First on our list for the California trip was the desert. Our first stop was actually California City, a planned city gone awry. From the Wikipedia page:
California City had its origins in 1958 when real estate developer and sociology professor Nat Mendelsohn purchased 80,000 acres (320 km2) of Mojave Desert land with the aim of master-planning California’s next great city. He designed his model city, which he hoped would one day rival Los Angeles in size, around a Central Park with a 26-acre (11 ha) artificial lake. Growth did not happen anywhere close to what he expected. To this day a vast grid of crumbling paved roads, scarring vast stretches of the Mojave desert, intended to lay out residential blocks, extends well beyond the developed area of the city.
And.. that’s exactly what it is. Kind of creepy. Some of the roads are not paved, but street signs still exist – and even the GPS knows about them. Dan and I wondered whether the fact that a road was paved meant that all the utilities had already been put in, and have been sitting under the desert for the last couple of decades.
I was hoping we’d get to at least drive by an airplane graveyard, but we didn’t get a chance too bad.
Despite California’s large population, the areas where we were driving were the complete opposite of what I expected. We drove through many small towns on the verge of extinction, and some that looked to be already there.
That night we camped at a little campground at the edge of the Death Valley park. And what a campground it was – nice and quiet, so dry that we decided to forgo the fly on the tent, and got to enjoy a beautiful view of the Milky Way instead. It also helped that the little restaurant served some delicious local wheat beer at ridiculous prices – 8.50 for a stein holding over a liter of beer!
We spent most of the day driving around Death Valley, hitting all the popular sights:
the sand dunes,
and Zabriskie Point.
The signs reminding you to turn off the air conditioner on longer climbs (because, despite what I would have expected from a “desert”, there were quite a few ups and downs in the Death Valley), and marking locations for refill radiator water were somewhat surreal. All the more interesting given how many large vehicles, including RVs, we saw.
On the way out of the park, we were quite close to stopping back at the restaurant for more of that beer – but given that we had a schedule to keep and if we stopped, we knew we wouldn’t be driving anywhere anytime soon, we decided to press on. Sadly, even the name of that beer will be lost to us, as I forgot to write it down. I thought it was “Sandstorm” something, but google doesn’t seem to come up with anything matching that. Ah well.
Haven’t had your fill yet? Full set of pictures here.
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