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Desert Manna

September 14, 2013

California/Nevada – Wednesday, September 4

I headed out of San Bernardino knowing I only had one more California donation to make, and 2 miles left to walk. I was going to be heading east across the Mojave Desert toward Las Vegas in Nevada, so I knew I would have to finish things up before reaching the desert. The military also has 4 large chunks of land in this barren region that are used as weapons centers and gunnery ranges, and are closed to the public. It’s pretty barren, desolate land. So the last bit of civilization I would be driving through was the town of Barstow, and there was a food pantry there called Desert Manna. I called them to see if there were any particular items they needed, and the volunteer told me anything would be welcome. So I got to town, which was mostly brown and rocky, and first found a few neighborhood blocks with some green grass here and there. It was over 100 degrees, so I got Tula out for just a short walk by the grassy area. Then I found the local market and shopped for rice and beans, pasta and sauce, mac and cheese, canned fruit, cereal, tuna and peanut butter. I took it over to the food pantry and was happy to see some young volunteers there with the older ones. Barstow is an older, rural town on the edge of the desert that mostly seems to be a transportation hub, with a couple highways and railways intersecting. I didn’t really see any place in town that was good for a long walk, so I headed to the outlet malls on the edge of town. It seemed an odd place to have a couple outlet malls – but the first one I went to was abandoned, and just had sort of a creepy air to it. The other outlet mall (one of the Tanger chain) was just across the street and had quite a few people visiting, but the majority of them seemed to be Asian tourists who came on big buses. It all just seemed kind of strange and out of place. But I only had a mile and a half to go, and with rain threatening, I quickly finished it off.

Then I headed into the desert, and I enjoyed driving across that. I could see heavy clouds, and some cloudbursts in the distance – I could see for miles and miles around. At one point I came to one of the dirt roads leading into the Mojave National Preserve, so I drove down that for a ways, and felt like I was the only person on the planet. There were lots of stumpy little joshua trees in addition to all the sagebrush – I like them. And there was a sign for a turtle crossing (in the desert?) but I didn’t see any. I watched some heavy rainstorms come toward me, and figured I better turn around and get back on pavement instead of getting caught on dirt roads that don’t see a lot of rain. The pelting downpours had a dramatic affect on the temperatures – it had been about 106 degrees earlier in the day, and with all the rain, the temps then plummeted to 64. Crazy.

I continued my drive toward the Nevada border in the rain. My wonderful week in California was finished – all 56 miles walked (and fun to have my brother and sister walk some of them!) and 7 donations made – the Rural Human Services (Donate, Don’t Dump!) in Crescent City; Stuff the Turkey (Sacramento Food Bank); Red Cross blood donation; After the Finish Line (thoroughbred rescue and placement assistance); USO San Diego; Mama’s Kitchen in San Diego; and Desert Manna Food Pantry in Barstow.

Then I crossed into Nevada and right at the border, still in the desert, were a couple gaudy, neon-lit casinos out there in the middle of nowhere. Again, it seemed so out of place to have a couple casinos and a hotel and an unused roller coaster right there in the middle of the desert! It just doesn’t fit! But I guess that’s how Reno and Vegas got started too. I continued across the desert toward Las Vegas, where I was going to stop. I had found a brand new pet-friendly Red Roof Inn for a very reasonable price and it was only a mile off The Strip, where I planned to do some walking since it was now evening and getting too dark to walk anywhere else. In Vegas, one doesn’t have to worry about the dark! So I got settled in, then drove over to the Excalibur Hotel where I found some free public parking. Tula and I set off for some walking along the mega-theme-hotels and casinos. Las Vegas is not a place where one sees many dogs out for a walk – and quite a few people talked to Tula and commented about seeing a dog in town. It wasn’t horribly crowded since it was a weeknight in September, and we made our way past the Excalibur and New York, New York, and across from Paris, and headed toward the Bellagio. We had to go up and down stairs to use pedestrian crossings and it’s quite a hike from one hotel to another. Tula walked 3 miles with me, and then she was done. It was a very pleasant evening out, and I wanted to do a little more walking so I left Tula in the van, and this time I could cut through some of the hotels – although it’s very easy to get lost inside of them because they’re so huge, with different levels, shops and casinos in each one. My head became full of the “bing, bing, bing” slot machine noises! So I wove my way inside and out, past the hotels we’d already walked by, and then I stopped by the fountains in front of the Bellagio because people were gathering for the next fountain show. And it was pretty cool – every 15 minutes they play some song on the speakers and the fountains (there must be at least 100) “dance” to the music. The first time I watched, they played the Andrea Bocelli/Sarah Brightman duet, which I really like, and it was really beautiful with the music and fountains – although I could have done without the drunk guys near me trying to sing along with their fake opera voices! After that I made the long walk down to Caesar’s Palace and went inside the Roman Forum with all the shops and statues and the fake sky above, although none of the statues were moving – they were “resting”. And then I turned around and walked all the way back. I happened to pass the Bellagio again when another fountain show was about to start – this time the music was All That Jazz from the Chicago musical, and it was fun to see the fountains with a completely different style of music. By the time I got back to the van, I had walked 5 more miles and was it was almost midnight and I was tired! But it sure got my Nevada walking off to a good start!
























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One Comment
  1. Still enjoying your blog! As I read I can visualize the places you’ve been; and at the outlet malls I could feel the creepiness and strangeness. Since I’ve been in Vegas a few times I could “see” the fountains at The Bellagio. I’m having a nice trip – vicariously through you. 🙂

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