Monday, 25 September 2017

Day 27: Farmington NM - Eagle CO

Yoicks, that was longer than I, and Mr Google, had anticipated.  Especially since Emily has apparently forgotten about the existence of US-24 north of Leadville and sent me off up CO-91 instead, adding twenty miles to the trip.

Rewind.  The first thing on the anbaric distascope at breakfast time was Pretty Weather Lady standing in front of a map that looked like it had been reworked by Jackson Pollock.  Closer inspection shewed that the unpleasantness was all around a line from Santa Fe through Albuquerque, Roswell and Carlsbad i.e. right where I got flooded three years ago.  And over Farmington was a circle with the number "26" written in it, which I took to mean "about -3 Celsius".  By the time I actually got moving, though, it was a balmy 6.  But the sunshine prevailed all day, in spite of the increasingly ominous-looking clouds building up to the east in the afternoon.
Weather, Colorado, Monday
First and, in fact, only port of call today lay some forty miles south of Farmington which, if you are following these perambulations on a Proper Map, you will note is in the opposite direction from, well, Colorado.  That's because that's where the New Mexicans keep the Bisti Wilderness.  In a previous life it was a river's delta but that was about 70 million years ago and what's left is a bewildering variety of landscape formations that I, lacking time, fitness and sensible footwear, could only nibble at the edges of.  Probably inhabited by Carkers too, as featured in Anthony Boucher's short story "They Bite", which was dead scary when I read it as an impressionable nine year old and still creates a certain frisson today.


This stuff has the texture and consistency of crumble and is probably not meant to be climbed on.  Oh...
It's remote enough from any main road that I found myself getting unreasonably cross with the git who inconsiderately flew his light aircraft overhead and it gets much more odd further in.  Watch William Friedkin's 1977 film "Sorceror" for more.  Of it.  Though why he chose to film Roy Scheider going a bit bonkers in this spot when the rest of the film was shot in the very wet rain forests of the Dominican Republic is a bit of a mystery.
Picture shamelessly robbed from that The Internet, that they have now.
After that it was a choice.  US-550 over the Coal Bank, Molas and Red Mountain passes and the Grand Mesa to I-70, or US-160 over the Wolf Creek Pass, up the San Luis Valley and over the Poncha and Tennessee passes to the interstate instead.  The latter won, because:

  1. Every time I've been up the 550 it's been full of roadworks, weather or both, and
  2. The section from Ridgway to Delta is soporifically dull, and
  3. Pretty Weather Lady said they'd already started the skiing season at or near Silverton

So, abandon the 550 at Durango and turn right.
Sign still there!
This chap rode up, stopped to put on his jacket and set off back the way he'd come.  Nutter.
Though before even getting that far the lofty peaks of the Mighty Rockies could be seen, in parts at least, to be capped with SNO.
Nearly all this bit was familiar from previous trips - I stayed there, I bought "gas" here, oh, I remember this place now it's where the turn-off for $PASS is and, about two blocks from the hotel, I bought a Dirty Pizza from that place which is now a mobile phone shop.  I am actually spending two nights here in Eagle, if I am not electrocuted utterly to DETH before then, as the carpets in this place generate such copious quantities of stat that sparks fly from my fingertip every time I summon the lift to go outside for a fag.  Or I get buried under some more of this:
Up close and personal with the SNO near Clinton Creek Reservoir

Sunday, 24 September 2017

Day 26: Deming NM - Farmington NM

Sunday.  Opposite of Saturday in that it was a climb back to higher altitudes from the Scorching Plains™ of New Mexico.  Only without all the drama of US-191.  US-180 runs dead straight nearly all the way to Silver City and the only thing worthy of note was this rather silly sign in a rest area:
The views did improve for a while after Silver City, but were nothing like as fab and groovy as wot yesterday's were.  Far fewer trees and lots more roadkill.  Though there was a nice lay-by somewhere up in the hills.
I expect much the same is true for the dismembered parts of the victims of local murderers.
In the pines / In the pines / Where the sun / Don't ever shine, er,oh...
And once the Plains were reached, they were very far from Scorching™ chiz.  And they got even more dull after Gallup, at least until the inselbergs, monadnocks or, as it were, kopjes started to appear.  There's a fair few of these dotted around the desert north of Gallup.  Most of them look a bit like this:

though there's one very oblong one.
Don't look round the back, though, coz it's all held up with wooden props1
And one very big one:
This is as close as you get, paleface...
This latter is Tsé Bitʼaʼí, "rock with wings" or "winged rock" to the Navajo, or "Shiprock" to the incomers.  It stands about 500 meters above the surrounding non-Scorching Plain™ and this is about as close as you can get if you are neither a Navajo nor a git.  It's sort of like Uluru in that it's terribly sacred to the Navajo, and because it's on private land they are at liberty to tell would-be visitors to git orff it.  Now that's irony.  Over to the west is this rock:
which, as you can see, has a hole.  In it.  I did not investigate this one any further, partly because I think it's actually in Arizona and thus would have confused Sarah the SatNav's clock even more, but mostly because Farmington lies in the opposite direction and I'd already done 400 miles by the time I got there.

Sorry, that was all incredibly dull, wasn't it?  Though I think I heard the bass riff from Lawnmower Deth's "Spook Perv Happenings In The Snooker Hall" being used in a Toyota advertising-announcement in the pizza place this evening.

  1. Alternative fact

Saturday, 23 September 2017

Day 25: Eagar AZ - Deming NM

Saturday: short on distance but long on scenery, at least once I'd managed to persuade Emily to take me that way.  This involves a lot of picking places on the map and entering them into her tiny head-branes as "Via Points", then repeating the process when it transpires she's never heard of for e.g. Franklin AZ.  This is not any great surprise, in fact, as I'm not entirely sure Franklin AZ has even heard of itself.

This corner of Arizona appears to be largely populated by pickup trucks with no number plates and blokes wearing camouflage.  They probably wear it to church too.  In one wide place in the road there was even a Confederate flag flying next to that of Arizona.  Two things:

  1. The Confederates lost.  Get over it.
  2. Arizona wasn't even a state until 1912.
Anyway, US-191 leaves Eagar at about 2200 metres and climbs to around 2850 before, one would think, plummeting off the Mogollon Rim and down to the flatlands that stretch all the way west to the Mighty Colorado.  And all the way east to the Mighty Rio Grande, since the Continental Divide is around here somewhere (though it's just a tacky "trading post" and a very small rise in I-10).  It doesn't, though because after a while it gets bored with the frankly overrated business of descending and goes up again, and so on.  Still, it is rather scenic in those parts.
US-191, being Scenic
Looking south-east from Blue Vista
It's also the Coronado Trail, named for legendary Conquistaberk Francisco Vasquez de Coronado who came this way in search of the fabled “Seven Cities of Cibola” which, natch, did not exist.  Although The Trashcan Man in Stephen King's "The Stand" did - aptly - apply the name "Cibola" to Las Vegas.  Still, you have to wonder whether some second-rate Spanish idiot was worth building a road like this for - apparently connecting nowhere to nowhere and having an alternative which gets you there quicker.  Then you come round a corner and wonder whether this
might have anything to do with it.  The answer is probably "no", because you've already passed this sign:
Translation: all switches, buttons and levers into ASBO mode
which renders it highly improbable.  The gert big hole in the ground is the Morenci Mine, the end product of which is mostly copper.  And I could quite cheerfully have stayed up there for hours watching the big lorries:
Note full-size pickup at left for indication of Bigness
doing their thing.  They appear to be Caterpillar 793s, which have about 2000 horsepowers and weigh about 375 tonnes when fully-loaded, and if you want one, a 22 year-old used one will set you back about 2.65 million dollars.  Which I doubt includes delivery.
Wheel and tyre approximately two Mr Larrington-heights in diameter
At the other end of the mine lies Morenci, and at the other end of Morenci lies Clifton, where someone in the old railway station was playing "You're The One That I Want", from the "Grease" OST.  Which obviously put me in mind of the hilariously awful dance video featuring Mr & Mrs Crazy P Sagan that emerged around the time of the 2016 Tour de France.  No, I'm not going to link to it.  That's what search engines are for and besides, this laptop has to cross an international border next week and I don't have time fully to disinfect it.

After Clifton you cross in New Mexico and the scenery takes a dramatic turn for the Flat.  Onto I-10 at Lordsburg - which looks so down-at-heel that I think the Lord may actually have forsaken it altogether - and across the Scorching Plains™ of New Mexico.

Scorching Plain™, Mew Mexico, Saturday

Bethany (8)1:So, were they actually Scorching this time?
Mr Larrington:Yes. Yes, they were. I just went out for milk and it was still 30 degrees at seven in the evening.
Bethany (8):About bloody time!
Bethany's Mum:Bef'ny! 'oo you torkin' too?
Bethany (8):No-one, Mum! Just that bloke from P@nd3m1c Pr0duckt10nz™®.
Bethany's Mum:Wot did I tell you abaht torkin' to nutters?
FX: Slap
Bethany (8):Owwwwww! I'm gettin' TV's Super D Millar onto you, you fukn C-O-W!
Bethany's Mum:I 'eard that!

Note for non-readers of YACF: Bethany (7) wrote to the Commissaires requesting that Crazy P Sagan not be thrown off the 2017 Tour after that incident with Cav.  The rest of it is made up.
  1. It was her birthday the other week2
  2. Lie

Friday, 22 September 2017

Day 24: Flagstaff AZ - Eagar AZ

The three phases of life on the road, shamelessly plagiarised from Douglas Adams:

  1. Survival - Where am I?
  2. Inquiry - What time is it?
  3. Sophistication - Where's the bathroom?

Don't worry, I found it...

First port of call requires a retrace up US-89 to Sunset Crater.  I mean, it'd be rude not to.



Lenox Crater Trail, described as "Strenuous" and surfaced with volcanic grot to deter unfit dilettantes in flip-flops.  It worked...
Lava, Arizona, Friday
It last erupted shortly after the Domesday Book; the sight of steam emerging from da 'hood in 2015 sparked fears of a new eruption but turned out to be a forest fire.  Whoopsie.
Weather brewing to the south.  It missed.
Sunset Crater National Monument is joined at the hip to Wupatki National Monument, which contains a Several of Native American pueblos dating back to some time before Magna Carta.  Looking at them, you'd think one decent shower would have them dissolving back into the desert almost immediately but the lads who built them clearly knew what they were about.  Eventually most of their descendants got wiped out by the usual suspects including, though not limited to, Jesuits, smallpox, whiskey and the US Government who told the locals no, you can't live round here coz it's OURS.  In 1970.  I know Nixon was president back then but even so.
Wukoki Pueblo
Wupatki Pueblo
Iz mah bukkit!  Probably not an original feature of the site.
Back into Flagstaff, a quick burst of I-40 and I-17 then off down AZ-89, or what's left of it while they're apparently rebuilding it from the ground up, to Sedona.  This leads down Oak Creek Canyon, which is jolly brillsticks even if you have to follow some Grade-A nincompoop from Louisiana who comes almost to a standstill on every corner.  Yes, they're trees.  You have them in Louisiana too.  I've seen them.  Now hoppit.
Hullo clouds, hullo sky, hullo,trees!



Being as it is not very far at all from Route 66, Sedona gets hyped to bits in the guidebooks so natch I feared the worst.  On the Mr Larrington Nastiness Scale, where 1 is Le Puy en Velais and 10 is Aspen, it rates about 7, but gets an extra half-point for the naff faux-pueblo "architecture" that infests everywhere from west Texas to the Mighty Colorado on the California state line.  Just stop it.  Emily wanted to send me back the way I'd come to get to Eagar, but I told her "no" and was rewarded by some excellent Rocks south of Sedona.
Finally she relented and allowed as how AZ-260 might indeed take me to within a mile or two of my destination.  The 260 can't make up its minds whether it wants to be up on the plateau or down in the valley, hence the temperature is never constant for more than two minutes, but if you ever wondered what Douglas Bader did after being liberated from Colditz, the answer can be found just outside the town of Strawberry.
Finally the road settles on "plateau" which in these parts is high enough to be thickly coated with Ponderosa pines.  Until just beyond Show Low, where it turns into "undulating grassland that looks like some of the bits of Montana I crossed the other week".  I happened upon some kind of Motor-Car Happening in Show Low; one lane was cordoned off to allow a procession of hot rods and muscle cars, with a few oddities thrown in.  Loudest was this 427 Cobra:
Sorry for the rubbish photo; he was doing right-on-red while I was stopped at the lights
Some of the onlookers even waved at me so natch I had to wave back, in the approved BRITISH manner as practiced by HM the Queen.

(Grams: "Rule Britannia" inna-Last-Night-Of-The-Proms-stylee)

Thursday, 21 September 2017

Day 23: Henderson NV - Flagstaff AZ

Today's entry is brought to you by the word "wind".  W-I-N-D.  Wind.  It was windy.  Just like yesterday, only more so.  This is probably the reason why Las Vegas was actually visible, because the wind had blown the usual cloud of brown ozard somewhere else.  A truck driver I chatted to just now says it was the same right across Texas too.  But anyway...

The hotel in Henderson operates an "Express Checkout Service", which is to say they bung the receipt under the door and you can leave the keys in the room and bugger off.  They didn't mention that along with the receipt there would be a half-eaten choc-chip cookie, but perhaps that's a Special Service they only offer to Gold Rewards members.  Anyway, what could be lurking behind this door?

Who lives in a house like theeees?
I like to believe it's a demon of some kind but, more prosaically, think it more likely to be the air-con.

So the morning was not as stinking hot as yesterday, though just as windy, and I was blown to the Lake Mead National Recreation Area where, chiz curses, there was someone on the gate to take my money, unlike 2014.  Karma, or something.  And I didn't even want to go there but the alternative was to go back towards Las Vegas, which was full of traffic and wind.  Off the Lake Mead NRA, y'see, lies the Valley of Fire State Park, past whose entrance I had foolishly driven on the way to the Hover Hoover Dam three years ago without even noticing its presence.  As the name suggests, it is full of red rocks, and wind.





Also this feathered ruffian who, mercifully, was too intent on scoffing an apple core to try robbing my bag like his cousins in Canyonlands did that time.
Nom nom nom!
Also the French couple, driving this:
They almost got into the ASBO by accident.  At least I think it was an accident.  Better timing might have seen me heading off into the distance with a new and elegant blonde companion on whom to practice my French, while her swarthy companion remained behind to rail at the Perfidy of Albion.  That's twice on this trip that poor timing has seen the ASBO's passenger seat not graced by an elegant blonde.  Bah!

I could have gotten to Flagstaff much quicker had I retraced my path and gone down US-93 past the Hover Hoover Dam, but where's the fun in that?  Instead I took off north, briefly into Utah, then across the Arizona Strip.  It's all very sagebrush and red rocks, so there wasn't anything much worth stopping for until the road makes a sudden break skywards near Jacob Lake.  There's a bit of higher ground here which gets even higher to the north and can't be bypassed to the south because of an inconvenient hole in the ground, viz. the Grand Canyon.  The extra altitude makes for cooler temperatures, but has no effect on the wind.

Somewhere behind those trees is a The Grand Canyon
Cloud shadow on the Vermilion Cliffs
Downhill all the way to Navajo Bridge and across the Mighty Colorado, then steadily uphill again almost all the way to Flagstaff, where it is windy.  Nothing very exciting on this stretch either, except the bridge over the Little Colorado at Cameron.
Two bridges, actually; the pillars of the new one can be seen  under the deck of the old one
Arrived in Flagstaff at nightfall.  It is almost eight pm.  Actually, it isn't, but the ASBO's clock gets its time from Sarah the SatNav's GPS wossname.  Sarah thinks it is an hour later than it actually is, because no-one has told her that Arizona doesn't do Summer Time.  But it does do wind.

Wind.  I hope it is leaving the Tandem Things well alone.

Wednesday, 20 September 2017

Day 22: Tehachapi CA - Henderson NV

Ho! for Southern California where, as any fule kno, it never rains.  Over the Tehachapi Pass with its myriad wind turbines and down into the desert again, passing a couple of those places where old airliners go to die. Though I had to squint a bit at the second one to be certain the what was seeing was Boeing tailfins and not just a Joshua tree with a plastic bag caught up in it.
Somewhere over there is Edwards Air Force Base, but even a Junior Pocket Microscope (model 3a) will probably not find it.  Try installing Hollywood-OS™...
Heading south down US-395 and it was almost as if someone had put the cloud in place with a ruler, and with the mountains actually sticking their heads up above it too.

Natch I ran into this at the top of the Cajon Pass, so it promptly became bloody freezing and there's nowhere to stop because it's five lanes of loons intent on reaching San Bernardino without touching the brakes.  And the wipers were required.  After some mucking about I found myself climbing Mt Baldy, hard by Rancho Cucamonga (this is about as close to Los Angeles proper as I want to get), only to find that I have been cruelly mizzled, nay, hornswoggled!  The mountain itself may reach ten thousand of the BRITONS' feet but the road doesn't even reach 2000m before dead-ending in a spot full of these:
Nearly as common as cigarette butts.  Welcome to California!
It was nice to be above the weather, and the mountain is quite picturesque and on the way down I saw a coyote.  She was stood in the middle of a residential street with a 45 mph speed limit and looked thoroughly unhappy at this state of affairs.
Mountain, California, Wednesday
Somewhere behind that lot is Los Angeles,as well as The Arco Station From Heck (see below)
Back into the murk and embark on a search for motor-spirit.  It seems that I may have been a bit previous in praising USAnia for tutoring its "gas" pumps about the existence of other countries.  In the eleven states and four thousand miles leadin up to Battle Mountain, and indeed in that burg itself, I had been asked for my "ZIP Code" precisely once, and that was filling the ASBO at least once a day.  In California I've found one pump that didn't ask for it - my pals at the Shell station in Bishop - and the Arco place in Rancho Cucamonga wouldn't accept either of my cards at all.  So yarbles to you, California!  Bolshy great yarblockoes!

I-15 consists mainly of a long uphill drag to Primm, where there is a This:

which, I have just learned, is the Ivanpah Solar Power Facility, which appears to be rather cool, unless you're a Desert Tortoise.  Primm itself I initially mistook for a cement works but eventually discerned that, lying as it does approximately six inches across the state line in Nevada, it is actually a miniature version of Las Vegas for Californians too anxious to lose their shirts to drive the extra distance.  But it has a rollercoaster that goes right round one of the hotel/casino/whatevers, which is probably a bit cool, if your name is Gil Grissom.

There is no mistaking Las Vegas for a cement works and, for the first time in at least four approaches, the sky was the colour of sky and not a brown cloud under which the city noisily coughs itself utterly to DETH.  Fortunately getting to Henderson does not require going right down to the bottom of the valley.  This may be accounted a Good Thing since it was 35 degrees and with a wind gusting 60/70 km/h and trying to steal my hat.  It seems that tomorrow I could visit a brand-new attraction which I seem unaccountably to have missed every time I've been in this neighbourhood:

Or I could go somewhere else...