Here’s a shot (looking back on the way we came) of one of the roads we traveled — U.S. Highway 60 in Western New Mexico. We took a lot of old U.S. highways on this trip, traveling through West Texas and across the center of New Mexico before we found it necessary to take Interstate 40 across Arizona.
Then it was back to the less-traveled ways up the eastern side of the Sierra Nevada and across the mountains to Oakland.
The biggest city we stopped in between Austin and Oakland was San Angelo, Texas — population 97,492. We skirted the edge of Flagstaff and Las Vegas on big highways, but didn’t go into town or even stop for gas there.
(I like being in big cities, but I don’t like driving through them.)
It was a wonderful mini-vacation, stopped short when we got home to Oakland about 12 hours ahead of the moving van. At this point, we are surrounded by boxes and trying to do a little unpacking every day. But at least the office is set up!
Here’s the high point of our trip — literally. We climbed to 9,600 feet to get over the Sierras, and then had to come back down to 101 feet. The downhill trip was great for gas mileage, though a bit hard on the brakes, while the uphill required the occasional use of first gear.
And yes, that’s snow. In fact, we were lucky to be able to go over Sonora Pass, as the roads through Yosemite were closed due to the snowstorm that swept through the Sierras the weekend before (and brought rain down on us while we were in New Mexico).
Here’s my sweetheart Jim standing in the snow. As his shirtsleeves indicate, it wasn’t all that cold by the time we got there.
The high point of the trip, from the point of pure pleasure, was our stop at the Inn at Benton Hot Springs just east of the mountains.
The hot springs have been open for business since back in the Gold Rush days in California, and the place where we stayed has been in the owner’s family for 85 years.
And, oh, that soak in the hot spring tub was wonderful after days of driving.
The other thing I loved about the Benton Hot Springs is that the owner is using the income from running a bed and breakfast to support such things as a land conservancy to keep the area from being developed and a nonprofit that is doing historical research on the area.
We also ran into innkeepers obsessed with their history on our earlier stop in Kingman, Arizona. The owners of the El Trovatore Motel bought it a few years ago and are obsessed with restoring it to its full 1937 glory.
This motel is on the old, storied Route 66, which once ran from Chicago to Los Angeles but has mostly been replaced in the Southwest by I-40. There is a Route 66 historical movement in Kingman, though.
According to the owners, this was the first motel in Kingman to have private baths and air conditioning (a nice luxury in the desert), so it was frequented by Hollywood stars and others who could afford to pay for a little comfort.
They’ve decorated the rooms with pictures of various stars — we stayed in the Elvis Presley room. The accommodations are basic, but the stories made the stay more than worthwhile.
In fact, what I liked most about both Benton Hot Springs and El Trovatore was that the owners weren’t just running a business; they were following a passion. That’s always a joy to find, especially in a world in which chain motels and fast food seem to dominate the landscape.
Though, of course, the most amazing sight of the whole trip was the actual landscape, like this shot of Boundary Mountain on the Nevada/California line.
We got home ready for more road trips, especially ones on back roads when we have plenty of time so that we can stop and ramble whenever we feel like it. But first we’ve got to do something about all those boxes.