This time we are headed to the southwestern United States departing from Los Angeles with a trip? On the road? 6.400 km. I immediately propose a brief summary of the places we visited: some very famous and very popular, others less known that we discovered during our wanderings in the states of Utah, Arizona, New Mexico, California and Colorado.
Nevada: Las Vegas
Arizona: Grand Canyon, Pima Air & Space Museum
Utah: Bryce Canyon, Capitol Reef National Park, Monument Valley, Natural Bridge National Monument, Twin Rocks (Bluff), Moki Dugway, Hwy-12, Hwy-24
Colorado: Mesa Verde, Durango
New Mexico: Trinity Site (first atomic bomb), White Sands National Monument (chalk dunes), Missile Range Museum
California: General Patton Memorial, US-101N? El Camino Real ?, Venice, Santa Monica, Malib ?,
Pismo Beach, Sequoia National Park, Lake Isabella, Century Blvd (Los Angeles)
What? in the end I write the diary of an extraordinary journey that I propose to your reading, hoping
that fascinates some of you and wants to repeat it.
Tuesday? Sept. 11
Departure on time from Venice at 6,45 am and arrival in Amsterdam at 8,45 am: check with the scanner and personal search then board a 747 400 of the KLM with the 400 seats all occupied where are you a bit? narrow but equipped with the usual personal screens with music, movies, games and updates on the flight cos? I can see the distance of 9.500 km. at an average of 950 / hour that in almost eleven hours it will take us? in Los Angeles. All in all, time passes quickly and at 11,50 (nine hours behind Italy) we land at LOS ANGELES airport; we hurry up the formalities quickly? Once we enter the United States, we take the Avis shuttle (like that of the other rental companies runs every five minutes) which, after a long journey, leaves us at the office where they deliver us a really spacious Chevrolet Impala. We cross the street and immediately find the SUPER 8 (88?) We had booked: outside it seems a bit? neglected but inside it is spacious, comfortable, clean and the air traffic does not disturb much. At 13,30 we are already? in our room where we can finally relax.
Continental breakfast then at 8,30 departure for Las Vegas; we follow the directions that I had printed from google map cos? we defend ourselves well in the chaotic traffic that develops on six lanes in the two directions of travel (a seventh faster is reserved for cars with two or more passengers): first we enter 110 north up to the intersection with the I-10 W that passes very close to the city center? of which we see the tall skyscrapers, we pass through beautiful residential neighborhoods and industrial areas while the traffic is gradually diluted as we deviate on I-15 W to Barstow in whose vicinity is Calico Ghost Town. We continue through a desert landscape, arid (many dry lakes) barren, with mountain ranges in the background that remind us of ours and after other kilometers in the middle of? Nothing? we are attracted by an advertised outlet that covers a very large area and we see several buses of foreign tourists (many Japanese) who stop here to proceed with discounted purchases of famous brands.
We enter Nevada and after about fifty kilometers at 14,00 we arrive on the outskirts of LAS VEGAS and we immediately head to the Microtel Inn & Suites, always booked on the internet, which will reveal itself? a happy choice both for the price (58?) and for the service, for the equipment in the room, accessories and common areas.
From 14,15 to 17,30 we rest then we decide to drive it? strip? that literally leaves us breathless as we recognize the hotels that overlook it as we have seen them more? times on TV. Live for? ? an impressive impact with people in frenetic movement going up and down the escalators and an elevated rail that connects the buildings that characterize the hotels. After almost 10 km. we go back to the center that, when evening falls, yes? magically illuminated with millions of colored lights that bring out its uniqueness. We would like to stop and then go on foot but parking is difficult so, after several attempts, we return to the motel when it is now twenty hours. We go to dinner at a restaurant run by a family of Italian origins whose history? documented on the walls with photos from the time and today; the room ? dark (candles on the tables) and cold for the air conditioning and dinner is? cheered? by an eighty-year-old singer in evening dress accompanied on the piano by her equally elderly husband. Routes 515 km.
Thursday? 13 September
After a truly super breakfast that we consume with immense pleasure, at 8,15 we are ready to face the visit of Las Vegas on foot; after parking the car at the start of the strip, we begin the tour by entering the manicured gardens of Mandalay Bay with its shining golden tower boasting a vaguely Burmese theme. We continue towards the darkened glass pyramid of Luxor (36 floors) to the succession of sphinxes and palms that reflect the theme of Egyptian archeology; pi? forward the Excalibur? a false medieval castle with a drawbridge and crenellated towers and? remained until 1993 the hotel more? the largest in the world until the MGM Grand with its 5.000 rooms opened on the other side. These two complexes are located at the intersection of Las Vegas Boulevard and Tropicana Avenue, considered the most important road junction. busy United States: the city? each year it attracts 37 million tourists and boasts fourteen of the twenty plus hotels. great in the world. Each of them includes bars, restaurants, casinos, parking spaces for guests and visitors, shops and gardens with incredible plants and flowers. The heat begins to be felt so? we only get to Monte Carlo and go back stopping at New York-New York what? a reconstruction of the Big Apple and boasts a profile formed by twelve separate skyscrapers in front of which stands the Statue of Liberty. We are truly impressed when we enter the immense lobby of the hotel where long lines of guests wait to register and even more. amazed when we enter the casino room: a huge area lit only artificially and with flashing lights that come from hundreds of slot machines operated continuously by dozens of people present day and night. Given the time the local is not? very crowded cos? I walk up to a roulette table to try my luck with $ 10 that I lose. Leaving, we stop to get a drink and, having decided that we have enough, we return to the car under a scorching sun and a little? tired from the kilometers traveled on foot.
Visiting Las Vegas? an incredible experience to realize the genius, megalomania, recklessness and excesses of the Americans: I mean for? that I would not go there again.
Back at the hotel, we prepare the luggage so? at 10,30 we take the I-15 S to Lake Mead which has an 800km long beach. and the Hoover Dam what? one of the most? high ever built (231 m.). We enter Arizona and take the US-93 S which crosses a long deserted stretch, barren and arid, without villages, with mountains in the background and boulders of various sizes appear from time to time as if thrown by a gigantic hand; then the vegetation becomes a bit? pi? dense and alternates with the plain with green grass, yellow flowers, grazing cows up to Kingman. Lonely farms sprouting in the middle of? Nowhere? they ask me many questions: how do these inhabitants live? How do they go about shopping, school, doctor, church? They are distant from each other by several kilometers and the shopping centers or towns even more? distant: curiosity? that I would like to satisfy.
You travel fast enough (75 miles / hour maximum for the US) on I-40 E, an almost traffic-free road, with a temperature of 30? cos? at 13,20 we arrive in Seligman where we stop for a short break; after another miles through the Kaibab forest (made up of pine, juniper, spruce and poplar) we pass Williams and, after having covered a good stretch of the historic? Route 66? which connected Chicago to the Santa Monica beach, we arrive at FLAGSTAFF (located at 2100 m. altitude) where we booked at the Days Inn (52?) a nice large motel with a swimming pool.
It is 15,00 and I consult the precious guide brought from Italy, which informs me about the places we already have. crossed, on the history and attractions of the states we will visit.
At 18,15 pm on foot, we arrive at the Galaxy Dinner, a characteristic place that reproduces and maintains the style and charm of when the? Route66? was in vogue. IS? present a complex with singer, on the walls photos with dedications of famous actors and actresses, a group of French tourists with men? fixed, big and big athletes of the university teams. Out c ?? the wind and the temperature yes? significantly lowered cos? we are happy to return to the motel for a well deserved rest after a busy day. Routes 440 km today.
Friday? September 14
At regular intervals you can hear the rattle of the trains that pass here day and night as the center of Flagstaff is divided in two by the tracks of the Santa Fe Railroad but the room? well insulated and the noise arrives muffled and does not disturb. After a hearty breakfast, departure at 8,20 on the US-180 N which, with a route of 120 km, will take us. at the entrance to the Grand Canyon; the temperature is 14 ?, we cross the 96 km expanse of the Coconino Plateau covered by the most? large pine forests of Pinus ponderosa in the world and in the distance we see the San Francisco mountains with the highest peak? high at 3855 m. Wide flat open spaces like moorland with low trees and shrubs with bright yellow flowers alternate with forests of oaks, poplars, firs and arid soils that accompany us to Valle where we cross the AZ-64 that climbs up from Williams.
At 10 am, immediately north of Tusayan, we arrive at the access point of the park where, at the time of paying for the ticket, we are given a copy of the free newspaper The Guide that will avoid us? to enter the very crowded Visitor Center. Parked the car (three large squares available), after a short orientation tour to find out how to organize ourselves for the visit, we head towards Mather Point which offers the first visual contact on this wonder of nature. The effect? spectacular, amazing, breathtaking, enchanting: in front of us there is an indescribable scenery of rocks of bizarre shapes and colors, of dazzling lights of the desert and impenetrable shadows, of bare promontories and sandstone pinnacles that extend to infinity both to the right is on the left for 440 km, under a frightening chasm deeper than that. of 1,5 km with a width ranging from 6,5 to 29 km and at the bottom a winding strip represented by the Colorado River (so called because its waters change color according to the minerals present in the rocks that it has eroded in the time!).
We take the car back and head east for about 4 km and, after a few empty laps to find a parking space, we stop at Bright Angel Lodge waiting to take the free shuttle bus which, at regular intervals, runs the 13 km up to point pi? western canyon: Hermits Rest. A polite gentleman who? already? been here many times he offers to guide us and show us the places that deserve a stop; during the journey, which takes ninety minutes, you can? descend and ascend freely to get closer to the nine viewpoints that allow you to see the canyon from various angles. We limit ourselves to a couple of stops that allow us an always spectacular view! Note that the Rim Trail runs alongside the road, located more? close to the edge, paved and reserved for pedestrians and bicycles, so? can you? choose to travel short distances on foot alternating with the shuttle (I would very much like to do one of these short journeys, but the sight of the void immediately makes me give up while I observe that many tourists, even the elderly, proceed quickly and I envy them!). I read in the guide that the park offers numerous excursions for trekking lovers both in the high ground and at the bottom of the canyon, having prepared itineraries on foot or with mules, set up rest areas and equipped campsites. Eventually we arrive at the Hermit? S Rest building, built in 1914 to evoke the home of a canyon gold digger; Here there are gifts and snacks for sale but we prefer to wait for the bus that will take us back to the parking lot. Are we a little bit? tired and dazed by the natural spectacle that we were lucky enough to see, the heat makes you feel so? at 14,00 we get in the car and head east on the? 64? Desert Wiew Drive which, with its five vantage points, offers other magnificent views of the canyon; after 37 km we stop at Desert Wiew to get petrol (I see on the map that the next station is many miles away!) then we continue for another 54 km until we join the US-89 at Cameron.
We continue north after traveling these long kilometers for 1/3 in the middle of the desert, 1/3 on a land with rocks and red mountains and 1/3 of forest alternating with fields with sparse shrubs; long and straight roads, no traffic, incredible landscapes, not very deep but frequent canyons, we cross the Navajo bridge over the Colorado River and in Marble Canyon we turn west on US-89 alt and, after another 115 km pass Jacob Lake (from here the road leading to the north entrance of the Grand Canyon) and Fredonia, we arrive in KANAB after entering the state of Utah.
The guide reports that many westerns have been filmed in these rugged landscapes, including? The Ice-Eyed Texan? directed and starring Clint Eastwood.
It is now 18,00 but when we enter the Royal Inn & Suit motel (57?), Luckily booked, we realize that the clock strikes 19,00 why? already? since yesterday without realizing it we had passed through the Mountain Time Zone. During the day, after breakfast this morning, we haven't eaten so hungry, we head to Nedras Too for dinner; Giovanni hamburger and pur? for me mixed vegetables with burgers: very good. Then immediately to bed.
Unforgettable day! Today we covered 385 km.
Saturday September 15th
When also Giovanni? ready, with a temperature of 16 ?, we get in the car taking the US-89 north to get to Bryce Canyon which is 133 km away; we cross forests, pastures with cows and horses then we divert onto Hwy-12 and again onto Hwy-63 which after 5 km arrives at the park entrance. It is 10,25 am when we pay the entrance fee, we are given the newspaper with all the information and the ranger gives us special information; after a brief orientation, we decide to drive the 29 km of the Scenic Drive (along which there are fourteen panoramic parking areas where we will stop on the way back) to get to the most? high of Rainbow & Yovimpa when the road ends.
Gi? from the car we can see the particular nature of these rocks that form the canyon: red, yellow and orange peaks similar to the flames of a forest burning in the high plateau full of trees and at the bottom of the arid desert; in reality? the Bryce not? a canyon at all, but? a series of amphitheaters more and more? large, excavated for 32 km along the eastern edge of the Paunsaugunt Plateau at 2750 meters above sea level. Some of these cliffs are made of limestone, others of petrified mud; all are colored with combinations of red, white, orange, blue or yellow thanks to different concentrations of minerals, especially iron. Amazing, incredible vision that is prolonged in the immensity? and that we have a way to appreciate even more? when we stop at the viewpoints: we were particularly struck by the Natural Bridge which stretches over a steep gorge, suspended high above the forest, didn't it? placed above a river, so technically not? a bridge but a span of 26 meters. Before leaving the park we reach the Fairyland Point that the guide points out as one of the most panoramic points? calm and more? spectacular by Bryce: we perfectly agree.
I want to point out that these parks are managed in an excellent way with well-kept, clean streets, precise indications that can be easily interpreted, services and spaces for the disabled, picnic areas, accommodation, shops, telephones, paths with pedestrian and bike paths, speed limits? are respected and the staff? available and with a unique courtesy: another world, another civilization.
At 13,00 we leave the park and resume the Hwy-12 that climbs towards Tropic among incredible landscapes: we see rocks with horizontal red streaks placed at various heights, cream-colored rocks, a sea of gold and red sandstone outcrops, pastures with isolated cows and farms, tall pink granite rocks with pine trees clinging to the slopes. Arrived in Escalante at 14,15 pm we make a small stop to buy drinks and crackers (an empty stomach is felt), while the temperature? arrived at almost 30? we pass Boulder and then we enter an extensive forest with tall trees with white stems and golden yellow leaves that create a beautiful contrast! Now the road climbs with many curves up to 3.300 m, the speed? for long stretches? reduced to 20/30 km / h in others you can reach 50/65 always with suggestive views that vary continuously.
After Torrey we cross the Hwy-24 (with the Hwy-12 they are marked, with good reason, as the most scenic roads not only in Utah) which for 32 km crosses the Capitol Reef National Park, the second largest of the five national parks of the State. Even from the car we can admire the succession of dark red or streaked rocks, the huge panettone that emerge from the ground, undulating humps of gray-blue clay, the deepest canyons. or less deep; a truly magnificent and fascinating road.
At 17,30 pm we arrive in HANKSVILLE what? only a dot on the map, but since the next dot in any direction is at least 80 km away,? strategic result for the booking of the small motel (only twelve rooms) Whispering Sands (80?) which turns out to be a pleasant surprise: warm welcome, very accurate with attention to detail (cushion with hand embroidery? sweet dream ?, candies with ticket welcome, silent microwave, fridge and air conditioner, coffee and tea machine, wipes to clean shoes, excellent toilet products, 10% discount coupon at the partner restaurant (80 Euros well spent!). you can do at all the bathrooms of the motels in the United States are: lack of bidet? which makes personal cleanliness a little uncomfortable and the size of the toilets that are low and small (I don't know how many? big asses ?!). At 18,30 pm we go to dinner in a McDonald's type place so I finally eat a big hamburger with avocado, turkey, cheese, fries and coke (15? For two!).
Is it still very hot then? I sit outside and enjoy the sunset that lights up the rocks in front of the motel red, do I read a bit? but I have to go back why? giant mosquitoes won't leave me alone. Another memorable day. Today we covered 485 km.
Sunday September 16th
At 9,00 after breakfast, we are ready for a new day that should lead us to visit the legendary Monument Valley; the temperature ? of 15/16? when we enter Hwy-95 south which first crosses an extended plain then walls of smooth pink rocks, flaky or perforated or vertically chipped panettone, white rocks that come out of the ground. At 10,00 when the temperature is? stabilized on 23? we cross the bridge over the Colorado river that more? to the south it forms Lake Powell whose shores extend for 3.155 km and are more? long of the entire US coast on the Pacific. We now meet many canyons more? or less extended and deep then a little? of greenery formed by shrubs and small trees; looking on the guide I noticed that before reaching our destination? reported the Natural Bridges National Monument that arouses my curiosity? and I propose to Giovanni to stop us. So, after having traveled 160 km without having seen any town, signs of life and only six or seven cars, at 11,00 we deviate on a 6,5 km long road that takes us to the visitor center (it works thanks to energy solar and hosts the only public telephone within a radius of 200 km) from where a paved ring of 15 km begins which allows access to the three natural bridges. wide of the world: each of them can? to be admired walking for a short distance towards a viewpoint. The first one you meet? the? Sipapu? (in Hopi mythology it is an entrance from which they emerged into this world) with its 67 m high and 82 m wide; the second? Kachina? (named after the dancers who play a central role in the Hopi religious tradition)? formed by a tunnel under a large expanse of sandstone stained with black desert lacquer and? considered the most? young of the three because of the thickness of his bow. The third? Owachomo? (in Hopi it means? heap of rock?) is only 5.000 years old,? the pi? ancient park and although it is 55 m wide. has a thickness of less than 2,70 m; a path on the stream bed, reachable via wooden and iron stairs to overcome the difference in height, connects the three bridges and offers a delightful walk under the trees.
We limited ourselves to stopping at the panoramic points, covering the short stretches up to the viewpoint and taking a series of photos in memory of this unscheduled but interesting and suggestive place.
Leaving the park at 12,15 we resume Hwy-95 then Hwy-261 towards Mexican Hat through thickets of low plants, shrubs with yellow flowers; after having climbed to 2.000 m we see below us an endless plain that extends from east to west then we begin the descent. The Moki Dugway, which drops 335m in just under three kilometers,? a terrifying course with repetitive sharp turns along a narrow and gravel road, only the most? dangerous are paved; Giovanni must drive very carefully and quickly. very limited hoping not to meet vehicles arriving from the opposite side or run into a puncture. Fortunately, everything is fine cos? at 13,30, with a temperature of 30? we arrive in Mexican Hat where we stop to buy drinks and eat a good hot-dog (we are in the land of the Navajo, actually not very welcoming and available at the distributor and supermarket, tourists are poorly tolerated).
We see in the distance Mexican Hat Rock, the sandstone sombrero from which the settlement took its name, overlooking the San Juan River beyond. from which you can see the impressive zigzag streaks of the white and gray cliffs (this design is said to show the skin marks of a gigantic python that inhabits the river below) while the land and the rocks more? neighbors are brick in color and have strange shapes. Even on these roads, which remind me of the settings of many American films, the traffic? almost nil for several miles.
From here we take the US-163 which after 40 km. takes us to the entrance of Monument Valley Tribal Park, a stronghold of Navajo culture, through a Wild West landscape of sandstone hills and steep rocky pinnacles that sprout from an endless expanse of windswept red sand. After paying the entrance fee and parked, we approach the visitor center (in the same complex there are: a small museum of Navajo history and culture, a restaurant, a luxury hotel, a shop with a wide assortment of local handicraft souvenirs ) from whose terrace you can enjoy an extraordinary view of the valley. The monuments that have made this place famous are clearly visible: you could take a 25 km tour with your car to admire them more? up close but the road? a bumpy dirt road so? we desist (to rental cars? prohibited) but also there? that we see from here satisfies us completely. Is it scorching heat like this? at 15,20 pm we resume our journey crossing an extensive brick red plain from which the monoliths emerge, the characteristic Navajo houses can be distinguished in the distance, the desert with the usual barren vegetation, still red rocks while climbing then descending into a It is another vast plain bordered on the horizon by smooth white rocks with diagonal pink veins: wonderful landscapes.
We continue on the US-191 to BLUFF, a very small town of 380 inhabitants along the San Juan river bordered by poplars, where we booked the Kokopelli Motel (discreet and quiet with all its 26 rooms occupied); we rest from 16,30 to 18,00 then we drive to the Twin Rocks Cafe for dinner. It is a characteristic place with a veranda placed under the twin rocks (hence the name) where we consume typical dishes. We return at 20,00 tired but happy for this full and rewarding day. 380 km traveled today
Monday? September 17
The breakfast ? very poor, just a muffin and powdered milk! There is no shampoo in the bathroom. the coffee machine: too little for the price paid of 70 euros.
Wanting to take pictures of the Twin Rocks, I set out on foot at nine while Giovanni will join me? With the car; after having traveled about a kilometer and a half and stopped at the tourist center (short visit to the reconstruction of a fort) I arrive, photographer, I enter the Navajo shop where they sell some very expensive silver objects and jewels, then at 9,45 with a temperature of 18? we resume the US-191 that runs through hills, plains with farms, grain silos and fields of wheat and beans: after so many rock formations we find the America of the other journeys. The sky ? a little? cloudy and when, after passing Blanding, we stop in Monticello to get gasoline, a light wind blows that takes us to Dover Creeck on the border with the state of Colorado where the US-491 begins which takes us to Cortez located at 2000 meters. Here we stop at the tourist office (beautiful, divided into sections that include the whole state with dozens of brochures) to ask for information on Mesa Verde National Park that we are going to visit.
It is now 14,00 when we pay the $ 10 admission and we calculate that to get to the Visitor Center and then to Chapin Mesa (restroom, restaurant, shop, post office, picnic areas, museum and bookshop) we still have to walk 32 km on a beautiful panoramic road with curves with the crossing of a long tunnel. We stop here and take a short walk to a terrace from which you can see the settlements dug in the caves by the ancient? Pueblo? in 1200: there are some equipped paths that lead up to the houses but they are quite difficult so? I am happy to photograph what I can see from here and still get an idea of where these peoples lived; then visiting the beautiful museum (the various housing evolutions are reconstructed with? dioramas? and you can admire various finds: tools, clothes, food, ceramics) we better understand the culture, uses and customs of the? pueblo ?. In front of the museum there is a small botanical garden with trees and shrubs typical of the? Mesa? such as juniper, pine, mugwort.
I see on the map given to us at the entrance that, continuing for another 10 km, you will reach the most important sites. important and extensive: Cliff Palace which boasts 217 rooms and 23 kivas (rooms used for religious ceremonies) and Balcony House on the left, while on the right after traveling a winding 32 km road you arrive at Wetherill Mesa from where a free train leaves for the tour of the top of the? mesa? (vast outcrop of flat rock). Unfortunately the weather? passed quickly then we decide to take our car back and head towards DURANGO where we arrive at 16,30 after traveling another 60 km on US-160 E; does the search for a hotel turn out a bit? complicated both for heavy traffic and for the confusing indications given by the guide.
However, at 18,00 we stop at the Econo Lodge at an excessive price (95?) But we are tired and Giovanni begins to get nervous why? it is getting dark; for dinner we go to Mexican Pizza where we eat a fabulous Mexican pizza.
Routes 345 Km today.
Tuesday? Sept. 18
The town? located at 2.000 meters of altitude and outside the temperature? of only 10? when at 9,15 we enter the US-550 south (2 + 2 lanes at a speed of 70 k / hour) crossing the border with New Mexico and a beautiful plain with many farms and cultivated fields up to Aztec, the capital San Juan County (pleasant and picturesque town with frontier-style buildings); after Bloomfield we take the Hwy-44 and from here begins the desert with the characteristics? butte? (rocks emerging from the ground) and on the horizon low mountain ranges, straight roads, little traffic, altitude about 2.150 m, temperature of 20 ?. After Cuba we see a chain of rocks with pine trees and the view? characterized by a magnificent not very deep canyon with deep red walls; in this area there are many small? pueblo? (villages) still inhabited by Indians who preserve their culture and have their own laws and system of government. Pueblo of Jemez, Zia and Santa Ana (about 600 inhabitants) that has undergone an extraordinary transformation with the introduction of gambling: its Casin? located along the highway, it includes four restaurants and a large bowling alley whose proceeds have been invested in many other activities. including excellent golf courses, twenty-two football fields, numerous antique shops, and an upscale tourist facility (a joint venture between the pueblo and the Hyatt Corporation) offering 350 rooms and suites, three swimming pools, gym and spa, four restaurants, a professional golf course, horses and a hot air balloon!
We connect with the I-25 and continue towards Albuquerque set in a magnificent setting between the Rio Grande surrounded by large poplars and the spectacular and sparkling Sandia Mountains; we cross it and continue towards Socorro and San Antonio. We leave the highway and head on the US-380 crossing many miles of desert that before Carrizozo offers the spectacle of a river of black lava that has poured out for more? 65 km about 1500 years ago. Are we curious about an? Indication? Trinity Site? cos? I go to read on the guide and I discover that? the place where on July 16, 1945 the first atomic bomb was detonated placed on top of a steel tower and the explosion arrived? shattering the windows of Silver City, 194km west, melting the sand into a thick sheet of radioactive green glass known as? trinitite? still sold in pieces on the stalls today; twice a year tourists make a pilgrimage to this place.
We take the US-54 W to Tularosa then the US-70 crossing a? Wide plain with extensive cultivation of vines and pistachios, arriving at 17,45 in ALAMOGORDO and we stop at the Days Inn (62?) A very good motel located on the state.
Finally, after so much traveling, we go to dinner at Pepper's Grill where I choose a dish of catfish with potatoes, salad, parmesan, pieces of toast and sauce that I devour with immense pleasure. Today we have traveled 700 km.
Wednesday? September 19
After an excellent and substantial breakfast I read in the guide that nearby you can visit particular dunes not of sand but of very fine gypsum stone or, more? to the east, spend a little? of time in the small town of Lincoln which still maintains the structures of the late nineteenth century Wild West, also famous for the events of Pat Garrett and Billy the Kid. We choose the? Dunes? which are located on our route on the US-70 which we travel for 22,5 km until the entrance of the visitor center (characteristic Mexican style): at 9,40 with a temperature of 25? we pay the ticket, we access the White Sands National Monument and we see the first glimpses of white sand among the stunted vegetation. After 8 km we reach the heart of the dunes and gradually we enter a bizarre and magical world made up of dazzling sharp ridges and gentle slopes, of glittering dunes as high as three floors that are lost in infinity; we drive around a 9,5 km one-way maze where the road? at times hundreds of meters wide, at others it narrows to a thin channel why? the winds constantly push the dunes that sometimes obstruct the roadway so that? snowplows? are necessary! Driving requires a lot of attention (there is a risk of slipping) but there is no driving. traffic so? we take all the time it takes to make stops, take pictures, enjoy the silence and the beauty of this white and surreal landscape. On the way back we stop at the Interdune Boardwalk from where a long elevated walkway (accessible to wheelchair users and strollers) starts, which goes for 300m through the dunes and offers a close-up view of the many wild flowers that grow here: they are also informative signs about the fauna (foxes, rabbits, coyotes, porcupines, snakes that come out only at night because during the day they are easy prey on the white) and benches located in various panoramic points. A perfect organization.
This ? the visit that has me more? struck by its strangeness and originality: find the? snow? in the middle of the desert.
We were lucky why? I read in the guide that about twice a week both US-70 and Dunes Drive shut down for two hours when missile tests are underway; we leave the park at 10,55 and travel again in the middle of the desert with mountain ranges in the background. At 12,00 with a sultry heat we enter a military base where, having obtained a pass after showing various documents (passports, driving license, car booklet) we can go on foot for about 300 m and visit the open missile park that offers the possibility? to closely inspect Cold War weapons, all missiles tested at White Sands and the V-2 rocket launched by the Nazis over London - an impressive sight.
At 12,40 after this short detour we resume our journey passing a NASA Center heading west towards Las Cruces, the second largest. big city of New Mexico, which we cross at 13,30 while the temperature? further climb to 32? and we take the I-10 W; shortly after we have to stop for a passport control (the border with Mexico passes a few kilometers) and to get petrol. We pass Deming, a typical desert village, where they are marked and we see with our eyes, swirling and omnipresent eddies of sand.
Continue the journey in the middle of the desert dotted with small or large yucca plants, alongside the railway with a train made up of 60 containers, on the road an intense traffic of trucks moving at speed. of 120 km / hour, still warnings of maximum caution for 23 km due to the sand whirlpools.
At 15,30 pm we enter Arizona and at 16,45 pm we stop for various needs? at a large emporium that sells typical Indian products and many? junk ?; after passing San Simon, Bowie, Willcox, Benson (a road to the south leads to the legendary town of Tombstone where the shooting at OK Corral took place between the Earp brothers and the Clanton) the desert gives way to small canyons, a bit? of green, tall yellow daisies, prickly pears, cacti and some clouds above after days of clear skies.
At 17,30 pm just before arriving in TUCSON we leave the motorway and find the Quality Inn for which we had a coupon with a discount: super motel, clean, well equipped, quiet for only 45 Euros; we went back an hour (Mountain Time Zone) cos? can we rest before going to dinner at the? Steakhouse Salon? a typical Far West place where we ate very well (Giovanni two ounces of grilled meat + six prawns, fried potatoes and sweet cheese; I four large pieces of fish + six breaded and fried prawns, pur ?, salad with pieces of toast and various sauces) for the price of 27? tip included.
We return to the motel at 20,00 with the thermometer that yes? established at 38? and makes it difficult to be outdoors; even today a very interesting and satisfying but tiring day, therefore? I'm going to bed right away. Today 585 km traveled.
Thursday? 20 September
Giovanni yes? went to the nearby airport to replace the car (his long practice at Avis allowed him to realize that the one rented in Los Angeles needed a service). IS? been out for a long time but? returned to the wheel of an equally comfortable and spacious Ford Fusion. So let's have a rich breakfast (in addition to the usual flakes, waffels, jams, fruit we also find omelettes, hamburgers and hard-boiled eggs) sitting in a large, very welcoming and very clean hall: truly a motel of ten and praise.
The sky ? a little? cloudy but clears up early and at 9,25 with a temperature of 25? we are ready for another day; after a few kilometers, following a curious indication, we stop at the? Pima Air & Space Museum? which introduces us to an exhibition of old and new airplanes (300 pieces that tell the story of a hundred years of aviation) arranged both inside in five immense hangars and in an open space so vast that you can? cross it by tram. We admire some truly unique pieces (the Wright Brothers? 1903 Flyer and the Apollo space capsule are copies) and originals including many WWII bombers, prototype helicopters and the very fast X-15 fighter. The organization? perfect as always: several wheelchairs are parked at the entrance for those with walking problems, the paths are well marked and facilitated even for the handicapped, there are seats inside and outside with clean toilets, videos in the various hangars to illustrate the aviation stages, drinking fountains with raised platforms for children, courteous assistance from veterans (some in wheelchairs for war wounds) and at the exit the invitation to put a marker on the country we come from (no Italians for this month!). A really interesting stop that ends at 11,40 when we take the car back to Phoenix which is 160 kilometers along the I-10 interstate with a temperature that yes? significantly raised: I would love to visit the spectacular? Saguaro National Park? which hosts the pi? extensive concentration of these mighty cacti with many arms (about 40, the first of which appears after 75 years) which can reach 15 m in height and weigh up to 8 tons. It reaches this height at about 150 years and after another 50 it dies: every year from age? thirty years onwards, between April and June, the saguaro makes a hundred white flowers bloom, each of which lasts only one night and dies the following afternoon. Unfortunately, the temperature? arrived at 42/43? why? ? it is inadvisable to venture outdoors for even a short walk: a pity indeed.
We arrive quickly in Phoenix, big city? of 600.000 inhabitants, with few skyscrapers but very extensive so it takes almost an hour to cross it (60 km.) even if the traffic? sliding and takes place on four lanes pi? a fast one in both directions; we make short stops but I never get out of the car why? the sun is burning and there are signs calling for caution due to the presence of scorpions and snakes! We travel in the middle of the desert for another 240 km without encountering towns or signs of activity. or traffic and, after crossing the California border, we stop in BLYTHE at the California Inn (75?) a very well-kept and comfortable motel.
We rest in our room from 17,30 to 19,00 then we go to a classic Mexican restaurant for dinner. Monotonous and tiring afternoon; traveled today 490 Km.
Friday? September 21
At 9,20 we get in the car and continue the journey following the I-10 W which runs for several kilometers in the middle of the desert; at 10,25 we stop to get gas at Chiriaco Summit and, while Giovanni is dedicated to this task, I walk to see the Memorial Museum dedicated to General Patton, one of the protagonists of the Second World War. The temperature with its 37? it allows me to just take a quick tour outside, take some photos and hope that Giovanni will arrive quickly to take refuge in the car with his comfortable air conditioning. The landscape offers nothing of interest (usually desert and mountains in the background) but when we arrive in Indio, Palm Desert, La Quinta we find ourselves in a completely different world: finally palm trees, flower beds, green grass, manicured parks and gardens, fields from golf, closed and elegant residences, tree-lined streets indices of a sure wealth; a real oasis after so much arid and dry. We decide to go south on? 86? on the sides of which we see extensive plantations of palm trees with bunches of dates (4/5 per plant) covered one by one with white cloth bags (to make them mature? to go better to collect them?): the most? high are equipped with iron ladders to climb. I've never seen anything like it and I wonder how much work it takes to do a job like this (all illegal Mexicans?). After the palms there are endless crops of vines and pink grapefruits: I convince Giovanni to stop in an isolated place and I manage to detach one from the plant.
Now we are skirting the Salton lake and we first enter Sea Beach but we immediately run away disgusted by the squalor (poverty and filth) then to Salton City where we turn for a long time but we never get to see the water as it is. let's go back to the? 86? which still runs in the middle of the desert with low rare shrubs, with light brown earth and large deposits of hay pressed into large rectangular tiles up to Brawley which presents itself with cultivated or just plowed fields. At 14,55 the temperature? climb to 45? when we arrive in El Centro where we deviate on I-8 W and suddenly we see hills of small or large boulders and scattered stones emerging from the ground in bizarre shapes; the road runs only a few kilometers from the Mexican border, then begins to climb up to 1.300 m and I notice that every 100 m water containers are placed for the radiators (American security). Finally we go down and cross a forest that takes us to EL CAJON, a suburb of San Diego, but we took the wrong exit so? we travel the whole town from east to west before finding the Relax Inn and Suites motel (57?) that we had identified in the coupons.
It is 17,45:30 pm when we take possession of our room, the temperature? of 530? cos? you are finally comfortable outdoors too. For dinner we go to the nearby Denny? S very good; today we traveled km.
Saturday September 22th
Departure at 8,50 am when we enter I-8 W where the traffic? supported (4 + 4 lanes) but sliding why? the huge trucks do not circulate. We leave San Diego to the south and connect with the I-5 N to Dara Point when we decide to move onto the CA-1N: we pass Oceanside, Laguna Beach, Newport, Long Beach and the port of Los Angeles which impressed me very much for the its extension where cranes, containers, fuel depots and large and small ships were clearly visible. At 13,05 we are near the airport and immediately after we see vast strawberry crops covered with nylon and dozens of people who take care of them; we cross the localities? pi? famous and celebrated on the southern California coast (Venice, Santa Monica, Malib?), crowded, colorful towns full of shops, palm trees, lawns and manicured gardens with yellow, red, pink, purple and blue flowers. An uninterrupted but orderly flow of machines that proceeds slowly and allows us to savor the beauties of these areas.
At 15,30 pm after several kilometers we arrive in Ventura and Giovanni suddenly turns off onto US-101 N also referred to as? El Camino Real? (it connected San Francisco to San Diego through Missions and Pueblos) which in some places still retains the original layout marked at regular intervals by a bell placed on an iron support 3,35 m high in the shape of a Franciscan walking stick. We also cross Santa Barbara with its Mediterranean-style buildings covered in bougainville and finally at 17,10:6 pm after many hours of uninterrupted travel, we stop in BUELLTON where we miraculously find a smoking room at Motel 85 with doubled price. Why? ? Saturday ( Euros for a room without alarm clock, coffee, hairdryer, fridge) but we have no choice.
To dispose of a little? fatigue and anger, I take a long walk before going to dinner at Gino? s where I eat a very good havajana pizza with ham and pineapple while Giovanni takes one with spicy salami and sausage.
At the end of this day a little bit. strange I see that we have traveled 460 km.
Sunday September 23th
We leave at 9,00 taking the CA-246W which deviates towards the ocean and where the map indicates some Missions; immediately we find hills and plains with vast expanses of vineyards (not for nothing this area is also known as the county of wine) but immediately after, when we get up a little, we enter a thick fog that accompanies us for several kilometers and the temperature external of 14? causes us to turn on the heat. The road continues through the vines to Vandenberg (home to an air base for the launch of satellites and ballistic missiles) continues to Orcutt and Guadalupe among the cultivation of potatoes, strawberries and blueberries.
We are very close to the ocean, which we will then leave to go to central California, so? Giovanni lets himself be convinced and enters a paid parking lot for a stop at Pismo Beach; the sky threatens rain and it's cold but I'm well equipped cos? I start on a very long beach and take a pleasant walk. Not C?? many people on the coast but several surfers who stand out with their boards and colorful costumes and do their acrobatics on the water; back to the parking lot where Giovanni? remained waiting for me then together we walk the pier that goes for about fifty meters on the ocean.
We stayed almost an hour and when we get back to the car it is 11,30: the route on Hwy-101N
it continues among beech and pine woods, yellow and arid hills, then again vineyards; ? back to the clear and the temperature? climbed to 32,8? while we arrive at Atascadero where we take the CA-41 N which will reveal itself? all curves for which the speed? ? reduced to 30/40 km always between barren hills, in the middle of nowhere for kilometers and completely absent traffic. Only a squirrel crosses the road so quickly that Giovanni? forced to a sharp swerve that makes me jump; we are the only living beings almost like aliens.
At 13,15 with a temperature exceeding 38 ?, we arrive in Kettleman where the road widens to 2 + 2 lanes and returns to the plain with other extensive crops of corn, hazelnuts, potatoes, peaches, olives, oranges, lemons and others fruit trees that grow endlessly; after Hanford we deviate on CA-198 And why? we want to visit the Sequoia National Park at the entrance of which we arrive at 15,45 pm. We ask for information on the route and the ranger gives us the map, shows us the route to follow and specifies that up to the exit from the park we must travel about 103 km; do we do some? of accounts and we see that we can make it to get to Fresno before evening. Unfortunately the first part of the route (on the Generals Highway) is difficult due to the tight hairpin bends that limit the speed? aggravated by a long stretch with works in progress regulated by traffic lights for alternating traffic that makes us waste so much time: Giovanni? very good, patient and careful in driving.
We notice distant mountain ranges whose height is around 2/3000 meters but I read on the guide that Mount Whitney rises to 4400 m and? the "P? high peak of the United States; at the beginning we find low and arid vegetation but soon we enter woods of redwoods soaring upwards so as to prevent us from seeing the sky. We also encounter signs indicating the presence of wild animals including black bears that roam these places; we have met the frightened gaze of a fawn standing in the middle of the road that yes? vanished in an instant.
We finally arrive at a parking lot from where, walking about a kilometer on foot, we get to see the? General Sherman? the "P? imposing giant sequoia with its 83,8 m high, a circumference at the base of 31,3 m which is believed to be between 2300/2100 years old. Do I start out full of good will? on a paved and well marked path (I hear screams and shouts: they are Italians!) that goes down a lot but soon I realize that it takes too long so? I give up and I am content to enjoy the vision of the many other sequoias that surround me and that we will find along the way. We see trees of all sizes and heights, many incinerated stretch out their skeletal branches and blackened trunks: we still travel forty kilometers before leaving the park at 17,55 and it will take another eighty on the CA-180 W, always on a winding road and slowed down in some places why? you can not? overtake, before reaching the plain with its cultivated areas that lead us to the CA-99 on the outskirts of FRESNO where we arrive following an incredible sunset that colors the sky red and stands out among the whiteness of the clouds. Are they already? 19,30 and now yes? almost dark, Giovanni? tired and a little? worried but we find in short a good accommodation at a Super 8 (53?) chain that already? we know well and it does not disappoint us; the temperature ? still 30? when we go out for dinner in a club there? near, at Denny? s, where do I order a men? ? old? including chicken soup, skewer of six grilled prawns, rice with carrots-peas-broccoli and finally a block of chocolate covered with cream ice cream. Giovanni eats a toast with turkey, bacon, cheese, tomato, fried potatoes and a slice of cheesecake (in all we spent 28?). After such a day? challenging we well deserved a meal so? satisfying! Today we traveled 575 km.
Monday? September 24
After breakfast at 9,35 we are ready to face this last day of approaching Los Angeles by taking the CA-99 S and following it to Delano; the sky ? clear, the temperature of 28? and the landscape? characterized by extensive plantations of vines, oranges, lemons, grapefruits, peaches, broccoli, corn, hazelnuts and pistachios that alternate and follow each other for nine kilometers. There are also large herds of cows locked up in long lines in narrow spaces, freshly plowed and sown fields, a large milk plant, laborers busy harvesting grapes and olives.
I see on the map that making a detour you can? get to Lake Isabella and I propose to Giovanni to go and see it since? we have time available: him? agree cos? at Delano we enter the CA-155 And where all of a sudden the crops end and the hills and a vast plateau of yellow grass begin, groves with green plants scattered here and there? which make a nice contrast. Then the road begins to climb with a tortuous journey, sharp bends, hairpin bends that require the utmost attention when driving: fortunately there is no ?? traffic but it takes a long time to travel the hundred kilometers that separate us from the lake. We are still in the Sequoia Park area in the southern part of the Sierra Morena when we climb up to 1500 m then on the descent the brakes are put to the test and overheat, the petrol is running out and there are no marked villages; a really bad situation that makes us feel anxious until, with only 37 miles of autonomy, we reach the plain and the petrol pump appears to us as a liberation. During the break from 12,45 to 13,10 we find a temperature of 33? and a warm wind therefore? I take out the grapefruit that I had collected and stored and taste it slowly with great pleasure.
We skirt the entire eastern shore of the lake up to the intersection with the CA-178 W road that leaves the Kern River, a wild and tumultuous river to the right and left, large granite rocks that loom majestically: at the bottom there is still a boundless plain with crops of citrus fruits that accompany us to Bakersville. Here we take the CA-99 S then the I-5 S, a beautiful 4 + 4 lane highway, which gently climbs up to 1260 m with a forty kilometer route in the middle of a dense forest: traffic? intense why? there are also many trucks (the typical American trucks)
that slowly climb into the lane reserved for them, forming a long snake up and down? like on a roller coaster!
Shortly after Valencia we divert to the I-405 S and at 15,50 with a temperature of 38? we are on the outskirts of LOS ANGELES: traffic intensifies further but in our direction of travel it proceeds smoothly while on the other side long columns of almost stationary cars are formed that stretch for 21 km (I have calculated them); with Giovanni we comment that we were lucky.
Finally, after turning a bit? empty, at 16,40 pm we stop at a Super 8 (58?) that we had identified through the newspaper with the usual discounted coupons and chosen why? located near the airport: discreet, with a large bathroom just renovated and quite quiet.
After an hour of relaxation we walk towards a nearby restaurant where we have a delicious meal for only 17? all inclusive. Today I traveled 490 Km.
Tuesday? Sept. 25
Having a lot of time available before going to the airport, discarded the idea of going to the center of Los Angeles whose even partial visit requires at least a day, we decide to take a walk along Century Blvd which stretches east. It is 9,20 when we set off at a good pace along the sidewalk of this avenue that projects into infinity, passing residential side streets with beautiful houses, shops, supermarkets; arrived at the underpass of the overpass of the I-405 we find a show from the third world: a hundred meters on each side are used as a refuge for dispossessed and drug addicts who have left mattresses, waste, syringes and excrement. I wonder how such a degradation is possible also why? little more? forward we can admire the majesty? of large hotel complexes such as Embassy, Marriott, Sheraton, Best Western and others. Time passes quickly, the temperature of 34? do you feel so? we decide to return; at 10,45 we are in the motel after having traveled eight kilometers, we prepare our bags and head to the Avis headquarters to deliver the car and pay for the rental, return flight and end of our wonderful adventure.