In retrospect, heading over to Bodie, California seemed completely doable. Why not take a short car trip before our friends arrived in Phoenix on November 18? If we take I-10 West, and US 395 North, Bodie is 667 miles away. It is within shouting distance of Lone Pine, CA, a picturesque town we both like and where we wouldn’t mind spending more time. The trip would give Bruce a chance to make a long haul in his Toyota Tacoma and maybe even try out some backroads.
Leaving on Sunday, November 14, the day after a couple of bicycle collectors picked up a vintage Cinelli they’d bought from Bruce, we had five days before our visitors appeared late in the day on the 18th.
I had wanted to visit Bodie, California ever since I’d picked up a couple of postcards about it in a cafe in Lone Pine during a summer trip. I had saved the cards and had them posted above my desk in Portland. Friends in Portland had been to that ghost town when they visited Lee Vining. A Phoenix friend who’d also been there, remarked how so much of the ghost town was still intact: shelves stocked with goods, clothing and toys left on the floorboard of houses when people left.
Long story short: we did do a long haul in the truck; we did do our share of backroads. But no, we never made it to Bodie. That adventure is still to come.
But before you sign off, let me write about the trip we did do. From Lone Pine we made it up to and back from Cerro Gordo, a mining ghost town, high on the Inyo Mountains. Though it is not well publicized, Cerro Gordo was a silver, lead and zinc mine supplying the needs of Los Angeles for decades from 1867 to well into the twentieth century. It is southeast of Lone Pine, between the Owens and Death valleys, 4,000 feet up from Keeler on Owens Lake. Getting the ore out of Cerro Gordo was a major transport operation.
Getting to Cerro Gordo today is a challenge. We weaved back and forth over an eight-mile, winding, dirt road. I’ll admit it, my heart was in my mouth on the precipitous climb. Once there, we were introduced to the town’s master of ceremonies, Seamus. He climbed down from Cerro Gordo’s one remaining hotel: “Wecome to Wendy’s,” he announced. “I’m here to take your order.” Nearby was a sign that warned: We do not call 911.
Coming down from Cerro Gordo was even more hazardous than going up, but with glorious views of Owens Valley and the Sierras beyond it.
When we finally hit the flat, eight descending miles later, the back wheel on the passenger side of the truck was objecting. Stopping, we got out, and took a look. Try to imagine what a pie crust rolled out by a five-year-old with a wine bottle would looks like!
Bruce removed the spare from under the back of the truck and stowed the ruined tire and wheel. But, it didn’t take long before he realized that the spare itself was a problem. It wasn’t holding air.
Replacing BF Goodrich tires — we need two, of course — anywhere along US 395 would be next to impossible. So, yes, we limped on home, stopping and refilling the leaky spare over and over again. By the time we got to Blythe, it became clear that the leak was the valve stem. A tire shop there was able to replace it. Blythe is still 150 miles from Phoenix, but it was a piece of cake drive, not having to stop every half hour to check tire pressure.
Sound like a bad trip? No. It was an adventure. We’d avoided going over to and back from California via Las Vegas, a harrowing passage. We’d taken I-10 up through Joshua Tree to Twentynine Palms to 247 through Lucerne to Adelanto where we joined 395. Coming back we stayed on 395; a quiet uneventful route without heavy truck traffic.
For me, it’s all about the journey. And the company. We’ll make it to Bodie. Someday.
As I write this, Bruce is out on his bike. It’s cool in Phoenix. I’m just back from a 40-minute walk. He’ll scour the internet for tire and wheel replacements.
We have many trips ahead of us. And one eventful trip behind us. Did I mention we won’t be going up to Cerro Gordo again?