speed traps! (Ajo/ Quartzite, AZ)
Driving through the Sonoran Desert of the American Southwest can be a breathtaking experience! Often, the scenery is so beautiful that your focus tends to wander off the road. We’re here to remind visitors to this region that they must always keep their eyes peeled for current speed limit signage! Sheriffs in the many one-horse towns that dot Arizona have little to do, and will often set up “speed traps” to generate money for their backwards community. We had the misfortune of discovering this scenario while driving back from Bisbee on our way home to California in December of 2009.
Ajo, or “A-hole” as we now like to call it, is small pimple on the map. An old mining community, the town offers little in the way of interest, aside from the Organ Pipe National Forest that resides elsewhere in the region. That being said, we made the mistake of passing through this little stretch of highway only to be hoodwinked by a series of signs that increased the “current” speed from 25 mph to 45 mph to 55 mph, and finally, to 65 mph all within the distance of a half mile! A well-positioned copper was waiting in a ditch nearby to track our speed and certain that we were going not too fast for that 100 meter stretch of the AZ-85 Highway! “Speed Ticket Virgin” Brady was soon pulled over and ticketed, the perfect birthday present!
Another town name to remember is Quartzite. Located about 13 miles off the border of California on Interstate 10, the truckstop-clogged city is a great place to fill up your gas tank cheaply, but it is also crawling with traffic cops! You’ll definitely want to mind the signage, and your speed, here.
“I can’t drive 55!” you say? Well, you are in luck; the speed limit in Arizona is 75 mph on most highways! Don’t worry though; you can’t miss those vivid sunsets no matter how fast you are driving!
leaving (and arriving to) Las Vegas
Arriving to, or leaving, Las Vegas via car really drives home the fact that this town is an oasis of flashy entertainment placed smack dab in the middle of a vast desert wasteland. If you make your way from Los Angeles, there isn’t much to see until hit Interstate 15. Like all good American highways that lead you directly to some tourist destination, the 15 has its share of quirky things to watch out for en route to “Sin City.”
Aside from some rather picturesque scenery, including a salt flat and a proliferation of Joshua trees, your first “Must-See” is the infamous monolithic Bun Boy thermometer in Baker, California. For years, this marker has likely bore the brunt of many a joke, though sadly, the adjacent restaurant, and its delicious burgers and shakes, are no more. Still, the sign remains as a great conversation piece to tweet about during your final leg through California.
Not too much further down the road, a vast shining field of what looks like water will appear on your left. This is Ivanpah, one of the largest solar projects anywhere, spanning five square miles, and of this writing, consisting of three massive towers as tall as a 40-story building! Surrounding these are about 350,000 mirrors, each the size of a garage door, all reflecting sunlight that drives Ivanpah’s super power generator
We hear nearby birds are not too pleased with the change. Still, just think of the power generated from here on any given day! It’s a blazing out here.
Now if you need to pee, or want to gas up your car before arriving to Vegas, a good stop-off point is Stateline Service station accessible via the Cima Road exit near Nipton. Inside, there are cheesy souvenirs galore stacked alongside hot coffee and snacks both healthy and not. Set of Drifters tip (for the men): Make sure you hit the urinal - or rather the rock wall waterfall that would make Alex and Phyllis Madonna very proud.
We love the giant Food/ Gas signage out front almost as much as the trio of animatronic miners who pan for gold roadside sharing tales of Nipton’s mining past. If you have kids in tow, they will love this pit stop, and it won’t even cost you anything extra.
If you miss Nipton, chances are you won’t be able to miss Primm, Nevada’s border town that welcomes would-be gamblers too ravenous to wait ‘til Vegas. While Primm boasts oversized hotels and casinos, even a roller coaster, the vibe is nowhere near as glitzy as that of The Strip. So if you’ve come to do something raunchy that will “stay in Vegas,” keep on truckin’ another hour to your final destination.
Set of Drifters tip: Looking for a fun place to grab a simple bite? Check out Peggy Sue’s 50s-inspired diner located about halfway near the town of Yermo. For more information, see “eats” in California getaways.
Bun Boy (closed) - 72155 Baker Boulevard, Baker, CA 92364
Ivanpah Solar Power Facility - Ivanpah, CA (about 40 miles southwest of Las Vegas along Interstate 15)
Stateline Service - 65845 Cima Road, Nipton, CA 92364, (760) 856-2339
Primm - at the border of California and Nevada (about one hour from Las Vegas) on Interstate 15
Peggy Sue's 50’s Diner - 35654 West Yermo Road, Yermo, CA 92398, (760) 254-3370,