The 395 means you are out of the big city. Yes, it does run through Victorville & Adelanto, but once you clear that hellhole it’s an amazing highway. Some folks think it’s boring, I’ve even heard people say bleak and ugly. I think it’s wide open and beautiful, the kind of drive where a man can be alone with his thoughts. Perhaps the reason some folks don’t like the 395 is because they never really see the 395. Instead they are in a hurry to get from point A to point B. There is a lot of history and many amazing sights worth taking in. The most obvious one is Manzanar. Visiting it should be a requirement for all high school kids in California. The Owens Gorge is also fascinating.
U.S. 395 was originally a route in Washington state that was extended south. The extension south into California and Nevada came in 1935. Every decade since there have improvements to the road. I remember back in the “good old” days of the 70’s when it use to take 8 hours to get from Rancho Bernardo to Mammoth Lakes. It took forever just to clear Escondido! One stop light after another on what is now Center City Parkway. For a while there in the early 80’s, it was quasi-legal to start drinking Coors once you hit the high desert. Now it is an easy 6 hour drive.
One thing that hasn’t changed is the brain bank in Bishop. Folks from Southern Cal still drop their brains there before heading up to Mammoth Lakes. God knows I use to! Something about escaping the big city for a few days makes people act goofy, stupid, and unfortunately sometimes disrespectful, as if they didn’t have a brain, but that’s a story for another day.
We just drove the 395 section from Mammoth Lakes to Alturas. The 395 is changing as you drive through Reno. Now it’s part of the 580. I guess Reno is so big now that they need a freeway. I wonder if they still call themselves “the biggest little city in the world”?
Once you clear Reno, the 395 becomes beautiful, interesting, and sad at the same time. There were many dying towns, closed schools, abandoned motels, and businesses that have been shuttered. The blooming rabbit brush went on for hundreds of miles. There were National Wildlife Reserves full of wildlife. We saw jackrabbits, an abundance of geese, a golden eagle, ducks, quail, and deer. But the amazing sights were the Sand Hill Cranes and a herd of Antelope.
We were welcomed to our first night in Oregon with heavy rain and an impressive lightening and booming thunder show in the middle of the night. That story and more will be on the next post.