September 30 The Loneliest Road in America

Ely to Reservoir (3) In July of 1986, Life Magazine described Nevada’s Highway 50 from Ely to Fernley as the “Loneliest Road in America”.  Life said that there were no attractions or points of interest along the 287 mile stretch of road and recommended that drivers have “survival skills” to travel the route.

Things have changed a bit, but not much.  The biggest change is in the vehicles we drive along these roads rather than the roads themselves.  I remember desert driving and the days of vapor lock, overheated engines, flat tires, and no air conditioning.  Cars seem to be made better these days, and we cruise along at 70 miles per hour without a thought about our survival. There really is quite a lot to see in Ely, and we plan to return, especially to visit the Great Basin National Park on the eastern edge of Nevada.  We also want to come back to check out Ely’s treasure: The Nevada Northern Railway Museum,  touted by the Smithsonian as the most complete authentic railroad complex in the country.

Ely to Reservoir (6) That is what we are doing today, cruising along, covering the distance on US 50 instead of I-80, enjoying the eyeball stretching vistas of the high Nevada desert.  There are a couple of towns between Ely and Fernley where we will turn north toward the Black Rock Desert.  Eureka and Austin are both historic mining towns from the heyday of Nevada history in the late 19th century. We will stop and take photos, enjoy the stories, and the time travel provided at these outposts before moving on down the road.  At Gerlach, we will pass the sandy roads leading to the Black Rock Desert where the wild ones have their Burning Man festival every year.

Ely to Reservoir (21)Somewhere in the middle of nowhere, we saw a large group of road bikers pedaling up the long grades, supported by a couple of vans in pursuit.  At the same time, we saw a lonely man walking in the opposite direction up another grade with some sort of sign on his back.  Then nothing again but low sage and rabbitbrush and the distant hills. The air again is smoky, not in the concentrated way that it was yesterday in Utah, but high hazy widespread smoke that extends as far west and north as we can see, even from the summits.  We are traveling west again through basin and range, so the MoHo is climbing the ranges and dropping into the basins repeatedly shifting gears as we go up, then down, then up, then more down.  Glad I am not on a bike!

Ely to Reservoir (37) This morning in our full hookup park, I took the time to cook a good breakfast and clean the house a bit.  In the process of cleaning the toilet, adding extra water to help with the black water flush to come, I suddenly dropped the large cleaning washcloth right down into the holding tank.  Ugh!  I freaked out, but Mo patiently bent a hanger, fished around in there, and got the thing out of the tank before anything got terribly clogged up. Kind of amazing that we actually had one simple wire hangar in the closet among all the fancy lightweight things I have for our clothes. I got all teary and realized that the stress of dropping a washcloth into the sewage holding tank shouldn’t be THAT bad, and thought, gee, maybe I am sad about the trip coming to a close. 

Today and tomorrow we will continue our trek across the deserts and over the Warners into the Klamath Basin, to the base of the Cascade Mountains.  Home.  I am sure it will take a bit of settling in to really appreciate being there and not here, traveling along some highway with ever changing views out the windows. 

There are a some more photos for this day linked here>

September 29 To the basins and ranges of Nevada

DuckCreek to Ely (1) I woke this morning to the amazing smell of aspen leaves that are sending out their last breath before they fall.  Sweetened by high mountain air and spruce it was one of the better fragrances on the planet, maybe only surpassed by rain on dry dust in the desert. As we drove west, however, the skies were darkened by smoke from the huge fires in the mountains of central Utah.

Today was another travel day, as the rest of the trip will be until we are back in Rocky Point on Friday.  Again we took back road, avoiding the major interstates and trying to manage a blue dotted road at every opportunity.  Our route today took us through Cedar City and rather than the fast route north on I 15, we went farther west to the Scenic Highway 93.

 DuckCreek to Ely (10) The landscape of Nevada and several other states is the west is dominated by alternating basins and ranges formed by tectonic processes that trend generally northwest.  When traveling directly west, as we did a few years ago when returning to California from Utah, the road was a continuous grade, either up or down, with just a bit of basin between the mountain ranges.  These Nevada mountains aren’t small, either, and the grades can be dramatic. 

Highway 93, however, follows a dominantly northern track through the state, and as a result the grades are few because the road usually follows the edge of the basins.  We took time to stop and enjoy a surprise state park, Cathedral DuckCreek to Ely (17)Gorge, and met some interesting travelers from England who have traveled 49 states in our country, and were showing the west to another couple from England. We took a side road to explore the historic mining hamlet of Pioche, sitting high on a fan above the wide open basin. 

We reached Ely in early afternoon, partly due to the change to Pacific time, gaining an extra hour.  We decided that electricity was on the list of desires for this night with the possibility of cable seductive enough to pay a ridiculous high price for the Ely KOA.  Our pull- through site was too short to keep the baby car hooked up and still reach the utilities, but once I quite grumbling, and we settled inside with the air going, I felt better about it. 

DuckCreek to Ely (53) Before supper we took a little tour of the area, checking out the Ward Charcoal Ovens about 18 miles southwest of Ely on a long gravel road.  It was worth the trip, and the ovens are some of the best preserved we have seen.  The story of converting huge amounts off local wood to charcoal is interesting.  It took 35 cords of wood to fill each huge oven, and then it was burned for 12 days to provide charcoal for the smelters in the nearby mining towns. Until the coming of the railroad and the availability of coke for smelting, the surrounding hills were nearly completely denuded of timber.

Once back home, I poached a chicken breast in spices and chilis, and made quesadillas for supper.  Yum. I was happy for unlimited water for cooking and dishes, and the thought of a hot shower this evening is enticing.  Boondocking and dry camping are great, but it’s fun to hook up and forget about conserving every little drop of water for a night here and there.

The rest of the photos for this day are linked here>