GPS. Cameras. Tent. Pop-Tarts and Cheez-Its. Water. And the third travel companion: a Dodge Charger. We’re ready. After getting supplies in San Diego, we hit the I-8 East, eager to be on the road while a bit nervous about finally be doing it.
In our planning, June 18 was a buffer day. Our goal was camping on Grand Canyon on June 19, so we had the option of a) staying in San Diego the 18th and driving the whole way to Grand Canyon on the 19th (a drive over 8 hours long according to Google Maps), or b) getting out of San Diego later on the 18th, spending the night at some middle point, and arriving earlier on the 19th. We went with the second option to avoid that amount of driving on our first day and also to get some more hours out of Grand Canyon.
We set El Centro as a first milestone to get a feel for the car and the road; from there, we’d decide whether to keep on driving or look for a motel. On the I-8 we pass through a haunting landscape of desert mountains that look like huge mounds of rubble; after a somewhat steep descent, it’s all desert plains for the rest of the day. A couple of hours of driving from San Diego we are already having an ice coffee in El Centro (a heat wave is hitting the Southwest this weekend) and quickly agreeing on pushing it a bit further. Blythe is just a couple of hours away and, farther North and on the Arizona border, it puts us almost halfway to Grand Canyon.
We took off quite late from San Diego so the sun is starting to set when we head towards Blythe. As soon as we are rolling on SR 78 we start passing escorted cyclists (RAAM 2016 team racers, probably!) which makes this last leg of the day a bit annoying due to bad visibility while being on the lookout for these guys, not helped at all by curves and dips. In better conditions, however, this stretch would have been really beautiful and super fun to drive.
It’s fully dark when we arrive in Blythe to the first roadside motel of our trip. There we have apparently reserved a smokers room, only the previous guests seemed to have moved on to greener pastures and our things will be reeking of marijuana for several days. Other than that, the place is quite decent, has a swimming pool and breakfast is included. At this point we are exhausted and happy to lie our heads down after a successful first day.