Sunday, 16 September 2012

Day 18 - Leaving Las Vegas

Before leaving Las Vegas, Fi dragged me (kicking and screaming, honest guv) to Hash House a Go Go for breakfast. It becomes immediately obvious that this place is a little bit mental when you enter to find all of the staff in costume. There was a Fred Flinstone, Batman, Superman, Shaggy and Velma from Scooby Doo, even a woman dressed as the game Twister. Our server, in a clear sign that our presence there was fate, was wearing a red Star Trek Original Series minidress. Hopefully she was meant to be Uhura, otherwise she must have somehow met her untimely redshirt demise after we left.

Hash House a Go Go was featured on the TV show Man vs Food, which made their fried chicken benedict famous, so obviously we needed to give this a try. If I'd thought about this a moment and remembered what Man vs Food is like, I might have reconsidered. This dish is ridiculous. On top of a fairly large bed of mashed potato, you get a biscuit (for anyone unaccustomed to American "biscuits", think less Rich Tea and more savoury scone) topped with bacon, scrambled eggs, spinach, tomato, a massive piece of fried chicken, and all of this is covered in mozzarella and chipotle cream. With a bloody great knife stabbed through the whole lot. Oh, and a random slice of melon, perhaps to alleviate guilt?

They fry in zero trans fat oil, which somehow makes this okay?

I don't know. American portion sizes tend to the extreme, but this is the most absurd I've seen yet. I managed less than half, and that's lasted me all day. I'm not even sure I'll want to eat anything tomorrow.

Our destination today was San Bernadino, which lies along a nice speedy Interstate direct from Las Vegas. A sensible person might have taken that option, but I'm a purist and insisted we cover every mile of Route 66, so we backtracked down the 95 to Needles, California, to pick up Route 66 where we left off yesterday.

One thing we made sure to do before leaving Nevada was top up the petrol tank. Yesterday, we made the mistake of filling up just as we crossed into California, and the prices were a whole dollar per gallon higher than in Arizona. The scary thing is that even the California price of $4.99 per gallon is still less than half what we pay in the UK. Depressing thought, isn't it? And especially galling when Americans complain the price of gas is too high.

While I'm digressing about buying gas in the US, I'll mention to any Hypothetical Future People that it's an absolute pain in the arse. In America you have to pay before you fill up, which is fine as they all have pay at pump systems. Except they ask for a zip code, and therefore don't work for non-US residents. To get around this, you have to go inside, guess an amount to pay, go out and fill up, and then go back inside for a refund of the difference between the estimate and the actual. In the past I've only had to do this maybe once or twice per trip and so it's only been a minor inconvenience, but on this trip we've had to do it every single day, and often in places that aren't used to dealing with overseas visitors. I've heard that this is especially awkward for those doing the guided group Harley tours, where there are dozens of foreigners trying to do this at once. Nightmare. Seriously America, get with the times and sort out chip and pin.

End rant.

So, California!

Today's stretch of Route 66 winds a long way away from the Interstate, following the railway line through the Mojave Desert.

A whole lot of nothing. Except for our SUV, which Fi keeps claiming back after I exchange it for cooler modes of transport.

A lonely choo choo. Perhaps Fi will let me keep this one?

There's a long stretch where people have left their marks, autographing the road side in rocks and other miscellania. Some of which were clearly brought along especially, which we decided was cheating.

My contribution to improving signage along California's stretch of the route

After a long drag of flat desert, the road began to climb until we reached Cadiz Summit. In the early days of Route 66, a gas station and cafe at the Summit provided a much-needed respite for engines overheated by the steep climb up the mountains. Today, there's nothing left but some ruins and haplessly strewn tyres, like something out of a science fiction dystopia.

Actually not the most run-down gas station we've come across

Some tumbleweed here would have really been the icing on the cake, but alas there was none to be found. Route 66 has failed us on this front: clearly someone needs to go into business throwing tumbleweed through ghost towns to lure the tourists.

Navigation becomes especially tricky in complex roads like this one... it's a good thing they provide lots of signage

Out in the middle of the desert, we came to the bustling town of Amboy. As I have a bit of time, I'll give you the complete tour of the entire town.

A gas station that actually has gas: this has become something of a novelty of late

A heaving post office. Just imagine the queues here on pension day.

As I'm sure you can imagine, the traffic here was horrendous. We stopped for a cold drink and in the whole time we sat there, we saw an entire car.

Once we'd escaped the rush hour queues and got another ten miles or so into the desert, we came across a man on a pushbike waving an empty water bottle. We stopped and gave him all the water we bought before leaving Nevada, and ended up staying to chat for a good long while as he turned out to be fascinating. He's sixty, and is cycling from Los Angeles to Flagstaff across the desert in the hope that it will be cooler high up (as we've just come from that way, we can confirm that it's actually downright cold there in comparison to Southern California). He showed us the hats he crochets, and the four leaf clover he carries in the hope he'll one day present it to a lady friend, and he's the type who tells a story so well you don't even care if it's true. I hope he made it across the desert okay; he had a long way to go.

We also happened across two of my very favourite things: a volcano and a train. Not combined, alas. Volcanos are incredibly cool and therefore require no explanation. I have no idea why trains suddenly fascinate me when they're out in the middle of nowhere.

Amboy Crater, and a whole lotta lava. Possible site of my future Villain Lair.

I wanted to be tied to the tracks, but Fi pointed out I'd insist on rescuing myself, and that might give the caped hero a complex 

The thriving town of Amboy has clearly taken business away from the rest of the route, as we passed a lot of ghost towns.

A distressing lack of tumbleweed

You might be better off calling the RAC than relying on this place

Nonetheless, I think the right business could thrive here, so I'm considering this region for the headquarters of my tumbleweed throwing operation. There's plenty of tumbleweed around (the boring kind that's still attached to the ground) and it has easy access to a whole host of ghost towns. Perfect! If only I could find some available real estate...

A massive field of lava near Pisgah Crater: new business headquarters and Villain Lair in one!

Now that I have a Plan, all I need is to build an unnecessarily large mundane object and add a shop selling tourist tat and I'm sorted. Screw astronomy: this is obviously a much more secure career.

My new business will benefit from the hoards of passing trade

This place manages by having starred in a movie that neither of us has seen

In between Barstow and San Bernadino, we came to our final stop of the day, Elmer's Bottle Tree Ranch. This is a forest of trees made out of bottles and other random junk, including cars, typewriters, surfboards and animal skulls.
Apparently the recycling collection here leaves much to be desired
Why? Why not.

Despite our best efforts to race the Sun west, we were losing the light by the time we arrived. As it happens, though, seeing the sunset through variously-coloured bottles turned out to be quite cool.

This place would probably make it into the top ten chart of forests made out of bottles
The Eye of Sauron has relocated to Helendale, CA

A creepy minion guard

EZ tree-topping rule of thumb: Christmas trees are topped with fairies, bottle trees are topped with rifles.

A standoff between the Mundane Trees and the Cool Bottle Trees

As darkness fell, we wound our way back and forth across the Interstate towards San Bernadino.

Our train friend has caught up with us

You only get the additional "historic" shield if you're heading West. Going East must be some crazy newfangled thing.

Our home for the night is the Wigwam Motel on the border between San Bernadino and Rialto, one of two remaining on the route. I insisted on staying in at least one, and Fi permitted this one as it's been more recently refurbished. At one time, it had become very run down and decidedly seedy, probably something to do with the infamous "do it in a teepee" sign. It was then bought by the Patel family, who have done an absolutely brilliant job of cleaning the place up. We'll get decent pictures in daylight tomorrow morning, but it's basically the Cozy Cone from Cars (not a coincidence, obviously). They're a bit like Tardises (Tardi?), much roomier on the inside than you might think. I'm writing this from a very comfy sofa, and the bed looks quite inviting so I think I'm going to call it a night.

I'm told these are technically teepees, but I don't think anyone's aiming for accuracy here

1 comment:

  1. Bagdad Cafe is an ACE movie, and a rather less ace sitcom.