We knew when we planned the trip that Springdale (Zion National Park) to Yosemite was going to be our longest drive. But we hadn’t reckoned with the need to loop right back down south past Las Vegas to avoid slow and possibly dangerous roads through places like Death Valley.
Anyway, we were packed and ready to go as breakfast opened at 6.00 and it helped that we were due to gain an hour as we came out of Utah.
The early part of the trip continued through beautiful canyon country as we followed the Virgin River down towards Lake Mead.
We went on through the randomly scattered buildings of apparently unplanned towns which were bisected by our six-lane divided highway.
And here we are anxiously taking the Express lanes of Interstate 15 through the centre of Las Vegas – separated from four lanes of rushing local traffic on the right – the correct choice of lanes as it turned out.
There were three of these massive solar power plants in the Mojave desert just inside the California state line – thumbing a nose, perhaps, at profligate Nevada.
The US 15 arrowed across the Mojave desert – sometimes stretching straight ahead tens of miles away to the murky horizon.
There was nothing that we would recognise as a service area, just occasional windswept ‘Rest Areas’, with the usual cathedral-like toilet cubicles and a few vending machines. One was marked gourmet coffee and we rushed to it gratefully, cash in hand, only to find a rough note inside the glass saying “Sorry – it’s broke”.
Heavy traffic, many huge trucks and a powerful, buffeting wind made for trying driving as the day wore on and the miles to go slowly wound down.
As the desert finally gave way to tentative green at the Tehachapi Mountains a whole landscape was covered with a vast wind farm containing hundreds of times as many turbines as we’ve ever seen in Britain.
North of Bakersfield we passed mile upon mile of fruit farms and vineyards, plus distant views of huge industrial cattle rearing stations – hundreds of Friesian cattle in pens partly covered by metal sun shades. Everything totally dependent on irrigation in this great California drought – all the surrounding vegetation dry and yellow.
And when we eventually reached Yosemite the dead pines everywhere were enough to break your heart.