CAR CUL­TURE PIL­GRIM­AGE

1300 MILES, 4 DAYS, 3 STATES, 2 NUMP­TIES AND 1 EPIC ROAD TRIP

Fast Car - - Con­tents -

1,300 miles, four days, three states, two nump­ties. One epic road trip!

The thing about the USA is that it’s fookin’ mas­sive. I mean, just think about it, to fly from the UK to New York takes about 6-hours, but nearly the same again to get from there to the South­west. It’s bloody huge and, to fit it all in, all the maps have to be tiny.

It re­ally messes you up that, es­pe­cially af­ter a few heavy nights in Ve­gas. You start look­ing at routes and they seem rea­son­ably short. Sud­denly the au­to­mo­tive Mecca that is the Bon­neville Salt Flats starts look­ing closer than you thought… and surely LA can’t be all that far off ei­ther. Af­ter all it’s only a cou­ple of lit­tle lines on the map, and Amer­i­can petrol is dirt cheap, right?

Well, yeah and that’s ex­actly how it starts…

The Start - SEMA

Last month we showed you SEMA, the world’s big­gest, bad­dest and most im­por­tant mod­i­fied car show. The ques­tion here then is what hap­pens af­ter that? Well nor­mally we pack up, go home and get our chubby ar­ses back to work - but therein lies the prob­lem. I’ll be hon­est, we weren’t ex­actly rel­ish­ing the prospect of sit­ting in the of­fice, and there re­ally is only so much Ve­gas any­one can take. So, with a few days to go, and af­ter a cheeky flight trans­fer to LAX, we hatched a plan. As fully paid-up speed freaks we con­vinced our­selves that it was our jour­nal­is­tic duty to at least check out one of the places in­grained in the au­to­mo­tive zeit­geist. A bit of a car cul­ture pil­grim­age if you will.

See­ing the Salt Flats up north in Utah has been a life-long dream for Jules. The Pa­cific Coast High­way down south in sunny Cal­i­for­nia is more my bag. So who gets their own way? We’re both stub­born bas­tards so it looked like we were gonna have to do both!

Las Ve­gas, Ne­vada

When you go to SEMA, you stay on the Las Ve­gas Strip, it’s the law. I think. Any­way, Ve­gas is epic, it al­most goes with­out say­ing that, but there’s only so long your fi­nances will hold out, es­pe­cially if you (rightly) de­cide to hit it hard. It’s Sin City, The En­ter­tain­ment Cap­i­tal of the World, the City of Lights, Las freakin’ Ve­gas - and it’s 100-per­cent guar­an­teed to do your noo­dle in. They made a movie about this in­evitable fact once; it’s called Leav­ing Las Ve­gas. And that’s ex­actly what we did next…

Weapon of Choice

So what men­tal mus­cle car would we be rock­ing for our Amer­i­can ad­ven­ture? Al­though you can lit­er­ally rent any­thing in Ne­vada for the right price, it’s not quite as easy as that. For once we had to be sen­si­ble, we were go­ing north and had no idea where and when we’d be find­ing a petrol sta­tion. As it turns out it was a good shout, you can drain a V8 Camero in about 3.6-sec­onds if you’re not care­ful, and be­ing stuck in the arse end of nowhere would, to use an Amer­i­can term, suck se­ri­ous ass dude! In­stead the nice peo­ple at Alamo rec­om­mended a big ol’ Nis­san Rogue (X-Trail) and, while we’re not the big­gest 4x4 fans, it made per­fect sense. What with all the 18-wheel ‘semis’ and stupidly large pick­ups tool­ing about, you re­ally don’t want to do this jour­ney in a MINI.

The Ex­tra Ter­res­trial High­way

Ve­gas is in the mid­dle of the Mo­jave Desert and that means, once you even­tu­ally get out of town, YOU are in the mid­dle of the Mo­jave Desert. It re­ally is hard to ex­plain the scale of this place, the land­scape seems to go on for­ever.

We were on our way to Utah of course, but we couldn’t re­sist a de­tour to drive up the fa­mous Ex­tra Ter­res­trial High­way, the site of nu­mer­ous UFO sight­ings. Ap­par­ently it’s also the clos­est you can get to Area 51 with­out be­ing shot by an­gry sol­diers who don’t re­alise you can see it on Google Earth. State Route 375, to give it its proper name, is a 98mile road that stretches be­tween Crys­tal Springs and Warm Springs in south-cen­tral Ne­vada. These sound like big towns that may have shops and petrol sta­tions but there’s noth­ing there, lit­er­ally noth­ing, ex­cept for an ET High­way sign.

The ac­tual road is the same; it’s weird. We didn’t see an­other car the whole way along it. It’s a pretty place though, se­ri­ously pretty.

About 45 miles in, you’ll find a diner, but that’s it - noth­ing else ex­cept a stupidly straight piece of tar­mac and an 80mph speed limit that means ab­so­lutely noth­ing. The near­est cop­per is in Tonopah, about 90 miles away, and he won’t be com­ing out just to give you a 30-dol­lar ticket!

The Lit­tle A’LE’INN

Wel­come to the weird­est diner in the world, and we’re guess­ing they don’t get too much pass­ing trade here. It’s a cool place though, all four peo­ple in the ‘town’ of Rachel are friendly. A proper pil­grim­age sight to UFO hunters the Lit­tle A’LE’INN is the only place on the ET High­way that has any petrol at all, and it’s all out back in Jerry Cans. They keep this ‘emer­gency gas’ for the more stupid tourists (the ones in mus­cle cars) but it’ll cost you around 8-quid a gal­lon, and you’ll need plenty of it to get to the near­est fill-up in Ely, 160 miles away. If we’re hon­est, we barely made it our­selves. It was an ar­se­clench­ing few hours to say the least!

Route To Wen­dover

From the end of the ET High­way, it’s an­other 239 miles along Route 6 and Route 93 to Wen­dover, Utah. This is the near­est big town to Bon­neville and right on the Ne­vada bor­der. When you get there you also cross an in­ter­na­tional time zone and, ap­par­ently, ‘Moun­tain Time’ is an hour later - which is far more con­fus­ing than it sounds af­ter a 9-hour drive.

The route up to Wen­dover is eerie, es­pe­cially at night. You tend to for­get the roads are chiefly in Ne­vada, as you go through the moun­tains it gets bloody cold… not good for us, we were still wear­ing shorts!

You drive through a few small towns on the way giv­ing a good op­por­tu­nity to stock up on donuts and fags (and wa­ter you goof – Jules), but what’s in­ter­est­ing, if a lit­tle scary, are the ghost towns you see along the route. Some of these were min­ing set­tle­ments as lit­tle as 15 years ago, and ev­ery­one just ‘upped-sticks’ and left ‘em be. It feels a bit like that hor­ror flick Cabin Fever, so we cer­tainly wasn’t stop­ping to take a closer look!

Bon­neville In­ter­na­tional Speed­way

Af­ter grab­bing some kip in Wen­dover, we headed just a few miles to one of the most leg­endary places in the au­to­mo­tive world, the Bon­neville Salt Flats. Now, it’s hard for me to de­scribe the feel­ing you get peer­ing out across the salt but, as it’s my job, I’ll have a go. Awe­some would be the word. Just ab­so­lutely fuck­ing awe­some.

It’s a breath-tak­ing sight for any petrol­head, even in the win­ter when it’s a lit­tle wet, and it’s made all the bet­ter when you think of all the land speed records that have been bro­ken on the part they call the Bon­neville Speed­way. From Sir Mal­colm Camp­bell razz­ing Blue Bird to 301mph in 1938 and Mickey Thomp­son break­ing 400mph bar­rier in 1960. To Gary Ga­belich blast­ing to 622mph (that’s over 1000kph), in his rocket-pow­ered car Blue Flame. There’s many more of course, in all sorts of ve­hi­cles. Bon­neville re­ally is the home of straight-line speed, a place where he­roes are born.

Most fa­mously it’s also the place where they hold the Fes­ti­val of Speed. Ev­ery sum­mer all sorts of weird and won­der­ful cre­ations turn up and hit the salt, an in­sti­tu­tion in its own right. Bon­neville is clearly vast when empty, but you can’t help imag­in­ing all these wacky rac­ers blast­ing up the 10-mile long straight. Here’s a few pics from this year’s event to help you out….

Down To LA

Now it was time for a fair old slog, it’s a 9-10 hour drive to LA, and that’s if you’re lucky. You’ll see some stun­ning scenery of course, the only trou­ble is you’ve al­ready seen it! Be­cause of the lack of roads you have to go back the way you came un­til you can pick up Route 318 and by­pass the ET High­way. It’s a main road, al­beit a very straight sin­gle lane car­riage­way, and you’ll find your­self mostly over­tak­ing 18-wheel­ers which are all do­ing at least 80mph. Just look out for those hid­den dips! Even­tu­ally you’ll get to In­ter­state 15 which takes you back through Las Ve­gas and on to Los An­ge­les. Pre­pare your­self for 16-lane mad­ness. It’s prop­erly men­tal!

Los An­ge­les

You sim­ply haven’t ex­pe­ri­enced traf­fic un­til you’ve been to LA. Sure the M25 or the M6 may make your blood boil but very of­ten here you’ll have 10-lanes ei­ther side and it’ll ei­ther be grid­locked or, even worse, ev­ery­one is whizzing around like a bunch of loonies.

The Santa Mon­ica In­ter­state for ex­am­ple, has 26 lanes in some places and, as you can over­take on ei­ther side in the US, you cer­tainly have to keep your wits about you. It’s no won­der they all drive au­to­mat­ics, a man­ual would be just an­other bloody thing to think about. Sta­tis­ti­cally An­geli­nos spend an av­er­age of 3-days a year just stuck in traf­fic too. Un­less you love see­ing brake­lights you wouldn’t wanna live there.

The Wider City

As for the LA it­self, it’s ab­so­lutely mas­sive, you can drive for hours and still be in the same city. For this rea­son it’s bro­ken up into over 80 dis­tricts and neigh­bour­hoods, places like Comp­ton, Har­bor city, and San Pe­dro. These are all linked by a spaghetti of wind­ing mo­tor­ways and there’s places you’ll want to go to, and oth­ers that you def­i­nitely won’t. If you’ve ever heard about a par­tic­u­lar area on an N.W.A. record, or if Ross Kemp has been there, it’s prob­a­bly best to steer clear.

The wider LA Metropoli­tan Area, while not strictly part of the City of LA, is nor­mally spo­ken in the same breath. It con­tains a num­ber of fa­mous cities like Mal­ibu, Bur­bank and Santa Mon­ica. You’re still in LA, but you’re not ‘of­fi­cially’ in the City of LA.

As for us, af­ter a quick mooch around Hol­ly­wood, Bev­erly Hills and shoot­ing a cer­tain Slant Nose Porsche in Ir­win­dale, we were off to the beach.

Hunt­ing­ton Beach

For our last night we stayed just south of LA in Hunt­ing­ton Beach, Or­ange County. Nick­named Surf City, it’s right on the Pa­cific Ocean and one of the coolest places in the whole of Cal­i­for­nia. It’s also known for its surf cul­ture, mild cli­mate and whop­ping 10-mile stretch of sandy beach.

Hunt­ing­ton is by no means the only fa­mous sea­side re­sort in the area though, just to the south is New­port Beach and head up the coast and you’ll find Seal Beach, Long Beach, Re­dondo Beach, Venice, Santa Mon­ica and, the home of many a Hol­ly­wood movie star, Mal­ibu. These are ba­si­cally all the places they filmed Bay­watch in the 90s and, as we were both teenagers in the 90s, that’s plenty good enough for us. Un­for­tu­nately Pamela An­der­son was un­avail­able for com­ment. Shame.

Pa­cific Coast High­way

Hav­ing al­ready been a part of the death-de­fy­ing cen­tral LA free­way ex­pe­ri­ence, we were keen to check out the Pa­cific Coast High­way which, as it turns out, has some pretty hefty traf­fic of its own. Luck­ily though this was only through the more ur­ban (and dis­tinctly non costal) bits like Sun­set, Santa Mon­ica and Oak­wood. Even­tu­ally this opens out into a stun­ning scenic route, which many of you will recog­nise from the odd movie.

Cal­i­for­nia State Route 1, as it’s of­fi­cially ti­tled, is renowned for its beauty and ac­tu­ally stretches 656-miles all the way up to Legget, which is just over 180 miles North of San Fran­cisco. Un­for­tu­nately though, we only had time to travel up to Mal­ibu be­fore we had to head back to LAX for the flight home. Not be­fore a spot of lunch at Nep­tune’s Net though, one of the most spe­cial lo­ca­tions on our trip, and a fit­ting end to any car cul­ture pil­grim­age. RIP Paul Walker, we got the shrimp mate!

Day 2

Day 3

Miles: 654 Time: 10hr Bon­neville, UT – Bev­erly Hills, CA

Day 4 Miles: 50 Time: 1hr Bev­erly Hills, CA - Hunt­ing­ton Beach, CA

Miles: 62 Time: 2hr 30 Hunt­ing­ton Beach, CA – Mal­ibu, CA

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