Monthly Archives: December 2017

Los Angeles to Home, the last lap: 7885.8 miles

When we got to Los Angeles last night, both Michele and I felt like we were home. As different as Los Angeles is from the Bay Area, they are closer to each other than they are to anyplace else. (One thing that Michele kept remarking on is how idiosyncratic each state is and how it is noticeable almost as soon as we cross a state line.) We started the day at Foxy’s Restaurant next door to our motel in downtown Glendale – where I had a couple of eggs with hash browns just like my dad used to cook – and then jumped on The 5 to go over the San Gabriel Mountains and up the west side of The Great Central Valley. 

We cross the Los Angeles River which, even on the first day of November, has water in it and I am reminded of walking along it last spring and…
thinking the river could be a major public asset.
The traffic is light going north in the morning. Just before we start up the steep grade into the mountains, we pass the Los Angeles Aqueduct Cascades Facility that aerates the water that has been in a pipe for much its 280 mile trip from the Owns Valley. The Aqueduct, completed in 1913 mostly by hand, with 142 tunnels, transformed Los Angeles from a small desert city of about 320,000 to a mega-metropolis of over four million (it also destroyed the Owens Valley as farmland and dried up Owens Lake, turning it into a dust bowl).  
I’ve been driving over the Transverse Ranges on this highway since 1959 when it was four lanes and designated US 99 (it was widened and became I 5 in 1968). While it might not look it…
this is an amazing piece of road building that tops out at 4,233 feet (Liebre Summit).
Once we are in the Great Central Valley, it is flat and straight for almost 200 miles.

Although it seems longer.
We get gas at Petro Santa Nella…
just before going past San Luis Reservoir and then Pacheco Pass at 1368 feet.
Then we are in the upper Santa Clara Valley…
through San Jose, going against traffic…
up 280, and finally…
Home, 7,885.8 miles later.


Phoenix to Glendale CA: Mile 7484.8

From Phoenix AZ to Los Angeles CA is about a six-hour drive straight west on what used to be  Interstate 10 but has, almost universally, become The 10. We start at a tick above one thousand feet, in Phoenix, and slowly drop to about a quarter of that as we cross the Colorado River at Blythe CA,  then we will slowly climb out of the Colorado Basin and cross into the Los Angeles Basin 145 miles later, around Beaumont, at about twenty-six hundred feet. All of this on a four-lane, or larger, divided highway rolling about eighty miles an hour. If driving on back roads through Georgia is like sipping an interesting beer, this is like a double shot of rye; fast and effective. 

The first section, Phoenix AZ to Blythe CA is about a 150 miles and it goes by like we are watching it on TV (TV with trucks, that is).

After crossing the river, the country started to feel familiar to me even though this was a new highway for me. All the maps say we are still in the Sonoran Desert but it feels like the Mojave to me, at least from the highway. I’m not entirely sure how the four primary American deserts are officially differentiated but I think it is, mostly, by their flora and fauna. However, there are other, less tangible, differences that give each desert its own personality.

 The Basin and Range Desert is the northern 7/8 of Nevada and the eastern 3/8s of Utah, this is the Cowboy Desert, think Cliven Bundy. The Sonora and Chihuahuan Deserts are the Cowboys and Indians Deserts (where the Indians are more real than the Cowboys). The Mojave is the Wacko Desert, think Area 51 or the mysterious glow in Repo Man. It is the home of the Mojave Spaceport and Death Valley and is the most extreme of all the North American deserts. It is also the most trashed, think Hinkly of Erin Brokovitch fame.  The Mojave is not for everyone but it is my favorite desert and driving up out of the Colorado Basin, it is starting to feel like home.

Michele noticed that we would be passing Joshua Tree National Park and since she had never been there, she suggested we get a to-go lunch at a Mexican place in Blythe that Yelped well, and eat it at a picnic area in Joshua which is about 75 miles up the highway.

The most noticeable geological features of Joshua are the softly rounded granite boulders which were formed when the Pacific Plate pushed under the North American Plate 250 to 70 million years ago. In the mountains, on the other side of the park, there are much older rocks that were formed about 750 million years earlier when the Earth’s plates collided to form Rodinia, a supercontinent before Pangeia. The most noticeable flora are the Joshua Trees which are – theoretically – only found in the Mojave but they are at a much higher elevation than we are, here the Ocotillo, which is Sonoran, is dominant. 

After a short walk past a California Palm grove and into the low hills, we were back on the highway to Glendale where we have a Chinese dinner at one of the best Dim Sum restaurants I’ve ever been to, Lunasia Dim Sum House.  This is our last night on the road. Only one more day to go!

The First Supermoon of December 2017

We decided to go to Twin Peaks in San Francisco to see the Super Moon and we got there just as the Sun was setting over a very pacific Pacific. But it was still about a half hour before moonrise which is what we had driven up for. I don’t understand that, I always thought that, on a full moon, sunset and moonrise were the same time but this was only a 99.8% full moon and that translates into a half hour time difference (I guess). Anyway, after the sun went down, San Francisco just glowed with its new brightest star on the skyline,  Sales Force Tower, giving the whole thing a magic touch.  The crowd seemed younger than Michele and me – Michele said that she thought the next oldest person was twenty years younger than her – and the melody of voices included German, French, and Chinese. I had the feeling that only tourists were on the hill with us and, if that’s true, it’s a little sad. The moon, however, was terrific.