July 4, 2003

By Michael Strickland

On the Road Again

Today, we expressed our independence by seeing some of the sights along Highway 395. Starting out from, appropriately, Independence, we cruised south to Lone Pine, gateway to Mount Whitney, the highest point in the continental United States. There, in the foothills, the picturesque Alabama Hills beckoned us, as they did many Hollywood location scouts of old.

Though you may have never heard of Alabama Hills, you've seen them if you've watched such old westerns as "Gunga Din," "The Oregon Trail" and "How the West Was Won." Even more recent films such as "Star Trek: Generations" and "Tremors" were filmed here. Bizarre rock formations of all shapes and sizes extruded out of the shale. One could easily picture Hopalong Cassidy or the Lone Ranger riding amongst the boulders and canyons, hiding from or pursuing the bad guys.

Further south on the 395, we braved the 100-degree heat to venture out on the lava beds of Fossil Falls. Though the blistering sun made the black rocks too hot to bear for more than a half-hour, we climbed about on volcanic formations that looked like they belonged in Hawaii instead of the California desert.

Looking at the map for other unknown treasures along our route, we decided to head back up into the mountains to visit Lake Isabella. On the map, the lake appeared quite large, and surrounded as it was by offshoots of the Sequoia National Forest, we imagined another alpine lake like those we encountered in Onion Valley. This time, however, we weren't so lucky. Lake Isabella turned out to be quite an aquatic playground for the many people gathered on its dusty dirt banks, but the landscape more closely resembled that of the high desert to the east than the forested mountains to the north. After a brief lunch in Pam's Diner, the local greasy spoon, we headed back down to the 395.

Our destination for the night was Hesperia, a blooming high desert town where Lory's brother lives, but we made one more stop along the way. Just a mile off the 395 sits a hidden jewel of the Mojave. Called by some "a living ghost town," Randsburg is an old silver and gold mining town that, like many former mining towns, has become a burgeoning artists' colony. The main road—which takes all of 60 seconds to drive down—features shop after shop full of antiques, art and other goodies. What I found most quaint was the real, live "General Store" and the White House Saloon. At the latter, I bellied up to the circa-1907 bar and washed the dust of the road from my throat with an ice-cold pint of Mojave Red.

My Fourth of July routine most years consists of planting myself on the beach with lots of beer and sunscreen, waiting for night to fall and fireworks to crackle. This year certainly broke that routine, and provided a much richer experience than I would have gotten fighting the crowds on the hot sand.


©2003 Michael Strickland ALL RIGHTS RESERVED

What is "The Daily Strick"?

I have long called myself a writer, but too often I don't do what a writer must do daily: write. So you, dear reader, are the beneficiary of my resolution to make a positive change in at least one area of my life. Every single day of this new year (almost), I will write something, anything, and post it here. It is my intention to use this daily exercise to jump-start my too-long-dormant creative energies, and perhaps generate some worthwhile material this year. Hopefully you will find at least an occasional amusement or insight in my daily musings.

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July Columns:

7/21: Hiatus
7/17: Death Ship
7/16: The Da Vinci Code
7/15: Bad Moon Rising
7/14: Adios, Compay
7/13: Ty Odeh
7/10: Muse
7/6: Memories
7/4: On the Road Again
7/3: Onion Valley
7/2: Happy Independence Day
Previous months in The Archive

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