Classic Road Trips/Burning Rubber
So Cal to Mammoth at 85 mph.
How many millions of snowboarders have driven Highway 395 anticipating the turns and jibs to come? Some are veterans–up at 4:00 a.m. to get in a full day of riding, others are doing it for the first time–confusing the towns of Lone Pine and Big Pine, and getting lost trying to find the hot springs. The road seems endless when all you care about is getting on snow, but take a look: Highway 395 crosses the Mojave Desert and follows Owens Valley before climbing Sherwin Summit on its way to Mammoth.
The first Mammoth snow slider to travel 395 was probably Dave McCoy in the 1930s. Dave used to drive up and down 395 on a Harley with skis strapped to it, skiing various spots before eventually starting Mammoth Mountain around the time of World War II. Since that time, every dedicated shred in Southern California has made this six-hour pilgrimage–sometimes for a single day on the hill. If you find yourself on the trail up 395, slow down, hit a few cool spots, and take it in–it's one of snowboarding's classic rides.
Mile Markers/Roadside Attractions
0. TransWorld parking lot, 353 Airport Road, Oceanside.
Take Highway 76 east.
15. Go north on I-15.
77. Ontario Mills Mall (4th Street exit, just north of the I-15 and I-10 intersection)
Yeah, it's a mall, but there's a Vans skatepark inside, so it's a cool place to stop. The traffic can be really bad on Friday nights, about five to ten miles north of here on the 15. Hint: If you're on the 15 north and traffic sucks, go east on the 210 to Sierra Avenue and go north. Head under I-15 again, and turn right onto Glen Helen Parkway, which takes you right back to I-15. You'll bypass five to eight miles of hell.
107. Exit 15 onto 395 north.
There are a bunch of gas stations and fast-food joints and a minor-league ballpark here. There is a true country hick bar around, too. The bikini bar closed down last year.
150. Kramer Junction
This is a major stop for gas and food–and it's the last gas for a while. The truck stop just west on the 58 is cool. North of “town” is a solar power plant–miles of solar-energy collectors are next to the road. Also nearby is Edwards Air Force Base, where the sound barrier was first broken and they first landed the space shuttle– neato.
176. Red Mountain
The three towns of Red Mountain, Johannesburg, and Randsburg are living ghost towns. In the 1890s gold was found here and a rush ensued. Well, the rush is long gone, but there's some really cool stuff to look at around here. Take the Red Rock Randsburg Road one mile to the town of Randsburg and check out the White House Saloon. They still mine gold around here in a big open-pit mine.
The Ranch House Café has good hearty food, Jot Em Down Market has cheap gas/porn mags, and Paula Abdul's family owns a bottled-water company up the road on the right–you'll see the big warehouses.
271. Lone Pine
The Alabama Hills are a great place to look around in the shadows of Mt. Whitney (the highest peak in the continental U.S.) just a few miles west of town on Whitney Portal Road. These crazy rock formations have been the stage for Western movies and commercials–annoy your friends by talking like John Wayne for the rest of the trip.
Schat's Bakkerÿ is an Eastern Sierra classic. South of town are some roadside hot springs–they're semi-secret, so you'll have to find them yourself.
367. Exit 395 to Hwy 203 west.
371. Parking lot for Mammoth's new gondola.
•Gas stations are pretty far apart, don't get too low on gas.
•It's been said that the Highway Patrol doesn't patrol the road after midnight on weekdays. If you break down without a cell phone in the middle of the night, you might find yourself waiting 'til morning. Local cops are still around, though, so don't take the Diablo up to 215 mph.
•Carry chains, Mammoth gets huge dumps, and sometimes the law requires chains.
•Don't fall asleep–head-ons are a bitch.
On the edge of So Cal madness, the 15 and the 395 merge, mile 107.
Randsburg, mile 176.
The White House Saloon in Randsburg. Look for Gary Cooper around high noon, mile 176.
The Alabama Hills, mile 271.
Schat's Bakkerÿ, of course I get the cheese bread, mile 328.