Driving to Phoenix

We loaded some stuff in the car that’s too big or otherwise inappropriate for airport security. Included is a 10″ reflector telescope and mount that just barely fits in the car at all. Also, a sharp new pair of Long’s Drugs 4″ barbershop scissors I wanted for trimming.

The drive is from the SF Bay Area to Phoenix. Our best time is 9 hours; our longest, about 12. This time we tried a new “long route”. Total time was about 13.5 hours but this included a 1-hour delay on account of a traffic accident that backed up traffic in highway 17 north of Phoenix for 20 miles.

The traditional route is to use the Interstate freeway system entirely. This takes you down Interstate 5 to the grapevine and Gorman Pass, down into the smoggy San Fernando Valley and to the Interstate 10 East connectors. You end up in LA freeway traffic for over 100 miles. If your timing is wrong you could spend half your vacation on the Pasadena Freeway. If all goes well you eventually cross the border into Arizona at Blythe.

The safer but slower route calls for a dogleg from I-5 onto state route 58 to route 99 and Bakersfield, then east on old US Highway 40 to the border at Needles. This is what we did. From Needles you can drive south and connect to I-10, or continue east to Flagstaff on US 40 and then south to Phoenix on state 17, which we did. I got a warning for speeding, just outside Flagstaff.

It is just getting too difficult to sit in a car 12 hours straight through. We stopped frequently for breaks. We overnighted at an “intersection town” called Buttonwillow just outside Bakersfield. Here you find all the map nodes where you find Phillips 66, MacDonalds and Motel 6. The settlements exist strictly to cater to the motoring public; the real employees who live in real homes live elsewhere, not here. If you want Motel 6, they still leave the light burning, but get a reservation. This one was filled up. We got the last room in a pricier place called the Willow something or other. Pricier, but no Holiday Inn. We found a nice basic diner with real good, real food.

All in all, I am probably not going to grouse so much about air travel in the future. A full two day drive with more stops for full meals and scenic photos would have been more fun, but you’re talkin’ four days of vacation round trip, just for the drive. It just makes the annoying inconvenience of airport security seem all the more attractive, doesn’t it?

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