California and Nevada are wonderful destinations to travel. They offer nearly everything and in particular California, with its splendid Pacific coastline is outstanding for living. I traveled both states, although I just saw a tiny part of Nevada, around Las Vegas. This was still one of my best journeys so far and I will come back in the future, that is a promise. For your overview I prepared the chronic of this trip with this post, you can just click on the different days and will be directed to the appropriate blog entry.
This is a pure Roadtrip, getting back marvellous Las Vegas to shore of CALI. It’s great to witness the diversity and change of the countryside on just 100 miles in diameter. You will see desert without a droplet of water, to mountain lakes and forest. The only thing I misses were giant redwoods, I assumed to find them, since you pass the Sequoia National Forest. But they seem to be more in the region of the National Park, which I decided to leave out.
Now we talk roadtrip! The distances are huge in California and Nevada and so is my way back to Cali’s shore, where I booked a shabby Motel room for the night in a place called Santa Maria. Just read up somewhere that it’s the best entrance to the stunning, breathtaking beauty of the Pacific’s coastline along PCH-1. I leave I-15 at JCT 395, it leads me direct into the Mojave, California’s huge desert in the east. It seems endless and I just cruise, 80 mp/h shows my tacho, it seems like 30 km/h, the mountains pass by so slowly and the hours pass as if it were minutes, like in a beautiful dream. There is basically nothing, some civilized spots every 30 – 40 miles, some big solar energy power plants, albeit from that just sand, dryland, some dried bushes, some cactaceae, mountains, blue sky and some clouds. It’s a beauty for itself.
After some time, I decide not to stop anymore to take pictures, but to take them while riding the car out of the front window with my phone… Works great – and snap – just after I start, I am pulled over by the cops. They don’t issue a ticket, lucky me, but they fine the rental company for not having the insurance papers on the car. Hope ALAMO won’t charge me for that, since it is their mistake after all… It’s a strange feeling to be stopped by an American cop in the middle of nowhere and he has always his hand at the gun, man.
The way leads into the mountains and the Mojave ends abruptly. The mountains become more and more green over here. The region I enter now is called the Sequoia National Forest.
I come along Lake Isabella, which is beautiful and the mountains get higher and the streets narrow and become steeper. The countryside looks just as out of a Western movie, totally transformed from desert now to plenty of farms, with huge stones and creeks in between, it’s like in a movie and I have the certain feeling, that the dudes who produced Rockstar’s Game Red Dead Redemption must have lived here or at least must have hung out a lot in the plains.
It starts to dawn and the sun hides behind the mountains quickly. I push the gas since I don’t want to ride this street at nighttime, the Americans go crazy in regard to speed over here, same like we would do in the alps. I just make it out of the mountains in the last light and what I see surprises me. I find a countryside totally similar to what I have seen travelling Italy and the Tuscany region. They grow their wine over here, those are wine yards for sure, and I don’t wonder about that at all. There was sun the whole time, the grapes will have the water from the mountains on the western side, since all the water from the Pacific goes down here – in contrast the east side of those mountains is arid as hell, the Mojave desert starts over there. It’s a great trip and seeing how drastically nature changes on maybe 100 miles diameter is impressive, too.
At 10:30 p.m. I finally reach my Motel, room is OK, not more not less. Anyways just a place to sleep and since my credit card won’t work anymore and I don’t have too many cash left, I decide to not book for Santa Cruz and just travel there and see what’s going on the next day…
Las Vegas is like a fairytale. Everything seems possible, public drinking and smoking, and all the gambling in the sights, which are the hotels. A crazy place, flashy, colorful, in a hostile surrounding, the desert. If you haven’t seen it with your own eyes, you won’t believe something like that could even exist, it’s against all logic out there.
I think I was pretty prejudiced towards Vegas. A city which seeks a comparable counterpart in artificiality on the planet, maybe it’s in good company with the cities of the United Arabian Emirates with all their flair in the middle of the desert…
As soon as I had dinner with Ivanna and her mum, we start into the city. Ivanna offered me to attend a show at Planet Hollywood, but I was too late, so we decide to just do the strip and she promises to show me all the Hotel shows. As soon as we hit the cities heart I am totally impressed. We park at the Bellagio first, the hotel which is robbed of the prominent crew in the movie Oceans Eleven.
This hotel aims for older, more classy guests. The water show takes place every 10 to 15 minutes and is stunning and is not repeated the same way. Inside everything is decorated with flowers and of course – like every hotel over in Las Vegas – the Bellagio has a huge casino. It’s directly located in Vegas’ heart, the one you will recognize from all the post cards.
We continue our way along the strip. All the people are drinking and smoking in public, on the streets and in the casinos. Nobody cares over here, it’s so different from the rest of the USA I visited so far, so liberal, so fun oriented. I think by myself, that it’s a pity for the American people somehow, that there needs to be a place without any boarders within this country, a place where you have the freedom to do, what you wish – how easy is life compared to that in the EU.
Ivanna shows me the MGM and the Flamingo hotel. The MGM is well known for ultimate fighting (awesome!), David Copperfield who gives his magic show there and for the big, notorious pool party events, when famous DJs deliver their best electronic music to the masses.
Time truly flies by in Vegas, and even if I would have been in the mood to gamble here, it’s already in the middle of the night and I am satisfied and done after this day which started early in the desert.
The view along the strip is surreal, like everything over here in Nevada seems surreal. The whole state, with its diverse and beautiful nature, snow covered mountains and hot and deadly desert in contrast, this 24/7 illuminated city with all this glamour in the middle of nowhere. This is a place which you won’t find a second time on this planet. And it’s great to be here, even without all the gambling. The casinos look pretty much alike, no matter in which hotel you go and the hotels itself, with all their shows and specialties, are the sights of this city.
The last sight of the night is the Welcome to Fabolous Las Vegas Nevada sign at the cities entrance. Ivanna and me take some fun pics and it’s still plenty of traffic of different people who want to have their shot. Afterwards we cruise the city, listening to flashy sounds, to a higher elevated spot, because I’d like to have an overview about the city and I get it and it’s awesome! So much light and so much life going on at 2 a.m.!
Tomorrow it’s already time to leave and continue the trip back to Cali’s shore. Unbelievable, I’ve been here for two nights but it feels not even like a day! At this point I want to thank you Ivanna, you have been a great host and the sightseeing with you was lots of fun! До свида́ния! 😀
My way on the third trip comes along Las Vegas. I don’t visit this extraordinary city to gamble, I am more interested in the countryside around this place. There are two big deserts, the Mojave along California and the Death Valley with its diverse nature. At night I still find some time to discover the cities Strip. You could spend days just to do that without a minute of gambling.
I have had no plan to travel to Vegas in the first place. Plans changed when I found out that travelling into Yosemite would not be possible due to the snow. An alternative: Nevada and Vegas of course, and the Death Valley National Park!
The ride is long, getting out of L.A. takes time and the traffic is dense and aggressive, although it is already pretty late. I really wonder who is that masochistic to get to work everyday like that, like riding two or more hours in and out every day. That would be nothing for me to enjoy. As soon as I hit I-15 traffic vanishes and I am basically alone along the broad highway. It’s totally dark outside, the stars and the moon are the only lighting and I can guess the shadows of the mountains I surpass on both sides. At around 1 a.m. I finally arrive in Vegas and Ivanna, my host, is already waiting. She is very nice and gives me some instructions for the next day, how to find a proper way along the Death Valley and some more sights around Las Vegas. I have to sleep immediately, since I want to get up early.
At 9 a.m. I am on my way out of Summerlin towards the mountains. You hit a little State Park first, the Red Rock Mountain State Park. It’s beautiful but I decide not to stop and to continue to the Death Valley.
Two hours later I finally arrive at the Death Valley Junction. By that time you are back to California, since the whole National Park is stretched out over California and Nevada, but the biggest part with all the sights is in California. The time of the year seems to be perfect, lots of flowers are in blossom, the pale green leaves of bushes and small trees come out everywhere and it’s not too hot, I would estimate the temperature as 30 °C.
The whole driving experience is stunning, just driving along this nature, this wilderness which seems endless, I have never seen something like that and am totally overwhelmed by the beauty of this wild country.
The deeper I get into the park the more beautiful it becomes. There is simply nobody around and you are all alone. The best place to spend time with the people you love, all alone with you and nature. The first time of the trip I miss some company to share all of those moving impressions!
On the way some coyotes are begging for food. They seem to be used to people coming by feeding them, but I don’t contribute to that manners, I want them to remain wild. They are truly free of fear, standing right besides the car like that. The mountains of the Sierra Nevada are still covered in snow, what an awesome image! Down in the valley temperatures reach around 35 °C now and the air is flirring in the distance, on top of the mountains you have the snow in contrast. Crazy!
I reach the Badwater Bassin at 2 p.m. and the sun is burning down with no mercy. As soon as I get out of the car sweat starts running down my neck. I am on the lowest point of the USA now, it’s way under sea level and known for the reflections of the sun on this salty ground. A beautiful, yet deadly place if it comes up to life.
The next spot I reach is the Devil’s Golf Course a place where huge crystals of salt grew naturally over the last hundreds of years to form a bizarre landscape. Impressive and you can walk around on them, they stand it! Every time it rains, the surface restructures and new crystal structures arise.
I get out of the car to hike a little bit but the temperatures are too high to enjoy that and it’s already 3 p.m., time to get back to Las Vegas! On my way I see so much artful splendid beauty of nature, just out of the car. That’s America – that’s awesome!
I return to Nevada and reach a small town called Beatty right after the boarder. This is the prototype of an American city in the wild west. There is basically nothing, a small gas station and a small shop where you probably can get everything needed. No Mc Donalds, no other franchise you would recognize as American. Some little sand tornadoes curl along the street and all the trees are bald.
I back on the track to Las Vegas, don’t want to be too late because Ivanna’s mum is there, visiting from Russia and there will be dinner the evening. But on my way I discover mountains, pretty close to Vegas, which are fully covered in snow. And I decide to take another way to discover more of that! There actually seems to be a skiing resort called Mt Charleston and the further I get into these steep mountains the more I can imagine that!
The sun already set in the West and with this pale violet and red colors all over the desert I make my way home to Summerlin, after a great day out in the fields, in an environment, that offers so many life although the conditions for plants and creatures are everything but easy.