I left Los Angeles heading eastward for home for the first time in three weeks.
My first stop was one of the National Park System’s newest parks, Caesar Chavez National Monument.
Chavez is recognized as the founder of the United Farm Workers of America, the first labor movement for Latinos, which later became a voice for all of the poor and disenfranchised in America.
The park currently preserves the former headquarters of the UFW, and the site of Chavez’ grave. There are plans to expand the park in the future, but as of my visit, most of the site remains undeveloped.
Heading further east, into California’s interior, I visited Manzanar National Historic Site, which I has visited in 2004, shortly after it’s visitor center had been opened.
Manzanar tells the story of one of America’s darkest historic chapters. In the wake of the Japanese bombing of Pearl Harbor, the Roosevelt administration made the decision to temporarily move many Japanese-Americans to internment camps.
These citizens were hard-working Americans, and despite having done nothing wrong, they were subject to the loss of their homes and businesses, and in the case of Manazar, to be relocated to California’s baking interior.
While being relocated to less than a less than ideal environment, they made the camp a community, where they shared the hardships together. While being one of America’s saddest history lessons, sites like this are preserved as a reminder so future generations can hopefully learn from the mistakes of the past.
Continuing east, I headed into Death Valley National Park, a singular piece of desert containing many historic and cultural sites.
Badwater Basin in Death Valley is the lowest spot in the Western Hemisphere, measuring -282 feet below Sea Level. I’d visited the spot back in 2004 on a mild Spring day with temps in the upper 90s, but it was considerably warmer this year.
After a look around at the Furnace Creek Visitor Center and dinner at nearby Furnace Creek Ranch, I proceeded on to Dante’s View, a scenic spot over 5500ft above the valley floor below.
In the evening I stayed at the hotel attached to the Amargosa Opera House. This was an incredibly authentic experience, and I was able to tour the Opera House the next morning before departing. It was a quintessential piece of America, and I could help but wondering how the building looked in the 1920s during Death Valley’s Gold Rush era.
Then it was off to Las Vegas. I had secured a great deal on a room at the Luxor. It was sure to be the nicest hotel of the entire trip for me.
I had a friend from college, Doug, who is a teacher in Vegas, and agreed to show me around during the day. He took me to an area just east of downtown where there was a bunch of fantastic street art.
We also had a chance to walk the eccentric freak show that is called The Fremont Street Experience. I’d missed this part of Las Vegas my last time in town and was glad to at least see it.
My evening was spent in a pretty tame way, especially for a place like Sin City. I gathered up my camera and tripod and set off to photograph the sights of the strip.
I walked all the way from the Luxor to the Venetian, sometimes dipping into the casinos themselves to checkout the lavish interiors, but most of the evening was spent photographing the exteriors, as well as people watching and enjoying the chaos that is Las Vegas.
A highlight of the evening was watching the world famous fountains at the Bellagio.
Although it’s not really my kind of city, I did enjoy my one evening there. I freely admit it’s a place I wouldn’t care to spend a lot of time in.
I arrived back at the Luxor at close to 4AM and was woken up by a brilliant desert sunrise and hour later. Although I hadn’t partied like a rock star there, Las Vegas still go the best of me. While I did get a few more hours of sleep, the long night was going to make for an exhausting next day, as I pushed through the last few days of the trip before making the long drive home.
West 2015- The Itinerary Posts