Tuesday, October 15, 2019

US95: Another US Highway Without End

Is there proper US95 "End" or "Begin" signage at the border with Canada? In a word, no.

The Eastport port of entry is all business, dominated by substantial facilities of both the US and Canada. There were only a few vehicles, almost all of them trucks, most of those transporting cattle.

There is no town at the border, of any kind on either side. Besides customs and border control facilities, there's a post office, though I have no idea why it is there. There is also a duty free shop, which seems to be ubiquitous at borders.

Now, down to the big question: No, there is no "End" sign for US95 at the border. In fact, heading north, the last sign of any kind is quite a ways down the road to the south.

Immediately upon entering from Canada, this sign provides a pointer to the south. I guess it's too much to ask to have it embellished with "South" and "Begin."

After finding so much proper signage at the southern border, I was disappointed not to find any at the northern border. Such is life, right?

In brief summary, I have only marginally enjoyed driving US95 from border to border. It's a useful commercial corridor, but short on points of interest for the rest of us.

The geography is interesting, of course, as it must be since it spans desert to farmland to woodland to mountains. It has that in common with my previous transits of US93 and US191, but doesn't do it in nearly as enjoyable a fashion.

That said, it's possible that I've driven so many of these roads that I've lost my appreciation for them. Considering how many previous routes I crossed on this drive, it's also possible that I've reached my limit on end-to-end US Highway drives.

One of these days, I'll post a map showing all the road trips I've done in the last 10 years. I suspect it will shock all of us... Stay tuned!

US95: Idaho Panhandle

Heading north out of Lewiston, ID, US95 is a long, steep climb up from the river valley. Considering the size of the valley, one can only try to imagine how big the rivers must once have been. This is an area of spectacular geologic history, one which makes me wish (again!) that I knew more about it. Eventually, you get up onto the great plateau and are faced with endless vistas of wheat farms.

Considering the relatively small amount of geographic land mass that Idaho has to offer for growing wheat, it is pretty impressive that the state ranks sixth in the nation for production. At nearly 100 million bushels, Idaho ranks between Oklahoma and Colorado.

I must admit that I have always been intrigued by the state of Idaho, especially its western border. The state is so long north/south that it spans both Washington and Oregon. As a consequence, it has an unusually broad diversity related to its wide range of latitude. From desert in the south to woodland in the north, there's a lot to appreciate and enjoy. Hells Canyon is a "must visit" for everyone.

Just north of wheat country, US95 joins another of our old friends, US2, for a lengthy run up into timber country. Like the rest of US95, from its origin at the Mexico border, the road here is a transportation conduit. Due to the geography of nearby mountains, the truck and train routes are very closely located.

Just a few miles from the border, a scenic overlook offers a spectacular vista into Canada.

Is there proper US95 "End" and "Begin" signage at the border? You'll just have to wait and see... Stay tuned!

Monday, October 14, 2019

US95: Western Idaho

It was a pretty morning as we started our drive north on US95 in western Idaho, more or less paralleling the Snake River. It was fun to drive curves and hills after so many straights in the desert.

For about the first hundred miles, we drove through a series of passes, valleys and small towns. Wash, rinse, repeat.

Just as I was appreciating the abundance of flora, I saw one of my favorite signs coming up. The lack of traffic allowed me to come to an abrupt stop and take a photo.

As you probably know if you've been following this log over the years, I'm generally happiest at latitudes above 45 degrees. Color me happy!

In due course, we started a long, sustained climb. The already pleasing scenery was enhanced by spots of fall color.

In the town of Riggins, ID, we stopped for a break, right where the Salmon River meets with US95.

From there, it was a long, steady downhill run along the river. Sometimes we were at river level, but other times we were above it. Eventually, we broke off on our own, traversing the terrain northwest.

Approaching Lewiston, ID, we ran into another old friend, US12 which we drove two years ago. By my count, that's at least a half-dozen previous highways that we have new crossed this drive.

Lewiston is a lovely little city, nestled in the confluence of the Clearwater and Snake rivers. Definitely worth a visit whenever you have the chance.

Tomorrow morning we will continue north on US95, possibly getting to the Canadian border... Stay tuned!

Sunday, October 13, 2019

US95: Desert Departure

It was a crispy 19 degrees when Happy and I went for our morning walk in Winnemucca, NV. For those of you keeping track, that's an 80 degree swing in two days.

The rapid change is attributable to three primary factors: higher latitude, higher altitude and an arctic high pressure area over the northwest.

I put on a couple of extra layers to deal with it, but Happy was obviously pleased about being back in her natural temperature range.

Continuing north, it was clear we were still in the Great Basin desert, though the addition of some greenery indicated we might be approaching our desert departure. Sometimes, hope is all you have.

By the mid-point of our driving day, we had crossed into Oregon and climbed up onto the Columbia Plateau. That led us to the Snake River and its surrounding plain, where things started to green up.

Before we stopped for the day, we crossed another couple of our old US Highway friends: US20 and US30 which we drove back in 2012 and 2013. Those road trips seem like a lifetime ago!

We stopped for the day in Ontario, OR, and plan to take a day off here. I'm ready for a break from driving and the chance to watch a Seahawks game.

Happy is obviously thrilled to be back on grass for doing her business. She has been a very good sport as always about peeing on rocks and gravel, but greenery is by far her preferred canvas!

Looking at the map, we are only two or three stints from reaching the Canadian border on US95. The weather forecast looks pretty good, so let's hope we complete our trip with ease... Stay tuned!

Friday, October 11, 2019

US95: Northern Great Basin

Tonopah, NV, was once a robust silver mining town, but today seems to basically be a travel plaza. It is so remotely located in the middle of the Great Basin desert, that many travelers make a stop for fuel and/or overnight like me. This photo speaks volumes about that reality and my day on the road.

Heading north out of Tonopah, US95 is co-signed with US6 for about 40 miles. The road is good, traffic is light and the desert is immense. Even at high speeds, the mountains seem unreachable.

Turing north away from US6, it's still 60 miles of nothing but desert and distant mountains before reaching Hawthorne, NV. I don't think I saw so much as an historical marker on the way.

Approaching Hawthorne, I saw thousands of low structures in the desert, which a quick search indicated are ammunition storage bunkers for the US Army. There's a huge military installation in Hawthorne – covering some 226 square miles – that you can easily research if you are interested.

Leaving Hawthorne, I got stuck in a very long line of vehicles following a slow moving, immensely oversized vehicle. The 80 miles north to Fallon, NV, were a mind-numbing two hour stint!

Fallon, NV, is rightly called "The oasis of Nevada" due to it being at least partially green with a little bit of agriculture. I have stayed there before and found it hospitable.

It's also the point where US95 crosses my old friend US50. I took a moment to reflect on my first time crossing the Great Basin, grabbed a bite to eat and hit the road again.

Within a mile north of Fallon, you are fully back in the desert, only glad that you are making progress toward the end of it. Today was my third day-long stint, hopefully with only one more to go!

About 35 miles north of Fallon, US95 joins I-80 for a very high speed 100 miles to Winnemucca, NV, where I have stopped for the night. If all goes well, I will cross the border into Oregon tomorrow and finally make my way out of the Northern Great Basin... Stay tuned!

Thursday, October 10, 2019

US95: Hi-Desert

After a week of near-100 degree days in the desert, it was a bit of a shock to walk my dog this morning with a temp in the 40s and a biting wind chill factor. Apparently, winter arrived overnight.

As usual, it took almost an hour to clear the immensely sprawling Las Vegas area, but then we were back in the desert. A few years ago, I drove US93 north through the eastern side of the Great Basin. US95 traverses the western edge of the basin, and seemed to offer almost exactly the same geology, scenery and lack of points of interest.

After about 100 miles of driving, the road started steadily rising. Probably as a result, the greenery got even more sparse. It's hard to describe the vast barrenness, and photos don't really help.

We have stopped for the day in Tonopah, NV, another town that seems to have no earthly reason to be here. At just over 6,000 feet of elevation, it is still cold and windy... Stay tuned!

Tuesday, October 08, 2019

US95: Desert Duo

Driving north on US95 through Yuma, AZ, this morning, I was struck by two things: 1) I was deep in the Sonoran Desert (possibly in the Colorado sub-region), and 2) there is a vast amount of irrigated farmland in that desert. I suspect they're getting the water from the Colorado River, or what's left of it after everyone upriver has taken their share. Continuing north, the road is a typical two-lane affair.

On the left below is an overview map of the deserts for reference. On the right is a customs and border patrol checkpoint. I clearly didn't fit the profile, because I was waved right through.

About 100 miles north of the border, US95 joins I-10 for a brief climb over a mountain pass and a drop down to cross the Colorado River into California. The road then breaks off to the north, parallel to the river and moving through the heart of the Mojave Desert. Still a two-lane affair, the road almost constantly goes up and down small elevation changes. I don't understand all the geology, but I think it has to do with the desert once being the undulating floor of an ocean.

Another 100 miles north, US95 crosses into Nevada and becomes a very high-speed divided four-lane highway into Henderson, NV, where we have stopped for a rest day tomorrow... Stay tuned!

Monday, October 07, 2019

US95: A Proper Beginning At The Border

From where I reached the end of US60 this morning near Brenda, AZ, it was only a short drive to be in position to begin my border-to-border drive of US95 in San Luis, a few miles south of Yuma, AZ.

Approaching the border crossing with Mexico, I was very happy to find an "End" sign just steps from where the road turns into the checkpoint. I was thrilled to find a "Begin" sign within a block of where checkpoint traffic enters the US. I know my feelings may seem weird, but they're well earned!

I would have to go back and review many of my previous posts to be sure, but I think this may be the first time that I have found both "Begin" and "End" signs at the same US Highway terminus. If it isn't the first time, it's at least been a long time since there's been proper signage.

It's probably a good thing, because I have been warned that there may be neither sign where I will finish my US95 drive far to the north at the border of Idaho with Canada... Stay tuned!

US60: A Proper End In The Desert

West of Wickenburg, AZ, US60 is your basic desert affair, a straight, flat, two-lane road in modest condition with not much to offer besides mountains in the distance; pleasant but nothing special.

After driving for an hour or so, I pulled off the road and was delighted to see it: A proper "End" sign, exactly where it is supposed to be, at the point where US60 becomes ramps for Interstate 10.

Happy and I took a few minutes to mark the occasion of finishing another end-to-end road trip together, me by taking photos and her by leaving p-mail. I congratulated her and she gave me the look of "Whatever, let's get back in my air conditioned dog house."

Here's my brief review of US60:

US60 is a good road trip route, but not a great one. Except for a few challenging spots (e.g. the mountains of West Virginia, the Salt River Canyon), it is an easy drive on good roadways. If offers moderate geographic diversity, from the lush forests of the east to the deserts of the west, but not as much as northern routes like US20 and US30.

US60 is what I would call a "blue collar" road: hard working and honest, but not especially pretty or interesting. Either there just aren't that many points of interest along the way, or I missed them.

As of now, I have driven all of the original, long-distance US Highways north of here: US2, US12, US20, US30, US50, US60 and US70 (US40 has been mostly subsumed into I-80). South of here, US80 and US 90 only run from the east coast to Texas and have also been greatly replaced by Interstates. I think that's my way of saying I'm probably done with "coast-to-coast" route expeditions.

Starting tomorrow, I have another "border-to-border" US95 drive ahead of me... Stay tuned!

Sunday, October 06, 2019

US60: Arizona Crossing(s)

Today's drive on US60 was a crossing of almost all of Arizona. It also involved three more crossings of various US Highways I have previously driven on my many cross-country road trips.

First, in Springerville, we crossed US191 which I drove border-to-border back in 2014. West of there, US60 is mostly gentle ups and downs through alpine terrain with entertaining bends and turns.

After that, the route becomes a more challenging drive through the Salt River Canyon. It's a steep, twisty five miles down then back up, bracketed on each side by lesser but still significant dives and climbs. The scenery is stunning, despite one's tight grip on the wheel.

In Globe, we crossed the end of US70 which I drove coast-to-end on the same long road trip in 2014. West of there it's a high-speed run to Phoenix, which I was very happy to be crossing on a Sunday when traffic was light. Farther west, US60 is a rolling romp through lower and dryer dessert.

Finally, we've stopped for the day in Wickenburg, which is the starting point of US93 which I drove all the way to the Canadian border two years ago in 2017.

So, to recap, today we've crossed Arizona and three previously driven routes. I seriously think I'm running out of long-distance US Highways to drive! Tomorrow morning we will drive the last 75 miles to the end of US60 near the California border... Stay tuned!