Nevada, Neon and the Sierra Nevada’s

May 20, 2013

As I post these last couple of blogs I’ve decided to hang out at camp here in the Sequoia National Park, California, until later in the day when I’ll ride up into the giant Sequoia forests to take more pictures. In three days I logged more than 1,000 miles on my bike. That’s more than I’ve done in any three day period. I’m a bit tired of being on my pony. Here’s where I’m currently located. For full details on my travels, see the map section.


My plans foiled to stay in Zion, I decided I’d ride on to Nevada and see if I could capture some neon images of Las Vegas at night. For some unexplainable reason I wanted to ride into the night, something I had avoided this entire trip. Las Vegas and all its neon seemed the perfect destination to satisfy this urge.

I rode out of the last of the impressive rock formations of southwest Utah on the first interstate I chose to travel on this trip. I had so far successfully avoided any of the larger roadways. But now I wanted to “make some tracks”, as I was anxious to get into southern California and the Sierra Nevada mountains. The highway carved its way through a narrow, deep canyon that draped deep shadows across my route. As the canyon valley faded and the desert opened up before me, a new mountain range appeared to my right. Dark skies formed in the distance in shades of deep blue as the sun began to set. Just as the skies had brightened outside of Zion I once again feared an impending deluge. “I’m in the desert!  When will the rain cease?” I spoke aloud to myself through the wind shear on my helmet and the vibration of my bike in my ears. Despite my fear, I remained dry while watching the skies darken and thrilling tracks of lightening crack above the mountains.

Moving toward sunset

storm above the mountains

I arrived in Las Vegas in all its neon glory. But it appeared as though the chaos on “the strip” would pay no heed to my desire to get off my bike and photograph. My bike has most of its gear strapped to the passenger seat with the exception of two lockable saddlebags. I couldn’t just park anywhere and trust I’d return to find my bags still there. I decided to deploy a new strategy and photograph what I call “little neon”. I removed my Nikon DSLR from my neck, locked it in my saddlebag and removed my cell phone and Panasonic point and shoot. I intended to drive through the night and capture whatever neon called to me on the streets outside the strip and the highway leading to California. This would be a night of “little neon” with my handhelds. Here are a few shots.



Here’s a quick handheld shot while waiting in traffic on The Strip.

Handheld of Strip

On the road out of the city. Onward to California through the night.

Pan for Gold

Stopping for gas – panorama shot with my Android phone.

Stop for Gas

Welcome to CaliforniaDespite my initial boyish enthusiasm for riding through the night, the sleepies got the best of me by 3 AM. Not long after I crossed the California border I pulled off the highway, found a back road and pitched my tent behind a concrete wall on a black desert road. When I awoke the next morning and surveyed the landscape it appeared as though I landed in the middle of nowhere. All the better. My sleep was undisturbed until some distant dogs must have caught my scent and barked me out of the neighborhood.

I pressed on toward Sequoia National Park, my destination for the day. I passed through an old section of Route 66. What I saw was a reminder of the old route that once hosted and fed travelers from Chicago to the west coast. But the Eisenhower interstate system of the 1950’s and 60’s eventually killed most of what is now a historic route. Some stretches have been historically preserved, but not the section I rode. It felt like ghosts of the past were speaking to me. They weren’t necessarily malevolent ghosts, but they certainly seemed tired and weary.

Rt 66

Rt 66

Rt 66

I was now in the Mojave desert. The wind started to slash at me. And slash and whip it did until I pulled over at one point to consider whether it was safe for me to continue my ride. My stubbornness prevailed despite my feeling that the better course of action was to wait it out. I’m here to write about it, but in retrospect I think I should have stopped. I won’t ride through that sort of wind again.


Not far up the road the most massive wind farm I had ever seen appeared on the ridge line. I wanted to call those folks I had met back in Medicine Lodge, Kansas, who told me their wind farm was the largest cluster in the world. See With D.L. Moss in the Flint Hills. Not!  This cluster was HUGE! I think it’s this farm.



I was worn out by the wind by the time I reached the fertile farm valley beyond Bakersfield. Groves of oranges, lemons, limes and who knows what else stretched out beyond view on both sides of the road. The road turned east and into the Sierra Nevada mountains from there. Sequoia National Park and the largest trees in the world stood before me.

The Golden State

The Golden State



More on the Golden State and the Giants of the Forest in my next post. Right now I’m going down to the river in my camp site to soak my feet.

All content Copyrighted ©  Stephen Tavella

4 thoughts on “Nevada, Neon and the Sierra Nevada’s

  1. Steve,so sweet to see you standing with those grand ancestors. You are now in the lap of my most favorite mountains. Lovely Sierra Nevada! Send my love and have a blast. Thanks so much for your blog, I’m lovin’ it

  2. Literature / Adventure: “The gold of the Sierra Nevada,” publishing aavaa Berlin 2012.
    California Gold Rush, 1848 – 54:
    Hundreds of thousands of German immigrant in the areas of San Francisco,
    Auburn, Grass Valley and Sacramento. It was not only gold seekers.
    Adventure/Lust for hiking, to admire the natural beauty.
    A. Adams, was born in 1902 in San Francisco, died in 1984 in Monterey, took photographs the Sierra. (Famous for nature photos)
    Prospectors discovered the Sierra Nevada in California – as a new home.
    My relatives emigrated to the USA in 1928. They loved the Sierra …

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