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Monday 23 Sep 2013
Joshua Tree, USA

Sandwiches, Star Trek and the San Andreas Fault

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We drove excitedly to the first National Park of our road trip: Joshua Tree. We got our ‘America the Beautiful’ pass for admission to all National Parks and Monuments for a year, a bargain at $80.  (Little did we know what the US Government had in store or we would have saved our money!) The Park Ranger, Carey, was brilliant.  He gave us maps of the area, advised us on the best trails and also showed us an alternative route up to Las Vegas through the Mojave National Reserve.  

 

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Joshua Tree is a fascinating place.  Piles of huge rounded boulders are dotted about, some several storeys high, with scree and rubble coating the ground.  As you go further into the Park, this scree is broken by the distinctive Joshua Trees that give the Park its name.  They are strange twisted tortured shapes with tufts of green leaves at the ends of the branches.  Some appear to be blown sideways by the wind, while others have grown surprisingly tall.  The road twists and winds up and up through this alien landscape until it reaches Keys View.  From here, we could see across the vast valley to Palm Springs and Mount Jacinta and down to the salt lakes of the Saltan Sea and the distant Mexican border.  Bisecting the valley across our view was the purple line of the Indio Hills, which follow the San Andreas Fault line.  It was quite a surreal place to eat our lunch, especially after the celebrity madness of Hollywood just 24 hours ago.

 

Verity and I have similar views on photography on this road trip.  She’s got a better understanding of how to manipulate the settings to get the shot she wants, but we are both happy to give each other the time to get it right.  We're also willing to stop the car every time we see a good angle, which meant it took us a lot longer to drive to the trails the Ranger had recommended.  We had to cut out one loop and walk the Barker Dam trail quicker than either of us really wanted to.  It was only a mile long, and had us scrambling over boulders.  It was beautiful, but felt so alien to us that I half expected to meet Kirk, Spock and a group of disposable red-shirts coming around the corner.

 

 

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After finally tearing ourselves away from Joshua Tree, we tried to fill the car up. With 30 years of experience between us, this should have simple, right?  Wrong. Firstly, we couldn’t tell which fuel we needed  as the numbers on the fuel cap didn't match those at the pump, so Verity took a photo and went in to ask.  Then we discovered that diesel has a green hose and unleaded has a black one – the complete opposite of the UK.  Not at all confusing.  Next, we tried to use a credit card at the pump, but it wasn’t accepted, so we opted to ‘Pay at kiosk’ instead.  I inserted the nozzle and waited for the counter to zero itself, but it didn’t.  So Verity went in to ask again.  It seemed we’d have to pay for fuel in advance as we weren’t paying at the pump.  I went in to pay, but had no idea how much I needed, which sparked a debate with several customers as to how much half a tank of fuel in a Corolla would cost.  I guessed at $40, but we actually used only $25, so I went in a fourth time to get the difference refunded.  What an experience! This whole episode took us over 20 minutes, with a lot of head-scratching and giggling.  

 

 

Eventually we set off for Vegas.  The scenic route was better than the Interstate, but it took us over five hours.  Early on, we passed the salt flats where Moby shot the cover of his ‘18’ album (where he's dressed in a blue spacesuit).  We crossed a wide desert and stopped to watch the final rays of the sun go down and beautiful colours light the sky.  As darkness fell, we reached the iconic Route 66.  We turned onto the infamous highway and saw a huge Route 66 logo painted on the road and pulled over.  With our headlights illuminating the logo, we spent at least 20 minutes taking photos.  One guy even stopped to check we were ok and then laughed when he realized we were just being tourists.  We spent longer taking pictures than we did actually driving along the highway.  But hey, who wouldn’t have?

 

 

By the time we entered the Mojave Desert Reserve it was dark so we missed all the gorgeous scenery, but the stars overhead were impressive.  It was a long slog up to Vegas.  We’d drastically underestimated the driving distances – or rather, we knew the distance but hadn't counted on 45 – 55 mph limits in California.  By the time we reached the Interstate in Nevada and could finally drive at 75mph, I was too tired to want to. 

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I’m thankful I’d been to Las Vegas before, but I was still unprepared for the crazy boulevards and the challenge of pre-empting which lane would take us where.  It took a couple of attempts but we finally reached the Riviera.  We had to walk through the casino floor to reach our elevator, which was definitely a surreal experience with our backpacks on.   Exhausted as we were, it was still exciting to be in Las Vegas!

 

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Zoe's Big World Adventure Part II - #1 America

Travel blog by zobeedoo

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Here I go again! After the incredible experiences of my first Big World Adventure, I'm off again for part two, starting with a classic American Road Trip through California, Nevada, Utah and Arizona...

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    Joshua Tree

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    Joshua Tree

    USA

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    Joshua Tree

    USA

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    Joshua Tree

    USA

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