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Permanent Vacation

5462 Views 50 Replies 6 Participants Last post by  zzyzx
I will post some road trip pics here. This started in June–but better late than never. I intend to keep it going for a while.

First, parting shots from the Reno area. These are the hills around Virginia City: site of the Comstock Lode and one of the best-known mining ghost towns.
Cloud Sky Mountain Bedrock Plant

Stalking horses:
Sky Working animal Grass Grassland Plain

Virginia City isn't really a ghost town. Some people live there, and there are a lot of tourists. They are building roads and subdivisions in the area.
Horse Ecoregion Vertebrate Natural environment Sky

But the mustangs don't seem worried.
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Fun fact: it's only about 70 miles from the lowest point in North America (-282 ft/-86 m) to the peak of Mount Whitney (14505 ft/4421 m) which is the highest, apart from some big mountains up in Alaska. I didn't try to drive up there. Instead there is a nice and accessible range, the White Mountains, just to the east of the Sierra Nevada range and north of Death Valley. So by the same afternoon I was back up above the snow line. View of the Sierras:
Cloud Sky Mountain Plant Plant community

This leads to easily my worst decision so far in the Renegade.
Sky Mountain Snow Slope Highland

It looks pretty solid, and there are some old tire tracks on it. I drove around a bit on the upper part of the slope and was satisfied with the traction. The drive down to the continuation of the road at the bottom of the hill went well. The problem was the return trip. It looks the same, but after a couple hours in the sun the snow was softer.
Sky Mountain Snow Ecoregion Water

After wallowing around in it for a while, I brought out the traction boards. This is my first time using them. Thankfully they work as advertised. But it was slow going, in bursts of four or five feet at a time with a lot of digging to get them in place.
Tire Wheel Sky Vehicle Automotive lighting

That first patch of snow didn't have much elevation gain. But the last, big hill was a problem. The dirty tracks right in front of the Renegade show how far I got.
Tire Wheel Sky Car Vehicle

So climbing out in soft snow doesn't work. I ended up doing a big loop around the snow, then running straight up that hill off to the left. I don't like to break a new trail, but it was the only way out this time.
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To wrap up this trip, here is the short-cut route from the heights of the White Mountains back down to civilization.
Sky Mountain Ecoregion Hood Plant

It was a rather steep route, cut into the mountain to build some power lines.
Sky Plant community Mountain Plant Slope
Sky Mountain Slope Highland Bedrock

Here's a view of Pleasant Valley. The reddish mesa right-of-center is an old lava flow. Left of that is a farming community called Mesa.
Sky Cloud Plant community Mountain Ecoregion

The road goes on being very steep. This was the first time I smelled burning brakes in this car. I stopped at pretty much every switchback to cool off.
Sky Plant Plant community Ecoregion Mountain

The only cool spot in the canyon. Ahhh…
Tire Plant Car Vehicle Wheel

Near the bottom, that big canyon narrows to a slot before emptying out into the flat valley…
Plant Plant community Mountain Sky Road surface

…where it was very hot. Got to keep heading north.
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Really appreciate your posts. Inspires me to get on the road.

It's been 3 years since I was last in the US. For the previous 20 years I was there at least once a year with at least a weekend trip in a rental SUV. (Or something like a Corvette or 'Stang for more urban adventures. )
Yeah there is plenty to see if you go looking. It is very easy, out west. I have kind of the opposite problem now. This summer I will be in Europe. Not sure if I will have access to any off-road vehicles there.
In November I headed back through Death Valley. Many of the roads were closed after epic flooding in August and September. So instead I drove up to Mahogany Flat in the mountains for a view down to Badwater Basin, which is the lowest and hottest area in North America. This road was closed due to snow during my previous trip in May. (Looks like it is closed again now, in December.)
Sky Plant Tree Snow Natural landscape
Sky Cloud Plant Snow Slope

The snow got soft and deep near the end of the road. After some thrashing around and trying all the 4x4 modes, I gave up and walked the last stretch. Given all the tracks in the snow, no one else made it much farther. There is not much of a view at the end, but it is a nice contrast with Death Valley.
Cloud Sky Natural landscape Plant Snow

A little to the north, and only 2100ft/700m lower, is the site of Skidoo, a former mining town. Someone did a very good job of cleaning up after the town was abandoned. All that is left are dirt tracks and a few dozen gated holes in the ground. It is a peaceful drive, since no one else bothers to go out to this area.
Cloud Sky Mountain Slope Plant
Sky Plant Natural environment Landscape Mountainous landforms
Tire Wheel Sky Vehicle Car
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Sky Plant Plant community Ecoregion Mountain

This is why I prefer having one vehicle which will go pretty much anywhere. It is much simpler than having a big truck or RV and a trailer for off-road toys. If I want to take a "shortcut" across the mountains, I just turn off the main road and go for it. And after several hours bumping around on dirt tracks, it is satisfying to pull up onto a smooth highway and hit the gas.
The eastern stretch of this road is maintained for mining vehicles, so it is easy going.
Cloud Sky Plant Ecoregion Hood

A quick run down the highway got me back into the southern tip of Nevada where we have more desert!
Plant community Sky Plant Ecoregion Asphalt
Sky Mountain Plant Bedrock Terrain
Sky Plant Mountain Bedrock Natural landscape

This track circles around Spirit Mountain, a desolate area above the Colorado River. It eventually connects with a graded dirt road and Grapevine Canyon, a relatively popular destination which is loaded with petroglyphs.
Sky Bedrock Landscape Formation Outcrop
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This is my shortcut across the Aquarius Mountains in northwest Arizona. There is not much going on around here except for ranching. It's a fun drive though.
Cloud Sky Plant Plant community Ecoregion
Cloud Sky Plant community Plant Mountain
Cloud Sky Plant community Plant Vehicle

Out in the middle of nowhere, someone converted this bus into shelter. The wheels were removed, so it was meant to be permanent. It looks like that didn't work out…
Bus Sky Vehicle Plant Motor vehicle
Wood Window Motor vehicle City Beam
Sky Cloud Plant Motor vehicle Window
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Superb. :cool:
This is down in southern Arizona for some dark, night sky viewing. It's pleasant in the evening, but at night it drops below freezing in the desert. I woke up to frost on everything including the camera. So the skies were clear but the pictures were foggy.
Sky Plant Plant community Bedrock Mountain

Inspecting the frontier between Arizona and Sonora. That wall must be frustrating for coyotes (real ones). The gaps are wide enough to pass a rabbit or a roadrunner, but nothing bigger.
Tire Wheel Land vehicle Car Vehicle
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These volcanoes are near Flagstaff, in northern Arizona up on the Colorado plateau. The big one is Sunset Crater, which is off limits. But beyond that is an extensive OHV area…
Sky Atmosphere Mountain Plant Tree
Sky Snow Vehicle Automotive tire Tree
Sky Mountain Snow Cloud Vehicle

Driving on volcanic gravel is delightful. It's a soft, quiet ride with plenty of traction. The snow makes it even softer. I did all right until striking out on my own path in the snow; my mistake was slowing to take a picture.
Sky Cloud Automotive tire Tree Slope
Wheel Sky Tire Vehicle Snow

This area is cold and sunny, so apparently the surface melts and refreezes frequently. There is dry powder under the hard, crusty surface. When I slowed, the tires dropped through and spun. I dug out ramps for each wheel and got up on the surface again–didn't even need the traction boards. I think this only worked because I was already heading down hill.
Sky Plant Snow Natural landscape Wood

Farther up the hill I rolled lucky 7s! I gave this road a try, but started to slip as the snow got deeper and wetter. Lesson learned, the snow might be driveable at 8am or 9am, but not at 11am with the sun hitting it. On the way back to the highway there were mud puddles everywhere.
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This is River Road in Big Bend National Park in southwest Texas. It's a long way from anything, but I figured it was worth the trek. These are the last mountains and desert roads I'll see for a while as I head to the flat, boring eastern states.
Sky Cloud Plant Natural landscape Horizon

The NPS has scary warnings for all the back-country roads around the park. I appreciate them scaring off folks in minivans, but I found the roads to be in pretty good shape. Apparently the Renegade qualifies as "true Four-Wheel Drive". It was a pleasant drive, at least in cool, dry weather. I probably could have made the whole circuit in 2WD, but I was lazy and used 4WD for some of it.
Sky Plant Working animal Mountain Fawn
Sky Plant Bedrock Landscape Slope
Sky Bedrock Mountain Slope Landscape
Plant Sky Slope Landscape Grass

There is no border fence along this stretch of the Rio Grande. There isn't much water either, so crossing the river isn't much trouble. I watched horses and, indeed, people crossing back and forth. The locals on the Mexico side of the river run an illicit trade in handicrafts for American tourists. They lay out their goods on the roadside along with a jar for payment, then paddle back to Mexico before the law comes along.
Water Water resources Natural landscape Fluvial landforms of streams Plant
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