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US 95 Vegas to Blythe, Part 4: US 93 to Needles

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[NV 5 and CA 195, 1939 (42K).] Between US 93 and I-40, US 95 is primarily expressway up to the California state line and one of the few highways to feed this relatively lonely segment whose single city of any note is the egregious speedtrap of Searchlight, NV, and whose sole purpose seems to be as an alternate route for traffic to Laughlin. It runs alone, co-signed with no other route, until its junction with Old US 66 outside of Goffs, CA. Other than widening and various minor upgrades, this section's alignment has remained unchanged since 1940.

South of the California state line all the way to its terminus in Blythe, US 95 runs nearly exactly on the alignment of the original old CA 195 prior to its subsequent 1960s reincarnation. Much of this can be seen on the 1939 inset map to the right, along with US 66's alignment of the time and the southernmost end of NV 5 up to the stateline. Click the thumbnail for a new window containing the map for reference (42K).


US 95 vantage point overlooking the flats south of Boulder City, just south of the US 95/US 93 interchange. US 95 at this point is officially named the Veterans Memorial Highway, the same name it also carries in northern Nevada.

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PM 56.

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Looking back at the US 95/US 93 interchange. Note the order on the sign.

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Distance signage. Note that Laughlin is a listed designation even though US 95 doesn't actually go there (we'll explain this in a little bit).

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Upgrade to divided highway/expressway.

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USGS survey marker in the flats, which I spotted by the flags on the witness posts. This does not appear to be an "N" block, unfortunately, which was used by Nevada to mark right-of-way during early survey studies in the same manner as the California "C" block. The right-of-way markers Nevada DOT uses nowadays are scattered postmile-like at multiple intervals, and we'll see a few along the way.

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Advance signage for junction NV 165. The progression of JCT, control city and separation is typical for Nevada.

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NV 165 is a rather remote route traveling to Nelson, NV, in the middle of the mountains through the Eldorado Cyn. It didn't seem to be a terribly frequented road on my cursory examination.

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Separation.

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Expressway turnoffs not only have the usual YIELD/STOP and DO NOT ENTER signage, but Nevada also uses a blue/black/blue marker at crossings as well.

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Distance signage leaving NV 165.

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PM 41.

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BLM signage along the route.

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Some of the arid desert vegetation and mountains on this relatively clear but definitely hot day.

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Approaching Searchlight is this conglomeration of war memorial signs, starting with a marker for the Veterans Memorial Hwy itself. For people who are prone to engaging in pedantry and other such pursuits of uncertain import, the relative size of each sign in the following photographs does not imply my or NDOT's political stance on the war depicted. This sign sequence is repeated several times along US 95 in Nevada, including near Hawthorne to the north.

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First is this segment dedicated to World War I vets,

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then World War II,

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then Korean War,

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then Vietnam War (a salute to my father, retired USAF),

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and then the Persian Gulf War. As of the date of this photograph (summer 2007), there is nothing up yet for the Iraq or Afghanistan wars.

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Senior discount available.

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End divided highway. The following photographs from here to the California state line are mixed between 2005 and 2007 due to a large widening project, so I have used some older pictures where appropriate if construction interfered with a particular shot.

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Coming up to the grade over which we will reach Searchlight.

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Searchlight, NV. A former mining town, established 1898 after gold was struck in 1897, its claim to fame these days is being the only major services between Boulder City and Needles, the subject of a ragtime piece by Scott Joplin -- even though he never lived there -- and also the birthplace of Senator Harry Reid (D-Nevada), the present-day majority leader in the United States Senate. When the gold dried up, so did the town, and despite being larger than Las Vegas at the turn of the 20th century, by 1927 there were only about 50 people left. Slow growth of tourism and the ranching industry attracted people back to Searchlight, and today its population numbers 576 as of the 2000 census. Here's a nice history of Searchlight.

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[Nevada DOT right-of-way markers.] Junction NV 164, Nipton Rd. Nipton, CA is a small town west of the California-Nevada border and affords direct access, though not very fast access, to I-15 on the other side. NV 164 ends at the stateline to travel as non-state highway through the town and then to the Interstate.

Oh, I forgot: there's one other claim to fame about Searchlight, and that's the speeding tickets. They aren't kidding about the 25 mph speed limit, and even have flashing lights and signs up to warn you that the radar pulses freely past the municipal limits.

On the right shoulder are a couple of faintly visible NDOT "R-W" (right of way) markers, with an enlargement here on the right side. These are the modern-day replacements of the old "N" blocks.

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Yes, we're still on the bypass.

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Only-In-Nevada Dept.

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You didn't think the cops were kidding, did you?

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First distance signage showing Blythe as a control city.

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This part of US 95 is designated a daytime headlight section for safety. The reason is because US 95 shrinks down south of Searchlight to one lane per direction with only occasional passing lane sections, and multiple traffic accidents have resulted due to the high speeds on the straightaways and frequent passing using the other traffic lane. Nevada DOT is currently at work expanding this section of US 95 to full expressway all the way to the California state line; the construction on this segment is not shown in this earlier 2005 picture.

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As an example, note how heavily traveled this portion is. There were a couple near-misses I witnessed myself while driving along.

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Cal-Nev-Ari, population 278 (2000). This town, surprise surprise, takes its name from the fact it is roughly equidistant from California, Nevada and Arizona, nearly at Nevada's southern tip (as shown in this Wikipedia Cal-Nev-Ari entry; you know you've arrived when you have a Wikipedia entry). There isn't a whole lot to it.

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At the southern end of Cal-Nev-Ari is the turnoff for NV 163. This is a significant highway leading to the Colorado River resorts at Laughlin, NV (hence the distance signage way back in Boulder City), and is also the routing for the US 93 truck bypass. Note the odd state shield on the sign.

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The daytime headlight section ends here.

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NV 163 also goes to the Davis Dam, situated on the Colorado River 45 miles downstream from the Hoover Dam (Part 3). Originally called Bullhead Dam, it was renamed for Arthur P. Davis, who was the director of the U. S. Bureau of Reclamation from 1914 to 1932. Like US 93 and Hoover Dam, vehicular traffic could cross the Davis Dam originally but that has since been prohibited, and a new 2004 bypass runs on a separate bridge nearby. Completed in 1951, it is 200' tall, 1600' long and has a generation capacity of 251 megawatts.

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Separation, with an older-looking US 95 shield.

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Looking at the turnoff and the thunderheads in the distance. The orange truck bypass signage is easy to pick out.

As this is a common route to Laughlin, most of US 95's traffic turns off here and volume diminishes markedly into California.

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PM 1.

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A last look at the Nevada desert.

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Shortly afterwards, the state line. California has some of the dullest stateline signs and most of them look like this (a plain green sign with "Welcome to California" in Series font). There are a few moderately improved ones with a blue background, a flower and "Welcome to California" in cursive script, but those are comparatively unusual.

The state line appears to be well marked by the cattle crossing.

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There is no roadside postmile on the California side, but there is one on the Nevada side showing Clark County mile zero. The Veterans Memorial Hwy designation officially ends here.

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Nevada's current welcome sign is very stylish, and beats their old silver-blue "Welcome to Nevada."

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There is also no county sign on the California side, but both a milecount (PM 80.4) and the county (San Bernardino) do appear on the callbox nearby.

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"Daddy, how do oversize vehicles move?"
"Call Caltrans, son. They'll tell you how."

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First California postmile (PM 80.0).

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Dips, next five miles. The bozos, on the other hand, continue for another three miles after that.

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I always point out "No Passing Zone" signs when they appear on Californian highways because they are, while by no means unknown, rather infrequent.

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PM 77.0, but the callbox disagrees and says PM 77.4. Since Caltrans puts up the postmiles but the local transportation agency puts up the callboxes, I tend to go with Caltrans.

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First US 95 shield on the California side, which looks like it was on the wrong end of a dental surgery.

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The dips. This is pretty much typical of this stretch of US 95. In fact, as far as road quality goes, with the exception of its sections co-routed with Interstate no part of US 95 in California is bigger than one lane per direction. At least Nevada gave us passing lanes from time to time.

On the 2007 trip, I got a flat tire a mile or so after this point; changing a tire in 120 F weather requires frequent breaks and a lot of fluid. As soon as I got into Needles I bought a bottle of Gatorade and consumed the whole thing in about thirty seconds. Dehydration is not to be messed around with.

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A marker for Camp Ibis. Camp Ibis (here is a nice history and photograph) was a training ground during the last years of World War II for survival, gunnery and armoured vehicle tactics. One of the ten major divisional camps established as part of General George S. Patton's California-Arizona Maneuver Area, or CAMA, the CAMA as a whole was the largest Army base in the world with a total area of 18,000 square miles. A single runway nearby functioned as an airfield, although it no longer appears on many maps.

Only in existence for two years (construction commenced 8 November 1942), Camp Ibis was decommissioned 30 April 1944.

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In the amusing bureaucratic acronym department is the FUDS, plural FUDSes, unrelated to Wabbit Hunting and standing for a Formerly Used Defense Site. Kidding aside, this BLM/U. S. Army Corps of Engineers warning sign alerts hikers and explorers that unexploded ordnance and ammunition still lurk in the region and to report any suspicious items for disposal.

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A train in the distance.

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A little ways south of Camp Ibis is US 95's junction with Goffs Rd, old US 66. California is pretty exhaustive about signing former alignments of US 66 (see our US 395 exhibit for other examples), and this is no exception. Goffs is a very small junction in the California desert with little fanfare in the present day except for the fact that old US 66 runs near it. Despite its obscurity nowadays, it was very important during the early 1900s and teens as a railroad engine service point. As the mining industry waned and the steam locomotive faded away, so did the town. (This is a nice history of Goffs.) Note that by the 1930s US 66 had since been shifted south more or less to the modern Interstate 40 corridor (as the inset map above shows), but Caltrans still remembers the old routing.

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Separation, US 66 to the right. We continue as US 95/old US 66.

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Distance signage looking back at the junction.

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PM 61.0 as we continue south towards I-40.

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Only a couple more dips. The iron oxide in the hills and rocks makes a striking ochre contrast.

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Junction modern I-40, the successor to US 66.

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As US 95 ran with US 66, so does US 95 run with I-40 now. We get on the freeway east towards Needles.

Continue to Part 5

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