreciate sitting there idling in the heat for a couple hours, and I don't think Mexicali and Tecate have all that much to offer me anyway, so I'm goint to skip that border crossing and just look at the fence from our side. Close enough.

According to one website, this thing lobbed atomic shells during those tests I'm doing the next road trip in a tank Old 105s never die, they just hang out in Yuma

And for those of you who like moving pictures, here's two minutes or so of old Route 66:


#1 lectacave 2013-06-14 06:42
What a spectacular first day! "Wish I was there" doesn't half cover it! Swimming in the Colorado. Torn between two standards, feelin' like a genius (I hope) for deciding to do this. Happy trails today.
#2 cmfisher4 2013-06-14 19:07
Car looks good. Brings back a lot of memories from a long time ago. I look forward to seeing it when you swing around this way. We always have a place for you to sleep. Be careful out there.
#3 laceytrynn 2013-06-16 17:52
off to a good start! will enjoy taking this virtual tour of the country with you...
#4 niki 2013-07-11 17:35
Who did take the picture of you swimming? :P
#5 admin 2013-07-13 11:38
Who did take the picture of you swimming?
OK, you got WAS a burro. :-)

Only registered users can post comments.