Where’d We Go: Laughlin, NV – Baker & Rice, CA
It seems lately, every time I’m eager to go on a weekend adventure, I continue to find myself past the 5 o’ clock hour sitting at my desk watching the minutes go by till I can ditch work at a reasonable stopping point. In this case, I ran an hour behind schedule before hitting the road to start an 800 mile journey around Southern Nevada and California.
The cause of this trip is mostly due to the car I have on loan this particular week. It’s the 2016 Nissan Altima. Nothing to fancy or special about this Altima, it is the base 2.5-liter engine; however, Nissan claims an astonishing 39 mpg highway… from a full size sedan that’s mighty impressive. So to find out if it’s true, I set out a route to visit some unique odd roadside attractions to not only see if 39 mpg is obtainable but to see if I can keep it there.
Because I got a late start to my journey, I did manage to avoid the traffic heading out of town when I left Phoenix around 6:30pm – perfect for my fuel consumption test. First stop was Laughlin, NV. Getting there was no special thing – the road was fairly empty and boring, but I had signal the whole way, so I turned on Netflix to help pass the time. And because night fell, getting some of the same pictures as I did in the Lincoln MKX or Scion iM really felt irrelevant.
As I approach Laughlin – it’s appeared like a mini Las Vegas from a distance. The casino lights sparkled in the night sky, as I got closer, there was a certain odor that seemed familiar… something that I’d find in my grandparents Mercury Gran Marquis. Since this was just a stop for the night, I checked into my hotel and decided to walk around for a bit, snap some pictures and mingle with some stumbling travelers.
So far the 150 mile drive to Laughlin has kept me looking good on my mpg average having maintained a steady 40.1 on the trip computer… which isn’t easy I might add. I knew it was going to be hard the rest of the way… but I’ll keep going.
Going into day 2 – the other real reason for my travel – Baker, California. It is home to the World’s Largest Thermometer. Call me a dork, but I love this stuff! Odd roadside attractions. The thermometer was built to honor the hottest day every recorded in history at 134 degrees in the heart of Death Valley. In 1991 it was constructed and built to be 134 feet tall to honor that epic blistering day. It is now owned and ran by the family that built it and makes for a unique stop and history lesson for curious travelers.
Now that I have come out for what I really wanted, heading back home was the hard part. Heading back east… or go South through some odd deserted towns. I think you know which way I went!
After my stop in Baker, I read about this town, Zzyzx. It was roughly 20 miles southwest of Baker and sounded like it would be worth a stop. The town was originally known as Soda Spring; however, a man by the name of Curtis Howe Springer decided to rename it Zzyzx as it was the last word in the English Language. There isn’t much to the town but a natural spring lake and a few residents. It’s worth a visit if you don’t mind walking about half a mile to it when its 115 degrees. It’s quite literally an oasis in the middle of the desert.
From there it was southbound to a portion of the historic Route 66. I love the old Route 66 and my friend Tyson was eager for me to visit the infamous Roy’s Motel and Café sign. But getting there was the hardest part. Not because of road access, but because the road there was the boringest road I have ever been on. Not even lane lines for me to count to keep me distracted. But I did shuffle through all 230 Sirus XM radio channels – like cable, nothing good was on. Once I was there though, it was pretty epic in person. If you’re a dork like me anyways.
Since I was in Amboy, I thought I’d also take a look at the Guardian Lions. I’m not sure why they’re there. But there are two of them, one male and one female about a quarter of a mile apart from each other. There was a guest sign in a book, I signed my Instagram and went on my merry way.
It’s a long way back home, so I continued southeasterly. My original plan was to stay in Parker, Arizona. But with the poor cell service I couldn’t pull up if there were any motels in that area, so I changed routes to Blythe, CA. Doing this I came across a very odd roadside discovery… a shoe fence. Thousands upon thousands of shoes in Rice, CA – there was some smelly ones. There once was a tree that collected all these shoes… im guessing it died and thus they built a fence. Another fun fact, it was featured in the movie Fast Five for the train scene at the very beginning of the movie. Go figure!
Upon arrival into Blythe, I do have some bad news… the whole MPG thing, yeah, we’re still on that… we lost 4 of them. Like I said, its hard work and let’s face the fact, the world isn’t flat – there’s mountains to climb and speeding 18-wheelers we have to keep pace with. 36 mpg is my current readout, but let’s remember there is still another 200 miles ahead of us back to Phoenix… I still could save us here.
Having stopped in Blythe for the night, I did manage to visit one of my favorite restaurants here, Courtesy Café. It’s such a quaint little diner from 1963 and they keep everything original here. I love the staff here, they always are so cheery whenever I walk in and they’re never too busy for me.
Well… I’m back in Phoenix and sadly it only got worst from there… I lost another 2 mpg off its average leaving me with 34 mpg for a totally combined average after 800 miles. Sad day, but none the less, still pretty impressive and it made for a pretty awesome road trip.
Hmm, that’s too bad the overall MPG didn’t shake out to be what you wanted it to, but you were on a roll from the beginning. I’m jealous you got to see Zzyzx because I’ve always wanted to check it out. By the way, was anything open at Roy’s? Place looked abandoned when my family and I drove past the last time.
We’ll definitely have to go back to Zzyzx. It was too hot to explore since I had to park down the road. There was a small café open at Roy’s but it was surrounded by 30+ bikers so I didn’t bother going in.
Great piece but how did you miss the Kelso Train Depot? And, um, my C300 gets about the same mileage….
I thought that was an abandoned church. Dang it! Next time! Yeah, most cars I think can get 34 mpg highway. I was really hoping to see 40 last longer.
I wanted to see the Kelso Train Depot as well, but was with my grandma, aunt, and mom and they were dead-set on hurrying to Palm Springs. Another trip is in order! Also need to explore Joshua Tree National Park.
I think so! I wanted to stop by Joshua Tree but there just wasn’t enough time and it was blazing hot.