Santa Monica, CA to Las Vegas, NV
We got up Thursday and walked the beach near the Santa Monica pier. As Santa Monica is the end of our Route 66 trip, we splurged a bit on a hotel close to the beach. We walked out the hotel back door, across a quiet two-lane street and a small parking lot, and onto the sand. It was 65 degrees and the sky was blue to the horizons.
It was not crowded. On the bike paths were a few riders on “day rental” bikes. Some people were jogging or walking their dogs. We walked our coffee cups and enjoyed the quiet.
The beach was very wide in that area–probably 100 yards. As we approached the waterline the silence gave way to the noise from the waves.
We walked down the beach a ways to watch some surfers. They hovered on their surfboards about 75 yards out, waiting for the right wave. (How they could tell which was the right wave is beyond me.) A few surfers rode waves in, and then came over to ask us what time it was. I guess they were just getting in a little surfing before going to work.
We walked away from the water and into the restaurant at Shutters on the Beach, a beachfront hotel just south from the Pier. We sat at a window next to the bike path and the sand, and had a great breakfast watching the people along the beach. The restaurant was great, but the difference in tone between the restaurant and the beach outside was interesting.
The beach-as you would think-was very laid back and mellow. The restaurant was a little more commercial. The hotels in the area were full for a meeting of the American Film Marketing group. (Or something like that.) The restaurant was filled with what appeared to be film-industry types, shaking hands, air-kissing each other, and (I guess) making deals.
Sitting at breakfast we wished we had planned an extra day in Santa Monica. However, I had a meeting in Las Vegas scheduled for Friday afternoon. (The meeting was a serendipitous event calendared long after we scheduled our trip.) So instead of spending the entire morning on the beach, we walked back to our hotel, cleaned up, and packed.
Coming into Santa Monica, it had taken us most of the day to get across LA using Route 66. We were unsure how long it would take to get back out via freeway. (We had heard horror stories.) So we planned to leave the hotel mid-morning and probably stop in Barstow for the evening. As it turned out, we hit the freeway at just the right time (10:15 am) and were out of LA and back at El Cajon Pass by early afternoon.
We stopped at The Summit, an old Route 66 restaurant just east of the Pass. See photo above. The service was good and the food was great. The interior was a time-capsule from the 1960s. The Summit was a common filming spot for the old television show, Route 66. (POST-BLOG update: On August 16, 2016, the Summit Cafe burned down by a fire know as the Blue Cut fire.)
There we looked at the map, looked at the clock, and decided to push all the way to Las Vegas.
The route from LA to Las Vegas goes over the Mojave National Preserve, an area of the desert north of what we had seen earlier. Incredibly, this northern area was even more desolate than what we had seen previously. In that section, there had been clumps of grass growing between the low-lying creosote bushes and cactus. Here on the way to Vegas, no grass at all, just sand.
Close to the Nevada border, we came down and around a mountain area and were surprised by a huge, industrial development of some sort off to the side of the interstate. It looked like something out of science fiction. We took a photo, and guessed it was some sort of solar power facility. We were right. It is called the Ivanpah Solar Power Facility. Hundreds of mirrors, controlled by computer, focus sunlight on three towers. Water in the three towers is heated to steam, turning generators and generating electricity. Here are some other photos showing what this looks like. (According to the internet, the facility also tends to fry any birds that happen to fly through it.)
Further down the road, we were confronted with another surrealistic view. At the Nevada border, the desert erupts into lights, a discount shopping mall, and gambling establishments. For those who just can’t make it to Las Vegas, there is a closer, faster place to spend your money.
Finally we came around another low mountain and saw Las Vegas. There was still some daylight, but the city lights were starting a breathtaking show. We checked into a hotel and re-lived (and re-laughed) our travels and all we’ve experienced in the last 21 days.
Friday we had a leisurely breakfast at the hotel and drove around Vegas. I haven’t been here since 1978, and its been about that long for Marian also. I drive, stop at a light, and
gawk. Marian has the advantage; as navigator, she can gawk all the time. An amazing place close up.We checked into the meeting hotel (the Westin just off the Strip), and went to walking around before my meeting. Then I went to work. Friday night was a group dinner at a “speakeasy” place called Capo’s. Excellent conversation, excellent Italian food, and excellent entertainment from a magician who worked our room. (I still don’t know how he bent that quarter or did those card tricks.)
Saturday my meeting continued. Afterwards Marian and I walked around the Strip, took some photos, and watched the water fountain outside the Bellagio hotel.
We hoped to go see some show but we had to wait on the truck picking up the car. The driver had said he would be in Vegas around 5-6 PM, but then called at 5 to say it would be 8-9 PM. We planned to see the car onto the truck and then get a quiet dinner.
After we loaded the car and had dinner, we walked some more before deciding to take the High Roller Observation Wheel, located near the Strip at the LINQ Hotel. Two photos of beautiful memories, aside and below: