Kingman to Bakersfield

 

Got the tire patched this morning in Kingman for only eight bucks. I seem to remember this operation used to cost like three or five dollars or something. I think I even got it done for free once. Times change, I guess. Anyway, I felt much more secure afterward, I must admit.

  

I stopped by Kingman’s Route 66 Visitor Center, about a week before its “official” grand opening. It’s got potential. And they put me one the right road up the hills. And I mean straight up.

 

Secure enough, even, that I managed to almost completely avoid the interstate all day. I followed the old road through Oatman; the drive to Oatman was great. The road wound and twisted and went up and down just like Lucy and Desi is “The long Long Trailer”. Trudging along even at 30MPH seemed to push things a little. The town was pretty cool too, if somewhat infested with souvenir shops. I managed to have a passable lunch at a decent cafe.

 

Had to rejoin I-40 at the Colorado River to cross into California. I tried to find the spot where the Joads stopped and gazed in “The Grapes of Wrath”, but the road construction required a little too much attention, and soon I was back in my own state, smack dab in the middle of the Mojave Desert.

  

Wow…my last night in the road, and I’m spending it in Bakersfield. Seems a little anti-climactic, I guess. I might have actually driven all the way back tonight, but once I hit Barstow and returned to familiar turf, some of the excitement wore off and I realized just how beat I am. After all, as of today I’ve been on the road for five weeks…

Wish I were more excited to be returning to SF. I am anxious to get home, of course, but the thought of being back in Sodom-by-the-Bay doesn’t fill me with the joy and thrills it used to. But I digress.

After passing through the oasis of Needles, I continued on the old road through Essex and Amboy and Ludlow and a host of other towns which really don’t exist anymore. On one 45-mile stretch I doubt if I passed five cars.

I should have called the return trip from Oklahoma on Route 66 the Joad Memorial Leg. It seems I’m following the route from “The Grapes of Wrath” almost exactly, even as far as the turn north to Bakersfield. Fortunately, thanks to a cold snap, my trek through the desert was less taxing than theirs. Last time I checked, there were no dead grandmas in the trunk. And it’s a good thing I had no problems ‘cuz that’s one severely godforsaken road.

 

Barstow signaled the beginning of the end of the Mojave Desert. Y’know, I never would have guessed that I’d find myself in Barstow three times in 1997. Before this year, I’d never been there; I’m starting to feel at home now.

By the time I hit Bakersfield, I was tired of driving, tired of smoking, tired of wind, and REALLY tired of brown scenery. I’d forgotten how much I missed the greenness of the east coast and the midwest. When I paid $1.48 for a gallon of gas, my attitude about California did not improve.

But anyway, here I am. In Bakersfield. With the heat on. After five weeks of roasting all over the country, it finally got cold today. For that, I must still love California. Tomorrow will bring thrift stores in Fresno, and then the long drive across the Central Valley, through Altamont Pass and the Oakland Hills and across the Bay Bridge into San Francisco. Then it will all be over…

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