The day began with a whisper of coolness in the air and a much too exhausted puppy lying next to the bed. A quick look at the weather showed the day was going to be a good one, however, it was going to be warm and Nevada would be downright hot. This meant the hike I had planned for us in Nevada was going to have to be short and sweet as temperatures were going to rise quickly as the morning went on. But for here in Monterey, California the warm temps and a cool breeze off the ocean were going to make for a fantastic day.
My first time to Monterey was several years ago for work, I was in the airlines at the time, and came out to help start up a new station when the company decided to go out on their own. From touchdown to takeoff I was in love with the city, the location of the airport as well as the views that surrounded this town. Since then, it grew up a bit and almost all of the area was under construction. For once, California gave me a break and allowed me to see and go wherever I wanted to without a detour.
I packed up the car and headed back to the room for Aria and the last of our things. She laid in the corner with no anticipation or excitement to leave. In fact, I had to sweet talk her into letting me put on her harness and the look I was given was equivalent to an eye roll. I sat down next to her and began to pet and talk to her, I knew she was tired and not pleased with the "walking" accommodations of the hotel. I had never, in my life, had a dog be so picky about where they had to do their business but she was and the more I tried to coax her to pop a squat the more she refused. I was able to convince her we would find someplace but we needed to leave the room in order to do so. She wagged her tail, gave a lick and we were off to the car; only to turn back to the room because I had forgotten the car keys.
First stop was Fisherman's Wharf which was jammed pack, everyone was out and about enjoying the weather and the beach. I looped around and went down to Canary Street which was full of shops, cafes, and restaurants, also, a good place to get out and walk. I turned off and headed towards Ocean Boulevard which was a nice, leisure drive around the coastline with plenty of places to park and go down to the beach or stay up top and enjoy the view. I let Aria out and we began walking around and taking in the sites. The waves crashed against the rocks and I was able to take several photos. Aria took in the sights and was more interested in the birds than the ocean. While she made sure they kept their distance, I continued to take photos and enjoyed the blue skies and turquoise waters with a hint of deep blue.
A few minutes later we continued on Ocean Boulevard, made a few stops for more photos before heading over to 17 Mile Road. I would also like to point out there were still no "suitable" spots for Aria. Her mood hadn't improved and she became more and more reluctant about our stops.
17 Mile Road was a must-see coastal drive, but there was a fee to take this drive. At the gate, I received a brochure about the different stopping points and was told to follow the red line which would put me on 17 Mile Road. Once on the road, there were plenty of signs to guide me throughout the area.
There were two entrances/exits to 17 Mile Road, one is off of Ocean Boulevard near Monterey and the other was over by Carmel-By-The-Sea. That side came into a wooded and residential area and it took a few loops before water and pull-offs would be seen. From Ocean Boulevard, where I entered, was a residential area but once I turned on 17 Mile Road, a short distance from the gate, the ocean was right in front of me, as well as the first beach parking lot.
This area was very dog-friendly and welcomed them down to the beach as well as doggy bags and trash cans next to the parking lot. I pulled over to the first available parking area, opened the door for Aria who completely ignored me and the surroundings and was in a run toward a field...of grass!! Real, green grass and not some prickly thing that only looked like grass from a distance. Her feet barely touched the cool, soft grass before her face was overcome with relief and happiness. She ran back to me with a jump, lick and a bark, now we could hike. A quick stop at the garbage can and we were on our way towards the trail.
We began the walk with several stops for my photos and once on the trail, it became busy with people. Once again, Aria proved she could listen and remain by my side while people walked by. The other thing I liked about this area was how friendly people were and respectful of your dog. They didn't do anything to excite her, just smiled and kept walking.
One time, when a couple walked passed I heard them say, “I think that was a sheltie???” I turned and confirmed that she was, and Aria began barking as if to say, “Yeah that's who I am!” and the couple laughed and continued walking. She was also able to make friends with a golden retriever. Truth be told, Aria just wanted to take his toy away from him. We walked a little further with the sound of crashing waves against the rocks echoing around us. The salty breeze that blew through our hair was peaceful and comforting. The sky was blue and the temperatures were perfect. We finally had the perfect day. It made it difficult to head back to the car but we had to continue our drive and still had the Nevada drive ahead of us.
A few other things I saw on this drive included: Shepherd's Knoll, The Restless Sea, Spyglass Hill Golf Course, The Lone Cypress and The Ghost Tree just to name a few. There were times of the year, like now, when the Lone Cypress and The Ghost Tree couldn't be seen because of the large fence that had been put up. Seals are very common in this area and this specific location is where they go to breed and have their pups. Out of respect for them and the work of the conservation to protect and build the population the fences go up and nothing could be seen, however, I could hear them.
No trip to Monterey would be complete without visiting Carmel-By-The-Sea. It was a cute, cozy and busy little town with a bunch of shops and outdoor seating. I jumped onto the Scenic Drive, which was free of charge, and saw more of the Pacific Ocean. Once again this did cut through residential living but most of them were on the backside of the drive and didn't obstruct the view. There were plenty of parking areas at the beginning of the drive as well as access to the beach, this was also a one-way only route so I didn't have to worry about oncoming traffic. However, the last half of the drive, which was where some really good shots were, didn't allow parking or stopping.
After the drive was completed I headed out to California 1 and began heading East towards Nevada. I can now safely say that California let me leave in peace, or maybe it didn't want to delay my departure. It wasn't without a little teasing though. I would begin to relax and see ahead of me that I was heading towards the mountains and the road was cutting right between them with a steep incline ahead. I prepared myself for the challenge and then once we got to the top, nothing. Three times she did this to me. Sarcasm at its finest.
I digressed and sat back for the very long journey to the Las Vegas, Nevada area. This route wasn't without a few surprises. The first one being the haze in the distance that made seeing the mountains difficult. It was so thick at times I thought I was going to see a fire or maybe even a sandstorm but no, it was just a thick, brown haze that was covering the land as far as the eye could see. It was easy to get lost in my thoughts as there was nothing to look at, which then brought me to my phone which I used as a GPS. It decided to stop working, again, because it was "too hot" and then when it went so long without being able to give directions it would shut down. Aw, the joys of technology. It was in one of these re-set the GPS moments that I looked up and couldn't believe what I was seeing. A field full of oil dikes! Way too many for me to count and most of them were operating!
Welcome to Lost Hills, California. It was the 18th largest oil field in California in size, it had been increasing in productivity and had become California's second fastest-growing oil field.
It was also known for its natural gas reserve, which in 1998, had a blowout that produced a pillar of fire that lasted for 14 days and could be seen more than 40 miles away. It was a nice little break through the haze of both my mind and the scenery. As I continued, the traffic heading West was thick and heavy all the way to Nevada. I never saw any accidents and could only assume this was weekend traffic returning to California and I was glad I was headed East.
The last surprise came without even looking for it. I happened to glance off to my right and saw a field full of airplanes, not just any airplanes, but commercial airplanes. Even from the highway I could recognize the paint colors and knew the airlines these planes belonged to. I was taken aback, there was a tower but no active aircraft were coming or going. They were just sitting there. I pulled off on the next ramp to take a few shots. Questions flowed through my mind; is this where planes went to die when the airline was done with them? A maintenance hangar? Planes getting ready to begin service and this was where they go to be customized?
Those were the easy questions I could come up with at the moment. Then my mind went into conspiracy theories, X-Files, and other sci-fi movies I had watched over time. I was, after all, near Nevada and if not mistaken Area 51 was somewhere nearby. I do believe the movie Independence Day also had a scene about an unmarked air base, conveniently enough, also in the desert. But still; what could it be?
I discovered later it was the Mojave Air & Space Port located in Mojave, California. It was the leading aerospace test center for commercial operations in North America. There were over 60 companies that assisted in flight development, aerospace design, flight test, research and even manufacturing. It was also the first facility to be licensed in the United States for horizontal launches. Maybe that would be another explanation for weird lights in the sky over the desert; another X-files moment.
The rest of the trip continued on pretty smoothly until I was in the final stretch of the journey. Here, on I-15N, people became crazy and somewhat dangerous drivers. The speed limit was said to be a maximum of 70 MPH. I'm not even going to pretend I do that myself, however, I refused to push it to be between 20-25 MPH over the speed limit. The left lane was an accident waiting to happen as everyone played dodge around the car at high speeds, only to slam on the brakes because someone in front of them wasn't going that fast. I finally had to back way down on my speed and let them all pass which took several miles to do. Once I did that, I was able to enjoy the rest of the drive.
Now, if I was ever in doubt on whether or not I had entered Nevada from this route, I didn't have to, there was a town, just beyond the border that was 75% casinos and 10% hotels with a huge electronic billboard sign advertising silver and their local attraction which were the cars from the Fast and The Furious movies.
Plus my GPS decided to wake up and said, “Welcome to Nevada!” A bit of a startle seeing as how it had been giving me grief for the last several hours, dropped off when I needed to know which exit to take but would be there to welcome me to the new state...interesting. The next few towns that I passed were all full of casinos and hotels, the road curved again and there was Las Vegas.
I am glad I don't live here, even though I had given it some serious thought for a long time. When I entered, this incredible urge to hit the casinos came on and it took all of my strength to keep the car going and to not stop. I have a very addictive personality and now my mind wanted me to hit a casino?!? I'd be broke in about thirty minutes if I was lucky. I kept moving AWAY from the casinos. I expected my hotel to have a slot machine in the lobby, but thankfully, it did not.
Entering Boulder City was like being in a whole different county. It was hard to believe Las Vegas was a short distance away as there were no big casinos or flashing lights in this town. The only major attraction was, of course, Hoover Dam and my hotel was within view of it and Lake Mead. Aside from that, there were a lot of campgrounds, a few hotels, and fast food restaurants. People came here to get away from the casinos and enjoy the outdoors.
I pulled into the hotel and the room was on the second floor with a balcony. The sun was setting on arrival and the cool night felt good for a leisurely walk. This time of the year, the hotel was quiet with few cars and I was the only one in my section of the hotel; very nice. I was finally in for the night and felt good about the day. Tomorrow would bring a time for relaxation and some light exploring of the area. Before calling it a night both Aria and I stepped out on the patio, which offered seating and gazed at the view around and above us. It was a clear night filled with twinkling stars. I look up to the moon and gave thanks for the easy travel day, my safety through California and for a peaceful hotel. We headed back in and settled in for the night.
Driving across country can bring about some interesting situations. Broken down on a day by day basis enjoy my adventures and set backs along the way to some beautiful destinations.