Saturday, October 17, 2009

40-2009, Middlegate Nevada, the middle of nowhere and Loving it.


From Carson City to Middlegate.

Campground:  Middlegate.  Free dry camping where ever you want to park your rig.

Campground:  Joy Land, Tonopah.  $10 Passport Amer. rate.  Full hookups.  No cable TV as the local cable provider recently was arrested for stealing another providers signal.

I am so excited and I‘ll tell you why in just a minute.  After getting my campers heater fixed ($220) I have headed out on hwy 50, the Original Lincoln Highway.  Also known as the Loneliest Road in America.  It was the first highway to go from the east coast (Times Square in Ny) to the west Coast.

The excitement came as I headed through the desert, down into shallow valleys covered in a putty colored sand near Fallon Nv where of all places the Navy has a Naval Air Station.  The scenery is for some reason, something I’ve dreamt about all of my life.  Having seen movies made out here, it has caught my imagination and has stayed with me for years.  The bare mountain ranges merge with the valleys and create the most silent still life scenery I’ve ever experienced.

For some unknown reason, I set my GPS to head toward the small cross roads of Middlegate Nevada.  I didn’t even know if anything was there.  It’s at the intersection of hwy 50 and hwy 361.  There was originally an Eastgate and Westgate and they all were stage coach stations.  Middlegate and the others had a short life as the telegraph quickly took over the need for the stage coach lines.

When I arrived here in Middlegate (pop. 9), I found the remains of the old stage coach building which is now a saloon, eatery and  two pump gas station.  A small motel sits on the property with rusted out antique cars and farm equipment lying about.  4 or 5 old trailers that the owners and workers live in.  I can not emphasize enough how a destination such as this has been in my mind for so long. Buried deep in my sub conscious it is a place I have been drawn too.  Remember the movie Baghdad Café?   It’s something like that.

The worker came out with a ten gallon hat, scruffy beard and unlocked the diesel pump for me.  He told me about a homing pigeon that was recently left here, it’s owners having left with the rest of the flock and didn’t realize one was left behind.  He’s been worried about the poor thing being left out here all alone.  Shortly afterward, the homing pigeon tried to get into my camper as I was setting up.  You see, I have to stay here at least for a day or two.  

So far I’ve enjoyed taking a ton of pictures, just walking around and looking in all directions.  The saloon is built of old weathered boards.  The porch has boards so weathered their worn down from everyone walking on them as they creak and bend in places.  Having a great dinner and the beer is cheap and cold. My good buddies Walt, Ben, Tim and Scott would appreciate that. Part of the ceiling is covered with dollar bills that people have written messages on.  A wall is covered with insignias from the Fallon Naval Air Station.  Top gun was filmed out here.  But it’s the lonely desert that attracts me.  The clear skies the wide open spaces.  What is it that has captured my soul so much out here?

Now it’s not a perfect desert oasis.  They tell me the flies and moths are very annoying during the summer months. Big moths that seem to get into everything.

The owners are letting me stay on their property at no cost.  Just find a place to park your rig and  set up.  The sun has set, a reddish glow over the mountains to the west.  Blackness engulfs the cross roads, the only light coming from the saloons neon red signs, BAR, Miller High Life, Bud and one white sign on the gas pump, “Unleaded“.  Silence, except for a gust of wind now and then.

I head on down the road a couple days later on hwy 361.  I had a couple different directions I could go and of course wanted to go both ways, but had to choose one, so 361 it is.  Now they call hwy 50, the Lincoln hwy the loneliest highway, but I think 361 could easily be a contender.  I drove for over 60 miles and only saw 2 or 3 vehicles.  The wind started to pick up and I must admit, I’ve never experienced the high winds that can occur out here until now.  Gusts as high as 35 to 50 mph.  The camper and truck handled it well, even though I was a bit nervous.  Before arriving at my destination, Tonopah, I also had to slow down to 35 mph due to gravel on the road, wind gusts and sand.  At first I thought, aha, this is one of those famous speed traps in the middle of the desert, but it really was to save a windshield from the passing vehicles kicking up the gravel on the road.  Fortunately there were no other vehicles to worry about.

Tonopah Nevada.  I made it to my destination and did hit a speed zone of 35 then 25 mph through town and lots and lots of state troupers ready to give out tickets to anyone going over the speed limit.

I made it to another Passport America campground, $10 a night, full hookups, called Joy Land.  Did a self check-in as the owners were off to Vegas for the day.  By the way, I check out many of the campgrounds I stay at by using the web site.  I have a link on the blog of course.  It tells me what to expect when I get to some sites.  Like this one which is pretty much three lots, two with back in sites and a third with some pull thrus.  Real basic desert rat type setting, with mobile homes and trash on the other side of the road.  But remember, I’m not staying here for life and I’m getting a chance to experience what it’s like to live in a poor mining town.

Speaking of mining towns, Tonopah has had it’s day as a mining town but continues to survive.  I took a tour of the Historic Mining Park in town, $3 (senior rate).  For my photography buddies, this place is a photographers dream.  Took 85 pictures just of the mining park.  One could easily spend several days taking pictures of this region.  My dear friend Jimmy Marquis would love to see the subtle colors in the rocks, sage brush, tumble weeds and sky.  Jimmy’s a painter and knows all the colors, but I bet there are some colors out here he’s never seen before.  The affect of light on the landscape alone makes it easy to take the same picture 15 times what with the clouds moving overhead, shadows forming over the mountains, highlighting one and keeping another in darkness.  Clouds looking like they have spotlights highlighting each one as they drift on by.

Oh and Tonopah has a unique character living out here.  The Cat Man, as seen on Ripley’s Believe it or Not.  The guy has transformed his features through tattoos to look just like a cat.  I didn’t get to see him at a local casino, besides I didn’t have my camera with me at the time, but if your ever in Tonopah, you just might see the Cat Man.

Next stop Beatty Nevada.

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