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After spending a week in California, it was time to begin the long trek back east. Lucky day 13 would mostly be spent putting 500 miles of road behind us and getting 500 miles closer to the desert southwest where we’d explore during the next few days. We would traverse southern California to our ninth state, Nevada, and stop for a few brief excursions along the way to stretch our legs.

As we would be crossing the San Andreas Fault early in the day, we took our first planned detour a half hour off highway 41 to the “town” of Parkfield, a tiny hamlet that is home to a USGS earthquake monitoring site and self-proclaimed “Earthquake Capital of the World.” The road into Parkfield crosses the fault, which appears to be a dry creek, with signs announcing you are entering the Pacific or North American plates. We also found two markers with plaques explaining that the 12-foot distance between the markers represents the shift in the ground since 1931. Quite impressive! Fortunately for us earthquake-wary east coasters, the ground never trembled during our trip.

The rural road back to the highway was so quaint with ranch land flanking both sides, ground squirrels playing Frogger on the pavement ahead as we drove along, and local ranchers waving as we crossed paths. It’s always nice to get off the beaten path and experience a little bit of local life, even if just for an hour!

The infamous San Andreas Fault

The highway continued on to I-5 through orchards … so many orchards … more trees than I’ve ever seen before in my life! These trees grew oranges, almonds, and pistachios, and all among countless oil jacks over what was apparently the largest oil field we’d encountered so far.

In Bakersfield, we connected back to route 58 which would take us across the Mojave Desert again, the only portion of the trip where we would be retracing an earlier route. We were last on this highway a week early when we closed in on Sequoia National Park.

We had packed our lunch and scoped out a picturesque view where we could stop to eat in the car. That view ended up being at a Walgreen’s parking lot in the town of Tehachapi in the hills just east of Bakersfield. Sometimes beautiful views can be found at unlikely settings!

Our lovely Walgreen’s parking lot lunchtime view

Wind turbines … so many wind turbines

In the middle of the Mojave, we stopped at the Edwards Air Force Base north gate to indulge my inner wannabe astronaut. Edwards doesn’t offer public tours, but a B-52 Stratofortress (which spent its career lifting test vehicles, notably the X-15 program in the 1960s) is on display outside the gate and the main sign is always a great photo op. I had to stop for a minute and remember the dozens of space shuttle landings I watched on television over the years land at this very spot.

The road continued on to Barstow again (where we did NOT stop for gas this time!) where our route diverged on I-15 north to Las Vegas. From Barstow, I-40 begins and continues all the way back home to North Carolina, but we would be taking a northerly route highlighted mostly by I-70 for the long drive back home.

We didn’t have a desire to experience Vegas on this trip, but we just curious enough to catch a glimpse, being this close. So we hopped over to Las Vegas Boulevard at Flamingo and drove south down the Strip for several blocks, ending up at the historic Welcome to Fabulous Las Vegas sign at the southern end. There was a long line waiting to take photos and we certainly weren’t going to wait to take a photo with a SIGN, so we just scooted off to the side and out of the way for a decent shot to remember our ten minutes in Vegas by.

Now dinnertime, we knew this would be one of the last places to eat an In-N-Out as we would be heading farther and farther east so we gave it another shot. This time, I had the double double with fries and milkshakes all around again. The beefier burger WAS much better than the first experience and was very good.

After stopping at Whole Foods to stock up on food and supplies for the next few days in the desolate southwest, we arrived at our hotel on the edge of Lake Mead around the corner from the Hoover Dam, where our next day would begin bright and early.

Las Vegas