And Away!

How long has it been since I last went on a real vacation? Was it this spring, when I made the arduous two hour drive to Disneyland? No, that was barely a three-day weekend. Was it last summer? No, I entertained house guests. That does not really count. Was it the summer previous? I actually flew somewhere that time, but that was only to attend a wedding as a guest. And it was barely a day and a half. That should not count. It must have been that spring. That was the time that I went to the Bay Area and briefly experimented with Twitter. That was also, if you don’t care to follow the links, the year 2008. A long time ago.

According to Spo-Tips to a healthy and happy life, “It is important to your mental and physical health to take time off from work. Remember, if you don’t, Nature will find some piss-poor way to make you go off work.”

Well, that sounds vaguely ominous. But as I’d much rather take a rest in a place of my choosing than have the place chosen for me, I made a few arrangements. Well, mainly I packed a few bags and gassed up my car. My usual accomplice volunteered to accompany me as well as to plan out the itinerary: the old Plank Road, a Ghost Town, the London Bridge, Route 66, the Grand Canyon, Hoover Dam and Las Vegas.

And so began Day One of the Grand Road Trip. (Believe me, I tried to come up with a clever acronym for my road trip, but it just Did Not Compute.)

Anyway, the usual accomplice and I hit the Original Pancake House for breakfast before hitting the road. Nothing like a good old truck stop diner meal to set the mood. We drove east on Highway 8, up into the mounains, and then back down again. Eventually, the land began to look… unfinished.


I had been out this way before, many years ago, to see the Salton Sea. It was formed when the Colorado River flooded many years ago. Eventually, someone had the idea of turning it into a tourist destination, with fishing, boating, and swimming. Resorts were built… and then abandoned. Now, there’s not much there but cracked roads, looted buildings, and a lake full of increasingly concentrated agricultural runoff.

But that wasn’t where we went today. No, we passed through El Centro, a bit to the south, before entering a vast expanse of sand: the Imperial sand dunes.


It was here that I ran over a rather large dust devil that had the misfortune to choose the wrong moment to cross the road. Hopefully, the marks it left on the car will buff out.

It was also here that we made our first stop of the day. I was assured that there was a relic of historical importance in the area that we must view. A wooden road was once built across the dunes, and a short section still existed. And we found it.

According to the official plaque, “This unique plank road seven miles long was the only means early motorists had for crossing the treacherous Imperial sand dunes. The eight by twelve foot sections were moved with a team of horses whenever the shifting sands covered portions of the road. Double sections were placed at intervals to permit vehicles to pass.”


Well, a few moments of gazing at history was enough for me. A few more unprotected moments in the desert sun and I’d have been a crème brûlée. So we continued eastward, but then took a detour down a country road in order to find a real live ghost town.

Our next stop was the ruins of Ogilby. Like many ghost towns, Ogilby was simply a place for miners to live and a place for a train to stop. Nothing remains of the town now, except for the concrete foundations of the schoolhouse, and a small graveyard. A handful of small wooden crosses in a land of gravel and silence.


We followed the little highway north up to Highway 78, which vaguely shadowed the Colorado river. The roads were still fairly vacant, but they fortunately passed through farmland often, rather than desert wilderness. Eventually, we crossed the state line. And when we did, it definitely looked like we’d entered another land.


We reached Lake Havasu City just before sunset. I was really pleased that we’d already decided to stop there, rather than trying to make it all the way to the town of Williams in the dark. The bad news was that it seemed that it was even hotter here than out at the old plank road. Fortunately, the motel had not only an air conditioner, but an on-site restaurant, so going back outside could be kept to a minimum.

Did we learn anything today? Yes. Sometimes, it’s better to take your time and not go as far as possible in one day.

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