US Southwest, May 2008

Photos © Ruud Leeuw

This trip we aimed for the US Southwest, which offers a very diverse landscape and scenery, as well as culture. In the early 1990s I had visited these parts before, so I knew what to expect.
We drove a circular route: San Franciso - Tucson - Salt Lake City - San Francisco.
A large portion of the time was dedicated to aviation history (this report is elsewhere on this website), but about 50 percent of the time was spent on doing generally roaming about, scenic sights and taking things easy.

During three weeks we drove over 7.000 kilometers (4.400 miles), an average of a daily 320 kilometers (200 miles). We stayed in 14 different motels.

Click on the thumbnail images to view a larger image

We had departed on DL45 (a 757-200) from Amsterdam 01hr35 late. This was because the groundhandling company of Delta, Menzies, were (partially) on strike. Upon arrival at Cincinatti we found our connecting flight to San Francisco had been held at the gate, waiting for our late flight.
I looked outside and noticed these baggage handlers, hoping my bags would make it in time too. These people work a tough job.
We need not have worried, the bags showed up on the carrousel at SFO.

I abhore air travel, being processed en masse and frustrated by continuous security checks, but Delta did get us to our destination almost on time and on a competetive fare.

Views from above…

Room with a view

Room with a view.
The weather in Holland had been much better than what we got at San Francisco:  rain and cold. And we were hungry, the service onboard Delta had been minimal.
Snacks from a gasstation solved this...
A gloomy start, who said It Never Rains In Califonia..?

Wal Mart
We needed to get a few items such as a Rand McNally Road Atlas. We had trouble getting the large edition and finally succeeded at Target.
The weather had changed for the good.
In Oakland I found a store and ordered a few items for pickup 'down the road' (Tucson).

Above, Left: Starbucks: people on laptops, people meeting, comfy chairs.. A nice place to get the weight of you feet for a few minutes.
Don't expect pictures here of us on the beach or at Disney's, that is not what this trips is about.
Above, Right: And now we were really on our way! Roll On!!

Cash store
Cash store

After a night at Fresno we had a nice drive to Sequoia Nat’l Park.

The road climbed gradually into the mountains, bringing fantastic vistas. I had been here before, over 15 years ago, but the magnitude of the scenery hits you every time just like the first time.

To our surprise, upon entering the park, we reached snow level…

Wise words

Cheeky bird..

Sherman Tree
The sizes of these giant Sequioas are humongous!

Sequoia sempervirens is the sole living species of the genus Sequoia in the cypress family, also referred to as the California Redwood or the Coast Redwood.
Coast redwoods have a conical crown, with horizontal to slightly drooping branches. The bark is very thick, up to 30 cm (12 in), and quite soft.
The thick, tannin-rich bark, combined with foliage that starts high above the ground provides good protection from both fire and insect damage, contributing to the Coast Redwood's longevity.
The oldest known Coast Redwood is about 2,200 years old !!

We stayed the night in Mojave. This wind-blown desert town, with its trains, has an atmosphere which is quite unique.

Abandoned mine
Desert view: an abandoned mine and ...
Desert storm
...a sand storm.

This trip we had many a meal in diners such as these. I like them, like them a lot.
This photo is dedicated to the hard working waitresses and waiters who brought me breakfast, lunch or dinner. Thank you.
The location is the cafetaria at Lancaster-Fox Field.

Joshua trees
Joshua tree country.
The Joshua tree (Yucca brevifolia) is a monocotyledonous tree native to southwestern North America, in the states of California, Arizona, Utah and Nevada.
Confined mostly to the Mojave Desert between 400-1,800 m (2,000-6,000 feet), they thrive in the open grasslands of Queen Valley and Lost Horse Valley in Joshua Tree National Park.

This tree is not very sturdy because of its shallow root area and top-heavy branch system, but if it survives the rigors of the desert it can live hundreds of years of age, some up to a thousand years.
The tallest trees reach about 15 m tall.

Motel room
pool side
One of many motelrooms we got to see..
I wasn’t overly impressed with the motel at Blythe, the Regency Inn & Suites. But it was our first motel with a pool and we enjoyed the cool swim after a long, hot day.
We used coupon books (pick them up at Denny's and other restaurants as well some gasstations) to find affordable accommodation. But this motel offered a meagre breakfast, so when we loaded the car (only 2 bags) we went for a full-blown breakfast first before setting course for Tucson.

Another check out

Blythe was named after Thomas Blythe, a gold prospector who established primary water rights to the Colorado River in the region in 1877.
It is a stopover city with full services for travelers between any of the nearby regions, in particular the major cities of Los Angeles and Phoenix, since it is approximately midway between those two metropolitan areas. I suspect very few travellers will stay here longer than just the night: ‘charming’ is certainly not the right word for this town.
But then these isolated places, frayed around the edges, offer interesting photography. Like boarded up houses..

Below, the restaurant we had dinner and breakfast.







Full circle: CALIFORNIA again