Laughlin, Forgettable. Pahrump, Memorable

highway 95 We are heading north on Highway 95 now, on very smooth, very straight 2 lane road.  Mo is driving and there is very little traffic.  As our trip is winding down, both of us are a bit ready to just hit the road and keep moving rather than lingering much longer.  The original plan included a possible trip into Death Valley and a possible route north on 395.  We both love Death Valley and have spent time there, and we have traveled 395 many times.  395 is gorgeous, and the Alabama Hills near Lone Pine is one of our favorite places.  But we have been there.  Somehow this time the open spaces of Nevada called us with the direct route north. 

tiny town of Shoshone gateway to the southern end of Death ValleyI love traveling through this part of Nevada.  The vistas are so wide, huge alluvial fans as far as the eye can see, sloping gently upward to the contorted rugged volcanic ridges, broken by layers of uplifted sediments, and subtly colored by all the eternities of evolution of this landscape.  As a soil mapper, one of the indicators we use to identify soil change is the vegetation pattern.  Here in this part of the world those subtle changes are easily visible. 

no more saguaros, now Joshua trees and smell the sage! Crossing a playa with crusted salt surfaces, up a bit more to a low basin covered with greasewood, tells me it is still salty.  In the distance, at the foot of the contorted hills the greasewood drops out and creosote appears, a faint hint of filmy green across the distance.  Less salt.  Rising higher, the gray mounds of low sage and an occasional Joshua tree.  Each of those variations will indicate to me that the soil is changing, not only the salts on the surface, but the hard petrocalcic layers below the surface, the mixed up crazy gravels and cobbles of the alluvial fans, the shallow bedrock soils of the ridges. 

wildflowers are blooming looking south toward Tecopa Mapping soils in the desert is a beautiful thing, at least if you have a 4 wheeler and access.  In this day it seems that unless the mappers are on federal lands, the access in extremely limited.  People are protective of their rights, their property, and no longer trust the government.  A geologist or a botanist or a soil scientist may be a threat and not a help in their minds.  It’s a bit of a sad thing for the young soil scientists coming up now, trying to do their jobs, constantly hindered by suspicious landowners. I was lucky.  I mapped almost a million acres of ground, much of it wild and free lands in the Pacific Northwest, just a tiny bit of southern deserts.  Lucky me!

mass exodus of the Canadians Traveling north from Phoenix to Laughlin was uneventful.  We took Highway 60 northwest and avoided the fast pace and crowded traffic on I-17, but once we arrived at I-40 near Wickenburg the RV’s were almost bumper to bumper.  It was the mass exodus of the Canadians in full force.  Alberta, British Columbia, Manitoba, Saskatchewan plates in abundance.  I never saw a Quebec or Ontario, though.  Laughlin wasn’t far from the Interstate, and before long we were dropping down to the Colorado River and the town of Bullhead City.  Right before our turnoff to a possible RV park we found the Mojave County Park, with what looked to be fairly nice sites along the river.  With a fee of $21 for the night, we settled in to a back in site near the river.  The temperature read 99.9 degrees and within a few minutes it read 100.  March 31, and 100 degrees!  We pulled the shades, turned on the air conditioner and napped and read in the cool dim light until 6:30 that night! 

hot as heck in LaughlinWhen the sun finally let up a bit, we took a walk down to the river so Abby could cool off and swim, and got in the Tracker to check out Bullhead City and then cross the bridge to Laughlin and the casinos. Twilight was deepening and the lights of the casinos looked dramatic and lovely reflected on the river.  Laughlin itself wasn’t much to speak of, especially with the extensive construction on Casino Drive.  The marquees said nothing about shows, only advertising their buffet dinners and hotel rooms.  We drove up to Harrah’s and almost left before we finally found an entrance to the Casino.  We can at least do things like this at night now and then, because Abby seems to be content to settle down and sleep in the car if it is dark outside. 

Phoenix to Laughlin (12) Mo and I like to play the slots a bit, and to us it is a win if our 20 bucks each lets us play a couple of hours and have fun.  Cheap entertainment.  Neither of us is likely to go over that 20 limit and we rarely win anything, but I still like the lights and the glitz of the casinos.  It’s especially fun to watch the people there.  We saw one very old lady, very skinny, dressed up in diamonds and sparkles, with shiny reflective leopard skin jacket. leather pants, and sequins everywhere.  After a short time at Harrah’s, we went to the Royal Palm Casino, with it’s marquee shouting out that it had the newest slot games.  Here we found a sign to the River Walk, which I had heard was a nice thing to do in Laughlin, but it was dark and buggy out, so we decided against it.  Another move into the Colorado Belle Casino, dolled up to look like a big riverboat was our final destination for the evening, with our $20 increased a bit with some bells and whistles and then again finally gone. 

nice park Originally we thought we might stay two nights in Laughlin, having heard and read much about it from RV’rs and travel magazines.  Not for us, I guess.  We aren’t enough into gambling and town camping to really enjoy it that much. we also didn’t bring our kayaks along on this desert trip, and the Colorado River here was wide and fast.  It seemed there were lots of water craft around, including noisy jet skis.  Instead we decided to spend our extra night at Pahrump, another place much touted by RV’rs for the winter.  I guess we would find out the next day. 

October 1 Boondocking on 447

Ely to Reservoir (38) Yesterday, as we left Ely, we both thought that our last night out would be a great time to actually boondock. Looking at the map, there were many miles of open range, what looked to be a lot of BLM land, and we imagined that finding a wide place to pull out would be simple. 

What we didn’t count on was the temperatures in late afternoon along our route.  Nevada is hot.  Most of the time, Nevada is hot.  I know this, but after all, it IS the last day of September.  After turning north on 447 from the Sparks area we started looking for a boondock site.  What wasn’t at first noticeable on the map that I was using was that many miles of the route were included in the Pyramid Lake Indian Reservation, not a place to try to camp without specific permission.

Ely to Reservoir (39) The other problem was the temperature.  It was five o’clock in the evening and the gauge read 100 degrees.  Stopping for just a few minutes to take a break and let the dog walk around a bit gave us a pretty good indication that we couldn’t really settle in until the sun went down, or we found a shady side of the hill.  We continued past Gerlock, and after several miles found a wide place in the road that would suffice, but I had a vague memory of a small lake and camping spot where Mo and I had stopped on a day trip in 2003.  There was nothing on my map, but the phone, when it worked sporadically, showed some green areas a bit distant, so we kept going.

Ely to Reservoir (45) The best moment of the day was rounding a steep curve and dropping down to the small reservoir, then realizing that the closed gate wasn’t locked.  The signs indicated private property but allowed recreational use if the rules were followed.  After some maneuvering, we settled the MoHo into a wide spot on a bumpy road, managed to get level, and opened up the fans and doors to the cooling evening breezes.

We camped with the slide closed, but still had plenty of room to cook a good supper and relax with a movie.  I have to thank Laurie Brown once more for helping us to finally understand our inverter!  We have traveled in the MoHo for two years without understanding that the tv and dvd would work if the inverter was on. 

Reservoir to home (1)The night was starlit and perfectly still, and even though we were fairly close to the road, the closed gate and complete absence of traffic made it feel perfectly safe. I watched the sun rise this morning over the basalt hills and felt incredibly grateful for this perfect last night.  Our trip home today through Alturas is on familiar roads and landscapes.  Mt Shasta will rise up in the distance to mark the passage and tell us we are close to home. 

I will call my daughter, we will stop at Fred Meyer for gas and groceries for home, we will dump the tanks at our local city park on the way out to Rocky Point. This trip of 7,714 miles will end, and it will be time to start thinking about the next one.

There are a few more photos for this last day of travel linked here>

reservoir to RP (21)


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>

Off to Reno for Sue’s birthday

Transcribed in April 2011 from our old leather travel journal

03_Sep_Reno Trip005Mo showed up at my house at on Friday at 7am and we took off right away for a great planned long weekend in Nevada.  Drove first south on Highway 39 to Alturas and then took the back road through the Warner Mountains, high, rugged, and truly beautiful.  We just ambled along checking out side roads and campgrounds in the forest land along the route.  03_Sep_Reno Trip015Stopped in Gerlach, Nevada, near the Burning Man site and had lunch at a little cafe.  Found a cool desert lake for Molly  to take a swim and another great tent campground just east of the Warner Wilderness Area.  Would love to go back there and camp someday.

We arrived in Fallon in time to go to the PX there and then back to Reno for the night.  Mo had reservations at the Motel 6 there in Reno because they allow pets, but somehow the reservation was for another town in Nevada.  There was some sort of air show in town and all the hotels were completely booked up, but after a bit of negotiating, Mo found us a place to stay that would let us have Molly.  It was late so we had a simple dinner and settled into our room for a relaxing evening.

03_Sep_Reno Trip03603_Sep_Reno Trip020 On Saturday we got up early to a magnificent fall day in the desert.  Took the Winding Hill road to Virginia City, stopping to take lots of photos overlooking the valley and climbing around the rocks.  Had some early morning mimosas at the Bucket of Blood saloon and shopped in the little stores in town.  In the afternoon we drove down to Genoa and the valley south of Reno just looking at homes and properties where Mo’s friend Kathy lived. We had a great late lunch at a BBQ restaurant in Carson City before going back to the motel to dress for our evening entertainment in Reno. The show, “The Best of Broadway” was great, with excellent singing and dancing and I enjoyed having a chance to get all dressed up for a change.

03_Sep_Reno Trip038 03_Sep_Reno Trip039 Sunday morning we left Reno and stopped at Boomtown for an inexpensive breakfast and a little slot play.  On the way home via 395 we used our new book, “Nevada Gem Trails” to do some local rock-hounding and found quartz crystals along the highway, and carnelian and jasper on a back road just north of Alturas. By late afternoon we were starving, but nothing was open so we found ourselves settling for some really bad packaged burritos from the gas stations in Merrill around 9pm.  We were pretty tired when we pulled in to my house and Mo left immediately for her home in Rocky Point while I settled in to get ready for work the next day.