CARDIO TO VEGAS Update: Welcome to Phelan!

I’m in full-on nerd mode right now, which means this is gonna be a really good post. The last time I was nerding out to this degree, I ended up introducing my new workout goal, which is called Cardio to Vegas. Simply put, I’m logging all the miles I complete during any sort of cardio workout, with the goal of getting myself, hypothetically, from Los Angeles to Las Vegas. You can read more about the challenge right here.

Time for my first update! Las Vegas is 274 miles away, and I had already gone 57.85 miles. Let’s see how many new miles I’ve gone since then!

  • 6/27/13: 3.65 mile run (in Portland, see pictures from it here)
  • 7/1/13: 2.35 miles (most of it on an Adaptive Motion Trainer, but I also went .1 mile on the StairMaster. It took 16 minutes, during which I climbed 481 feet)
  • 7/3/13: 3.05 miles (split between an ARC trainer and a cool-down on an exercise bike)
  • 7/5/13: 12 miles (exercise bike)
  • 7/6/13: 2 miles (a run in the park, with intermittent stops to do other exercises)

TOTAL: 23.05 miles!

Add that to the 57.85 miles that’s already in the can, and my new GRAND TOTAL is: 80.9 miles! 

When I last left off, I had made it to the suburb of Fontana. Tack on those new 23.05 miles, and that takes me significantly north, through the national forest, and into the vast, flat high desert.

7 11 update new road

Specifically, I’ve made it just beyond the exit for Highway 395, one of the exits you’d take if you were headed to the tiny town of Phelan.

7 11 update exit

What an exciting place to stop! I’m excited because I’ve actually taken this exit before. Even though Phelan is a mere pinprick on the map of California, I have a friend that lives there, and I’ve been been out this way to visit her.

My friend’s name is Judie, and I blogged about my visit about a year ago. Judie is an animal lover who had recently gotten a couple new puppies, so I went out to visit, and got some awesome pictures.



Seriously, how cute are Rosie and Lucy? They’re all grown up now, but I haven’t seen them since they were that size. For more puppy pictures, plus a “Before” and “Current” Puppy Photo Comparison, click here.

Getting to Judie’s house in Phelan is an adventure. The directions go something like this:

  • Get off the interstate onto a smaller highway. Take that forever.
  • Eventually turn onto a 4-lane road. Take that forever.
  • Eventually turn onto a 2-lane road. Take that forever.
  • Eventually turn onto a 2-lane dirt road. Go slowly, because there’s lots of potholes. Take that until it dead-ends.
  • Turn onto a smaller 2-lane dirt road. There’s no street sign, because someone ran it over in their pick-up years ago. Judie’s house will be on your left.

I used to joke with Judie that her street was the last one before you fall off the end of the Earth. Judie liked Phelan because she’s a fan of big, wide open spaces, and Phelan has tons of space. There’s nothing but space in Phelan.

I’m slightly familiar with a few of the neighboring communities as well, and this is where I get to put my nerd hat on. I’m familiar because once, years ago, I tagged along with Judie as she went house-hunting up in this area. I saw a lot of this part of the world, including a little speck of a town called Llano that, despite its tiny size, is notable for a few intriguing reasons.

When I say Llano is tiny, I’m not kidding. There are 1,200 residents, but they’re spread out over 112 square miles – an area larger than Cleveland, Salt Lake City, or Orlando. The center of town, according to Google Maps, is an intersection that has a single building and is surrounded by acres and acres of barren desert.


And yet Llano has a pretty interesting history. It was home to one of the more successful socialist communes in the country, called Llano Del Rio. Llano Del Rio was founded by a socialist politician in 1913, and from 1914-17, it blossomed. Nine hundred people moved to a planned community in the middle of the desert, where they built a self-sustaining economy with industry, schools, dances twice a week, a champion baseball team, and high-yielding farms. All was hunky-dory… until the stream that provided water dried up. In 1918, Llano Del Rio was abandoned. Some of the families headed to the much more wet state of Louisiana, where they founded New Llano, which functioned as a socialist commune for 22 more years and still exists as a town on the map. And Llano Del Rio still exists in California, in the form of ruins that you can see from the road. I’ve seen ’em. It’s pretty cool.

Some twenty-two years after the socialists high-tailed it out of town, Llano welcomed a very famous new resident: Aldous Huxley. Reading the name Aldous Huxley may take you back to high school English class, as he’s the author of the very famous novel “Brave New World.” He’s English, but lived the latter half of his life in southern California. In 1937, Huxley moved to Los Angeles to see if he could break into the lucrative world of Hollywood screenwriting. It wasn’t a successful endeavor – at one point, Walt Disney reportedly rejected his treatment of “Alice in Wonderland” because he could only understand every third word.

So, in 1940, Huxley and his family moved from the glamour and lights of Hollywood to a 40-acre property in… you guessed it… Llano. The reason was medicinal: Huxley had notoriously bad eyesight, stemming from a childhood disease, and the clean, bright, dry desert air was supposed to be good for him. And it was. Huxley claimed that, for the first time in 25 years, he was able to read without his glasses. The first time he drove a car was in Llano, even if it was just on the dirt road next to his house.

Huxley spent 5 years in Llano, and the reminder of his life in southern California. Huxley was a fan of hallucinogenic drugs, including mescaline and LSD, and when he was on his deathbed at the age of 69, unable to talk due to his advanced throat cancer, he scribbled a note asking his wife to inject him with a large dose of LSD. She did as he asked, and on 11/22/63, Aldous Huxley passed away in what one would hope was a psychedelic haze. Huxley was one of three world-renowned men to die on the very same day. C. S. Lewis, who wrote the “Narnia” books, was the second. But Huxley and Lewis’ deaths were overshadowed by the third, and much more high-profile death: the assassination of John F. Kennedy.

That’s a lot of history for one little town. My nerd-o-meter is simply off the charts! But let’s reign it in, because there’s a couple more maps I want to share. Here’s the 80.9 miles I’ve completed thus far:

7 11 update

And here’s where I’m headed, with Las Vegas in the upper corner of the map:

7 11 update las vegas

80.9 miles down, 193.1 miles to go. Almost 30% of the way to Vegas!


8 Responses to CARDIO TO VEGAS Update: Welcome to Phelan!

  1. Matt says:

    I love it when you nerd out! Maps and history and trivia! This is my favorite post in a long time. Keep it up, David!! 😀 

  2. Dana says:

    Another terrific post! Love reading all the history and trivia!

  3. Totally loving this post! Very interesting and different from the usual health blog stuff other people write about!

  4. Lauren says:

    This is awesome! And I’m jealous of how close you live to Vegas… I would be driving there all the time!

    • David says:

      It’s about a 4-hour drive in good traffic. I know people that seem to go all the time, but I prefer my Vegas in small, spread-out doses. I’ve only been about 3 or 4 times total, and that’s been plenty!

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