Who knew there were so many different sorts of desert?
We headed out of Las Vegas on the inevitable freeway system. It was the Saturday of a long weekend so we figured the traffic would be better than than on the Sunday – and boy were we wrong! Almost as soon as we got out of Las Vegas and into the desert the traffic slowed..........and slowed..........and then slowed even more as we crept towards the state line with Arizona. There were no indications of road work – and who would be so silly as to do road works over long weekend?
The road winds through hills in a single lane. You can see where the freeway is being extended – there's some amazing engineering taking place to put bridges across gorges – and still we crawled. For over an hour we inched forward until we saw it – the Hoover Dam.
The Hoover Dam sits right on the border of Arizona and Nevada and is the result of the damming of the Colorado River. It's an absolutely spectacular piece of engineering – this huge dam constructed high up in the mountainous desert. The road goes right across the top of the dam – and everyone slows down as they drive across it. That's what held the traffic up for miles and miles – rubbernecking.
After Hoover Dam, the road descends onto flat plains, and then slightly hilly plains across the desert. This desert has a beauty all of its own. There are small green scrubby bushes spread through it, and as we climb higher, they seem to get taller and more tree-like.
It's quite a hike from Las Vegas to Flagstaff and the petrol gauge was dropping, so when we saw a turn off that showed petrol and restrooms (see – I'm getting good at this – in Australia we'd look for the signs to the toilets, but in the US it's restrooms) we took it.
And that's how we came to Chloride.
Chloride is a tiny township. There's a bar, a tourist centre (that's what the sign called it) and some locked up abandoned stores and houses. It's in the middle of the desert. There's a trailer park - and lest any of my Australian readers equate this to a caravan park – don't!!! This trailer park was full of old mobile homes in varying states of disrepair, Sitting out the front of the bar were 3 dudes who watched us drive in to town......and later watched us drive out again.
We pulled into the tourist centre and asked for the restroom, and where was the petrol? The creepiest fellow that I've seen in a long time just about screamed us 'We don't have gas!!! You'll have to go to go to Kingman!!!!(The nearest large town)'. Okkaay, we said.....and can you tell us where the restroom is? The normal looking woman behind the counter with the creepy guy began to answer and to direct us down the back, but the creepy guy was having none of that 'No!! I told you, the rest rooms aren't working! They're backed up!!!!!!' So we we drove out of town – past the guys in front the store, past the trailor park and back to the highway. We used the restrooms at Kingman.
The closer we got to Flagstaff, the higher and more hilly it became. The higher the hills, the higher the trees became until we were driving through some really gorgeous pine forests. We rolled down the windows and the smell of the pine forests was glorious. Ken told us where to turn off and we got to Flagstaff.
Flagstaff is an old western town that grew because it's where the railway is. It was also a key stop on Route 66 across the US before the highways kicked in. When we were looking on line there were lots of hotel reviews for places in town that said 'hotel was fine, but it backs onto the railway line and I didn't get any sleep all night'. The town has about 48,000 people, Northern Arizona University, and a really good feel to it. We liked it immediately.