One Photo From The Ride Home

I took a bunch of shots to get the one that graces this blog entry. My first was at 109°, then 111°. We peaked at 113° and started heading down before this sharp spike to 116° just east of Barstow.


We drove home from Vegas this afternoon. The trip was reasonably uneventful. We ran into some traffic in Riverside County, but it was almost 5:00 PM — Expected.

I-15 runs right along the edge of the Mojave Preserve. There are exits for Death Valley! It’s desolate.

To be kind, this is not a pretty desert. There are low scrubby plants and some cactus. It’s mostly dirt you see–endless miles of it.

I took a bunch of shots to get the one that graces this blog entry. My first was at 109&#176, then 111&#176. We peaked at 113&#176 and started heading down before this sharp spike to 116&#176 just east of Barstow. It only lasted a few miles&#185.

Some of the earlier shots were cooler with my cruise control set for 80 mph.

&#185 – The National Park Service reports 120&#176 at Furnace Creek in Death Valley, around 50 miles north.

Wendie’s Trip To Death Valley

Obviously this is an inhospitable place under the wrong circumstances, but we humans have become smart enough to compensate for most of those.

death-valley.jpgWendie is the traveler among my friends. She has been everywhere-often twice. She takes great vacations. These are not “let’s go to the beach and kick back trips” (she already lives in the Miami area). She gets out and does stuff.

She’s just back from what I perceive as America’s most unlikely vacation destination–Death Valley!

Obviously this is an inhospitable place under the wrong circumstances, but we humans have become smart enough to compensate for most of those. Wendie went when the weather is great with an organized and guided group.

Oh–they were biking!

I have just looked through her pictures and much of what I have seen is spectacular in its desolation and scope. If you haven’t been, a great deal of the American West is wide expanses of nothingness. That’s not to say nothing can’t be beautiful, because it is.

I asked Wendie if I could post a link to her photos. I’m guessing it’s a place you’ve never consider visiting. This might change your mind.

I See Palm Trees

I am writing tonight, sitting in front of our hotel room, in Palm Springs, CA. The swimming pool is ten feet ahead. On the other side of the pool a group of people are sitting, chatting, around a small gas powered fire pit.

Back home, there’s a dense fog advisory. Here, the stars are blazing.

Wow, it’s nice. But first, our trip.

You don’t get to Palm Springs by dark without leaving Connecticut before dawn. Helaine’s alarm was set for 2:00 AM. We pulled out of the driveway around 4:30 AM.

We’ve planned stays in both Palm Springs and Las Vegas, so we flew to Vegas first, rented a car and drove the nearly 300 miles to the Springs.

The fight itself was uneventful. Much of the Eastern United States was partly cloudy with a distinct haze that dulled the view from 36,000 feet. It was as if the Midwest had been rendered slightly out-of-focus.

Before takeoff, and a few more times during the flight, the pilot told us it as very windy in Las Vegas… and it was.

We made a very steep descent into McCarren Airport, probably to avoid the turbulence until the last minute or two. As I looked out the window, the right wing vibrated up and down like a guitar string after it had been plucked.

By the time we were rolling on the runway, the passengers had broken into a round of applause. I’ve always wondered if they can hear that in the cockpit?

The Las Vegas airport has a brand new rental car facility, a little farther from the terminal than were the cars were before, but containing all the rental agencies under one roof. Helaine found a great deal on the car, and since I had a “Dollar Express” card (though I hardly ever rent cars), we headed downstairs and were in our red Dodge Charger with Nevada plates in about ten minutes.

It’s strange to arrive in Las Vegas and immediately turn south, away from the Strip, but we did. I-15, the highway between Las Vegas and Los Angeles, was loaded with cars as we left the city behind and were soon in what’s surely some of the ugliest territory in the united States.

The speed limit on I-15 is 70 mph, but I assumed I’d be doing 85-90 mph. Not with this traffic. I settled back in the pack and held on tight as the strong winds pushed the Charger back and forth in my lane (and sometimes out of it).

Our plan was to stop in Baker, CA, right at the edge of the Mojave Desert and not far from Death Valley, at The Made Greek Cafe. It’s a place LA-LV commuters have always known about, now made famous after a piece on Food Network.

The Mad Greek is about as tacky as you can get, but my souvlaki was pretty good and the strawberry shake was to die for.

There’s not much in Baker, other than the Greek’s. The main drag runs parallel to I-15. Down the block is the World’s Tallest Thermometer!

Back in the sixties, a radio preacher named Curtis Springer put Baker on the map. His headquarters were at Zzyzx Springs, but his mailing address was Box B, Baker, California.

From Baker, we headed through the desert to Barstow and then Victorville, where there’s both a Roy Rodgers and Dale Evans Drive!

We slowed down entering the Cajon Pass, a steeply descending and curving stretch of highway that gives truckers fits and made Helaine a little uneasy too.

On the radio, we’d heard about a small plane crashing in the center median of I-15 and sure enough, like some trophy deer head, the tail section (along with the last few digits of the plane’s registration number) sat on the edge of the breakdown lane, slowing traffic as everyone took a look.

The rest of the trip was uneventful. We got a bottle of water in Loma Linda as we continued on I-215. By San Bernadino, the flora had changed. It began to look like Southern California with tall palms spotted across the landscape. The ugly desert had turned into the pretty desert.

We took the ramp onto I-10, saw the beginning of the huge windmill farm that straddles the opening of the Coachella Valley, exited onto California 111 and pulled into Palm Springs by late afternoon.

I’ll write more about this hotel, the Desert Riviera, in a few days. Least it to say, for Helaine and me, this is quite a departure. The hotel is a very small property – only ten rooms built around a swimming pool.

It is run by a husband and wife and their sister. It has been lovingly restored to 50s retro chic.

The only downside right now is a problem shared by all the hotels in the Springs. There’s a motorcycle convention in town! I believe it’s a “I used to be wild, but now I ride on weekends because I’m a grownup,” group and not Hells Angels and Mongols.

On the other hand, every few minutes a throaty and noisy Harley rumbles it’s way down Palm Canyon. I’m tired enough to know I’ll sleep through it.

Big Buzz In The South Atlantic

I hadn’t been on the computer more than a few seconds when I got an instant message from Bob in Florida. Had I seen what was going on in the South Atlantic?

For tropical weather systems, the South Atlantic is like Death Valley. There are a variety of reasons they just don’t form or exist there. That is, until today.

With no reconnaissance flights and little advance study, it’s tough to say 100% whether this is a tropical storm or hurricane (I guess it would be a cyclone there). But, the photo makes a very convincing case.

Based on some visible satellite image loops I’ve seen, it’s intensifying and heading toward the Brazilian coast. This storm, if it continues, will bring a type of weather unheard of to a place ill prepared to deal with it.

I have looked in all the usual places to find more information on the storm. The Hurricane Center has nothing. Same thing goes for the Navy’s FNMOC. I would doubt the Brazilians have a hurricane forecasting branch of their own.

Stay tuned. This will be interesting. And, I’m not sure it would even get a name as there’s no list for that area.