Wednesday 22nd August

We left Elk Grove at 7.30am and soon hit the rush hour traffic which wasn’t so bad, especially as we could use the diamond lane (carpool). We were followed by a police car for a while which is never nice. We travelled down the 50, passing by Charles Manson in Fulsom jail, towards Lake Tahoe and soon the landscape got hilly. There were also lots of trees and the road became twisty and turny.

Our satnav, Sheila, disagreed with many of our decisions, but she was wrong quite often. It’s a good job we’d also bought a map! Sheila wanted us to go up to Lake Tahoe itself and when we got on the 88 and 89, she tried to convince us to go down a ravine. We briefly stopped to water the grasses and do a ‘wow we’re driving through the California Hill’ dance and I started to drive on roads I wouldn’t dream of driving in the UK. One road is closed during the winter and our ears popped going up, but I enjoyed the drive immensely.

We eventually got to the 395 and WHEEEEE!!!! Long open roads winding through amazing landscapes. Snowy mountains in the distance, a river and the odd small town. The price of gas went up considerably though in these tiny towns.

We then turned onto the 270 to Bodie, the last three miles of which was a dirt road and quite bumpy in places. Bodie is a ghost town, quite the wild west mining town in it’s day and very well preserved. We were able to look through the windows and see dusty furniture, bedding, shoes, clothes, bottles, crockery etc. There was the old mine (inaccessible without a pre-booked guide), a few saloons, a jail, the old bank vault with safe still inside. The school still had books, desks and a globe whose paint had peeled off completely. There were old carts and cars. Lots of very old litter and rusty cans. There were shops, a graveyard, a church and lots of old homes. It took us quite a few hours to get around and we didn’t see all of it.

When we’d first got out of the car at Bodie, it was cloudy and cold and I thought we’d only be an hour or so. Because of this, neither of us had hats or suncream. I also left my sun glasses behind. The sun soon scorched the land and us. We were lobster red pretty soon.

I drove us back up and down the dirt track that is the 270, grateful that I’d finally sussed what gear ‘2’ is for, still not found a use for ‘L’ yet but I reckon it could’ve been helpful in San Francisco. After 90 mins or so, we arrived in Mammoth Lakes. This is a resort rather than a town, south of Yosemite. We had hoped to get to Yosemite but it really wasn’t doable due to time and distance. We checked in at our second Econolodge on this trip and went for a Mexican at a place called Roberto’s that served me a burrito the size of a big-head’s pillow. It was humongous.

When I got back to the hotel, I felt dizzy, as though I’d been on a boat all day. But I managed to still dye my hair – I’d brought a pot of tangerine ‘directions’ dye with me, as I knew the sun and sweat would make the colour fade fast!

Thursday 23rd August

We’d seen that there was a 3-4 mile hike near Mammoth Lakes to the Devil’s Post Pile and Rainbow Falls. I’d read online that people suggested getting there early to avoid the ranger and not have to use the annoying shuttle bus. But the ranger beat us there – we were there for 7.15am! In hindsight it was better to use the bus, but we were still early enough to avoid squalling brats whining that they are too idle to walk up a small incline. The bus ride took about half an hour and our driver was a lad named Shade, the offspring of hippies . He said that the road we were on is the safest in California, no one has died on it…. because when the fall off it, they don’t die until they hit the bottom (that was Shade’s best joke).

It was only half a mile to the Devil’s Post Pile, a natural formation of hexagon rocks. We then walked a few miles down to the Rainbow Falls. We saw squirrels, chipmunks, an eagle and a lizard. The trees were mostly pine and the scenery fairly impressive. They’d had a lot of tree damage due to avalanches, 200mph winds and some diseases, so there were lots of logs and old exposed roots. There was an area named after the photographer Ansel Adams, it was full of dead trees from forest fires and looked bleak but stunning at the same time.

The Rainbow Falls were picturesque but no way near as huge as Snoqualmie Falls which we’d seen last week. By this time the weather was baking hot and we walked to a bus stop about a mile away, grateful for the aircon. On the way we saw two chicories (or so a passerby told us they were) that were trying to eat pinecones that were far too big for them to carry. They let us get close up for some nice photos.

After stopping in Mammoth Lakes for ice cream, I started the 323m journey to our next motel in Los Angeles. The road started through gorgeous mountain scenery. At one point, there was an extra lane for trucks to test their brakes, I guessed the route was about to become steep, so I made sure I was keeping to the speed limit (to be fair I never went over it too much as I could do without being pulled up by the police, local sheriff or what-have-you). Trucks were limited to 35 mph, and it was a great hill to whizz down with an awesome view.

In time the land reminded me of Wild West movies and then became scrubland. Glyn drove for a while, stopping only to go to a random lonesome shop called Glyn bought jerky for him and cheese stuffed olives for me, plus some cashews. We asked to use the restroom and the guy pressed a button under the counter and told us to follow a red line. This line took us from the shop around the back to a rough looking but usable restroom. We then drove past China Lake Naval Weapons Center which is a huge area of restricted land, which was intriguing.

I drove again for a while and once we got past Lancaster we noticed that the traffic started getting heavier, the roads had been wonderfully empty before. When we were about 100m from LA, I noticed that the roads were beginning to deteriorate, up until then they’d mostly been in great condition, but now they were cracked with ridges. There was a while when it became hard to keep the wheel straight. Then for the first time since I’ve been on this holiday, we came across a speed limit of up to 70mph!! To be honest, I was close to that already. In fact we’d got the ETA down by an hour and 20 mins in total, but I’m suspicious of Sheila our satnav, as the time went down even when below the speed limit.

When we had about 65 miles to go, Glyn took over driving and I was glad. The roads were beginning to get stupid. Without changing lanes, you find yourself changing lanes! Really! We’d be on the first lane for example and it would become the second lane, then the third and then maybe the second again, just with roads appearing and disappearing. At a few points the road was seven lanes wide and it was getting dark, not nice. Our California map did not show the area of LA we were going to, so we had to put our trust in Sheila – the same satnav that tried to get us to drive down a ravine more than once only yesterday. But Glyn got us safely to our motel in Lynwood – not the poshest of areas but it has good reviews on Trip Advisor. I can also say that it has the most reliable and fastest wifi I’ve experienced in a motel since I got here and the shower is better than others.

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About the author

Having only one cat, Claire is currently failing at being a mad cat lady, but she does have a mad cat, Bod. When Claire isn’t chasing cats and other animals with her camera, she works as a Graphic Design Manager.

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