Wednesday, September 30, 2015

2015-29 Wandering the back-roads in Nevada


Austin Nevada
Middlegate Nevada
Tonopah Nevada
Las Vegas, Nevada

Campground:  Middlegate.  Free dry camping, or $15 if a campsite is available.  I lucked out and got the one campsite available.  Full hookups, 30 amp.  They use a powerful generator to create their own electricity as there are no power lines out here.  Verizon signal is good.

Campground:  Tonopah.  Dirt parking lot next to the Banc Club Restaurant/Casino.  Free, dry camping.

Campground:  Duck Creek RV park, Las Vegas.  Cost $13.50 with my Passport America card.  Full hookups w/50amp service and about 40 over-the-air TV stations.  And I’ll need it, they are having a heat wave:  107 degrees today.  Don’t you know, both my a/c s are running.

I’m checking out a couple of sites along the Loneliest Highway, also known as hwy 50 the Lincoln Highway.  It was the first paved highway to go from Coast to Coast in the U.S.  How lonely is it?  Well, as I was driving from Eureka to Austin  I stopped at a rest stop along the way.  Having only seen a couple of vehicles pass me during the hours drive so far.  As I pulled into the rest stop, surrounded by prairie grass but mainly sage brush as far as the eye could see and mountain ranges off in the distance, I was struck once again by a place that held silence.  Not a car, train or plane.  No critters or birds chirping.  Total silence.  Even as I walked about on the paved way-side stop, even my shoes were silent.  Not making a sound.  Stillness, quiet, silence…..  Peaceful.  I hated to get back into the truck and continue my journey.

a wayside stop, silence.....

hwy 50, Lincoln Highway marker
Down the road I stopped in Austin.  A mountain mining town, since made almost a ghost town along this lonely highway.  I dropped my camper off behind a gas station and drove a mile or so down a dirt mining road.  It edged along the edge of the cliff and being only one lane, I was glad I’d dropped off the camper first.  I wanted to see Stokes Castle.  In reality it’s a tower and was always meant to be a three story tower/home.  Mr Stokes came from a well known eastern family and was out here in the mining business.  He built it as a summer home for his sons and it was used for two months before being abandoned.  It would have had two large balconies on the second and third floors and plate glass windows.  I’d love to see it restored.

Stoke's Castle, or Tower as it was designed to be.

would love to see it refurbished

Austin was my plan A as I thought of possible staying here for a night, but the town is so worn down as many of these old mining towns are, that I decided to drive another hour and get to Middlegate.  Rather than take the usual Lincoln Highway (hwy 50), I was told about hwy 722 which was I’m told the first highway through this area.  Being adventuresome, I took that route.  Talk about lonely.  I think one could call this route, “The forgotten Highway” as I saw perhaps 4 vehicles the entire distance traveling on it.  One young couple flagged me down as they had run out of gas.  I told them I’d send for help as soon as I reached Middlegate.  As it turned out one of those other trucks stopped and towed them back to Middlegate, put $20 worth of fuel in their tank and went on.  Wonder what their story was?  Run-aways from home perhaps.  She a white gal around 19 or 20, he a young man of color as they say these days.

Hwy 722 (I call it the Forgotten Highway)
So here I am at Plan B, Middlegate.  I’ve passed through here once before and dry camped.  This time I was able to get a campsite with electric.  $15 for the campsite, a nice lunch and later a little something to wet my whistle.  Not bad for being out here in the middle of nowhere.  By the way, they have to generate their own electricity for the dozen rv’s/mobile homes, bar and cabins.  No power lines reach this far out into the desert.  But surprisingly, we have a fair Verizon signal.

Middlegate, the Middle of Nowhere

own their own generator, no electric lines come this far out

always fill up, or you might be stranded like this fella
Distance Traveled:  105 miles

Tonopah Nevada

Darn those long distances out here in the west.  I thought I had ¾ of a tank of diesel fuel and thought I’d be able to fill up easily before getting to Tonopah.  It wasn’t to be.  I had planned on taking a tour of the Berlin-Ichthyosaur State Park.  It’s 20 mile in from the main road hwy 361.  Round trip that would add an additional 40 miles to my journey.  When I got to the next little town, Gabbs, I discovered everything was closed up.  Gas station, motel, restaurant, you name it.  It’s like Rip Van Winkle came to town and it’s been asleep ever since.  Should I try going to the state park?  With a couple more T-tiny towns coming up before Tonopah and no indication they would have fuel, I decided to bypassed the adventure that I was so looking forward too.  As it turned out, besides Gabbs, I drove through Goldyke and Pactolus, not a gas station remained open.  Making the final stretch over 100 miles without a gas station.  A total of 211 miles on one tank of diesel.  And I was down to just a couple gallons of fuel at most by the time I reached Tonopah.  Where they have about 6 gas stations right in a tow.  Take your pick, they’re all expensive.  So why not dry camp for an evening and save a couple bucks.  Besides it’s a pleasant 75 degrees out today.

boarded up and closed, and yes, this is a SPEED TRAP.
I saw many getting pulled over in just one day. speed:  25 mph

even many of the casino have closed down

once a casino, now a liquor store

beautiful restored hotel

most of the town is closed and locked up

the Rare Jack-a-Lope "grin"
Tonopah is even more desolate than the last time I drove through, which wasn’t all that long ago.  More shops have closed, only a couple casino’s remain open.  I did find a nice book store to browse around.  I’ve decided to stay in a parking lot for the evening, dry camping.  Why pay good money since most of it has gone to paying for fuel these past couple of days of more intense driving which I rarely do, but with not much to tour in this area, barring the one missed opportunity because I only had ¾ of a tank of fuel instead of a full tank, I’ll continue my journey south.

What does it mean to dry camp?  In my case since I don’t have a full set of solar panels and inverters on the camper yet, I don’t have use of the a/c, microwave, toaster, coffee pot or TV.  With mild weather, it’s not a problem.  I can keep all the lights on, use the radio, furnace if it gets nippy out at night and the water pump, gas stove and fridge work just fine.  Kind of nice to be “unplugged” for a day or two.

Distance traveled:  273 miles

a good sunset will make any place look like a palace

Goodness.  What was I thinking.  I never travel that far in one day.  Well to tell the truth, I finally got tired of the very small towns I’d been traveling to over the past week and made a bee-line for Las Vegas.  All the conveyances you could ask for and of course I have a great price on my campsite for a week.  Imagine, only paying $13.50 per night.  Though I understand the rates are going up in October to $16 a night for PPA members.

Warm Springs, closed years ago after a major fire

Entering the Extraterrestrial Highway

near Area 51
could the stories be true about the Roswell Incident?
I think so.....  
So rather than taking the normal hwy 95, always a favorite route, I decided to take a more adventurous route through more barren desert and mountain ranges, with passes around the 6,200 ft range.  I would then start heading south on Route 375, “The Extraterrestrial Highway”.  So named because it passes by Area 51 which is on the Nellis Air force Base.  Believed to be the location where the military took the remains of a crashed UFO and it’s alien beings.   Nellis is a huge base out in the desert and of course one can’t really see anything, but still kind of exciting to be that close to where history might have taken place.  Signs do warn of Low Flying planes in the area though.  Of course I also stopped in the only commercial establishment along the route, at the “Little Ale’Inn” and restaurant.  Had a nice chat with the locals and owner of the place.  It’s the type of place where the owner and a few workers were sitting outside having a cup of coffee, waiting for 10am when they would officially open for business.  No rush out here in the desert.

Joshua Trees

After passing through a forest of Joshua Trees, I headed south for another hour and a half and made it to Las Vegas by 1:30 in the afternoon.  Glad I have a campsite with 50amp service as they are having a major heat wave here and I‘ll be running both a/c units for the remainder of the week .  Reached 107 degrees today.  Supposed to be this way for the next couple of days before cooling down.

And that’s enough for the week as things are going.  While in Las Vegas I have a few chores I need to take care of.  You know, oil and filter changes, laundry, planning for the coming next couple of weeks.

Enjoy the day, just because you need to get “stuff” done, doesn’t mean you can’t have fun as well.

On the road, with Doug P

Saturday, September 26, 2015

2015-28 Wells, Elko, and Eureka Nevada


Wells Nevada
Elko Nevada
Eureka Nevada

Campground:  Welcome Station RV Park, Well NV.  PPA rate $15.  Charged me $3 extra for two nights since I plugged into the 50amp outlet.  A little oasis in the high desert with lots of trees, grass and flowing creek.  Call ahead as it is a small park and could get full quickly.

Campground:  Wal-mart parking lot.  Free, dry camping

Campground:  Silver Sky Lodge.  Full hookups, self check in, $25.00.  50 amp.  15+ over air tv stations and good 4G Verizon service at the campground.  Electric post is up front of Rv sites, requiring RV pull forward to be able to connect.

Distance traveled:  121 miles

I’ve left that great little town of about 40,000, Twin Falls and headed south on hwy 93, truly a rural highway through vast rolling prairie land, rugged bare low mountain ranges as I continue into Nevada.  My first stop being Wells Nevada where my campsite at the Welcome Station Rv park is a true oasis of trees, grass and a flowing creek all surrounded by a dry prairie landscape and the edge of the Rudy Mountain range.

Well Nevada, damage from the 2005 earthquake

Wells Nevada has a new gold mine going in.  Thought all the gold was usually found in casino’s out here?  Not too much to tour in this area, Wells was hit by a 6 point something earthquake back in 2005 and a couple of large old buildings in town got badly damaged.  The owners are still hoping someone with money will come by and resurrect them.  Talk about having a positive attitude and what is basically a dusty town between nowhere and somewhere.

the road leading to Angel Lake in the Ruby Mountains

I was told about two attractions, Angel Lake and a ghost town called Metropolis.  So the next day, I headed out to Angel Lake which is right near the top of one of the peaks of the Ruby Mountain chain.  Aspen are in full color along these dry mountain slopes.  The road is well paved as it continually gains in altitude till it finally inches along the very edge of the top of the mountain.  (p.s. no guard rails) Leveling off to an Alpine meadow and lake which I understand was once part of an ancient volcano.  Breathtaking views and well worth the hair raising excitement on that last quarter mile of mountain road.  Which I might add I drove right in the center of the road.  Since it was early morning I was fortunate not to run into anyone coming back down.   Had a nice walk along two sides of the lake, though I wish there had been a path circling the lake.  Talk about awe inspiring views and totally unexpected as the view looking up into the mountains from down in the valleys below does not give a hint of the spectacular views to be had.

Angel Lake, Nevada

wish the trail lead around the lake, but it doesn't

Angel Lake, Wells Nevada

Aspen in it's fall colors

Then it was back into Wells and onto the ghost town of Metropolis.  A nice 10 mile drive through prairie grasslands, cattle ranches, along a couple miles of well maintained gravel road before arriving at the ghost town.  Even though only two of the original buildings remain to some degree.  Being able to walk around and read the history of the area and enjoy the vistas and a few cattle who watched me as I investigated the ruins one can’t help but enjoy the quiet solitude of such a place.  It was to be a grand town of 4 square blocks, concrete sidewalks and homes for 7,500 people serving the farming community that surrounded the town.  A three story grand hotel was built followed by a large high school.  Water rights had not been obtained and the town gradually withered.  Along with a typhoid outbreak, jackrabbits and Mormon locus the town didn’t have a fighting chance.  The railroad stopped running, the post office closed and the town died.  Oh and I was told there's a nice hot springs north of Metropolis, but you'll have to ask the locals or visitor center where it's located....

ok, you know I don't like taking too many pics of  myself, but here's
one at Angel Lake.  a fun and unexpected find.

the remains the large 3 story hotel

people have piled artifacts on top of the monument plaque

the remains of the highschool

originally a two story building, with full basement

looking at me while I'm touring the ghost town

Distance Traveled:  50 miles

I decided to stop at a Walmarts since I needed to bring something in for a return/refund.  Elko is a nice town with a balloon festival this weekend so I may as well stay at least the night to see what it’s all about.  Of course being in Nevada there are casinos everywhere vying for our business.  A stopped into the Gold Dust West casino since I had a $10 coupon from the Elko visitor center (it was in their Elko Magazine).  Of course I had to get a players club card, $5 of free play, had a prime rib dinner for $9.95 and with the $10 coupon you can see I had a free dinner on the casino.  Won $10 and left a happy guy.  

Afterwards, I drove over to the local park where they were having a balloon festival.  The evening event being the Balloon Glow.  Where all the hot air balloons are inflated and lit up as the sun sets.  Abut 15 balloons are at the event and it’s a real local get together, with easy parking and lots of families with children enjoying the big balloons inflating.  A simple small town event, glad I was able to enjoy the evening.

Elko Nevada

Balloon Glow in Elko

So I’m sitting at the back side of the Wal-Mart parking lot, away from the traffic.  Unplugged, windows open and a couple slides partially opened out to be able to walk around inside the camper.  It got hot today, up to 90 degrees but is cooling off nicely, as it always does in the desert.  A couple other Rv’s, van campers and trucks are parked here as well for the evening.  The inside of the camper looks like a furniture warehouse since I haven’t “set up” as I normally would at a campsite.  Recliners tucked sideways against the back wall.  Table and chairs secured with a bungee cord and a few pieces of odds and ends laying on the floor tucked away so as not to get damaged while traveling.

Distance traveled:  115 miles

Desolate high prairie landscapes, rugged mountain terrain, traveling along county hwy 278.  My destination today is Eureka Nevada to see the historical Opera House.  Each mining town that grew to any size built a theatre or opera house.  Built in 1880, it had a short life as the mining boom quickly ended in the area. In the 1940’s it became a movie theatre then stood idle until 1993 when it was restored for civic uses today.  This story could be told throughout many mining towns across the country.  The town is currently subsisting on coal mining, with other mines like the gold mines in the area closing with the recent decline in the price of gold.  Most of the buildings in town are vacant or dilapidated and run down.  I did find a few good restaurants available and Raine’s Market which is an all around great grocery store and general store.  Amazing the amount of stuff that is crammed into the store to the point of overflowing.  They tell me a new store is being built on the outskirts of town and will be much larger.  Great local stories and helpful directions for my upcoming travels through the area.

the restored Opera House, balconies on either side 

Eureka Nevada

every town out west has animal heads displayed
in the grocery stores, shops and hardware stores

the corner hotel, currently closed and the taller bldg is the Opera House

more photos on Picasa