Laughlin, Forgettable. Pahrump, Memorable

highway 95 We are heading north on Highway 95 now, on very smooth, very straight 2 lane road.  Mo is driving and there is very little traffic.  As our trip is winding down, both of us are a bit ready to just hit the road and keep moving rather than lingering much longer.  The original plan included a possible trip into Death Valley and a possible route north on 395.  We both love Death Valley and have spent time there, and we have traveled 395 many times.  395 is gorgeous, and the Alabama Hills near Lone Pine is one of our favorite places.  But we have been there.  Somehow this time the open spaces of Nevada called us with the direct route north. 

tiny town of Shoshone gateway to the southern end of Death ValleyI love traveling through this part of Nevada.  The vistas are so wide, huge alluvial fans as far as the eye can see, sloping gently upward to the contorted rugged volcanic ridges, broken by layers of uplifted sediments, and subtly colored by all the eternities of evolution of this landscape.  As a soil mapper, one of the indicators we use to identify soil change is the vegetation pattern.  Here in this part of the world those subtle changes are easily visible. 

no more saguaros, now Joshua trees and smell the sage! Crossing a playa with crusted salt surfaces, up a bit more to a low basin covered with greasewood, tells me it is still salty.  In the distance, at the foot of the contorted hills the greasewood drops out and creosote appears, a faint hint of filmy green across the distance.  Less salt.  Rising higher, the gray mounds of low sage and an occasional Joshua tree.  Each of those variations will indicate to me that the soil is changing, not only the salts on the surface, but the hard petrocalcic layers below the surface, the mixed up crazy gravels and cobbles of the alluvial fans, the shallow bedrock soils of the ridges. 

wildflowers are blooming looking south toward Tecopa Mapping soils in the desert is a beautiful thing, at least if you have a 4 wheeler and access.  In this day it seems that unless the mappers are on federal lands, the access in extremely limited.  People are protective of their rights, their property, and no longer trust the government.  A geologist or a botanist or a soil scientist may be a threat and not a help in their minds.  It’s a bit of a sad thing for the young soil scientists coming up now, trying to do their jobs, constantly hindered by suspicious landowners. I was lucky.  I mapped almost a million acres of ground, much of it wild and free lands in the Pacific Northwest, just a tiny bit of southern deserts.  Lucky me!

mass exodus of the Canadians Traveling north from Phoenix to Laughlin was uneventful.  We took Highway 60 northwest and avoided the fast pace and crowded traffic on I-17, but once we arrived at I-40 near Wickenburg the RV’s were almost bumper to bumper.  It was the mass exodus of the Canadians in full force.  Alberta, British Columbia, Manitoba, Saskatchewan plates in abundance.  I never saw a Quebec or Ontario, though.  Laughlin wasn’t far from the Interstate, and before long we were dropping down to the Colorado River and the town of Bullhead City.  Right before our turnoff to a possible RV park we found the Mojave County Park, with what looked to be fairly nice sites along the river.  With a fee of $21 for the night, we settled in to a back in site near the river.  The temperature read 99.9 degrees and within a few minutes it read 100.  March 31, and 100 degrees!  We pulled the shades, turned on the air conditioner and napped and read in the cool dim light until 6:30 that night! 

hot as heck in LaughlinWhen the sun finally let up a bit, we took a walk down to the river so Abby could cool off and swim, and got in the Tracker to check out Bullhead City and then cross the bridge to Laughlin and the casinos. Twilight was deepening and the lights of the casinos looked dramatic and lovely reflected on the river.  Laughlin itself wasn’t much to speak of, especially with the extensive construction on Casino Drive.  The marquees said nothing about shows, only advertising their buffet dinners and hotel rooms.  We drove up to Harrah’s and almost left before we finally found an entrance to the Casino.  We can at least do things like this at night now and then, because Abby seems to be content to settle down and sleep in the car if it is dark outside. 

Phoenix to Laughlin (12) Mo and I like to play the slots a bit, and to us it is a win if our 20 bucks each lets us play a couple of hours and have fun.  Cheap entertainment.  Neither of us is likely to go over that 20 limit and we rarely win anything, but I still like the lights and the glitz of the casinos.  It’s especially fun to watch the people there.  We saw one very old lady, very skinny, dressed up in diamonds and sparkles, with shiny reflective leopard skin jacket. leather pants, and sequins everywhere.  After a short time at Harrah’s, we went to the Royal Palm Casino, with it’s marquee shouting out that it had the newest slot games.  Here we found a sign to the River Walk, which I had heard was a nice thing to do in Laughlin, but it was dark and buggy out, so we decided against it.  Another move into the Colorado Belle Casino, dolled up to look like a big riverboat was our final destination for the evening, with our $20 increased a bit with some bells and whistles and then again finally gone. 

nice park Originally we thought we might stay two nights in Laughlin, having heard and read much about it from RV’rs and travel magazines.  Not for us, I guess.  We aren’t enough into gambling and town camping to really enjoy it that much. we also didn’t bring our kayaks along on this desert trip, and the Colorado River here was wide and fast.  It seemed there were lots of water craft around, including noisy jet skis.  Instead we decided to spend our extra night at Pahrump, another place much touted by RV’rs for the winter.  I guess we would find out the next day.