I’ve kind of been looking for an excuse to use that line lately. Besides, from what I understand they probably had a place or two like that in Bodie.
I have over 400 photos from my recent trip hosted in this collection. I’m not going to put them all up here but I will share some of my favorites along with a little summary of my route. You may have seen the map I posted, but I drove around 1,200 miles through Bakersfield to Las Vegas, then NW out of that area to Bishop on to Lee Vining, visiting Mono Lake and Bodie before coming home via the Tioga Pass. I enjoyed those last three things a whole lot as far as first-time things go.
In terms of the I-15 area, I’ve driven as far as Barstow one time and visited Calico some years back. If you’ve ever been to both Calico and Bodie, I don’t need to tell you which one is kitschy and which one has the true, authentic feel of a ghost town. I’ll get to that, though.
Driving along 15 from Barstow to Las Vegas is full of a lot of nothing, but I did take a lunch break in Baker. What’s amusing (to me) is I saw signs for the Mad Greek as far back as Barstow and I thought “Mad Greek Baker” meant pastries or cookies of some kind. I hadn’t actually recalled that Baker was a town. Been a while since I saw Fear And Loathing In Las Vegas, too (Baker is mentioned). Anyhow, I enjoyed the Mad Greek. The menu is pretty extensive so I just went with the basic gyro, and it was quite tasty:
A few months ago my brother and a cousin went out to the Ivanpah Dry Lake for a power kiting thing called Ivanpah Buggy Blast. They actually built their own buggies and I went out to a sod farm outside Lodi recently to hang out with my brother and take some pics of him rolling around in one. Out at Ivanpah they got up to about 50 MPH in those things.
Anyhow, as I was in the vicinity of the dry lake area and getting closer to Primm, I saw a strange sight off to the left. It was the solar array they recently got up and running and it reminded me a whole lot of a location in Fallout: New Vegas. Turns out the Ivanpah Solar Power Facility is unrelated to that, being much more recent, though the spot in the game was inspired by a real-life location or two. I didn’t take any photos while I was driving, but all three sites were up and running. It’s uniquely interesting.
Arriving in Las Vegas to temperatures around 105Â° or so, I was disappointed that the shady spots in the parking garage were all taken but it was understandable. Checking in at the Luxor, I was successfully upsold on a corner pyramid suite for $50 more a night (I guess it’s normally $100 or so if you just book online or call). Since I felt like treating myself a little, I went for it. That tub came in very handy for a good soaking both days:
The whole purpose of this trip originated with getting a photo pass to shoot a 311 concert at the Mandalay Bay Beach. I’ve seen them a number of times over the years but this venue is a stage surrounded by a pool and beach area that’s normally just a spot for people to relax in. I had the chance to see them at the Silver Legacy in Reno a month earlier and also shot that show, and I had fun with it both times. Of the two, Reno was more conventional because I could shoot from against the stage. At Mandalay Bay it’s separated and too high up for that, but I have to say being able to spend the show standing in a pool up to my shins when it’s 100Â° is pretty nice, especially once the sun’s gone down. I’d never shot any concerts before with passes so both times were kind of learning experiences.
I was planning on going back to Hoover Dam on the Sunday I was there. My first visit was March of 2012 so the weather was much nicer, but with it reaching 110Â° this time I decided to take advantage of the cooler temperatures in the hotels and just spent the time seeing various exhibits and shows. I checked out the Shark Reef Aquarium in Mandalay Bay, walked past a sports store that had Pete Rose there signing autographs (I didn’t bother), checked out a sports memorabilia exhibition in another place (lots of old jerseys and things from various sports) and the Titanic artifacts exhibition (impressive) at Luxor, and the Tournament of Kings (fun) at Excalibur. Oh, and my room at Luxor was up on the 25th floor, kind of a long way down (and the elevators go up diagonally):
As nice as it was to see a few things indoors Sunday, Monday and Tuesday were the highlights of the trip. I was considering a drive through Death Valley but decided not to risk it because temperatures were expected to be above 115Â°. Turns out they topped out around 110Â° so it probably would have been fine, but I took 95 NW out of Las Vegas and cut through along 168 to fill up in Bishop. Prior to that, I couldn’t help but stop in here and grab a mug and shirt:
I made it to Lee Vining by about 4:30 PM, which gave me just enough time to check in at the motel, drop my stuff off, and grab a quick bite to eat (decent burger from Mono Cone) before driving out to the South Tufa area of Mono Lake for a 6 PM guided tour I wanted to do. I’ve seen some remarkably lit photos from the area and while I don’t have anything like that, it was really cool seeing the tufa formations up close. Had I thought ahead, I probably would have brought my sandals out to walk in the lake a short way and get a closer look at the brine shrimp. I’ll let a few photos cover things here:
Tuesday morning, I got on the way north along 395 for the half-hour-or-so drive to Bodie. The last three miles are over a fairly rough dirt road they’re seeking input from visitors as to whether they should pave it or not, and while I guess it adds to the feeling of approaching the remote place Bodie is, I’d rather it was paved a bit further.
How much did I like Bodie? Over the approximately four hours I was there, I took close to 500 photos and uploaded around half of them. The state of “arrested decay” that helps preserve things the way they are or ought to be (in the case of fixing roofs that need it, for example) helps keep the 5% or so of what’s left from the town’s peak in good enough shape. While I’m sure a number of things have been placed or arranged to maximize the effect and walking interests, none of it really feels out of place. You can look through the windows into numerous houses or buildings and definitely get a sense of what it was like back then. Some examples of what can be seen:
What’s somewhat impressive to me is how much respect it seems most visitors give to Bodie. Naturally there are stories of curses coming to people who leave with so much as a single nail from the place and I read a story that said they tend to receive anonymous letters a couple times a month that include things that had been taken because weird things started happening to the people who did. It’s easy to be skeptical of that but I think it’s just something where it’s important to preserve a place of history like this.
As interesting as the remnants of the town itself are, the clear highlight was the tour I took part in of the Standard Stamp Mill. There were around a dozen or so of them if the info I have is right, and there’s one left. It’s obviously no longer in operation in any form, but though the site is considered hazardous and closed off, they conduct hour-long tours every day. From what the guide said, this mill burnt down in 1898 (I think) and was rebuilt within a few months. It processed gold and silver and we learned about each step along with the serious safety hazards such as 16-year old boys handling exposed mercury and only being switched off to another job once they began to show obvious health problems from it. In all the years of operation the only “recorded” death in the mill was of a foreman/supervisor. Yeah, sure.
Miners were paid the princely sum of $4 a day back then. Supposedly, if we go back to the year 1900, that would be the equivalent of around $110 a day now. To contrast, they said people who worked the stores made 50-90 cents a day and dockworkers in San Francisco made $2 a day, which was also considered good pay back then. With the life expectancy of a miner rather poor they tended to spend what they made quickly, often eating well and living quite comfortably in comparison to others. A “companion” for the night was said to have cost $5. Of course, if there wasn’t the threat of death from falling down a mine shaft, an explosion, or a mill accident, there were frequent gunfights and other types of violence. What a life! Here’s some stuff from the mill:
I would have stuck around longer but I still had the Tioga Pass to go through and I was trying to get home before dark because I realized I had a burnt-out headlight and didn’t really want to take a chance on getting a ticket (fix-it or otherwise). I grabbed lunch back in Lee Vining and got on my way. Of the hour-plus I spent stopped instead of driving, I enjoyed taking a few minutes to walk a bit in a river (Dana Fork) and Tenaya Lake, definitely not forgetting my sandals that time. Olmsted Point was also a nice spot but once I passed that area there wasn’t really anything worth stopping at the last 30 miles or so before getting to Big Oak Flat Road. I ended up getting home at 8 PM, so there was no risk of getting pulled over. Yay. A few sights from that area:
Overall, it’s a trip I’m very glad I took. I was able to visit some places I’d wanted to see for years and, in the case of Bodie, see a place I didn’t even know about until a few days before I finalized my plans. Apart from the time in Las Vegas, which was still fun for what it was, there isn’t much I enjoy more than exploring places I’ve never been before, especially when it has to do with nature and historical sites.
There are, of course, many more photos via the link up top, all much larger versions as well.