In Chapter 2, Dave escapes the madness of Reno and is delighted to discover the full ranch and rodeo experience in Graeagle
After a great couple of days in the Graeagle, altitude 5000ft, we left the High Sierras and followed winding roads through forests and beside rivers.
We eventually stopped for a late brunch in a charming little cafe overlooking a tumbling mountain river. We arrived in the Humbolt State Park where the giant redwoods reside and had a wonderful day hiking through an area which had some trees estimated to be 2500 years old! They are truly immense and hugely imposing.
The following day, we crossed the Coast Mountains and then followed the stunning Highway 1 down the coast for about 120 miles to Gualala.
Here, sadly, I said goodbye to my travelling companions for the last 220 miles as they all had to return to work next week. They continued on to San Francisco for their return flights, whereas I met with another old friend, Roger, who will accompany me on the journey across Nevada, Arizona, Texas and on to New Orleans for the 2,000 mile southern states circuit.
Leaving the Northern Californian coast we headed cross country into Nevada on small roads leading into the desert. For such a barren area it is strikingly beautiful with massive plateau valleys surrounded by mountains. Some of these valleys are 200 miles square and have virtually no habitation at all. Much of it is ‘open range’ and fuel stations can be as much as 130 miles apart. This is because it is the home of the original Hells Angels who started off as outlaw gangs of Korean veterans on motorcycles, too damaged by war to fit in, and then quickly graduated into organised crime. The ‘open carry’ law, meaning all weapons must be in plain sight does nothing to detract from this reputation.
We stopped in the small dusty desert town of Hawthorn, and found a museum dedicated to armaments and weapons. The town had been built up by the proximity of a local naval weapons storage depot which, after World War 2, housed as many at 10,000 sailors.
Then Vegas – a Disneyesque concoction, which somehow works. Totally and unapologetically artificial yet fun (although 2 nights here is enough!) Tomorrow the Grand Canyon, Hoover Dam and Arizona.
Travelling south out of Vegas we stopped at the Hoover Dam. This is a monumental piece of engineering which was built during the Great Depression by 5000 dispossessed Americans who came in search of any sort of work to feed themselves and their families. (People seem to have short memories – sounds like the economic migrants of today!). They worked 7 days a week, every day with the unpaid option of Christmas Day and Independence Day off. 5 cents an hour was the pay and very little regard was paid to the health and safety of the works. They proudly completed 2.5 years early and 30% under budget.
Next stop the Grand Canyon. The south rim is owned by the Hualapai Native Americans. We viewed the Canyon from Eagle Point, a very sacred area. The Hualapai revere the eagle as they believe that it is a giant eagle which will carry them to The Afterlife. Looking across from Eagle point you can see an entire massive stone eagle in the wall opposite! From The Grand Canyon, we carried on across the Mohave Desert and followed the stunning scenery through Peach Springs. Finally fulfilling a 50-year ambition to ride Route 66 on a Harley.
Now to Flagstaff, a historic old town which hosts the massive North Arizona University. This means the town is very buzzy with loads of pavement cafes, restaurants and music clubs. A really great little town.