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Tucson to Las Vegas

I busted out yesterday, with a big roadtrip to Las Vegas. I need to meet some folks here and there, so I put together a trip which will keep me out and about through Monday.

No Airstream this time, and no family either. We debated the ideas but neither made sense for this trip. I’ll be moving fast and light for a few days, and there are things to be managed back at the homestead. So Eleanor and Emma are in Tucson — still in the Airstream — taking care of things while I’m zipping around in the Fit trying to get my stuff done as quickly as possible.


First stop was near Prescott AZ to see “Peewee” Schwamborn, the son of Helen Byam Schwamborn. He was called Peewee because he was only 12 years old when we came along on Wally Byam’s first caravan, to central America. He ended up being on almost every major caravan Wally ran through the 1950s, and he has a huge treasure trove of artifacts and papers about Wally and Airstream.

Peewee, now more properly called Dale, was also a scout (at the age of 21) on the famous Cape Town to Cairo Caravan in 1959-60. He had an amazing life thanks to Airstream and Wally Byam. The last time I visited him he and I were laughing about how Wally Byam bought an Isetta microcar in Italy and Dale was elected to drive it from the docks in New York City to Los Angeles, at 45 MPH all the way. He’s got a million stories like that, and his archives are amazing. Dale’s photos and scans have appeared in Airstream Life magazine many times.


Dale, his mother Helen Byam Schwamborn, and Wally Byam’s Isetta

The drive through Arizona from south to north is very long, but I never find it tedious. My route, from Tucson to Phoenix and then Prescott, up to I-40 and west to Kingman, then up to the Hoover Dam, was over seven hours. But in Arizona the landscape keeps changing. Down south it’s saguaro and creosote bush, then urban traffic in Phoenix, then fast-rising mountains up to 5,000 feet into green forests. In Prescott it’s dry and cool, but very pretty with pink-orange granite dells everywhere. Along I-40 you’re in the kind of country that inspired the landscapes and scenes in the movie “Cars”, and then there’s an open stretch from Kingman heading north before you arrive at the Hoover Dam.


I always love crossing the dam. I look up to the new bypass they’re building, which soars far above the Black Canyon, and think that it will be a shame when I can no longer wind down to the dam and cruise across it at a leisurely 15 MPH. The bypass will have an astonishing view down into the canyon but I expect that traffic will never have a chance to slow down enough to see it.


The water in Lake Mead is very low these days. Every time I see it, it is a bit lower. Some scientists say this is a normal cycle for the lake, and others are predicting that with global warming effect the lake will be unusable by 2021. Who knows? But if it does run dry, Las Vegas is in trouble. The city gets 90% of its water from the lake.

I’ll be reporting from Las Vegas and the surrounding area for the next few days.

2 Responses to “Tucson to Las Vegas”

  1. dave Says:

    rich, don’t be too sure about people not slowing down to take in the view. a comapny put up a few model home log cabins along side the NY state thruway and they cause traffic back ups every weekend in the summer. people slow down to take them in and it backs traffic up from the catskills all the way up to albany.

    if the views are there i expect the same will happen on this new roadway.

  2. John Says:

    The reason for the Lake being so low and getting lower is the over allocation of water to cities like Las Vegas (done in 1913 or around then). It is a major problem, possibles ways of fixing it, is too some how teach all cities and towns and agriculture using water from the Colorado basin to be water smart.