An excerpt from our Motoring Challenge Journal
10/13/2013: With the Federal Government shutdown, our San Miguel Island trip got cancelled. So what do we do with a free weekend on our hands? Hmmm. Road trip! The weekend weather looked good, so we planned our Owens Valley trip.
The first stop was Quartz Hill in Lancaster. Since we’d heard about the Musical Road, also in Lancaster, on Top Gear, we had to drive it in the TR4. We tried videoing it with the GoPro, but there was too much wind noise. We actually got our best recording on the digital camera! We’ll have to try this again in my truck with the BIG tires.
Next it was off to Death Valley via Trona. We first stopped at Garlock to get a photo of the “ghost town” sign. It gave us the idea to get others we knew we’d see on this trip, just for fun. We ate lunch at Trona, then headed towards Death Valley on Panamint Springs Road. We saw a sign saying the road was closed ahead, but we thought it was a joke due to the government shutdown – Death Valley shut down. That wasn’t it. There were floods in the spring and the road was washed out. We had to turn around at Ballarat. That added 100 miles to our trip! We did get the Ballarat ghost town sign though.
Back to Trona, then to Ridgecrest and to 395 north. As we entered Ridgecrest, we decided to use that as our R city, and we also got Kern County. Apparently Ridgecrest has a sister city in Mexico – Tepetitlan Jalisco. We couldn’t resist! Since we were heading up 395, we grabbed Inyo County today instead of tomorrow. We also got Cartago ghost town. We were running quite late by the time we arrived in Bishop, but we decided to drive up Hwy 6 to get the Mono County sign. We couldn’t resist getting the Provincetown MA sign (only 3205 miles) and a quick detour to Laws for another ghost town sign. Had dinner at BBQ Bills and wandered thru town a bit.
In the morning, we’d planned to have breakfast at Schat’s, but we wanted to head up to Aspendell to see the colors. It would also be a good test of how the TR4 did gong up Rambo Hill to 8500 feet. It did quite well, 4th gear all the way with plenty of pull. We did have to slow for several deer on the road. There was snow on the ground and it was quite cool. Pam was bundled in her down jacket (we were stubborn and weren’t putting the hood up the whole trip even if it killed us!), but all I had on was my fleece. The aspens were all golden and very pretty. We drove thru Aspendell and check on the property, then down the road to Cardinal Village. Surprisingly, it was open, so we decided to have breakfast there. We got a photo under the Cardinal Village sign and in front of the old gas pump. Back thru Aspendell for a photo in front of the beautiful Aspendell sign. Sorry Agoura Hills, but we have a new A city! We also got Inyo National Forest on the way down the hill.
Out of Big Pine, we found the Zurich placard for our Z city. It’s a bit of a stretch, but we’ll take it. Next was Manzanar. We got the official photo with the NPS arrowhead, but also one with the “Park Closed” sign. Since our Death Valley and Keeler points got foiled on Saturday, we decided to detour on Sunday around Owens Dry Lake to get them. We also got Cerro Gordo, Dolomite and Darwin ghost towns. In Keeler, we got another old gas pump photo. Finally the long drive home.
790 miles in two days, and on a straight deserted back road, I got the TR4 up to 94 MPH. It was still pulling strong, but the wheel was getting a little squirrely. Definitely need to get the front suspension rebuild done! The car ran fabulously. The weather was clear and sunny, and just the right temperature for a road trip.
By Joel and Pam Justin