Las Vegas, AKA Los Voraces

Guest Post by Willis Eschenbach

(This is Part 3 of an ongoing digression … see Part 1 and Part 2.

We rolled out of Tonopah in the morning, and straight on through Nevada. Mostly what Nevada has are long valleys separated by a single ridge of mountains, and very straight roads.

gc nevadaAt some point we passed an invisible climate boundary, and we began to see Joshua trees. These are actually acacias yuccas, not trees, and are bizarre looking, even on a good day with a following wind.

gc joshua treeThe only thing that we could see to explain where they grew or didn’t grow was the snow. In the summer you can tell where there are winter snows, because they put extension poles on the roadside reflectors and signs to keep the snowplows from hitting them. The Joshua trees, we found, only grow where there is sufficient snow in the winter. Joshua trees are one of the earth’s creatures that have been claimed to be affected by “global warming” … as if we could tell either the future climate or the winners and the losers.

We rolled south in the Armagosa valley, home of exactly one humongous sand dune. It is called, imaginatively, “Big Dune”.

gc big duneIt’s also the home of several endangered fish … although any  fish living in the desert seems to be endangered to me. These are cave-type fish living in sunken pools in a very few places.

We passed a plant called “USEcology”, and some research revealed that it runs one of the few extra-hazardous waste dump sites in the US. Apparently the lack of rain and the geology there, along with the use of landfill liners, allows them to safely bury a hot of different kinds of toxic substances and remove them from exposure to the environment. Curious what you find in the desert …

From there the road runs past the infamous “Area 51”, which is supposed to be where the US Government secretly stored the bodies of extraterrestrials back in the 1940s or something … as if the US Government could actually keep a secret for more than about fifteen minutes … Area 51 is, however, a real area, part of the Nellis Air Force Base. Below is what is supposed to be one of the signs around the place, reflecting its real use as a place to test new experimental aircraft …

gc area 51From there it’s a straight shot to Las Vegas … but then in Nevada there aren’t many curved shots, it’s straight roads everywhere. The freeways are unusually pretty around Vegas, because the overpasses and walls are all decorated with Paiute Indian designs, lovely stuff:

gc paiute freewayThere are also curious trees …

gc palm tree cell towerAs before, of course, this is actually a cell tower with fake palm fronds … but not a bad disguise.

The gorgeous ex-fiancee had treated us to couple of tickets to the Cirque de Soleil performance called “Ka”. It was amazing, everything as advertised, amazing aerial feats, a great story, fantastic athletes. And of course, the people-watching in Vegas is pretty amazing. But the noise, my goodness, everywhere there is music blaring out from hidden speakers. My ears grew weary with the listening.

Today, we thankfully escaped from Los Voraces and went to see Hoover Dam. The scale of it is beyond belief. And right next to it is a new bridge that is equally outrageous, the Pat Tillman bridge. Many bridges are named for people like highway commissioners and the like … this one is not.

gc pat tillman bridgeI was mystified as to how they’d built the arch out over hundreds of feet of nothingness. But I found a photo of the way it was done.

gc tillmanUsing temporary “gin poles” at each end erected on the bridge decks, they ran cables over the gin poles and down to the arch. Then they used “slip forms”. These are forms for the pouring of the concrete which move along as the concrete is poured. Both the dam and the bridge are tributes to human ingenuity.

Tonight finds us at Willow Beach, on the Colorado River below Hoover Dam. It’s a lovely spot, although the temperature is a bit on the warm side … here’s the car thermometer at about 3 PM.

gc temperature willow beachFor those not living in the last two bastions of the noble fight against the metric menace, that is to say the US and our anti-decimal ally Liberia, that’s 43°C …

But the Colorado River makes up for that, and the sun is setting now.

gc willow beachThere’s wifi in the campground, so we’ll go set up our tent now, and I’ll send this off.

And for all of you, my wish is that your days be full of sunshine and your nights be full of laughter.

Best to all,


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Tim Gillespie
September 9, 2015 8:53 pm

Dear Willis, thank you for the travelogue , most interesting and I hope to get there in January . Will disagree strongly with you however on Metric system. We adopted it here in Australia in 1973 when I was 16 .The World was going to end if I remember correctly. It did not. Having lived with both the old British Imperial system of measurement and for last 40 years of Metric there is no contest. Metric wins hands down. Sorry once you extend your considerable “grey matter” to working it out you will never, ever go back. There is a reason why 99% of other countries have changed – it just works. Tradition is a fine thing but some traditions are best kept in the dust bin of history so out you go – feet, inches and 212 degree boiling points. You are also judged by the company you keep – Liberia????

Reply to  Tim Gillespie
September 9, 2015 10:06 pm

Tim, I think you got carried away with your 99%; more like 98.5% on the imperial rule.
We’re pretty metricated here in Canada but carpentry favours inches still because they’re so fraction-friendly and you can have different length markings for your divisions. After all, one millimetre looks just like another and three of them in a row are horrible.

Tim Gillespie
Reply to  mebbe
September 9, 2015 11:46 pm

Mebbe, yes we still order bits of timber in 4″ x 2″ or 4 by 2 but in reality being involved in international trade means when we have to quote imperial sizes for US customers it is just horrible and quite frankly stupid. We do it with a wry smile ( but just shake our head at the backwardness of it all). It would be 2 years of grumbling by the US populace and then they would wonder what all the fuss was about and why the hell they did not do it 40 years ago. The US military talks metric in distance as it is the international standard, it is happening by stealth now. But you know what we would still buy 235 mm wide tyres that had a 17 inch diameter, hell will freeze over when tire and wheel diameters go metric.

Reply to  mebbe
September 10, 2015 1:14 pm

Plus our (US) minds get exercised by figuring out what’s between 1/4″ and 5/16th’s in 32nd’s and converting to thousandths.
Makes up for watching TV

Reply to  Tim Gillespie
September 9, 2015 10:41 pm

I was brought up using imperial measurements and money in the UK and it’s a bit like learning languages. It’s best to start young. By the time you were old enough to buy your own sweeties, you know how to work in base12, base 14, base16 and base20.
When you meet binary and hexadecimal in maths/computing you already understand the principal.
Most people growing up using only the number of fingers they have to count with can have a lot of difficulty getting their heads around the idea that the figure in the “tens column” are not worth ten any more.
12 has the great property to being divisible by 2,3,4 and 6. Great for subdividing or packaging: 4×3 is better than a long 5×2 box.
Half a dozen eggs fits into a convenient 3×2 box half a dixaine is a long line of 5 !
BTW dozen from douzaine Fr douze =12 dixaine Fr dix=10
For some reason we do not have a word dixen into English.

Tim Gillespie
Reply to  Mike
September 10, 2015 12:13 am

G’day Mike . I work in international trade selling homewares . Fluid ozs, inches and cubic feet are just horrible nasty things in comparison to Mls, cms and Cubic metres . I have done both and metric is a piece of cake to work with somewhere between 98.5 and 99% of countries use and it means we all talk the same language. It is just damn efficient . The UK is a laugh on Metric having a Bob each way. Litres for Petrol ( no one would buy a 4.5 litre gallon as it would be too expensive) and miles still for distance and speed. But at least there I can sell a 300 ml mug!!

Reply to  Mike
September 10, 2015 7:41 am

That bastion of decimalization, France, still hangs on to the past though. At least it did when I was living there twenty or so years ago. Walking back to our apartment with one of the people I shared it with, we stopped at a grocer to pick up some onions. We didn’t need many, so my friend asked for 250g of onions. The girl smiled at his English accent and said “what you really want is half a pound of onions” … Hmmm a Demi-libre? Really?
Well, yes, you won’t find it mentioned in any French language class, but ask for a pound of onions, potatoes etc, and you will get it. We tested this out in other shops, no problem at all.

Reality Observer
Reply to  Mike
September 10, 2015 9:59 am

“Food” measurements are going to be absolutely the last thing to go metric. If they ever do.
I do not work well with a recipe that tells me “14.75 milliliters”. I use “1 tablespoon,” thank you. (Where I’m not using my grandmother’s recipes, of course – my kids despair when I tell them “The family recipe calls for two fistfuls of flour.”…)

Billy Liar
Reply to  Mike
September 10, 2015 11:46 am

Philip, libre is free, livre is a pound (or a book).

Hoyt Clagwell
Reply to  Tim Gillespie
September 9, 2015 11:38 pm

I remember growing up in the 70’s in the U.S. when we all tried to switch to the metric system. Gasoline was sold in liters, but I think the Americans resented the idea that it took so many more liters to fill up the tank than gallons. Milk too. About the only thing left from those days are the 2 liter soda bottles. Soda pop comes in 8oz.,12oz.,16oz.,20oz.,and 24oz. cans and bottles, and then 2 liter bottles. Go figure.
I highly recommend stopping by some of the many historic mining ghost towns along that route, if you’re into that sort of thing.

Tim Gillespie
Reply to  Hoyt Clagwell
September 10, 2015 12:41 am

Hoyt , I suspect the average American just does not want to change no matter what. You cant beat City hall as they say . But it is coming bit by bit . Take care

Reply to  Hoyt Clagwell
September 10, 2015 4:24 am

Ah, the old Metric vs. Imperial debate…
I prefer to measure volumes in hogsheads and firkins – much more civilized..
43C – that’s a cool summer day in Luxor in Upper Egypt – when we were there in July 1998 it was reportedly 52C in the shade – and yet people survived, adults worked and kids played outdoors – and there was no air conditioning for the local populace.
Thanks Willis – fun stuff!

Reply to  Hoyt Clagwell
September 10, 2015 9:02 am

Yes like my colleague is saying. USA is closing to metric system inch by inch….

Reality Observer
Reply to  Hoyt Clagwell
September 10, 2015 10:01 am

Yep. Worst is when you have a bastardized system like soda.
I finally just set up a very tiny spreadsheet to figure out whether the “sale” on bottles or regular price on cans is the better deal, or vice-versa.

Richard Barraclough
Reply to  Hoyt Clagwell
September 11, 2015 3:36 am

I’m surprised nobody has mentioned bushels yet. They are different weights according to what’s in them. So logical……

Joe B
Reply to  Tim Gillespie
September 10, 2015 12:23 am

“… 212 degree boiling points.”
As opposed to, for example, 373.15?

Tim Gillespie
Reply to  Joe B
September 10, 2015 12:44 am

Hi Joe , as against a very logical 0 degrees for freezing water and 100 degrees for boiling in metric. QED . As I said once you get your head around it you will wonder why you bother to keep a hangover of your days of being a British Colony.

Reply to  Joe B
September 10, 2015 5:57 am

Metric: degrees Celsius
SI: Kelvins

Reply to  Joe B
September 10, 2015 9:12 am

-40C it is extremely cold, -20C your hair in nose starts freezing, 0C water is freezing, 0-20C it is cold. 20-30C it is nicely warm. 30-40C it is hot, 40c is limit when fever is changing to dangerous fever, 40-50C it is extremely hot. 50C it is limit you are not able to hold things anymore, 90C is working temperature of engine, 100C water is boiling.
This is self explanatory.

Reply to  Tim Gillespie
September 10, 2015 2:21 am

People should be conversant with both metric and imperial measurements. Both have advantages and disadvantages. Problem is as usual .. government pokes its nose in and starts making rules about it. Here in UK we are part of EU and so we get DIRECTIVES from the (unelected) European Commission, which is about as close to a trial-run ‘world government’ as you’ll presently see. The Directives MUST be enacted by our own diminished government, and of course include the banning (with serious penalties for contravention) of the use of non-metric measures in an increasing range of situations. Really screws up the old folks, and it also screws up some of our industry. Most importantly, kids in school are now taught only the metric system, which means that when we hire youngsters for our export engineering business, we have to teach them from scratch about imperial measurements used in USA and quite a few other countries (Norway is a surprising example of where imperial is still not infrequently used) or we’d be lost in some of those markets. Shame.

Another Ian
Reply to  mothcatcher
September 10, 2015 2:52 am

Chiefio has a series on why the imperial system makes a lot of sense for the day when your calculator battery doesn’t get power – as was when it was derived

Reply to  Tim Gillespie
September 10, 2015 1:12 pm

Which side of the road do you drive on, and how many countries do that today?

J Martin
Reply to  Resourceguy
September 12, 2015 1:50 pm

@ resourceguy. US and French road death rates both are aproximately twice UK death rates. I would suggest that countries that drive on the side of the road that the French and the US drive on should consider changing.

Reply to  Tim Gillespie
September 10, 2015 1:34 pm

Metric really works for real problems.
If a centimetre of water falls on a hectare of land, what volume/weight has fallen?
If an inch falls on an acre – what volume/weight has fallen.
Now – you try it . . .
For sums like this – metric really works.
But for ‘human’ comparisons, I still think Imperial has advantages.
I saw this –
Also – for fun (on metric scales) – see
Enjoy all.

Reply to  Auto
September 10, 2015 3:15 pm

When an inch of rain falls on an acre, I would have in gallons 27,166.666666666666666666666666666666666666666666666666666……can I stop now?

Tim Gillespie
Reply to  Auto
September 10, 2015 7:30 pm

Loved the metric website for comparisons of scale , very clever and all of us oldies who understand Imperial measurements as relates to humans e.g. height of 5 feet 8 inches I do understand. But as stated by other bloggers for weights and measures as relates to commerce and science I am sorry Metric wins hands down. Who cannot divide and multiply by 10?
The reluctance to see this amongst most of the population of the US I do find a tad baffling. The US military and in Medicine use metric now . 160 other countries cant all be wrong. Some traditions are best left behind.

Reply to  Tim Gillespie
September 11, 2015 7:47 am

In the computer age the system of measurement doesn’t make calculations easier for computation, we let the computers do it. Even conversion is trivial. I said to my android phone “what is 3 tablespoons” and the answer is 44.360 milliliters.
The Imperial system is less prone to confusion. Metric gives you a unit with all sorts of prefixes.
“Wait, was that number meter, centimeter, or millimeter?” Conversion? Why does it take 10 cubic centimeters to make 1 centiliter?

September 9, 2015 9:02 pm

Awesome trip !!

September 9, 2015 9:14 pm

I had a wee laugh at “metric menace.”
That was a fun little travelogue!
Bit of a non-sequitur … perhaps you folks might enjoy a new cartoon of mine.

James at 48
September 9, 2015 9:16 pm

I thought Joshua Trees were a tree format Yucca. Are Yuccas in the Acacia family?

Reply to  James at 48
September 9, 2015 9:32 pm

Kingdom: Plantae
Clade: Angiosperms
Clade: Monocots
Order: Asparagales
Family: Asparagaceae
Genus: Yucca
Kingdom: Plantae
Clade: Angiosperms
Clade: Eudicots
Clade: Rosids
Order: Fabales
Family: Fabaceae
Genus: Acacia

Reply to  James at 48
September 10, 2015 1:45 am

Joshua Tree
Yucca brevifolia
– Joshua tree
– Jaeger’s Joshua tree
– yucca palm
The scientific name of Joshua tree is Yucca brevifolia Engelm. (Agavaceae) [29,37,49,50,110]. Joshua tree is part of the spongy-fruited or Clistocarpa section of the Yucca genus”
The Joshua tree is a member of the yucca family.
Willis: Perhaps you were thinking of the Arizona Ironwood tree? Or Mesquite? They are both members of the fabaceae (peas, legumes) family which includes acacias?
Species Olneya tesota A. Gray – desert ironwood
Species Prosopis glandulosa Torr. – honey mesquite along with close cousins Screwbean Mesquite (Prosopis pubescens) or
Velvet Mesquite (Prosopis velutina).
Other notable acacias from our South West are:
Palo verde – Species Parkinsonia florida (Benth. ex A. Gray) S. Watson – blue paloverde
whitethorn acacia – Species Acacia constricta – Whitethorn Acacia
Smoke Tree – Species Psorothamnus spinosus (A. Gray) Barneby – smoketree
I hope this helps.
N.B. Some of the USDA and/or Forest Service pages have dead links. Most of these pages indicate there are some plant re-classifications underway and I assume the links have not kept up.

Reply to  James at 48
September 10, 2015 2:33 am

Yes, think it’s a Yucca (Brit talking!)
But might be there is more than one species that has been associated with the name, as quite often the case with vernacular names. Ever tried asking in Ireland to be brought an example of their national symbol, the Shamrock? I could never get to the bottom of it, and it seems all kinds of things pass as Shamrock in different places – usually clovers and trefoils, but not always. But I guess that’s part of the charm of Ireland!

Reply to  mothcatcher
September 10, 2015 1:35 pm

And there was an album . . .
No musicologist, I.

September 9, 2015 9:18 pm

The Pat Tillman bridge has another name from the Arizona side.
It was built as a response to September 11, 2001. The top of the Hoover Dam was the only passage between Nevada and Arizona, and there were fears of a terrorist attack on the dam.
Of course, if you fancy a holiday read, can I suggest ‘Wet Desert’ – a novel about an environmental terrorist who does manage to cause damage to a Colorado river dam. Extensive discussion about the Hoover dam and Colorado river in general mixed with a lot of facts and figures.

Reply to  brc
September 9, 2015 9:40 pm

Willis – they were building that bridge when we were there in 2007. I recall seeing a video, I think on You Tube, showing how they got started. They had to fire a line across the ravine, then attached progressively heavier lines until they could attach cables. Very smart, these civil engineers! It was quite cool when we stopped on top of the dam wall – “only” 39’C and absolutely stifling. Good job we were in an air conditioned coach! Nice and cool now here in NZ, even though it is spring, so global cooling seems to have started!

Reality Observer
Reply to  mikelowe2013
September 10, 2015 10:08 am

Prehistoric idea – with massively updated technology. How do you think all of those rope bridges in primitive areas were first built?

Another Ian
Reply to  brc
September 10, 2015 2:59 am

That is how they held up the arch sections while building Sydney Harbour Bridge. The cables now hold up a bridge in Brisbane.
Engineers were into recycling long ago

Gilbertl K. Arnold
Reply to  brc
September 10, 2015 1:37 pm

It may be the only passage from AZ to NV in the vicinity of Las Vegas. There plenty of other crossings from AZ-NV north and south of LV.

September 9, 2015 9:33 pm

Thanks Willis like your travel stories, but it does not look like the west is lacking any water at that campsite. Any thought on that? Is it a reservoir? Thanks again.

September 9, 2015 10:02 pm

Yeah, I was having a problem with the Acacia thing. No worries, have a good trip. You have found in my experience, perhaps the hottest spot in North America next to a river. Think adiabatic. Not just pressure. The gravitational force on that air as it descends several rather grand canyons and follows the path of least resistance to you.

John Coleman
September 9, 2015 10:10 pm

Willis, I have driven all the roads you are following on this trip and seen all the sights. Your narrative brings memories into focus. I hope you took time to tour the Hoover Dam. It is a great tour.
As for that new solar project, it is similar to one just off of the I-15 in California just before the Nevada line. It is called the Ivanpah Solar Electric Generating System developed by BrightSource Energy and Bechtel at a cost $2.2 billion. Google contributed $168 million and the U.S. government provided a $1.6 billion loan guarantee. In November 2014, Associated Press reported that the plant was producing only “about half of its expected annual output”, but is has done better since. The bright lights are blinding. I have seen from the highway and from the air. I wish I knew how to post a picture of it here. Thousands of birds are dying there every month.
When you reach the Grand Canyon you can usually enjoy a close up view of the Elk in the evening when they come to the lodge to dine on the grassy lawn. I love that.
I love forward to your following chapters as the trip rolls on.

Reality Observer
Reply to  John Coleman
September 10, 2015 10:09 am

And a big chunk of that “annual output” is actually from the NG backup generators…

Reply to  Reality Observer
September 10, 2015 12:48 pm

And the solar plant is in the same general vicinity of several other utility scale PV solar plants with one third to one fourth the cost per watt, LCOE. But then when “experimenting” with taxpayer dollars, who really notices such details? It’s the political grandstanding moment that really counts. These other PV plants also serve to average out the ill effects of dog projects when further basking in the political spotlight with blended DOE program success metrics or deflecting Solyndra scandals.

Reply to  John Coleman
September 10, 2015 10:32 am

You will also have to contend with the elk in the camp site at G. C. unless you are going to the N. Rim.

Reply to  John Coleman
September 10, 2015 3:32 pm

The residents of Eastern California and Western Nevada can thank the Ivanpah Plant for increased insect activity north of the plant as there are less birds to keep the insect population in check. They have had some large swarms from Lone Pine to Blackrock on account of the Monsoonal Rains.

September 9, 2015 10:13 pm

As before, of course, this is actually a cell tower with fake palm fronds … but not a bad disguise.

Not bad at all: it looks just like a cell tower with fake palm fronds ! ;?
We have similar things here disguised as pine trees, which are fairly convincing except that they stand out a mile as an odd, out of place tree.
They are quite a good disguise until they need to add some more antennae , at which point they start sawing of branches and it looks like a cell tower with fake pine leaves.
Less of an eye sore that white post I have to admit.

Reality Observer
Reply to  Mike
September 10, 2015 10:12 am

A lot of areas, all they would have really needed to do was paint the things green. Or brown, or whatever the main color of the surroundings are.
(This does present difficulties in places like New England, of course. But I think a properly designed “camo” pattern would work almost year-round even there.)

September 9, 2015 10:28 pm

I am delighted that you took the time to make the drive south from Tahoe. We encourage anyone coming up from LA to visit us to take this route. One of the most unique features of the drive north/south along 395 is the pink band of rock in the sides of the mountains to the east of 395. Those are the ash remains of the last explosion of the Long Valley Caldera, the “other” super volcano in North America. As you drive south on 395 the pink band gets thinner and thinner. The entire eastern side of the Sierras is a treasure trove of geological intrigue. Glad you are here. Did you bring any water by chance?

Lynn Clark
September 9, 2015 11:55 pm

Your Area 51 sign reminded me of something that I saw out in the middle of Nevada when I was about 20 years old. I spent a few months in Nevada in 1971 as a Mormon missionary back when I was young and silly (i.e., religious). For a couple months I was “stationed” in Ely, in eastern Nevada. One time my missionary companion and I drove on Hwy 50 — AKA “The Loneliest Road in America” — to Reno for a missionary conference. There isn’t much to see on that road other than lots of sagebrush, jack rabbits and a few very small towns. At one point, the highway goes down out of the mountains and crosses a wide north-south valley, then up into some more mountains. As we were driving west coming down out of the mountains, a large, long, black aircraft with huge, square-ish tail fins flew past, heading south just in front of us, maybe a couple hundred feet above the desert floor. It was gone as quickly as it appeared. We looked at each other, wide-eyed, and said almost simultaneously, “What was that?!” It wasn’t until twenty years or so later that I realized it was an SR-71 when I finally saw a photo of one from the side. The aircraft that day was probably returning to Nellis AFB after some top-secret flight to somewhere, flying below the mountain peaks and radar, and it was quite a thrill to see it. I’ve often thought that it would be fun to go camp out on a mountain top somewhere along that valley for a few days just to see what would fly past. Never got around to doing it though.

Reality Observer
Reply to  Lynn Clark
September 10, 2015 10:17 am

They used to do some training of “spy” planes at Davis-Monthan AFB back in the ’70s (it was still a SAC base then). Quite shocking to just barely hear a low whine, take a look up, and it was right on top of you.

Captain Dave
Reply to  Lynn Clark
September 10, 2015 12:33 pm

I bought a copy of that sign during a Hoover Dam tour. I believe,in the second paragraph, the word immediately in front of “equipment” should be “or”, not “of”. Not that the Air Force is incapable of typos, but a sign warning of the use of deadly force would probably be proofread.

Pete Hand
Reply to  Lynn Clark
September 21, 2015 1:47 pm

Actually the SR-71 would probably have been returning to Groom Lake, AKA “Area 51”, which is a little south of Hwy 50 and a hundred miles east of Tonopah, in the north east corner of the test site. The sign in the article is, of course, a fake, probably purchased at the “Area 51 Travel Center” in Lathrop Wells at the junction of 95 and 373.

September 10, 2015 12:00 am

Well, you’re out in my neck of the woods now Willis and let me say 109 is nothing. I have recoreded 122 on Highway 15 in Mesquite, about 45 min north of “Los Voraces”. Heck, 107 is not uncommon on an LA freeway.I have also taken boy scouts up lake mojave in June at air temps in excess of 104 (yet strangely the water remains in the low 60’s, somebody should study that), ending at Willow Beach. The Mojave desert is an interesting place. One that will make you come terms with reality very quickly. I don’t find many warmists out there

September 10, 2015 2:16 am

Thank you for the interlude! That area you drove across in Nevada is a favorite rock collecting area for my Brother and I.
Yes, the temperatures can get quite toasty and even winter temperatures can climb into just plain warm, (90s 32°C+), water is scarce and critters stay hidden during daytime.
Enjoy your trip!
PS, since you mentioned heading to the Grand Canyon; are you planning to camp on the South side? Keep an eye out for squirrels dropping pine cones. A few fresh pine nuts are real treats.

September 10, 2015 2:24 am

I don’t know your travel route, but if you get the chance of traveling on the 395, anywhere north of Lone Pine or Bishop, as you come out of Death Valley heading west, take it. To me, traveling north out of Bishop is one of the most beautiful places on earth. Just north of Mono Lake after the pass is a turnoff to a really interesting old ghost town named Bodie. It’s worth a side trip of a mile or two on a good dirt road.
My Aunt owns the Jim Butler motel in Tonopah. Could’ve maybe got you a discount there if you’da told me ahead of time. ; ) There is so much interesting history and geology out there in the desert. When I was a teenager in the mid 70s i had the great experience of being a helper on an archaeological expedition out in the desert about 20 miles west of Tonopah in the summer. My Dad knew an old desert rat who knew where to find old indian artifacts of the Mojave people. Back, during the time the Mojave lived around there, it was a pretty lush area with good waterfowl and large prey animals to hunt. Some of their spear points were 2 to 3 inches long and shaped in a distinguishable “Mojave” style.
Anyway, have a good rest of your trip and don’t get in any arguments with your ex fiancee. I know how hard that can be. And don’t put her to sleep with any of your theories.
Have fun.

September 10, 2015 3:09 am

Thanks, Willis. Looking forward to the rest of your travels.

Henry Bowman
September 10, 2015 5:10 am

It’s not Alamagosa valley, it’s Armagosa Valley. Also, I think the Joshua tree “line” is due to temperature, not snowfall — Joshua Tree National Monument is located in the Mojave and gets essentially zero snow. Joshua trees due not appear in northern or central Nevada, which in fact get lots more snow than the Las Vegas-Tonopah region.

Reply to  Henry Bowman
September 10, 2015 8:44 am

Traveling up-hill, Joshua trees seem to make their appearance at around 4,000 ft a.s.l..

Steve P
Reply to  bobburban
September 10, 2015 9:09 am

According to that font of knowledge known as Wikipedia, Joshua trees are “…confined mostly to the Mojave Desert between 400 and 1,800 m (1,300 and 5,900 ft.) elevation.”

Reply to  Henry Bowman
September 10, 2015 3:47 pm

You would be surprised at how often it snows in the Mojave Desert, unless you lived there of course.

September 10, 2015 6:49 am

At 109F it seems to have cooled off. Last time I drove thru Death Valley to Vegas (1998) the temp read 136F and my poor ASTRO van started boiling over on the hills so as the coolant gauge rose and the smell of antifreeze became pronounced we would turn off the AC and it was a literal blast furnace coming out the vents. No wish to return.

Steve P
Reply to  petelj
September 10, 2015 8:43 am

Old traveler’s trick when vehicle begins to overheat: turn off AC, open windows, turn on heater full blast. This technique is so effective, I’ve wondered why there is not some way to vent heater air to exterior of vehicle in these situations. Heater acts as 2nd radiator.
Joshua Tree sits up in the Little San Bernadino Mts. between Yucca Valley and 29 Palms. The record low for Dec, Jan & Feb is -8 °C, and a little snowfall is not rare. The entire region is bone dry however, sitting in the rain shadow behind the San Gorgonio and San Jacinto massifs to the west.

September 10, 2015 8:05 am

That should be the Amargosa Valley not the Alamagosa Valley.
Also “Area 51” is in Groom Lake which is about 60 miles away (north-north-east) from the kitschy Area 51 Alien Travel Center found in the town of Amargosa Valley. Groom Lake is in the Nevada Test and Training Range which used to be called the Nellis Air Force Range not the Nellis Air Force Base (which is northeast of Las Vegas).

September 10, 2015 8:51 am

I worked out of Tonopah many different times over the past few decades. Motels are pretty dodgy…did you happen to notice the Clown Motel? Restaurants are less-than-stellar as well, although the off again-on again Mizpa can be a treat. We always said that the best view of Tonopah is in the rear view mirror..

Ernest Bush
September 10, 2015 9:09 am

Decorating freeway underpasses and interchanges around cities has become all the rage over the last ten years in the Southwest. In Phoenix they are even re-decorating decorated underpasses to look even classier. Arizona has branched out to even Yuma, AZ, although, our main overpasses are not as elegant. Phoenix first. Yuma used a federal grant to paint a continuous mural on its water tanks sitting on a hill overlooking Interstate 8. All of our new cell towers look like date palms including the color of the trunk and supposed leaves. It does make them easier to ignore.
Unfortunately, I think this is your highway taxes at work at a time when Democrats are whining about a shortage of funds to repair interstate infrastructure back East. Most bridges and overpasses in the Southwest are fairly new or in good repair.
Before Willis reaches Williams, AZ, along Interstate 40, temperatures will be around 80 in the heat of the afternoon and it will be chilly shortly after sunset.

Reality Observer
Reply to  Ernest Bush
September 10, 2015 10:21 am

Hey, we did it with tile mosaics down here in Tucson. Very expensive – guess we have more efficient parasites around here…

Reply to  Ernest Bush
September 10, 2015 1:33 pm

They’ve started to put in decorative mosaics in Perth, Australia too. Seems there’s an honor code among graffiti “artists”. They don’t tag this kind of thing. I have to admit the tiles look a lot better than spray paint.

more soylent green!
September 10, 2015 9:15 am

Las Vegas takes a bit of getting used to, and it’s not for everybody. We locals know that once you get past the glitter and phoniness of the Strip, it’s a beautiful place to live, close to mountains, deserts, not too far from the Pacific and much more affordable than southern California.
Hoover Dam may perhaps be the last federally-funded project that was completed on time and under budget. I definitely recommend the dam tour. You really get a great understanding of the size of the thing from looking up at it from the base of the dam. There is a walking trail that takes you to the bridge and the view is worth the hike.

Reality Observer
Reply to  more soylent green!
September 10, 2015 10:25 am

Yep, get out of the Strip, and parts of LV are quite nice.
Although the Strip is good when you want “big city” type entertainment, or people-watching, or whatever. (However, I absolutely, positively refuse to ever fly through McCarran ever again – got stuck there by heavy storms one year, and came within seconds of a violent psychotic episode to silence all of those d*mned gambling machines.)

September 10, 2015 10:11 am

Willis… In Vegas you can see the last vestiges of thinking ahead in civic improvement for vagaries in climate where whole streets are constructed to become drainage ditches when the inevitable flash flood hits!

Barry Sheridan
September 10, 2015 10:19 am

I expect the nautical mile will survive the drive for metrification.

Wil Pretty
Reply to  Barry Sheridan
September 10, 2015 11:46 am

The nautitcal mile and the metre are both derived from the circumference of the world. Quite parochial.

Wil Pretty
Reply to  Wil Pretty
September 10, 2015 11:57 am

Perhaps it would be more international to base distance on the distance travelled by light in a second.
But then again the second is also parochial!

Reply to  Wil Pretty
September 11, 2015 3:12 pm

Don’t know about the nautica mile, but I managed to string my US in-laws along for quite a while about the English mile being different from the US mile the same way as the US and UK Gallons are different. It was some while before they sussed that I was having them on.

Reply to  Barry Sheridan
September 10, 2015 1:36 pm

As will the knot, Latitude (1 degree of latitude is 60 nautical miles) Oh and degrees, seconds, etc.

Barry Sheridan
September 10, 2015 10:20 am

As will time, seconds, minutes and hours etc.

September 10, 2015 12:35 pm

The fight over the Groom Mining District near Area 51 was in the news recently. It’s not much of a mining district or resource asset for that matter. It’s main claim to fame and value is viewing proximity to Area 51. So if the Federal government does seize the property for some compensated value, most of it will be for the foregone viewing rights potential of a not so secret, secret place. It could have fit nicely in one of the stimulus spending bills to sustain the economy by digging holes as Keynes once said.

September 10, 2015 2:03 pm

Watch out for rattlesnakes near the water.

September 10, 2015 4:00 pm

Go metric and a quarter horse will be a 0.40233600000160935 kilometer horse, how many furlongs is that? Dern, I knew something was off, my water’s boiling point is not 100 C.

September 10, 2015 4:27 pm

Thanks, Willis. Good story.
On your way back, please get a photograph of one of those endangered fishes.

Joe Born
Reply to  Willis Eschenbach
September 10, 2015 5:55 pm

I got the sarcasm, but I had sympathy for the literal meaning. I always have to translate temperatures to Fahrenheit, peoples’ heights to feet and inches, and weight to pounds. I’ve memorized 5/9, 2.54, and 2.2, but I don’t like having to use them–even though I’ve known metric since the Eisenhower administration.
The other day a Chinese guy marveled at why we graybeard Americans don’t adopt metric, I told him we’re inscrutable.

Reply to  Willis Eschenbach
September 10, 2015 10:25 pm

And one litre weighs a kilogram.

Reply to  Willis Eschenbach
September 11, 2015 4:02 am

As a builder myself I will stay with the old fashion way. I can, like many from the old days, frame/build without use of modern tape measures and other modern measuring devices.
At being 6 feet tall, I can spread my arms and the measurement will be 6 feet from finger tip to finger tip. My boots measure 1 foot in length at the sole. My lower arm from the elbow resting on a flat surface to the tip of my middle is a 19 inches or a cubit. Three lengths with an eyeball gives me 5 feet. Works good for laying out framing. My normal stride is 3 feet and I can perform quite an accurate rough layout by stepping it off. I can spread my hand and get a consistent measurement of 8 inches every time. My finger nail is 1/2 inch wide. I can eyeball 1 inch with amazing accuracy. I can stand on my toes and my finger tip will reach 8 feet.
Using the above various forms of measurement I can build it with a feel.
We don’t need no metric system. 😉

Reply to  eyesonu
September 11, 2015 4:38 am

Should read: My lower arm from the elbow resting on a flat surface to the tip of my middle FINGER is a 19 inches or a cubit.

September 10, 2015 6:54 pm

Thanks for the photo of the way the single span bridge was built. Engineering at it’s best.
I spent a few years as a ‘weekend warrior’ raft guide on West Virginia’s New and Gauley rivers. The New River Gorge bridge at Fayetteville, WV looks to be very similar. I believe that it’s about 900 feet high and over one half a mile span. Between winter (cold) and summer (hot) I think the elevation mid span increases about ten feet. From a bus you can see the entire deck when crossing in the early spring but in the summer maybe one half way. Godzilla of thermal expansion.
If you got the balls you can even jump off in October.

Reply to  eyesonu
September 11, 2015 4:34 am

One more thing about the New River Gorge Bridge is that the old road is still open and winds its way beneath the new bridge. Viewing such an engineering and construction marvel from the point that it arises from the earth to span a gorge half a mile wide is truly awesome. An engineering feat such as this MUST be viewed from below and close-up.
Another bonus is that if you visit in Sept and the first week or so of Oct you can book a whitewater trip down the upper or lower Gauley River. The guaranteed flow in the Gauley is the result of the lowering of Summersville lake about 80 to 100 (?) feet so as to provide flood protection from winter and spring rains. When the Army Corps of Engineers release 3200-3300 cfs the Gauley is a ‘must do’ before you get too unfit for it. Note: do the lower section before you do the upper unless you have previous whitewater experience.

Physics Major
September 10, 2015 6:57 pm

We built the greatest country on earth using inferior units of measure. Just think what we could have achieved with metric units. /sarc

September 10, 2015 7:28 pm

Willis, great travelogue. If you get a chance, drop by “Scottie’s Castle” in Death Valley. It has quite a story and the house has some very ingenious devices to make the desert a bit more tolerable.
Another fun road is Hiway 50 across Northern Nevada. “The loneliest highway in America”

September 11, 2015 5:44 am

Typo: “Apparently the lack of rain and the geology there, along with the use of landfill liners, allows them to safely bury a hot of different kinds of toxic substances and remove them from exposure to the environment.” Assume you meant ‘lot’—or maybe ‘host’?
/Mr Lynn

September 11, 2015 11:11 pm

Thank you for the three part story. I’d like to read more of your travels.
I “robust”-ly agree about this crazy, junk science based, open-ended spending of OUR dollars on crap shoots.
Take care.
P.S. Long live the Quartet Pounder!!

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