Tuesday, February 27, 2007

Our trip across the USA Day 5!

Well we are finally here! The last day turned out to be an eventful one- the driving was very different and so was the weather at the end. Its strange to think that we arrived the day before we were supposed to leave :-)

So from the beginning...
We left Needles CA back on I40 into the Mojave Desert. Picture some sand but largely rolling hills and miles of desert plants- low lying due to the wind, some cacti and Joshua trees. We found at later that Joshua trees only grow in the Mojave desert- (they look like large Yucca plants!!) As you can imagine there is nothing but desert for as far as you can see- very beautiful and calm, with just one road running through it and the occasional pullover area. Amazingly, we had cell phone coverage the whole way, and a local radio station that told us of the conditions for both road and weather too. Talking of cell phones, I have a Sprint phone and I think I've had coverage just about all the way- one or two small dead spots- I know because the GPS on the phone relies on having a signal to be able to get accurate directions and we rarely have not had the GPS working- pretty stunning really.

We also drove past one very black looking area, which showed a low lying peak near the center- it was marked on the map as the Pisgah Crater, and we later found out that it is an old but still active volcano that last erupted 2000 years ago, and what we were seeing was the basalt. Apparently time and natural erosion has eroded the peak of it- quite fascinating- a geologist would have a great time doing this trip. It is also only one of many active volcanoes along that string of mountains.

The Mojave desert was almost done by the end of I40- strange not to be following it anymore. By the way, I40 is also designated as the Purple Heart Trail in many states and they hope to make the full length that way- as a tribute to fallen American soldiers.

Then we headed on CA 182 towards the beginning of the Tehachapi Pass which is at the southern end of the Sierra Nevada mountains. First we saw low flying aeroplanes, which should have given us the clue that we were close to Edwards air force base (for the Brits, it is a air force testing ground). The planes were dark and flying very fast..

Then we saw a huge number of air turbines covering the mountains in the distance- we found out later (thank goodness for the internet!) that it is one of the largest wind farms in the states, and has been there since the early 80's - the turbines have obviously been updated since but they were originally put there as a result of the energy crisis at that time.

Then we hit the pass itself which is at 3793 ft and a very long downhill roller coaster ride towards the San Joaquin Valley. It was like driving in Switzerland, or the Welsh mountains- beautiful green rolling hills covered in grass with only a few trees- steep roads curving around and down the mountain. Wow! Gorgeous but took some concentrating!

Finally you hit the very flat valley loaded with fruit trees in blossom, and orange trees with fallen fruit - probably as a result of the recent freeze which hit the southern US recently. The driving again was also a different kettle of fish- the difference between long distance drivers, taking it easy and moving in and out of lanes only to pass, to aggressive local drivers, all trying to get somewhere fast- and a lot more of them. It was a bit of a shock after four days of very easy driving. Then to top it off, it started to rain the closer we got towards our destination. We did still manage to cheer when we saw our first sign for San Jose! You have to leave Interstate 5 and drive over the hills to get on 101 towards San Jose, so another roller coaster ride up and then down. It was hard to drive past Morgan Hill, which is where our new apartment is, to go to Dick's corporate apartment. We finally got there at 4:30 pm having driven a total of 2580 miles!

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