Day 21 Route 66 - Barstow to Boulder City (side-trip to Nevada via Mojave Desert National Preserve) 232.9 miles

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June 26th 2012
Published: June 29th 2012
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Today we headed in the wrong direction (again!) so that we could visit the Mojave Desert and then head on up to Las Vegas for a few days before concluding our journey through middle America on Route 66.

After taking a few photos this morning in downtown Barstow, we drove east along I-40 back to the entrance to the Mojave Desert National Preserve. We drove in the Kelbaker Road towards the Kelso Depot Visitor Centre making a stop at the Kelso Dunes along the way. These are huge sand dunes in the middle of the desert that are made by the wind blowing sand from Soda Lake, a dry lake, near Zzyzx. The sand laden winds hit the Granite Mountains and dump the sand in front of them thereby creating the massive sand dunes. You can hike to the top of the dunes, but we decided to give that a miss!! It sounded way to strenuous to attempt at 40°C.

At Kelso, in the middle of the preserve, we spent some time at the Kelso Depot - a railroad stop and railroad worker's quarters in the 20s and 30s that has been restored into a museum, visitor's centre and cafe. It is a lovely oasis in the middle of the desert!!

After an early lunch we drove out the Cima Road to the Teutonia Peak Trail to see the world's largest Joshua Tree Forest on the slope of Cima Dome. These Joshua Trees are much taller than the sub-species that grows further south in the Joshua Tree National Park which we drove through in 1997. We walked a short way along the Teutonia Peak Trail to take a few photos, but then we retreated to the air-conditioned comfort of the Mustang!!

Back at the Cima junction we headed north east on the Morning Star Mine Road along the Ivanpah Valley which was backed by the New York Mountains. Eventually we reached the small settlement of Nipton, a green patch on the landscape that we had been able to see for miles.

Arriving at the junction with Highway 95 we pointed the Mustang north for Boulder City where Bernie had booked the historic Boulder Dam Hotel for the night. When we were in the US with Michael, Samantha and Simone in 2006 we drove past the Hoover Dam and saw the footings for the new bridge being built over Black Canyon to relieve the bottle-neck caused by Highway 93 traversing the dam wall. Knowing that the bridge was opened in 2010 we had long planned to include it in our itinerary.

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