A week in Lone Pine, CA
Lone Pine, California - the name itself implies a not-so-happening place. Yet, that was the place I spent the most of my time in during this two months long road trip. It wasn't by choice thou - my car broke down as I was trying to go through Death Valley and Lone Pine was the closest place with an auto shop.
Calling Lone Pine a town would be a stretch - with one main street along Highway 395, it is mostly a collection of motels and restaurants catering to the passers-by. In fact, Wikipedia refers to it as a "census-designated place in Inyo County". Whatever it is, it lays claim to fame with two things - most of Hollywood's westerns were shot here in the past and now it serves as the launching/end point for hikers brave enough to scale Mt. Whitney - the highest peak in all of continental US.
As bad news kept pouring in from the shop - first, it was a leaking radiator that needed replacement and then the head gasket, I gave up on the idea of leaving anytime soon and set up the camp at the historic Dow Villa Hotel/Motel:
Dow Villa'st old building was quite charming with pieces of Lone Pine's movie history and memorabilia proudly displayed everywhere as well as years past types of amenities, or rather the lack of thereof with showers and bathrooms separated from guest rooms. Still, it was getting pretty pricey as I was looking at the possibility of spending a few weeks in town so I was glad to "run into" the Mt. Whitney Hostel just across the street.
At $25 for a bed in a ten person dorm, it was a third of Dow Villa's price and not that bad - the most I had with me at the dorm was six people and usually just two-three others.
Have I mentioned yet that there is nothing to do in this town?
Hmm. I did.
So I guess I will just show you what it looked like.
That, and an occasional trip to the only grocery store to get some fruit, were about all of the times I have gotten out of the hostel during the day as it was scorching hot and not nearly as pleasant as the AC inside.
I snapped a few more pics on those rare occasions that I did get out:
Well, that's not completely true - one of the first days I decided to hit up the only attraction in town - Lone Pine Film Museum.
As you can probably tell from the name, the museum chronicles the history of moviemaking in the area. And there is quite a bit of it, all starting with first silent westerns shot here in 1920s. The film makers loved the Alabama Hills for its close proximity to Hollywood while providing a very remarkable backdrop for the movies and it wasn't unusual to have multiple studios filming simultaneously in various locations in "those" days.
Buck Jones, Hoot Gibson, John Wayne, William Boyd as Hop-a-long Cassidy, the Lone Ranger, the singing cowboys, Cisco Kid, Tim Holt, the Twilight Zone, How the West Was Won, Clint Eastwood's Joe Kid are just a tiny sample of movie stars and popular westerns that... I have never heard of. But were apparently a big deal fifty or so years ago.
But it wasn't just the cowboys territory - Alabama Hills have been "passed along" as other states (Texas, New Mexico, Arizona, Wyoming), other countries (India, China, Afghanistan, Argentina), and even as other planets. Movie studios built entire towns, Hindu temples, and army barracks there for blockbusters of old (Gunga Din and Bad Day at a Rock) and new (Star Trek V, Iron Man) while locals served as stunt doubles and extras as well as providing whatever else the studios needed from horses to wagons to airplanes.
The most recent blockbuster to be partially shot in Alabama Hills is Quentin Tarantino's Django Unchained with Jamie Foxx and Leonardo DiCaprio (finally, a movie I have actually seen!) with some of memorabilia proudly displayed at the front of the museum.
For those interested in learning more about Lone Pine movie history, a short movie, aptly named Where the Real West becomes the Reel West, is being shown at museum's own movie theater. But fret not - you don't actually have to go there to see it as it is available on YouTube.
So that was fun. And made me want to trek out to Alabama Hills. But with no car, I had to get creative to get there.