Road trip: To Las Vegas and back again
Above is me. In probably my happiest captured form: open road, blue skies, friends, adventuring, and just being completely in love with where I am.
I love road trips. Maybe because I'm from LA and having a car symbolizes freedom a bit more than in other cities. There really is something freeing to me about being able to take your car and go to some place new. Even more so than flying. Sometimes flying doesn't feel as far away — it feels more about the destination: you're in one place, and then all of a sudden you're in the next.
With a road trip, there's a journey. There are stops, there are things to look at, to observe. There are long hours, lots of snacks, and "are we there yet?" moments, but it's all part of this random journey. You know that eventually you'll get to your destination, but might as well be flexible, take the time to explore and have fun along the way.
And the road trip I'm highlighting today is one of many that I've taken from Los Angeles to Las Vegas, and back.
Our stops included:
- Bottle Tree Ranch
- World's Tallest Thermometer
- Alien Beef Jerky
- Las Vegas (which was semi our destination too so I'm not counting this)
Read on for all the random details.
Above is the "before shot" because those are important. Almost like before you run a marathon you get a photo with a feeling of "Hey! Look what I'm going to do!" and afterwards you're all gross and sweaty but you've really accomplished something and maybe you've really had this change go on by accomplishing this great feat.
Just kidding. This photo is actually none of that. It's more like, "Hey! Look at us in a car because this is proof we're going on a road trip in a car! And this is kind of what the interior looks like!" haha. #memories
Road trip stops change based on how much time we have to get to our destination. On this particular road trip, we had to be at the Gold Strike Casino by about 5pm, and wanted to stop in Las Vegas for a couple hours. So we left early in the morning, and we decided to check out a couple stops that looked quirky and fun along the way.
The first stop: Bottle Tree Ranch
Although it's a little out of the way from the basic route from LA to Vegas, this is a must-see for random road side attractions.
It's basically a forest made out of bottles. And a bunch of other odds and ends like old telephones, a fishing boat, pieces of furniture, signage, pots and pans, sewing things... it's an eclectic mess of order.
I don't know how to classify this assemblage. Another traveler asked the creator, "Is this your art?" and he replied, "Ya... it's my something."
I think that about sums it up.
Before going to Baker, we also stopped at the Barstow Station. Not much to say about that except... food. We needed food.
Next was Baker. Which had two stops less than a block apart from each other. One was the World's Tallest Thermometer.
It lived up to it's namesake. It was rather large. It was also operating. And it has a gift shop.
A lady from the gift shop came outside to tell us where the best angle to take the photo was before leading us inside and telling us the history of the thermometer and how her father was the one that had it built before selling it. Herron's family re-purchased it after the previous owner sold it in 2013. The electricity bill became so high during the time of the previous owner, that he had actually turned off the power of the thermometer. So it was a big deal when they re-lit it in July 2014.
She was super sweet, and it was fun getting to know a little bit more about this stand out mechanism.
The Alien Beef Jerky place is a little random, like most road trip stops. Selling jerky is whatever, but when you put an alien invasion in it, it's an entire experience. They have a spaceship outside and some aliens that actually move. If you look at it long enough, it gets creepy.
We went inside to check out the jerky and I said hi to my alien boyfriend. We understand each other — we're both a little out of this world at times. ;)
By the time we made it to Las Vegas, we had a couple hours to ride the New York New York rollercoaster, score a Groupon to Buca di Beppo for dinner, and then drive back to the Gold Strike Casino for the Rise Festival. Which, if you read it, you know was a journey in itself.
The next morning, it was time to drive home.
The lady that we met at the thermometer also gave us some tips on where to stop or places to see. Other than Calico Ghost Town which I really wanted to go to, she suggested taking a detour through the Mojave Desert and look for lava tubes. So we detoured.
Who needs a direct route when you could go out of your way and test the limits of your car in an off-roading environment it was not meant for? Because yes, off-roading was part of this detour.
Just to be clear — the road itself was not off-roading. We were trying to find the lava tubes, and the directions to get as close to the tubes as possible led us to this off-road road. We went about a mile and a half before turning around. My VW Jetta couldn't handle that kind of terrain.
But it was ok, because we still ventured and pulled over at some beautiful stops.
At one point when I was driving, we saw the scenic mountains in the just above picture, and I quickly pulled over to really get a look at them. Unfortunately, I couldn't slow my car down enough to pull over in the non-gravel rocky area so my car dipped into it. We were stuck. In the middle of the desert.
Some good samaritan was driving by and stopped to help us, offering to hook my car up to his so he could pull us out. I don't know what prompted me, but I started to try digging the gravel out from where the tires were, and then reversed the car out and VOILA! It worked! Adventure success. AAA phone call averted.
I think my favorite part of that drive back was this one area where it was just that sort of romanticized open road with absolutely no cars around and mountains in front of you. There was something amazing about dancing in the middle of the open road. And lying in the middle of it too. And I mean like laying down, arms open wide, looking up. I mean, I don't recommend it — for safety purposes it's probably better not to. And just so you don't get any really crazy ideas from me: someone was on the lookout while the other person was laying there. But just like that scene from The Notebook where they're in the middle of the road at the stoplight, it's thrilling. It almost feels like an act of defiance. Like this road was made for cars, but before this road it was just dirt and earth, and here I am embracing that. So there.
Although we sacrificed Calico Ghost Town (it's still on my bucket list), we were able to go to one last recommendation by the thermometer lady — Cross-Eyed Cow Pizza. She did not steer us wrong. We loved this place. It's quirky decorations and great pizza and bread are the reasons I came back on another, later road trip. I'm making it a tradition/priority whenever I'm around there.
And in case this was a lot of information and you need to see it visually, guess what? I made you a map via Roadtrippers. Happy tripping!