The Great American Road-Trip – Part 4 (Day 5)
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Approximate route of Day 5, 420 miles, about 12 hours
Thursday, Aug. 17, 1967 - Las Vegas to Los Angeles via Hoover Dam
Waking up around 8:00 in North Las Vegas, Nevada, the small motel gave us our first good night’s sleep since leaving New Jersey. Outside, the temperatures would be well over 100 today and after driving past Fremont Street and the strip again, we headed out on Rt 95/93 towards the Hoover Dam area, some 40 miles to the south-east.
Our well appreciated $8.00 motel in North Las Vegas
Hoover Dam (formerly Boulder Dam) was our destination, but a few miles before, we took a detour to a campground and swimming area on Lake Mead, the largest reservoir (by volume) in the United States, created about 32 years earlier when the dam was constructed on the Colorado River. It was refreshing to spend an hour there, our pace a bit more leisurely today.
Boulder Beach on Lake Mead – a moment to rest, swim and cool off
The world’s 7th largest kw capacity dam was not far, easy to find as high tension wires seemed to converge on that one point and dive into the base of the massive concrete structure. Spot parking allowed for rock climbing and pictures. (Historical Note: Today, (2013,) it is ranked number 60 in capacity – ref. Wikipedia)
Rt. 93 switch-backs down and over the dam to Arizona, with Lake Mead beyond
Note the transmission lines taking power out of the generators below
Walking across the dam afforded great views, but the best part was the many water fountains from which we drank plenty in the searing heat. (Historical Note: Narrow, twisty and fun Rt.93 was replaced in 2010 by a new through route, over a new bypass bridge.)
Not keen on waiting in one of several hot and sweaty tour lines, we hastened back to the hot and sweaty car, retreating towards Interstate 15, about 30 miles west, towards Los Angeles. The super-highway connects Las Vegas with Southern California for several hundred miles through the barren, alien Mojave Desert.
Still in Nevada, the Mojave Desert is sand, dry shrubs, Joshua trees and intense heat
The MGB, with about 25,000 miles on the odometer, had been running very well up to now, but this stretch would put it to the test. With a black-pavement road temperature well over 115 F (46.6 C,) the car’s water temperature was hugging the boiling point. Every slight rise would tax it to its limits, with down slopes giving a few degrees relief. It was a tense, tedious, and extremely hot several hour stretch in mid-afternoon, with over-heated cars all along the shoulders and rest areas. The admirable, little car persevered, as did Tom and I. At the California line, we dared not stop the engine after pulling over to savor the milestone. Both Tom and I were cooked by now, our canteens low and we gave-in to putting the top on for shade. (To increase open space in the car proper – behind the seats – we had been storing the normally folding top and frame in the trunk.)
The sign was like a checkered flag, as…we had arrived. California, here we are, 2:15 PM, PDT, about 3400 miles in 4 1/2 days.
At the small desert town of Baker, California, we spotted a soda machine in what appeared as an abandoned service station. It was not. Out of nowhere, a dusty, sort of ghostly-like older man, was …just there, by the old pumps, kinda shimmering in the heat! We did not need gas, and did not linger. Just got our cold sodas and…left. We do not have pictures! Baker’s average daytime high at this time of year is 110 F (43.3 C) and it’s all time record is 124 F (46 C) making this one of the hottest places on earth.
140 miles from Las Vegas, is Barstow, where we would meet Rt. 66 again, merging as part of I. 15. It is the first of any sizable towns along our desert route, but still an hour or so till the San Bernardino Mountains – and eventually, Interstate 10.
The sign (right, below) tells it, and about 35 miles later, we were in Los Angeles
We arrived into “The City of Angels” at 6:20 PM, 3645 trip miles, with the still relentless, but smog-paled sun glaring right down in our faces as the freeway pierced the city. The L.A. City Hall Building was familiar to us as the iconic symbol of the popular TV police-series, Dragnet.
Soon we would meet and be welcomed with wonderful hospitality by two of Tom’s uncles, and their families in Van Nuys. After dinner and introducing us to lemon and orange trees by their backyard patio, Cousin Fred (and I believe his sister, and one of the uncles) would take us for a most impressive late evening tour of Hollywood, Century City and other highlights. It would be 1 or 2 AM before sleep, we the grateful guests in their home for the night.