Monday, July 13, 2009

Road Trip - Part I

Last week, we drove to Las Vegas to pick-up the kids. We got on the road at about 10:00 am and arrived in Las Vegas at about 7:00 pm. The drive took us through various mountain ranges, valleys, forests and towns that make up Southern CA.

Driving through San Juan Bautista and over Pacheco Pass provides a lovely view of the San Luis Reservoir and a scenic transition from the Central Coast to the San Joaquin Valley, the Lettuce Bowl of the US. The water level of the reservoir was extremely low. In the photo to the left, the green area in the foreground should be covered with water. The water from this reservoir comes from the Sacramento Delta and is fed into the California Aqueduct for irrigation.

The array of fruits and vegetables we saw on this trip was astounding. From blackberries, raspberries, strawberries, grapes and peaches to lettuce, cauliflower, radicchio, tomatoes and green peppers, we saw it all, or at least we thought we did as some of it was not identifiable at 55+ mph. While approaching a stop sign somewhere, the air was perfumed with cilantro; so fresh and sweet, we just about got out of the car to pick ourselves a salad!

Peach Grove near Bakersfield

After refueling in Bakersfield, we continued through the Tahachapi Mountains. The Tahachapi Wind Farm lines Tahachapi Pass, the connection between the San Joaquin Valley and the Mojave Desert. As you drive through the pass, the windmills dot the landscape as far as the eye can see. This is the second largest wind farm in CA and wind power provides 1% of all CA electricity. I have heard that bats can't sense the blades and that birds are injured in collisions with the windmills but that engineers are working to make this type of power generation less dangerous to these creatures. I hope they succeed.

Tahachapi Wind Farm

The Mojave Desert is vast and seemingly desolate until you see military aircraft fly overhead.
Further research informs me that the desert covers not only a large part of Southern CA but that nearly all of Nevada is in the Mojave Desert and that the desert boundaries are defined by the presence of the Joshua Tree.

As we move further into the desert we see mining facilities in the distance, approach 20 Mule Team Road and, finally, see a sign for Borax. Evidently, the world's richest deposits of borax are in the Mojave Desert and mined for cleansers and other household products. I've used some of these products.

Passed Barstow to the Nevada border, the road climbs in ascent to the high desert plain on which Las Vegas sits. It's hot, it's dusty. The car motor revs to maintain cruz control speed while climbing to 3,000, and then 4,000 feet. In the distance, I see a mirage. It has a roller coaster. My partner explains that it's actually Primm Valley at the Nevada border. There's a golf course, a few hotels and casinos and a small amusement park. Huh. I'm not into superfluous use of resources, so I'm not impressed. Forty miles to Vegas - the journey continues.

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