May 15, 2011 by Barry & Monique Zander · 9 Comments  
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By Barry Zander, edited by Monique Zander*, the Never-Bored RVers

This wasn’t part of the Grand Circle Series I mentioned in our last blog, but Saturday was too interesting to let go by without telling you about our drive from California’s “Inland Empire,” east of L.A., to Las Vegas.

The Back Road to Vegas

The Back Road to Vegas © All photos by Barry Zander. All rights reserved

You are in my target audience for this article if:  1) you don’t think it’s important to RV out West; 2) you’ve been to Vegas already, but you took interstates all the way; and 3) you think the destination is what it’s all about.

So, let’s address each of those as it applies to what we just experienced.

1) In my formative days in my hometown of New Orleans I didn’t have any concept of the grandeur of the Golden West, and, therefore, I didn’t care about what new vistas it held.  I traveled expensively around the Eastern U.S. by car, but when I had business on the West Coast, it was by air.

Let me tell you easterners this – if you don’t point your RV westward at least once, you’re missing out on America at its grandest.

What we saw Saturday was desert … with jagged mountain peaks and ridges on either side of us … and desolate patches of land where people eke out an existence … desert vegetation and much more.  For more than five hours, we were never bored.

2)  We have a GPS to tell us how to get from Point A to Point B.  A few days ago, I was trying to figure out Google route planning (Good Sam’s was down for maintenance), and as an exercise, I asked it how to get from our cabin to Las Vegas.  It offered three routes, including one we would have never thought of, a scenic one on narrow roads across the burning desert.  Being adventurers, we allowed Google to map that route.  We probably won’t do it again, but we highly recommend it for a different view of the California desert.

3)  We weren’t in a rush and we are able to drive 250 miles on a tank of gas, so this made the journey more important than the destination, our arrival in Las Vegas.   And even though we’re always amazed … no, make that “stunned” … at the new casinos and changes to this city, today’s thrill was behind us when we drove from sand and scrub into glitz.

Cholla Cactus

Cholla Cactus

Man vs. Environment:  Environment Won This Time

Man vs. Environment: Environment Won This Time

Briefly, our route took us onto Historic Route 66 for a few miles until we turned onto remote Kelbaker Road, which was reminiscent of wavy frost heaves on the way to Alaska.  We entered the Mojave National Preserve, where we saw a flashing yellow light advising us of tortoise crossings.  For the entire stretch we never saw another RV (or tortoise), except at the Kelso Depot, a fancy train station in the middle of nowhere.  We saw two dozen tourists getting what was probably an interesting guided history lesson about the gold and other precious mineral mining days in the Mojave’s past.

Serrated Peaks and Ridges Change Tones as the Sun Sets

Serrated Peaks and Ridges Change Tones as the Sun Sets

Monique Spotted a Coyote Hunting for Prey

Monique Spotted a Coyote Hunting for Prey

The desert this year is almost lush.  Green, healthy, gorgeous.  Joshua trees, symbolic succulents of the high desert, are the healthiest we can remember.  The yellow and white wildflowers added to the spectacle.

Now, we are looking forward to finding a place to wash our RV and then the arrival of Monique’s brother and sister-in-law Sunday.

From the “Never-Bored RVers,” We’ll see you on down the road.

© All photos by Barry Zander.   All rights reserved

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9 Responses to “THE BACK ROAD TO VEGAS”

  1. ray on May 15th, 2011 3:56 pm

    The wife and I really enjoy your post. I just retired and Purchase a 5th wheeler a couple of weeks ago. Been making some local trips while we get use to the rig. I let my wife choose our first trip so we are heading to the Keys in September. You have really been informative. Well need to go. and if you haven’t guess we live in Louisiana.

  2. Tom Smith on May 15th, 2011 4:50 pm

    That’s a great trip off the beaten path coming into Vegas. I’ve driven it many times.

    There was a great article in a hikers magazine about 3 or 4 years ago about a manager that was transferred to Vegas by his company. While the money associated with the transfer was great he was really concerned that there wouldn’t be anywhere to hike or climb near Vegas.

    His awakening came when he realized that Las Vegas was within a 5 hour drive of over 10 national parks.

    Just like you found out, there is solitude to be found in the desert with it’s expanses. In forested areas, “you can’t see the forest for the trees”. The desert allows you to witness great vistas that remain unpopulated.
    As you’ve stated, this is the best time to visit as the temps are in the high 80’s and low 90’s (remember it’s a dry heat…hehehe) and the desert plants are green.

    It’s the third reason that so many “snow-birds” come south for the winter.

    In case you’re wondering. Reason 1 is cold and reason 2 is snow.

  3. Gary Richardson on May 15th, 2011 5:18 pm

    Did you fill up at Roy’s in Amboy before getting on the Kelbaker Rd?

    We paid $4.999/gal there (our highest ever, while we saw $5.469 at Furnace Creek& $5.229 at Panamint Spgs) six weeks ago on the “back” (& most direct) way from Anza Borrego to Death Valley via Joshua Tree NP & Tecopa Hot Spgs. We had been at Borrego Spgs for the hottest March 31 on record–101F. So, we decided to high-tail it for Death Valley to cool off.

  4. Elario on May 15th, 2011 8:14 pm

    Don’t forget a possible “pit stop” in Pahrump. RV parks, casinos & wineries…

  5. Curtis McRee on May 16th, 2011 6:27 am

    If you like interesting drives.Take St.95 from Vegas to Reno,NV. Crookedest road
    in NV.or take a trip. into Mounument Valley.There is a shack behind a Motel that has a great stash of photos of John Wayne in most of his Western movies.
    There is so much to see in the West. I have seen Tombstone, old Tucson AZ.and old Virginia City,NV.I seen a lot of the West and I hope to see a lot more.
    Let the R.V keeping moving down the roads.

  6. vet66 on May 16th, 2011 9:32 am

    Our favorite RV trip is on California 395 then across the Panamints following the old 20 Mule Train Borax route into Death Valley. There is a nice RV park on the valley floor where you can mingle with Europeans in rentals and other hearty souls. The drive north to Scotty’s Castle passes an RV campsite near a meteor impact crater as you climb off the valley floor. Word to the wise, never drive in the desert without a full tank of gas/diesel and bring several gallons of water plus a full freshwater tank. The desert is dry and if you wait until you are thirsty to drink you are already dehyrdrated.

    The southwestern states of California, Nevada, Utah and Arizona are simply breathtaking no matter what season you visit. Temps in Death Valley in July and August can easily top 115 degrees. It is always a marvel at how our forefathers survived in this beautiful yet hostile environment. Even a beautiful rose is surrouned by thorns.

  7. Rick on May 16th, 2011 11:43 am

    We spend March in Pahrump at the Preferred RV Resort. Our month is filled with day trips all over that area. As for me, my trip there wouldn’t be complete with out at least one round of golf at furnace creek in death valley. The lowest golf course on the planet and a fun course to play at that. Also, I can’t forget to mention the free airshow by the thunderbirds at creech airforce base on 95. Creech is home to the preditor unmanned drones and the airforce desert warfare training. After spending November through February in Arizona, a month in Pahrump is a good way to end a winter of snowbirding. Friendly folks and lots to do.

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