I headed south on U.S. 395 past one of the most spectacular scenic routes in the country that as far as I could recall rivaled any Rocky Mountain scenery. The drive on I-25 parallel to the Front Range just north of Colorado Springs could come in a close second, but I don’t think it compared to the jagged precipitous snow-capped peaks of the Sierra Nevada Mountain Range with Mt. Whitney at 14,491 feet (the highest peak in the contiguous states) looming over it all. On the geological calendar, the Sierras were one of the newest mountain ranges anywhere since the effects of eons of erosion had spanned considerably less cosmic time than, say, that of the Appalachians.
I continued south through the tiny towns of Big Pine and Lone Pine still marveling at the grandeur of the Sierras with its preponderance of pine trees in the Inyo National Forest as a fitting foreground for the mountains. About 25 miles south of Lone Pine, I turned east at Olancha onto CA 190 and headed toward approximately 5,000 square miles of the hottest, driest, lowest, most unforgiving patch of land in the entire country, a.k.a. Death Valley National Monument. As I was driving into what was appropriately monikered by the locals as “Hell’s Kitchen” (or “Dante’s Inferno”), I couldn’t help but recall what an extraordinary experience it had been traversing the Golden State up and down, back and forth, for some 2,500 miles seeing all the disparities of the most unique state in the union. From shining sea to desert bloom, I figured The Lord must have had a special plan in mind when He created California.
Well, now you can revert back to paragraph four on page 25 for a continuation of the travelogue. I apologize for the diversion, but I didn’t want you to miss one scintillating moment of my journey. I was so thankful that I had taped the entire odyssey along with keeping a mileage log at every gas stop. The truth be known, I actually typed this travelogue 20 years after the fact in the summer of ’06. It goes without saying I had to be careful not to print anything that was around now in 2006 but unheard of in the mid-80s. I was constantly reminding myself of any discrepancies that I might accidentally print. One incident in particular was at the Yosemite campground where I asked young Tommy what he missed most after spending five days in the mountains. My first inclination was to mention Pac Man or some video games, but I wasn’t quite sure if they were in vogue at the time, so I dismissed the idea to be safe. In retrospect, I wonder if I was right on.