Sunday, June 3, 2012

Why Take a Road Trip?

Why Take a Road Trip?
by Steve McCarthy, author of “Road Trippin-A Guide to Absolutely the Best West Coast Road Trips-Ever!

The Mavins of Panic, aka The Media told us back about February, that gas prices would soar to five bucks a gallon plus this summer. They got it wrong. Again. And naturally, the specter of high gas prices has fed a kind of panic among the public. In reality, a misplaced panic. As usual. Seems crude oil prices are in the $80-90/barrel range right now, and that means gas prices should be in the $3.50/gallon range in California. Well within doable for almost any road trip you’d want. Let’s look at the Math:
Being conservative, to say nothing of making the number crunching easier, let’s say gas is four bucks a gallon. Let’s continue to be conservative and say 15 miles per gallon, and a tank of 15 gallons. So, 15 times fifteen, carry the 3, do some other mystical calibrations and a tank should get you 225 miles, easy. So, that’s $60 for a tank of gas, and if you do 400 miles, you’re in for something like 26 gallons, or $107. That’s being pretty conservative on the figures, In reality, you’ll probably spend under $100 for a 400 mile trip. Fifty bucks a head if you have a passenger. Throw in $20 for breakfast (if ya start real early) and $30 for lunch, $40 for dinner and $75 bucks for a motel room, and your cost for the day is, lessee here, $265. Then another $100 in gas to get home, and another $50 for food, that’s $415. Let’s round it up to $500 ‘cause you’re sure to find some neat stuff to buy along the way. For the both of you!
Ok, you say, what’s that really mean? I’ll tell ya. When I taught Economics, the very first lesson I’d hammer into their pointy little heads is a concept called “Opportunity Cost.” The idea is that the True Cost of anything is NOT the dollars you spent, it’s what you now cannot buy because you cannot spend money more than once. Let’s say you want to buy a new Widget for your Auld Crate. The Widget is $50. You also really need a pair of shoes, and the one’s that work for you are $50. The cost of the Widget is a pair of shoes. Satch Carlson, a writer in Autoweek about a bazillion years ago taught me my first lesson in this idea. He wrote about a friend who figured everything in terms of Pizza and Beer. “Hmm, he’d figure, I’d like a new stereo, but MAN, that’s a lot of Pizza and Beer...better not.” As we get older, we use a different currency. “Hmmm, should I pay the electric bill or the cable bill…”
Let’s apply this lesson to Road Trips. Dizzyland now hits you for EIGHTY SEVEN DOLLARS A DAY PER PERSON! To do the Tragic Kingdom AND the Caliphony Adventure, that’s $348 in admission alone for two people. Then, there’s the gas and parking ($15/day!) and the “food” and the obligatory mouse decorated stuff.  You’ve passed the $500 mark easy, and you haven’t even tried for a hotel room. God only knows what the cost would be for a family! At least interest rates are low for the second mortgage you’d surely need!
So for less than the price for two days of getting Moused, you can take an 800 mile two day road trip. That’s a trip that will get you from LA as far north as Frisco, or Sacramento, or as far east as Death Valley or Flagstaff. From say, Sacramento, it’ll get you to Oregon or Elko, Nevada. If you have an East Coast mentality, from Atlanta almost to St. Louis, or Newark to Pittsburgh.
OK, so why? What’s so different? Well, first, there’s scenery. Real trees, real rocks, real vistas that stretch as far as the eye can see, instead of ersatz “imagineered” hard-shell-over-foam-mountains-in-1/5th-scale. You get to meet real people, people who actually appreciate your business and have real stories to tell instead of the plasticized smiles of “cast members.” You get to see something new, instead of something you’ve done a hundred times. You also get the satisfaction that, except for the dough you spend on gas, the money you’re spending is helping some small business owner who could really use it, rather than dumping it down the Mouse’s insatiable corporate maw. You’ve done more in your hours on the road than wait in line. You’ve talked, laughed, listened to something other than “It’s a Small World.” With the windows down (or better yet, the top down) you’ve smelled the dusty sandy desert or the piney-turpintiney mountains or the potpourri of wild flowers in the foothills, instead of stale popcorn and staler diapers all drenched in the sickly sweet odor of spilled Coca Cola.
Now both of these options do indeed offer escape from the real, work-a-day world. But a Road Trip offers an escape from reality that IS reality. The other is a monument to the fraudulent. So get yourself out there and Hit the Road. If you’re not sure where to go? Well, gosh, I just happened to have written a book about it. It’s called Road Trippin-A Guide to Absolutely the Best West Coast Road Trips-Ever! and can be bought at Autobooks or even on the web at

Friday, June 1, 2012

Road Trippin’ 
with Steve McCarthy

Indio Part 3

Well, that didn’t go as planned. What was it Burns said about the “best laid plans of mice and men…?”  Yeah, that was us. After a couple of great days thrashing the backroads with some twenty other lost souls in Auld Crates, the Blue Meanie was not running well. first it was the timing (an easy fix) then it was the odd braking. It would grab, then nothing, then grab. Got it back to the motel ok, using the brakes as little as possible (tough to do when descending Montezuma Pass in the Anza Borrego!)  and when we got back, there was a clanking in the hub cap. Ah, no worries, just the grease cover come adrift. Well, actually, a BIG worry. It came adrift because the outer wheel bearing had completely collapsed! UH OH! When one thinks about the road we had just driven…

Anyway, at least glad to be OK, we set about assessing the damage the next morning. Mike Andrews, in his black TR2, aka The Bucket, thought he had a spare. It didn’t matter that he didn’t, the collar had kinda welded itself to the spindle. Double UGH! It was AAA and Premier Membership (the part about the 200 mile FREE tow and being 160 miles from home that made THAT investment worth it). After a stop at Hadley’s for a Date Shake for the road, we ignominiously road in the air conditioned cab all the way home. Since it had been over 100 in Indio, that wasn’t too hard to take, but still…
So what did we miss? Plenty. Everyone else took the jaunt down to Mecca, then up Box Canyon and Cottonwood Springs Road to the 10, east a bit to the Patton Museum, then back to Joshua Tree, Pappy and Harriet’s Pioneertown for lunch, then The back way out of Hesperia to the 15 then home. A nice easy jaunt for the last day.
The Patton Museum is one of those places you gotta see. I put it on the Drive for a couple of reasons. first, it’s a neat museum honoring America’s greatest fighting general, San Marino kid, George S. Patton. Second, it was to honor my Dad, who fought with Patton in WWII. Growing up, we heard all the War Stories, and there was always a certain pride in his voice about having served under such a great general. I can hear him now: “If they had just let us have the gas, we’d have beat the Russians to Berlin…” A great tribute not only to the General, but to the sadly vanishing generation that fought with him.
The drive through Joshua Tree is spectacular. The pile of rocks, left behind by some Child/Giant who didn’t pickup his toys after stacking them about his sandbox are amazing formations. I can remember camping there as a Boy Scout some fifty years ago. Now, there’s a nice paved road but don’t think this is a place to drive briskly. The Rangers enforce a nice sedate 45 MPH speed limit. Since there are so many other campers and sightseers, it’s a reasonable idea. Just enjoy the scenery. As you drive along Loop Road, take the turn up Salton View Rd. At the top, it gives you a spectacular view of the whole Imperial Valley. It’s really worth the side trip.

For lunch, we’d planned a stop at a local legend, ‘Pappy and Harriet’s Pioneer Town.” This place was an old movie set that was taken over and set up a a sort of tourist ghost town. The food is good and so is the town. both a great remnant of The Olden Days, but also of Old Hollywood.
The last bit will wind you thought Hesparia, then home. All in all, this is a drive that few have taken. Unless you live in the San Diego area, the whole Imperial Valley is just not on many people’s radar. At the right time of year, the scenery is fantastic and the roads have a great mix of sweeping turns and tight twisties to make any Road Tripper drool. So, get out there and bake your brains!

Tropics Motor Hotel
82297 Indio Boulevard
Indio, CA 92201-3129
1. RIGHT on Indio Blvd E toward Palm St 2.9 mi
2. CONTINUE onto CA-111 S/CA-86 1.0 mi
3. LEFT onto CA-111 S 10.0 mi
4. LEFT  onto 4th St 0.1 mi
5. RIGHT onto Hammond Rd 0.2 mi
6. LEFT onto 66th Ave 3.9 mi
7. CONTINUE onto Box Canyon Rd 15.5 mi
8. CONTINUE onto Cottonwood Springs Road 0.3 mi
9. RIGHT to merge onto I-10 E toward Blythe 4.3 mi
10. TAKE EXIT 173 toward Chiriaco/Summit 0.2 mi
11. LEFT onto Summit Rd 0.1 mi
12.RIGHT onto Chiriaco Rd
Destination will be on the left 308 ft
38.7 mi – about 1 hour 1 min
General Patton Memorial Museum,62510 Chiriaco Road Chiriaco Summit, CA 92201
13. WEST on Chiriaco Rd toward Summit Rd 308 ft
14. LEFT onto Summit Rd 171 ft
15. RIGHT to merge onto I-10 W 4.3 mi
16. TAKE EXIT 168 for Cottonwood Springs Rd
toward Mecca Twentynine Palms 0.2 mi
17. RIGHT onto Cottonwood Springs Road 5.1 mi
18. CONTINUE onto El Dorado Mine Rd/Pinto Basin Rd
Continue to follow El Dorado Mine Rd 31.5 mi
19. LEFT onto Loop Rd 13.7 mi
THIS IS JOSHUA TREE NATIONAL PARK. YOU HAVE TO PAY TO GO THROUGH. STICK TO THE POSTED SPEED LIMIT AND ENJOY THE VIEW. AS OTHERS WILL TELL YOU, THE PARK RANGERS REALLY DON’T LIKE PEOPLE SPEEDING ALONG!!!!!! It will cost $15/per car to drive through the park, It’s worth it! Support the Park System. If you are too cheap, you can find your own route and probably spend more than $15 in gas to drive around the park.
20. CONTINUE onto National Park Dr 7.1 mi
21. CONTINUE onto Quail Springs Rd 4.1 mi
22. CONTINUE onto Park Blvd 1.0 mi
23. LEFT onto CA-62 W. Twentynine Palms Hwy 7.7 mi
24. RIGHT onto Pioneertown Rd 4.4 mi
79.2 mi – about 2 hours 19 mins
Pappy and Harriet's Pioneertown Palace
53688 Pioneertown Road
Pioneertown, CA 92268

25. HEAD EAST on Pioneertown Rd toward Tom Mix Rd 4.4 mi
26. LEFT onto CA-62 E 1.9 mi
27. LEFT onto Old Woman Springs Rd 44.8 mi
28. CONTINUE onto CA-18 N 10.5 mi
29. LEFT onto Bear Valley Rd 7.9 mi
30. LEFT onto Jacaranda Ave 1.3 mi
31. CONTINUE onto E Ave 3.0 mi
32. RIGHT onto Juniper St 0.5 mi
33. LEFT onto Santa Fe Ave E 2.9 mi
34. CONTINUE onto Summit Valley Rd 7.5 mi
35. RIGHT onto CA-138 W 5.4 mi
36. MERGE ONTO I-15 S via the ramp to San Bernardino 1.3 mi
37. TAKE EXIT 129 for Cleghorn Rd 0.3 mi
38. RIGHT onto Cajon Blvd/Cleghorn Rd
Continue to follow Cajon Blvd 6.3 mi
39. LEFT onto Kenwood Ave 0.1 mi
40. RIGHT to merge onto I-15 S 0.9 mi
41. SLIGHT RIGHT to stay on I-15 S (signs for Los Angeles/San Diego) 8.0 mi
42. MERGE ONTO CA-210 W toward Pasadena