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Destination Unknown - 2010

"Thelma & Louise" At Their Best


This year it is definitely "Destination Unknown". We simply headed south with no real plans on where we were going to end up. There only seemed to be one objective - head south and get away from the cold weather.


Saturday June 12 - Calgary to Butte

As usual it took us a bit of time to get out of town. By the time I picked up Karen, we were an hour behind schedule and then we had to return to my house to pick up the food I left in the fridge. Our plans to leave at 9:00 am became reality at 11:00 am.

Karen told Steve we would be on the road by 11:00 even if we planned to leave by 7:00 am. It's just the nature of the beast. By the time we remembered everything, gassed up, stopped at the bank and finally to Timmies - we'd be right on schedule. He was laughing is because I was telling him almost word for word what Karen predicted. We're scary.....

It wasn't long before Karen was into click mode.  We knew then, we were really on holidays.

We decided to get off the I-15 as soon as possible so just south of Shelby, Montana, we took a side road over to Hwy 89 and then south again on Hwy 287 back to Wolf Creek. It turned out to be only 15-20 minutes longer and what a beautiful drive. There was no traffic except for a stream of bikers likely heading for Glacier Park and half dozen cars, we had the road to ourselves.

We got to Butte and stayed at the Rocker Inn again, except this time we were early enough to get a main floor room. We had a nice supper at Flying J and home in bed by 9:00 pm.

Great First Day on the road.


Sunday June 13 - Butte to Beaver

After hitting the hay early and asleep by 10:00 pm we were out of bed and rolling by 9:00 am. Weather was still a cool 53° in Butte and we figured we would have to get to Salt Lake City before we would have heat. The further south we travelled the warmer it got but by the time we reached Salt Lake City the temperature had dropped again.

We had a bit of a chuckle just before reaching Utah when we realized we were almost 1300 km from home and still had no idea where we were going. The weather to the east wasn't looking promising so out came the maps. What now? Maybe California?

Tooele, Utah

We took the side trip to Tooele to visit Icy for a half hour then headed down Hwy 36 south - once again the objective to avoid I-15.

Faust Pony Express Station, Utah

Along this route are several Pony Express station markers. Faust Station was operated by Henry J. Faust, who was a native of Germany. He went to California from Missouri with the 1849 Gold Rush. He wasn’t too successful with his endeavor and, since he had joined the Mormon Church, came to Utah in 1851. In 1860 he accepted a position as a station manager and part-time rider with the Pony Express.

We never hit any rain until driving into Tooele and while we visited Icy the sun was shining. From that point on it rained all the way south on Hwy's 36/6/50 and then Utah Hwy 287 to Hwy 21 into Beaver. There has been more rain here than in all the trips combined we've done through this State.

Beaver, Utah

Settled by Mormon pioneers in 1856, Beaver was one of a string of Mormon settlements extending the length of Utah. These settlements were, by design, a day's ride on horseback apart, explaining the regularity of today's spacing - either 30 miles apart, or 60 miles apart where intervening settlements failed or were absorbed.

Beaver is the birthplace of Butch Cassidy a notorious western outlaw. Appropriately, we stayed at the Butch Cassidy Best Western again. If the clouds don't lift - the trip over Hwy 153 mountain pass doesn't look promising. We won't know until morning.


Monday June 14 - Beaver to Las Vegas

1600 miles from home and we are still "destination unknown". We decided this morning to head out on Hwy 153 over the mountain and see what happens - go as far as we can go or turn around if we have to. By the time we checked out that idea was thrown out the window.

The hotel clerk advised us that the road is still snow packed and the entrance gate is closed. With all the storms around us, we decided to head to Vegas for tonight - the only agenda was to get into some hot weather and leave the storms behind.

Zion National Park, Utah

We had breakfast at the hotel and started down the I-15. It wasn't long before we were re-routing again to spend some time at Zion National Park and maybe head east toward Page & Monument Valley from there. We arrived just before noon and boarded the shuttle through the park touring for the next three hours.

By mid afternoon it was 91° above and we were starting to feel like we were really in southern Utah instead of Alaska. Hwy 9 east out of Zion was closed until 4:00 pm for construction so rather than wait, we decided to continue with the original plan to spend the night in Vegas.

Valley of Fire State Park, Nevada

At St. George we turned east on Hwy 169 to take the short loop through the Valley of Fire. The $10.00 cost to drive through the Valley of Fire seemed like a bit of a rip off but we bit the bullet and paid the price. For an unseasoned traveller it would be quite spectacular, but when you've spent as much time touring larger, more breathtaking red rock locations that are free, this didn't measure up.

Valley of Fire State Park is Nevada's oldest state park. It covers an area of 34,880 acres and was dedicated in 1935. It derives its name from red sandstone formations, formed from great shifting sand dunes during the age of dinosaurs. These features, which are the centerpiece of the park's attractions, often appear to be on fire when reflecting the sun's rays.

While we were at the Visitors Centre - which was closed - we were lucky enough to see a small herd of mountain goats. 

There are some rocks that look like piles of cow patties which I appropriately labelled "Dino Dung". Actually, officially, they are called beehives.

Vegas Disaster

We arrived in Vegas at 8:30pm - DISASTER!! On checking in at the Riviera I realized I didn't have my wallet. We searched the car high and low - no wallet. The last time we used my Visa was for gas in Hurricane, Utah. We phoned the gas station and the McDonalds but no luck - no wallet. Fortunately, we had enough cash on hand to pay for two days at the hotel and one day of internet. Panic set in and the next three hours were spent on the phone and emails cancelling all my bank accounts, Visa, paypal automatic payments and anything else I could think of. Fortunately, my drivers license and birth certificate were still inside my passport folder so the only significant losses I had were my bank cards, Visa cards and about $100.00 cash. I emailed my office requesting some back up funds and Visa arranged to provide me with emergency funds wired to a Western Union.

Finally at 1:30 am I could breathe easy and get some sleep. Now wouldn't THAT make a great Visa commercial? All that panic then me sleeping like a baby!!

What is this red on our skin? Could it really be sunburn?!!


Tuesday June 15 - Vegas to Zion and back to Vegas

In response to my email, Sharon (from my office) phoned first thing in the morning to make sure we were OK and to let me know that arrangements were in the works to get some funds to us. Once Gloria got back to the office, Steve would be able to pick up a cheque to deposit for us to draw cash out each day with Karen's ATM.

In the meantime, we went to Western Union and picked up the cash Visa had wired. So our slight disaster was now under control. We headed to the factory outlook to buy some summer clothes and a new wallet for me. More good news came shortly after that. The gas station phoned to tell me that someone had handed in my wallet. So we headed back up I-15 to Hurricane - 125 miles - to pick it up. Even better news - all my cards and even the cash were still in it. Apparently someone did hand it to them but the clerk forgot to tell the night shift that it was there. No harm done.

The wallet was intact, all credit cards and cash not touched. I tried to find the good samaritan but no one knew who the young man was.; I wanted to give him the cash in the wallet for his honesty. It was a nice feeling to know that there are honest people wherever you travel.

Zion National Park, Utah

By the time we got back to Hurricane, it was after 4:00 pm and the Hwy 9 east through Zion Park was open. There is a park fee but we'd purchased a National year pass (and lost it) the day before but with wallet retrieved and pass in hand off we went. We spent an hour or so touring.

The Longest Mile

We had heard about a tunnel and that made us curious. Tunnel is a mild term - it is actually 1.1 miles straight through the center of a mountain. It was quite incredible and I called it "the longest mile".

I hate being underground in caves, I think I was beginning to hyperventilate before we got thru the end. And.... we did it twice.

Eight hours and 350 miles later, we were back in Vegas. The bottom line is we have been in Vegas two days and have done nothing in Vegas. Not a disappointment though as we have both spent a lot of time in Vegas. At least we didn't gamble our money away. Oh wait! We didn't have any money for most of our stay anyway!!

Riviera Hotel, Las Vegas, Nevada

Karen took pictures of the room because we both had the feeling it would be our last trip to the Riviera. We'd heard that the Pool Tournaments were being moved from this location and honestly - the Riviera is badly in need of an overhaul and new management that gives a damn. For example, my bed had a flat sheet for the bottom. That would be OK except it was a single sheet and didn't go to the end of the bed. When I stretched out my feet were on the mattress cover. The towels were hard as rocks - no softener in the wash. Seems like they are just trying to cut small corners. We have the feeling another dinosaur is going to feel the effect of dynamite. Too bad because walking into the lobby felt like "coming home" for us.

The Riviera opened on April 20, 1955 as the first high-rise and the ninth resort on the Las Vegas Strip. The Riviera is one of the oldest and most famous casino resorts in Las Vegas. The Riviera also broke new ground in its design. Previously, strip resorts resembled roadside motor courts.

The opening of the Riviera, along with the Dunes and the Royal Nevada casino resorts, within a month were the subject of a famous issue of Life Magazine, on June 20, 1955 with a Moulin Rouge showgirl on its cover. The headline was "Las Vegas-Is Boom Overextended?" and a story about how Las Vegas had built too many hotel rooms to be profitable. Liberace was the featured headliner at the resort's opening, and for many years afterward.


Wednesday June 16 - Las Vegas to Williams

We got off to a slow start today. By the time we were out of Vegas it was nearly noon. We stopped at IHop for breakfast then headed down Boulder Hwy to Laughlin. Temperature was 103°. At the gas station Karen found out that Silver Creek Road, a 13 mile gravel road, cut straight over to Oatman rather than going down to Route 66 so we headed out on it. The guy at the gas station said we needed a four wheel drive but it was no worse than any of the gravel roads we've ever travelled on.

Oatman, Arizona

We were late getting into Oatman and most of the donkeys had left for the hills and the shops were closing for the day. It was a bit of a disappointment to see that Brenda was closed (we hope just for the day) as we were looking forward to seeing her again.

One donkey came over to our car and stuck her head right in my window for a little attention. Attention she got, but no carrots.

Cool Springs, Arizona

Karen had chatted with a couple at Zion who told her Cool Springs east of Oatman was operating again so we decided to go to check it out. It was nearly 6 PM when we arrived at Cool Springs and were pleasantly surprised to see that the store had a variety of memorabilia and gifts. We visited with George (the manager) and were thoroughly entertained for a full half hour. George and his family are the only ones living at this isolated location.

Finally, at 6:00 pm he kicked us out. Truthfully, his words were "hurry up and shop and get the hell out so I can close". George was a pretty big guy so we weren't about to argue. By the way, George wears a pink ball cap "because he can" and he is the only person in all our travels that had the guts to outright ask if we were gay. He said it wouldn't be a problem for him and my answer was "well it would be for me". Karen responded, her hubby probably wouldn't appreciate it either. Laughing, we left and headed east on Route 66 towards Kingman.

Cool Springs Service Station was built in the 1920s and eventually had a cafe, a bar, and cabins. But Route 66 was bypassed in 1953, and the station was abandoned in 1964. Adding insult to injury, its ruins were blown up for the 1991 Dolph Lundgren/Jean-Claude Van Damme film Universal Soldier.

Ned Leuchtner purchased Cool Springs in 2001 and in 2004 rebuilidng construction was completed. Today, Cool Springs is open for business. Whether you are looking for a Route 66 Beer or to purchase souvenirs, Cool Springs can provide it. There are no restaurants or gas services - just a cool refreshing stop and down home history - and George.

Williams, Arizona

We decided to go as far as Williams for the night and along the way Karen discovered where the Jerome Pass was that the couple at Zion had said we should go over - just a short hop from Williams and south of Flagstaff. So we had a plan for the morning after all. We rolled into Williams about 8:30 pm and stayed at the Travelodge. Beds aren't the best, but the room was clean and the sheets fit.

Williams is a city west of Flagstaff. It lies on the route of Historic Route 66, Interstate 40, and the Southwest Chief Amtrak train route. It is also the southern terminus of the Grand Canyon Railway, which takes visitors to Grand Canyon Village.

Because of its location near the South Rim of Grand Canyon National Park, Williams is a major tourist stop and has many inns and motels. Restaurants and gas stations may be seen serving mainly tourists rather than local residents, especially during the summer and holiday seasons.

Williams is named after William "Old Bill" Williams, a mountain man and trader who often trapped in the area.

We've now concluded that we we really have no destination. Comparing where we are to other years I said to Karen "we are two days behind". Her response was "How can we be behind when we have no place to go?".


Thursday June 17 - Williams Circle Route to Kingman

Jerome, Arizona

We left Williams and drove east on I-40 then south on Hwy 17 to Hwy 89A through a pretty community in the hills called Sedona, which leads into into the mountain pass to Jerome, AZ. This little town is unique in the fact it precariously sits on the side of the mountain and the streets are on different levels all the way up. The road curves and winds for miles and then back down to the desert floor again. The streets are extremely narrow and the doors to shops and homes are basically at the edge of the streets.

Jerome is a town in Yavapai County, Arizona, United States. According to 2006 Census Bureau estimates, the population of the town is 343. The presence of silver and copper has been known in the area around what is now Jerome since the Spanish colonial era when Arizona was part of New Spain.

A mining town named Jerome was established on the side of Cleopatra Hill in 1883. It was named for Eugene Murray Jerome, a New York investor who owned the mineral rights and financed mining there. Eugene Jerome never visited his namesake town. Jerome was incorporated as a town on March 8, 1889. Local merchant and rancher William Munds was the first mayor. The town housed the workers in the nearby United Verde Mine, which was to produce over 1 billion dollars in copper, gold and silver over the next 70 years. In 1915 the population of Jerome was estimated at 2,500.

Jerome became a notorious "wild west" town, a hotbed of prostitution, gambling, and vice.   On February 5, 1903, the New York Sun proclaimed Jerome to be "the wickedest town in the West". (Funny that every town seems to claim this - I guess because they all were!!)

When you think about it though, where would the romance be if they claimed that their town was completely law abiding, everyone was totally moral, and their one and only claim to fame was being the most boring town in the old west!!

We turned off onto Hwy 96/97 through the desert onto Hwy 93 north and then a jaunt onto a dirt road hoping to find a route into the back side of Kingman. It wasn't a good idea as about 10 miles in we came upon a washout that was still full of water. Scrap that plan.

We could see that vehicles had gone thru but couldn't tell how deep it was.  So we turned around.  We did try and find an alternate route north but there was no signage to give us an end result.  It was getting a bit late and we didn't want to end up driving another couple of hours to find ourselves at another dead end or in some rancher's laneway.  He may not want to operate a bed and breakfast. So finally we gave up and returned to Hwy 93 which joins up to I-40 and back to Kingman.

Cactus

The saguaro cactus along the road were really fascinating and since we were the only ones on the road (probably the only people within 10 miles) we were able to stop and capture some great pictures.

The saguaro is a large, tree-sized cactus species in the monotypic genus Carnegiea. It is native to the Sonoran Desert, State of Arizona, the Mexican State of Sonora, a small part of Baja California in the San Felipe Desert and an extremely small area of California. The saguaro blossom is the State Wildflower of Arizona.

Saguaros have a relatively long life span. They take up to 75 years to develop a side arm. The arms themselves are grown to increase the plant's reproductive capacity. The growth rate of saguaros is strongly dependent on precipitation; saguaros in drier western Arizona grow only half as fast as those in and around Tucson, Arizona. Some specimens may live for more than 150 years. The largest known saguaro is the Champion Saguaro. It grows in Maricopa County, Arizona, and is 45.3 ft tall with a girth of 10 ft. Saguaros grow slowly from seed, and not at all from cuttings.

In my infinite wisdom, I decided to place our mascot "Willie" on a cactus to get some pictures.  Not only could I not get him off the plant, when I did, the poor thing was imbedded with needles that were worse that porcupine quills to get out.  Poor Willie !!! Last year we dumped you off the cliff on Hwy 261 and this year you get rear-ended by a cactus. 

Kingman, Arizona

On the recommendation of "George" at Cool Springs, we stayed at Kings Best Western in Kingman. What a great place!!  Top notch accommodations under $100 and we ended up with a suite.  And mustn't forget the beds - those comfy beds.  Can't say enough good things about King's Inn.  And we had supper at IHOP which was a fantastic way to end the day.  Good food and a good night's sleep.

Lt. Edward Fitzgerald Beale, a U.S. Navy officer in the service of the U.S. Army Topographical Corps, was ordered by the U.S. War Department to build a Federal wagon road across the 35th Parallel. His secondary orders were to test the feasibility of the use of camels as pack animals in the southwestern desert. Beale traveled through the present day Kingman in 1857 surveying the road and in 1859 to build the road. The road became part of Route 66 and Interstate Highway 40.

Kingman, Arizona, was founded in 1882, is the county seat of Mohave County, Arizona.


Friday June 18 - Kingman to Primm

We did a late checkout to take advantage of the hotel guest laundry before heading out. We finished our laundry about noon and headed west on Route 66. We were excited because we had only ever travelled Rte 66 going east. The scenery would be totally different.

Cool Springs, Arizona

We stopped again at Cool Springs to visit with George and buy a Route 66 Beer and some souvenirs. We made sure to thank him for his recommendation of the Kings Inn but didn't have a lot of time to chat as this time the store was full of travellers and he was busy regaling them with the history of Cool Springs.

This time we were coming in from the east so Karen's side of the car was cliff side - straight down. Her comments had us laughing most the way over Sitgreaves pass. We snapped a few more pictures with the different lighting and proceeded on to Oatman. We weren't disappointed in the scenery.

With a different point of view, Karen says in her blog:

"Travelling from east to west - the "abyss" side of the mountain was now directly out my side of the car and many times I couldn't even see the edge of the road - just the long drop down. One of the pitfalls of having the drop side of the road on my side is this: Doreen laughs so hard at my reactions (curses) - that she starts tearing up and can't see to drive.  I strongly feel this is not a position of security I'm sitting in. Again there is that feeling that death could be imminent but smacking her upside the head just doesn't seem friendly. I must ponder this problem and come up with a resolution."

Something tells me I need to watch my back!!

Oatman, Arizona

Oatman was everything we remembered. We parked and headed up the street just in time to witness the cowboys' street gunfight. The town was full of tourists and donkeys - just like the website claimed and we were happy to find Brenda and her "covered wagon" was open for business.

We went to Brenda's kiosk to get carrots but as we arrived we watched her last bag being sold. We visited with her for an hour or so. Brenda told us that the young burrows are auctioned off each year as they have to keep the herd to twelve adults. The adoptive families go through an extensive investigation to prove they are equipped to care for the burro.

We also found out that Splotches, the male, was hit by a car in January, 2009. Tragically, he suffered quite a while before they found him. Another distressing thing we learned was that a six week old baby burro had been kidnapped in 2009.  Heartbroken, the mother wandered the street calling for her baby. Someone in a camper van just picked it off the street at the edge of town.  It is unlikely it even survived if the people are stupid enough to steal it.  There was a previous kidnapping in 1996.

The town people have no financial assistance to help with the health and care of the burros. If a burro is sick or hurt, they have to pay for the vet out of their own pockets or from the small donations made by tourists. One burrow was 9 months pregnant when she broke her ribs. The vet was called and the residents paid the bill of $1,000.00. The good news was that the burro recovered and the baby survived. It really comes to light when visiting with someone like Brenda just how much the town people care about the burros. They might be a tourist attraction, but all the burros are truly pets to people like Brenda.

We met one of the gunfight actors, Fred. We had a conversation with him about the making of the movie Tombstone. One of his friends was a stuntman in the movie so the inside information he gave us was quite interesting.

Finally it was time to say goodbye.  Unfortunately there is no motels in Oatman.  By late afternoon the shops close, proprietors head for home and the burros head for the hills.  This time we exchanged emails with Brenda and promised to keep in touch - and of course to return again. 

Joshua Tree Hwy 164 Nevada

We crossed over to Fort Mohave south of Bullhead City, back to Laughlin and up Hwy 95 again to Searchlight NV and turned west onto the "Joshua Tree highway" (Hwy 164) into California.

The name Joshua tree was given by a group of Mormon settlers who crossed the Mojave Desert in the mid-19th century. The tree's unique shape reminded them of a Biblical story in which Joshua reaches his hands up to the sky in prayer. Ranchers and miners who were contemporary with the Mormon immigrants also took advantage of the Joshua tree, using the trunks and branches as fencing and for fuel for ore-processing steam engines.

This tree has a top-heavy branch system, but also has what has been described as a "deep and extensive" root system, with roots possibly reaching up to 36 ft away.

If it survives the rigors of the desert it can live for hundreds of years with some specimens surviving up to a thousand years.

Once we reached I-15. Then we travelled a short 10 miles north to stay in Primm for the night.

Primm, Nevada

We stayed at Buffalo Bills which is a really super hotel and only $23.00 a night. I guess they make their money in the casino and food. We took the new monorail between hotels and gambled away $20.00. Well I did anyway - Karen made 80 cents. Karen tricked me into riding on the log ride and by the first corner I knew that was just a roller coaster in disguise. By the second drop we were soaked.

Primm (formerly known as State Line and often called Primm Valley, after one of its casinos) is a tiny community in Clark County, Nevada, primarily notable for its position straddling I-15 where it crosses the border between California and Nevada. It sits at the edge of Ivanpah Dry Lake.

The community's economy is based on its three casinos, which attract gamblers from Southern California wanting to stop before reaching Las Vegas 40 miles to the north, or as a last chance to gamble before leaving Nevada. The community's hotels also serve as reliever hotels on the occasions when Las Vegas hosts major conventions. All of Primm's residents are workers at the properties and their families, and the employee housing is an apartment complex, the Desert Oasis.

Lots of things to make this a great day - and only 150 miles total driving.


Saturday June 19 - Primm to Bishop

We left Primm after grabbing coffee and egg mcmuffins at McDonalds and went southwest on I-15. Good thing we only had about an hour on this road because it was full of idiots passing in the slow truck lane and cutting in on civilized drivers forcing them to slam on their brakes. Never a cop when you need one.

Death Valley, California

We turned north on Hwy 127 at Baker up to Shoshone and then headed into the southern end of Death Valley on Hwy 178. This was new route for us and we travelled most of the way on the valley floor. One spot at Badwater was 212 feet below sea level with Dantes' Viewpoint 5000 feet above us. Totally flat white bed as far as you could see till the next mountain range.

Continuing on we had an early supper at Furnace Creek and then hit the road again to get out of the valley before dark. We passed through Stovepipe Wells and up the long climb up the west pass.

Death Valley is situated within the Mojave Desert. It features the lowest, driest, and hottest locations in North America. Badwater, a basin located within Death Valley, is the specific location of the lowest elevation in North America at 282 feet below sea level. This point is only 76 miles east of Mount Whitney, the highest point in the contiguous United States with an elevation of 14,505 feet.

The lowest temperature recorded at Greenland Ranch was 15 °F in January 1913. The average annual precipitation in Death Valley (Greenland Ranch Station) is 1.58 inches.

Death Valley holds the record for the highest reliably reported temperature in the Western hemisphere, 134 °F at Furnace Creek on July 10, 1913 just short of the world record, 136 °F in Al Aziziyah, Libya, on September 13, 1922.

We were going to stop at Lone Pine but the rooms only had single beds left so we phoned ahead and booked a room in Bishop - the same town we stayed in on the last trip into this area.

Tomorrow we head for the Yosemite National Park mountain pass - IF - it's open. The east side of the mountain range still has snow on it and doesn't look very inviting.


 

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