Day 32 – Wednesday, July 31

We left Barstow this morning after checking out of the Rodeway Inn and doing laundry at Launderland — the first laundromat I’ve been to that accepts credit cards at the washers and dryers.   Our destination: a quaint little resort town called Las Vegas, about 300 miles away, where we planned to bask in the sun, sip drinks with little umbrellas, and get our nails done.  Actually, Vegas wasn’t on our initial itinerary, but Ethelyn will be meeting us here tomorrow!  She flew in to San Francisco today for a business meeting in the Bay Area tomorrow morning, and since she hasn’t seen Aytan or me for more than a month, thought she could meet up with us for a day or two, and Vegas seemed like the easiest place to meet.  So she will be adding a two-day layover in Vegas to her itinerary.  Now back to MY day.

A few hours outside Bakersfield we stopped for a late lunch in Barstow, a nothing town in the desert about halfway between Bakersfield (as well as LA) and Vegas.  After leaving the restaurant and heading back to the highway, we stopped at a red light, and I noticed a man and a woman walking on the sidewalk toward the corner, dressed in nice work clothes, and I commented how uncomfortable they must be, given that it was nearly 100 degrees.  No sooner had I said that that the woman crouched over the curb and began vomiting.  A lot.  It was bright red, but clearly not blood.  Perhaps too many daiquiris at lunch?  Actually, it was like a cherry slurpee from 7-Eleven, except rather than coming out of a spigot, it was coming out of the woman’s mouth.  How awesome is that?!?  Her companion just watched us gawking at her puke up the contents of her stomach, and when she finished hurling, the two just continued on their way as if nothing had happened.   Poetry in motion.

IMG_4874

An airplane graveyard in the Mojave Desert on the way to Vegas (notice all the windmills in the background)

IMG_4884

The world’s tallest non-functioning thermometer

A short while before crossing the border into Nevada we stopped for a pee break in the town of Baker, CA, home to the world’s tallest thermometer (or rather, the world’s tallest non-functioning thermometer).  And where did we make this piss stop?  At a Dairy Queen, of course — our first in about a week.  We noticed that two men waiting for their ice cream were being approached by several other customers, who said they watch their show.  So we followed suit; we approached the two men and asked them what show they’re on.  They told us they host “Barter Kings” on A&E (which neither Toby, Aytan nor I had ever heard of); the limousine they had bartered for on a previous episode had broken down on the side of the road a mile or so before Baker, and they left their crew with the vehicle while they decided to cool off with some DQ.  It’s good to be the king!

IMG_4881

Aytan with Antonio and Steve, the Barter Kings (and their respective DQ treats)

After finishing our ice cream and bidding Steve and Antonio (the Barter Kings) goodbye, we continued on to Vegas, arriving a bit after 7pm (having booked a hotel room thru Vegas.com about 10 minutes earlier).  After waiting on line (or is it “in line”?) one-and-a-half hours to check in — you read that correctly: the line to check in at the Quad Resort and Casino was 90 minutes long — we got to our shithole of a room just in time to throw our bags down and head out to Treasure Island for the 9:30 performance of Cirque du Soleil’s  “Mystère,” with tickets (second row, left center) courtesy of Kathy Merachnik, a friend from my hometown of Berkeley Heights, NJ, who works for Cirque du Soleil (thanks again, Kathy!).   The show, as expected, was amazing.   After the show we caught the free pirates-themed show in front of Treasure Island, which truly sucked; the fact that we had just seen an amazing Cirque du Soleil show prior just rubbed the suckiness in our faces that much more.

We walked around after the show for an hour or more — checking out a few other hotel/casinos and enjoying all the freaky tourists — and then headed back to our hotel room, where it is now 2:35am…. and time for me to hit the sack.

Day 31 – Tuesday, July 30

My bladder woke me this morning, as usual, well before even the birds were awake.  After a quick walk to the bathroom — our campsite was next to it, which is both a blessing and a curse — I returned to the tent at around 5:30 a.m. and fell back asleep, only to be woken an hour or so later by the loud voices of other campers, who apparently don’t understand the meaning of “quiet hours.”

IMG_4793

The stone outline on the ground mirrors the footprint of the General Sherman Tree

Following a well-balanced breakfast of fresh tangerines (purchased at the fruit stand of a local farm we passed yesterday) and a frosted cherry Pop Tart, we headed further into Sequoia National Park to see more of the famed giant sequoias, including the General Sherman Tree, billed as the largest tree on earth (by volume).  The top part of the tree is dead, so General Sherman won’t grow taller than its current height of 275 feet, but it has a maximum diameter of more than 36 feet — and a circumference of more than 100 feet!  (For you Monty Python fans, that’s WAY bigger than even Mr. Creosote.)

IMG_4804

Now THAT’s a big friggin’ tree (note the small man-child standing in front)

After admiring the tree’s heft for a while, Aytan and I took a two-mile walk around the Congress Trail and saw many other huge sequoias, several named after famous US presidents.

IMG_4823

No, you idiot — that’s the moon (as seen between two sequoias)

IMG_4812

Another big-ass tree

IMG_4817

…and another

After a quick lunch in our car, Toby suggested we take another hike, up Moro Rock.  Despite  Aytan’s protestations of nausea, we drove the mile or so to the start of the trail — or what we thought would be a trail, but is more of a staircase built into the rock.   So we climbed the 400 or so steps to the top, where we got some beautiful views of the surrounding valley.

IMG_4850

Me, Aytan and Toby at the top of Moro Rock

IMG_4839

One view from atop Moro Rock

IMG_4834

A view on the way up Moro Rock

We then headed out of the park, through one of the most-twisty roads I’ve ever driven.  I kept the car in 2nd or even 1st gear for much of the drive to take some pressure off the brakes– and to keep Aytan from throwing up.

Less than 30 minutes after leaving the park we got a real treat — a bear-cub sighting!  Toby spotted a black bear cub walking across someone’s yard on the side of the road, so I turned the Odyssey around just in time for us to see the cub run across the street and disappear into the woods.  It was pretty amazing.

To celebrate our brush with wildlife, we stopped about a mile later at Reimer’s Candies and Ice Cream in Three Rivers.  I started at the sweets shop with a chocolate-covered caramel and a small piece of cookies ‘n cream “bark,” then we headed next door to the ice cream shop.  After a double scoop (peaches ‘n cream and  wild blackberry), I can say that it was some of the best ice cream I’ve ever had — yes, it was that good!   So I spent the rest of the drive to Bakersfield (CA) in the happy splendor of a sugar coma, which wore off just before we checked in to the Rodeway Inn, our lodging for the evening.   (For those of you who have been sticking to my blog like flies on shit, you’ll remember that we stayed in a Rodeway Inn in Fife, WA, which I referred to as a shithole, because it was.   However, I’m happy to report that the Rodeway Inn in Bakersfield is well worth the $53.99/night — AAA rate for a double room with two queen beds.  It’s a very nice room, and Aytan was particularly impressed with the paper sanitary strip across the toilet seat.)