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Saturday, June 3, 2000

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Tucson to Las Vegas

I'm off! It's 3:00 AM and I'm sitting in the Tucson station waiting for the bus to Phoenix. I called three cab companies and two did not answer. It hadn't occurred to me that two in the morning was a busy time for cabs. You can tell I have a boring night life. The third company had a foreigner who couldn't understand me. When the cab wasn't there when they said it would be, I called back and, sure enough, the driver was looking for the wrong address. The dispatcher seemed to have a problem with3s and 5s. The driver was very nice when he arrived and whipped me to my destination. He had a white cap like the black muslims wear. Is 'black muslim' a good term still?

I felt like such a traveler buying an Ameripass. It always seems more like I'm off on an adventure when I get pass as opposed to just getting a ticket. It's also a little cheaper than buying separate bargain, purchase ahead tickets for each of my destinations. I dozed a little and woke up to the sky turning pink as the sun got ready to rise through the Phoenix smog. It was beautiful. At Phoenix everyone had to get off as this is a cleaning stop. Tucson is always a bad place to get on as people are tired from coming across country. Adding to this is that it's been several hours since the bus has been cleaned and and, at 3:00 AM veryone is cranky from sleeping on the bus.

I saw a Kerrville bus leaving from the Phoenix terminal. I thought they only ran in Texas so maybe Greyhound borrowed it. When our bus came it said Coach USA even though the bus line is KTS. There is so much inter ownership among the bus sysems. I also had to run back to the ticket counter and get a ticket to give the driver. That's the first time I've had to do that for KTS. Something new.

All the roads around the Phoenix terminal are torn up and pretty brick is being put in the intersection. We have to curve way around to get to the interstate. We get on I-10 E then I-17 N then back on I-10 W to head out of town. The traffic the other way is backed up for rush hour as it's 7:30 AM. We get off on Exit 133 and go north on 99th Ave. There are green farm lands here thanks to the CAP water I see gushing out of a pipe. There's quite a bit of construction as it turns into a freeway. We get off on Exit 9 and go west on Olive. We're in Peoria which seems rural but is about to get swallowed by commuters. There are several new housing developments.

We go north on 111th Ave toward Youngstown. The stop is at a Circle K just south of Grand Ave. We go west on Grand and slowly pass a train that is running next to us. We go through the town of Surprise, which is a great name for a town. We're soon out of town and running through desert. There's quite a bit of scrub even though we're in a drought. There is a rugged looking range of mountains to the north (Hieroglyphic Mtns ?), a few mountains to the south but everything else is very, very flat.

Soon we turn onto US-60 W. There's a very nice covered pedestrian overpass at Whitman, which isn't even on the map. There isn't much there plus I can't imagine the traffic being that bad this far out. Past Morristown we start going through some hills. There are cottonwoods to our left as we get close to Wickenburg so there must be a wash or river that I can't see. We pass the entrance to the Hassayampa River Preserve which answers my question. This is a Nature Conservancy preserve. The Greyhound stop is at a Subway but we go down the street to a Circle K for a break. Wickenburg is a nice desert town. I'd like to stop sometime and check out the historic area and the nature preserve.

I thought this had the same route as the one I took a couple years ago but that one went north on AZ-93 and this one continues west on US-60. This is the first time I've been on this section. We go through rolling hills to Aguila, which is a very poor looking town and the stop is at little stone building. The driver just pulled onto the shoulder across the street and let a guy off. Before Aguila there were some large irrigated fields.

There are power lines marching across the empty land with electricity from Lake Havasu. The towns appear as a clump of trees in the scrub. They're hunkered down against the unrelenting June heat. The irrigated fields also look like an unending attempt to beat the desert. The driver says that the highway patrol is stationed at Wenden and they go between there and I-10 constantly, so people who know stay within the speed limit on this section. We didn't even stop at Salome so the driver must have known there wasn't anyone waiting.

At Hope US-60 goes southwest to I-10 and we go northwest on AZ-72 towards Parker. AZ-72 is a narrower road and hasn't had it's dips and curves smoothed out as much as US-60. The land is looking even more barren and scruffy. We cross the CAP canal at mile 44. The water looks so cool and inviting against the barren land. I'd want to jump in if I didn't know that it's full of corrosive and poisonous chemicals from all the irrigation it:s already done.

AZ-72 ends when we hit AZ-95 . It's desolate as we head north and the land gets more hilly. It looks like sand dunes. We enter the Colorado Indian Reservation as we near the Colorado River. To the west we start seeing the irrigated fields but to the east it's still as barren as ever.

The lunch stop is at Parker at 10:30 AM at the Hole in the Wall Coffee Shop. It's an old fashioned coffee shop though the prices are modern. It's right next to a Motel 6, which is something I'm trying to track. We continue on AZ-95 along the east side of the Colorado River. The beautiful green water looks out of place against the barren hills which cause the highway to wind around, up and down. There are large areas of red earth which contrast with the brown of the hills and the green of the river. The light and shadows on the mountains across the river are beautiful. I don't understand people who think this is boring.

Lake Havasu City is a long, long town with what seems like all new houses and stores and hotels. The river is beautiful but since watersports don't interest me, I don't think I would want to live here. It seems like such an artificial place. The bus stop is at a Texaco Food Mart that even looks to artificial. We get on I-40 W and cross the Colorado River to Needles CA, still on I-40 . We exit at J Street in Needles to the Needles Point Liquor and Deli. We loop through town and cross the Colorado back to Arizona and AZ-95 north. We're out of the resort area and riding between flat, green irrigated fields. This is also the Mohave Indian Reservation.

I've seen several signs directing people to historic US-66. I can remember driving through here from California to Oklahoma on US-66 before interstates. Looking down at Laughlin from the other side of the river you see what a facade it is, a row of highrise hotels along the river with desert behind. At least Las Vegas has a little more depth behind the casinos. The bus stop at Bullhead City is the parking lot of the El Encanto Restaurant. It's just a drop off and we go over to Laughlin for a quick stop at the Riverside Casino.

We leave Laughlin on NV-163 to US-95 where we head north to Las Vegas. NV-163 is very winding with some steep grades. It must be a real problem since the traffic gets heavy at times. We join US-93 and are on a freeway again. The Henderson stop is another Circle K and we are on the last leg into Las Vegas. We take NV-143 back to the freeway where we are multiplexed with I-515, then downtown and into the Greyhound Bus Terminal.

A nice gentleman told me how to get to the bus so I walked up a block to Fremont and along it for a few blocks to Las Vegas Boulevard. It was nice walking under the massive web of steel that shades it and there were water misters along the side most of the way. This was built since I was last in downtown Las Vegas and makes it much nicer to walk to the casinos.

I took the bus to the Las Vegas International Hostel at 1208 Las Vegas Blvd. South. When I checked in I found I would be sharing a room with three guys. Evidently all their rooms are coed. This was a first for me. I've always stayed where they had women only dorms. The hostel is basically a very old hotel with a community kitchen. It's clean but closer to a flophouse than a hostel. I loaned my bus book to one of the guys who needed to figure out how to get to Yosemite and hoped I would get it back and it was on my bed when I got back from the casinos. It's over $100.00 per year to subscribe to it and I worry that someone will walk off with one when I'm traveling.

I took the bus down the strip to the new Paris casino. It is very spectcular but New York, New York is still my favorite. I wandered through several other casinos and spent $5.00 in quarters. I actually won once and ended up spending $4.75, not a high spender. I did like that in Paris I could buy a small loaf of walnut and raisin bread. It was good and crunchy, and a container of milk made a light supper. I wish there were more places while traveling you could get simple things like that.

I then walked most of the way back to the hostel, stopping to look at places along the way. I love to just wander through Las Vegas as it's so outrageously done but since I'm not into gambling a few hours every year or so are enough.

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(c) Rachel Aschmann 2000.
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