What the Peppers Did on Their Spring Vacation
We started in Mobile, Alabama and auto-toured along the Gulf Coast including New Orleans and Lake Charles, Louisiana and Houston, Texas. Then on to San Antonio to explore the Alamo and River Walk. On to Big Bend National Park for hiking and bird watching to add to our personal “Big Year” along the Rio Grande. On to border towns El Paso and old mining town Douglas, Arizona. A highlight was visiting Camelback in Phoenix for a few days and exploring the Sonoran Desert around Lake Havesu City.
From Lake Havesu City we headed to Oatman, Arizona and Barstow along as much of the old U.S. Route 66 alignment as possible. Barstow was a great stopover for a rail fan but the highlight was visiting the Mojave River Valley Museum on Virginia Way where we are, of course, members. We explored some back roads into the Mojave then on to Morro Bay, a real seaside gem. More hiking and more birds.
We drove the Pacific Coast Highway with its one of a kind breathtaking vistas to Carmel where we had a romantic lunch (see, we aren’t too old yet!) at a little café, then on to San Francisco. Our daughter is there and we reacquainted ourselves with the City. It is desperately in need of major cleaning up, but it will always be a favorite. The three of us went to Sonoma for a long weekend tasting, walking, exploring and just enjoying.
From San Francisco, Sue had to fly home but I drove the Central Valley with its endless orchards and fields, across the Tehachapi and back into the Mojave. I visited Red Rock Canyon State Park, Inyokern and Searles Valley, and got buzzed by what looked like a bomber from China Lake. Then through the Panamint Valley into Death Valley NP. I saw the highlights at Stovepipe Wells, Furnace Creek and Bad Water Basin. I hiked some and, believe it or not, more birds! Could not visit Scotty’s Castle because of a road closure.
I went through Pahrump and up through Tonopah to little Warm Springs admiring the solitude of the Great Basin Desert. I picked up Nevada SR 375 (Extraterrestrial Highway) and stopped in Rachel at the A’Le’Inn for an Alien Burger, which was actually pretty good. No aircraft of any type from Area 51 were visible. But the desert was so vast and captivating.
I then chanced the West Salt Lake Desert along an original alignment of the Lincoln Highway through Callao, Fish Springs, past Dugway Proving Ground and Toelle and into Ogden. That is one of my favorite stretches of desert.
I was in Ogden for the Union Pacific Annual Conference and the 150th Anniversary of the Golden Spike. I did go to the site but on May 9. The May 10 celebration would have been nice but it was a zoo. I did get to see 4014, the refurbished Big Boy, in Ogden. I had seen it two years earlier in the UP Steam Shop in Cheyenne with the hinged front of the boiler still open. But they got the restoration completed, new paint job and all, and it ran under its own power to Ogden.
Just drove home from there, but I am really anxious to get back to the desert; still am looking forward to my first Desert Explorer’s trip!!! ~ Jerry Peppers