Driving Day 16: San Luis Obispo to Helendale – 394.3km

Unlike the previous morning, bright sunlight streamed through the broad windows of the MacCarley’s house, and we were awoken to the smell of cinnamon buns and blueberry muffins. RGE do not often have the chance to have breakfast as we are so often pushing to get to the next destination, but on this occasion we afforded ourselves the luxury to sit down and enjoy a delicious breakfast with our hosts. Time was short though, and very quickly we had to get moving. It wasn’t a complete goodbye yet though, as Art and his family accompanied us back to the university for our last few activities in San Luis Obispo.

Firstly, we met up with the local press and gave an interview in front of the car while it was still on charge. Next up it was time to unplug the car and give some rides to a few people. First up was Art; I don’t think he had ever seen his campus whizz by so fast! On one occasion, we were speeding down the road where I was assured there were no bumps, when suddenly the road dropped about 15cm beneath us in a very brutal speed bump of some description, and for the first time the SRZero took to the skies. Well, plummeting to the ground would be a far more accurate description actually, and very quickly we hit the ground hard! Fortunately, the SRZero’s beefy race suspension was able to handle it, and a light inspection at the end of the drive showed no untoward results! Next we were able to give the local press a quick spin, and with our last part of our Californian PR complete, it was time to say our goodbyes and head for Helendale!


So far, RGE had made it an unofficial goal to navigate our way from Alaska down to Texas using just normal, traditional maps. We actually did cheat one day when the roads got a little complicated, and that one time we used a GPS we got hideously lost! So we stubbornly kept to using just maps (we will use a GPS from Texas onwards though) and we headed off back up Highway 1 to try and find the exit which would ultimately take us to Helendale.

The road seemed to deviate wildly from what was drawn on the map, and soon we were on a small and very twisty road heading up through the mountains. But despite the road taking a big hit on our battery state of charge, it was one of the most beautiful roads we had so far encountered and even though we ended up back at the same point we were half an hour earlier, it was well worth the drive! Anyway, now that we were back on the right path, we sped off towards Helendale.

Along the way the scenery changed from dramatic coastal mountains and vegetation to scorching inland desert. But interestingly, despite the heat and parched ground, the roadside was dotted with lush orchards growing dates, pistachios, plums and a whole range of other fruits. The water source of these plantations soon became apparent; occasionally we could spot canals crisscrossing the desert, bringing in water from the mountains in the distance. This was intensive irrigation at its most extreme! But soon it got too dry for even the irrigation to continue, and the golden desert stretched off into the distance.And then, on the horizon, lots of white dots could be seen covering the surrounding mountains. Driving closer revealed this sight to be thousands upon thousands of wind turbines, ranging from the small to the absolutely massive. Check the photos to see what I mean…there’s no way I can explain it in words! And here’s an interesting contrast; just before driving into view of the wind turbines, we came across a huge oil field dominated by the “nodding donkey” pumps scattered across the countryside as far as the eye could see. Man’s past and current energy addiction juxtaposed with man’s search for renewable energy; quite a sight!

On we continued into the diminishing light until we came to Shadow Mountain Road, the final few miles into Helendale. And at the end of the road, at the turn into this tiny desert town, the sheriff was waiting for us. This was certainly not the first time we had been stopped by the police, but it was the first time they were waiting for us! As it turned out, they had got wind that the car was arriving and were eager to see it. They were a super friendly bunch, and we swapped rides; they gave un an off-road drive in their 4×4 squad car, and we gave them a drive in the SRZero. The video online shows it in much better details! It was fantastic fun, a unique experience, and after hearing some quite amazing and dangerous policing stories, we wish these fine gentlemen the best of luck in their future law enforcement endeavours.

During this entire escapade, we met Kyle Bauman who was a local resident of Helendale. He was actually an acquaintance of Claudio from the Long Way Round trip back in 2004. Anyway, he had kindly offered to host the car in his garage which is where we promptly headed after giving the sherrif a very fast drive through the town! He had also organised us our hotel rooms and had brought us some pizza as he knew we would be hungry; what a legend! We were looking forward to meeting our host in more detail during the next day, but for now it was time for some deep, deep sleep!

One Response to “Driving Day 16: San Luis Obispo to Helendale – 394.3km”

  • Charles H Schulmann says:

    Dear RGET ,
    these reports provide the missing dots for all
    the fabulous photos , which you have posted on
    the site .
    This Epic Trip to which everybody is starting
    to subscribe is a holistic and comprehensive one
    as it encompasses the technical , environmental ,
    ecological , economical , human without forgetting
    the gastromical elements that generates a living
    memoir of the journey which appeals to all the
    various tastes of people .
    We shall continue to thank you every time you post
    these reports – THANX ! !! !

    Wishing you all , our best regards from
    Ladysmith ( Kwazulu Natal ) in sunny
    South Africa where we are expecting
    a very cold front with lots of snow on
    the surrounding mountains , this cold front
    is one the last spasms from the Antarticas
    which will release us into what probably
    will become a very hot summer .

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