Smokey the Bear

Where there is smoke

Driving to Las Vegas

On Monday morning I drove to San Bernardino to collect my friends Patrick and Bret at the Metrolink station for the drive to Las Vegas. And thus begins a tale of smoke and no mirrors.

The flashing sign on I-215 was not a good omen: "I-215 closed ahead." The plan had been to take I-215 to I-15 and thence to Las Vegas. But even during the few minutes my car was in the Metrolink parking lot, it acquired a light dusting of ashes. Thus, it was with a level of apprehension that we set out on I-215, hoping the road was open, but suspecting that it would not be. And so it was.

We were forced to backtrack toward Los Angeles to get onto the I-15 at the junction with I-10. Luckily, the I-15 was still open, although smoke could be seen rising from quite close to the highway.

Smoke drifting across the highway Smoke drifting across the highway Click picture to enlarge
Pillar of smoke near I-15 Pillar of smoke near I-15 Click picture to enlarge

Leaving Las Vegas. By the time we were ready to leave Las Vegas on Wednesday morning, the winds had shifted and Las Vegas was enveloped by the smoke from California. We had planned all along to return to Palm Springs on a backroads route that Bret had found out about on the web. This was a good thing, because the papers reported that I-15 to California was now closed and alternate routes would be required. Undaunted, we shopped for provisions — lots of water and snacks — and set out for home.

Las Vegas Blvd Las Vegas Blvd
Smoke filled skies at Las Vegas Smoke filled skies at Las Vegas
Sun Sun

The sun was mostly obscured, and the smoke cast an eerie orange glow over everything. Our route took us through the Mojave National Preserve on byways with colorful names like Morningstar Mine Road, Kelbaker Road, and Cima Road. The roads were all two-lane, paved highways, with almost no traffic. Plenty of dips (where the road crossed a dry riverbed) provided plenty of entertainment for Bret and myself, sitting comfortably in the front seat, and plenty of simulated roller-coaster action for Patrick, belted safely into the back seat.

Here we all are doing a photo-op in the town of Cima, California. And just to clarify, the entire town of Cima is visible in these photos:

Bret Bret
Patrick Patrick
Paul Paul

There would be spectacular scenary along this route if one could have seen it through the smoke: awesome rock piles, volcano cones, sand dunes. I definitely plan to take this route on future trips to Las Vegas.

Meanwhile, back in Palm Springs, the skies are sunny and, as usual, most of the schmutz has been blocked by the mountains.