Travels in the American Southwest

Heading Back to Las Vegas

Headed North on US395, the National Historic site, Manzanar, CA receding in my rearview mirror. Backtracked around 35 miles to Big Pine, amazed at all the traffic going south. Realizing that it was Monday afternoon, Labor Day, I was glad I was taking CA168 to Nevada's SR266. Didn't expect any traffic jams on that road (and in fact saw five cars in total!). A sign at Big Pine indicated that it was 82 miles to US 95. I knew it was 167 miles from there to a hot shower and real bed at the Golden Nugget.

As I've mentioned in earlier reports, CA168 is a very winding road. Signs posted at the US395/CA168 intersection strongly suggest that large or long vehicles seek alternate routes. Like a Grand Prix racer in slow motion, I turned the steering wheel left and right, following the road's switchbacks. Of course the temperature gauge started to rise...Right on schedule! But the van and I have been through this drill before. Knew that it would return to normal once I crossed Westgard Pass (7271') and started descending into the Eureka Valley and eventually the little town of Oasis. Driving around the final bend through the foot of the White Mountains as the road gently descended into the valley, there was what had to be Oasis. From that distance, I couldn't see any buildings, the highway looked about as wide a the edge of a razor blade, small pinpoints of green would turn out to be large Cottonwood trees. What demanded my attention were enormous circles of green, standing out from the surrounding desert as would a set of footprints through a virgin snow. Because of easy access to water, the Oasis Ranch which makes up the town of Oasis has turned parts of the valley into farmland. I measured one of the circles as I drove past them. It had a diameter of close to three miles. These circles make a great landmark as you travel through the area.

A couple of miles east of Oasis, CA 168 enters Nevada and become Nevada SR266. Fluffy white clouds appeared over the White Mountains from which I'd come. Not being in a hurry, I stopped at the state line. Before my trip, I had discovered that there was a geocache in the area. Aptly named "Stateline Geocache", I thought I'd see if I could find it, after all, how hard could it be? I'd never looked for a cache before, I'd only hidden one up on FR100 earlier in my trip. Pulled into a small rest area on the Nevada side of the line, fired up the GPS receiver and started tracking. I walked east. I walked west. I walked north. I walked south. I walked back to the van to get my water bottle and recheck the coordinates. The joy of "geocaching" was starting to wear very thin! I started all over again, this time establishing the longitude. Then I walked south in a straight line, not around but over and through clumps of sagebrush...I wasn't going to lose the bearing! A few minutes later and there it had to be. A hubcap alone in the middle of the desert. Gingerly, I flipped it over with the toe of my boot. Success! Under the hubcap was an ammo box, slightly buried in the ground. I opened the box, writing in the logbook that CmdrMark discovered the cache at 4:00 PM on Labor Day, 2001. Per geocaching rules, I took a deck of cards and a squeaky toy ("Road Kill Rat") leaving a keychain calculator and one of my trademark chemical luminescent light sticks. Then replaced the box in the hole, carefully replacing the hubcap for the next searcher. The family who had hidden the "Stateline Cache" requested that the "Rat" become a hitch-hiker meaning that I was to place it in another cache. I completed the task yesterday, placing the "Road Kill Rat" in another cache some 2500 miles away from its first home. Well traveled "hitch-hiker"! (And now still traveling!)

Continued east on SR266, passing through the ghost town of Palmetto. Easily located from the highway, Palmetto is a collection of walls and foundations. Shot some photos, then glanced back to the west. The fluffy white clouds had coagulated into a sea of angry black. As I watched, lighting bolts flashed into the White Mountains through the sheets of gray which I knew were desert downpours. Pedal to the metal, the van flew eastward. In no time, I was in Lida, a sparsely populated burg which was the scene of mining greatness decades ago. Today, its few homes and large Cottonwood trees are all that's left. While snapping some photos, warm fat raindrops hit the road and me. Eastward I flew, trying to outrun the storm, reaching US 95 around 5:30.

Played tag with the storm, sometimes getting ahead of it, sometimes being swallowed in one of its bands of rain. Followed US95 making very good time...Perhaps a little too good. Zipped by the exit for Amargosa Valley, the cd pounding out some classic Beatles. Traffic was non-existant, nothing ahead of me as far as the horizon. Glancing in the rearview mirror, I was surprised to see headlights on my bumper. A closer inspection through the gathering gloom revealed the oh so familiar rack of lights on the roof. Raindrops began to hit the windshield as I eased off the gas and the speedometer slowly dropped. Oh yeah, he's passing me; No flashing lights. Perhaps the deputy sheriff was cutting me a break as I was alone on the highway or maybe he didn't feel that my heavy foot was worth his getting wet. Either way, the result was the same. I added another fifteen minutes to my planned arrival time as the deputy's tail lights disappeared in the distance.

Saw him one more time on my eastward journey. At the Nye/Clark county boundary sitting driver's side to driver's side with a highway patrol vehicle. At least I knew where they were!

Rolled into the Golden Nugget's self-park around 7:45, quick check in (no upgrade, bummer), a long hot shower and I slipped between the most welcome clean sheets, asleep before I could shut off the light.

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