Needles Highway

I've never been to Laughlin, Nevada before.

I know many Southern Californians frequent the resorts there because it's positioned just on the other side of the California/Nevada border. So it moves legalized gambling two hours closer than a trip all the way to Las Vegas. But since I don't gamble, I never had a reason to visit.

That is, until my niece decided to get married there. Laughlin is a central meeting point for the families that live in Flagstaff, Phoenix, and parts of So. Cal. Basically it's a 3-hour drive for all of them. Me, being the odd duck in Northern California, had a 10 hour journey to the Aquarius Casino standing alongside the Colorado River.

The first part of the trip was a familiar drive south down Interstate 5. I know that route well, and even enjoy it. I tend to shoot along the way, such as my ongoing collection of highway overpass shots.

But then I had to head east instead of my normal bend to the west. And this, at the 9 hour mark, is when I was introduced to Needles Highway. The fact that a two-lane desert road with a faded yellow stripe down the middle can be called a highway is humorous. The 108 degree afternoon heat added a bit of surrealism to the adventure. Asphalt undulations up and down peppered with jack rabbits gave me the feeling of driving through a chapter of Abbey's Desert Solitaire.

Then, without warning, the road became perfectly smooth. No more potholes. The rumbling in the car cabin quieted. And the road widened. I had crossed the border from California to Nevada.

It was startling how different the two realities were. And it all had to do with funding and attention to detail. Even the searing environment of the southwest desert can be mitigated if desired.

Not long after crossing the border, I parked the Audi in a multi-story garage and rolled my suitcase and camera bag to the casino. I had a lot of work ahead of me. Weddings are complicated to photograph.

Thank goodness I had been paying attention to the details of the event. And because of that preparation, I anticipate a smooth ride.

That is, until I depart the Aquarius Casino and cross the border on Needles Highway.