On Friday morning I dragged my bones out of bed and dosed myself with acetaminophen, dropped off the key, bought myself a giant cup of coffee and took a slow drive downtown to check out the Capitol building and such.
St. Charles Hotel is typical of the remaining 19th Century architecture from the days when Carson City was the thriving center of the Motherload. Some of it survives in downtown near the state government buildings, but the Capitol is obscured by a small forest of trees:
The rest of Carson City reflects the boom/bust cycle of America’s 21st Century economy, empty mall parking lots with hundred of thousands of square feet of vacant anchor tenant buildings:
By 8:00am I headed south on US 395 to Mono Lake the ironic jewel of the Owens Valley site of the California Water Wars:
As Los Angeles grew in the late 1800s, it started to outgrow its water supply. Fred Eaton, mayor of Los Angeles, realized that water could flow from Owens Valley to Los Angeles via an aqueduct. The aqueduct construction was overseen by William Mulholland and was finished in 1913. The water rights were acquired through political fighting and, as described by one author, "chicanery, subterfuge ... and a strategy of lies". By the 1920s, so much water was diverted from the Owens Valley that agriculture became difficult. This led to the farmers trying to destroy the aqueduct. Los Angeles prevailed and kept the water flowing. By 1926, Owens Lake at the bottom of Owens Valley was completely dry due to water diversion. Between 1979 and 1994 David Gaines and the Mono Lake Committee engaged in a series of litigation with Los Angeles that eventually forced LADWP to stop diverting water from around Mono Lake. In the decade that followed the ecosystem recovery has been remarkable. (excerpted from Wikipedia)
South of Mono Lake the Owens Valley remains a desiccated arid landscape with dozens of ramshackle remains of barns, houses and businesses along the road. Perhaps the best preserved of these abandoned structures are the infamous barracks at the Manzanar Internment Camp:
For those of us who feel safer with the US Patriot Act, there’s a small problem at Manzanar which can and did happen here: On February 19, 1942, President Franklin D. Roosevelt signed Executive Order 9066, which authorized the Secretary of War to designate military commanders to prescribe military areas and to exclude "any or all persons" from such areas. The order also authorized the construction of what would later be called "relocation centers" by the War Relocation Authority (WRA) to house those who were to be excluded. This order resulted in the forced relocation of over 120,000 Japanese Americans, two-thirds of whom were native-born American citizens. The rest had been prevented from becoming citizens by federal law. Over 110,000 were incarcerated in the ten concentration camps located far inland and away from the coast. Manzanar was the first of the ten concentration camps to be established. (excerpt from Wikipedia)
I’d never stopped at Manzanar, but on this trip, thanks to the shut down, it was closed; so I headed on down the road past a hundred miles of barbed wire and not much of anything else.
Actually during the late fall and early winter US 395 can be very beautiful especially around sunrise:
I can also recommend taking the June Lake Loop and hiking up to Gem Lake which used to be fed by a small glacier that has over the last forty odd years melted away:
I also recommend a short side trip to the old gold mining town of Bodie, now a state park and the best preserved Ghost Town in California:
The major disadvantage to driving south on US 395 is Mohave, a high desert community that has gone through explosive growth over the past twenty years. Expect long waits at stop lights with crazy stupid traffic as 100,000 people seem to all be driving their cars at the same time for no particular reason. After the lunacy at Mohave I was determined to escape from California before sun down so I jumped on I-10 at Riverside and drove east to the Arizona border. As the sun was setting fifty miles west of Phoenix, I saw the exit for Tonopah and with the tune and lyrics of “Willing (Weed Whites and Wine)” running through my head I made the turn into town and checked into the only motel.
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