Friday, 24 September 2010

Day 20: Flagstaff, AZ - Bishop, CA

Cor, wot a contrast, eh?  Wall to wall unbroken sunshine, though with Flagstaff being the best part of seven thousand feet up it was a touch on the nippy side this morning.  And to get out of Flagstaff you have to climb even higher, hence it was zero degrees, hence the top stayed up.  You need a truly volcanic heater, and preferably heated seats too, if you want the lid down in thos conditions, and I'm afraid the V8 Noise Maker just doesn't cut it in this regard.

The first few miles out of Flagstaff are most pleasant as the altitude means that there are trees.  Start descending, though and it's back to desert.  A tedious run on I-40 (once I'd found it; the signposters of Flagstaff need to pull their fingers out in this regard) to Kingman.  A tedious run up US-93 to the Hoover Dam.

A word or two about the Hoover Dam.  It was built in the 1930s by a Bad Man, at the behest of President Roosevelt - the pinko one, not the one who hunted bears - and generates a metric fuckton of electricity and holds back a lot of water.  This has enable Las Vegas to transform itself from a small, sleazy oasis in the Nevada desert into a big sleazy oasis in the Nevada desert.

A The Hoover Dam, in 2004
 And where, moreover, the sky is brown.  Now in the last few years, $GOVERNMENT has apparently become obsessed with the idea that the Hoover Dam is a target for terrorists, as opposed to tourists, though perhaps it's all a ghastly mistake caused by ex-"President" George W Twig's habit of pronouncing both words exactly the same.  I don't know what they expect Osama's lads to do with it - it's fucking huge and would require an entire fleet of heavy bombers to blow up. Remember how many five-ton bombs it took to breach the Möhne dam?  Not that the US Gubbinsment would know, as there were only a couple of US citizens involved, until the Hollywood remake comes out, natch.

Anyway, just downstream of the dam They have built a new bridge, yclept the Mike O'Callaghan – Pat Tillman Memorial Bridge.  Mr O'Callaghan was a former Governor of Nevada, and need not concern us further.  Mr Tillman was a professional "footballer" in the NFL until shortly after 9/11, when he forsook a multi-million dollar contract and joined the US Army.  In 2004 he was killed in a friendly fire incident in Afghanistan, a fact which the US military took great pains to cover up.  So in other words, you have a bridge named for a victim of the Wa on Terror slap next door to what is apparently a prime terrorist target.  Who says the Americans don't do irony, eh?

Back to the trip.  A downright horrible crossing of Las Vegas.  A tedious run up NV-160 to Pahrump, which sounds like a vulgar noise and probably explains why cast members of CSI are "working a case in Pahrump" when the actor is on holibobs or something.  A slightly less tedious run down to DETH Valley Junction and thence into DETH Valley itself.  Back in the old days the entrances to DETH Valley were manned by jolly types with big hats, but ruthless spending cuts have seen them replaced by a Machine.  I approach the Machine, press the right buttons and feed it twenty dollars, in return for which it gave me fuck-all.  I let the German lads next in the queue have a go; it declined to accept the existence of their credit card.  So we buggered off, them without paying and me having paid but being unable to prove it.

In DETH Valley.  A bit of a contrast to yesterday.
I've been to DETH Valley a couple of times before, but those were in October and the place was deserted apart from Mercedes-Benz test drivers getting paranoid at the sight of a camera.  Today the major attractions were swarming with people, so I made my excuses and left.  As a place to drive through, DETH Valley is rather tedious and, at 99 degrees Fahrenheit, a touch warm too.  I finally escape onto US-95, head north a bit and turn left at what used to be the Cottontail Ranch (yes, a brothel), onto one of the daftest Daft Wee Roads anywhere in the world.

An abandoned knocking shop, yesterday
 This is the fifth time I've driven along here, but the first time from the Nevada end.  And if you didn't know what was ahead, at first you'd be a bit disappointed as it's generic Minor Road Across The Desert.  Until you cross the state line into California at Oasis, where the road does three things:

  1. Turns left, and
  2. Changes its name to CA-168, and
  3. Goes mental
There are actually three mental bits.  The first crosses some bunch of mountains, and then gives you a nice long straight to recover and overtake the motorhome you've just caught up.  The second climbs to Westgard Summit, atop which the lunacy abates briefly, before the final bonkers bit takes you down the other side to Big Pine in the Owens Valley.  It absolutely requires the V8 Noise Maker to be put into Sport mode and then to use the flappy paddles to change gear.  When you drop it into first in a narrow canyon, it sounds like a re-enactment of the bombing of Dresden.  It is fun, and I shall be back to play on it again.

Curious thing seen on the road: the coppers letting loads of Real Villains past their checkpoint in order to stop and search Me.  Bastards.

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