A squawking bird woke me up at 7:50 Oklahoma time Friday, August 24th. I must have slept for about 10 hours. It was just before sunrise, and there were birds everywhere. I took a shower and discovered I must have left my toothbrush behind at the rest area. I couldn’t find a comb anywhere, either. The lights in the bathroom were on a timer, and the timer ran out before I was finished dressing. I filled up my water bottles and checked the oil in the car—okay. Before I left, I dropped off the bathroom key at the office, and since the office didn’t open until 9 I didn’t get my key deposit back.
At 8:40 Oklahoma time I headed out northwest on 93. It was a calm, cool morning on a familiar road. There was lots of traffic on the highway. The mountains off to the west saw the Sun before I did. Down the road, I passed tiny homesteads, scratching out a living in the Arizona desert. I passed a small airport next to a mobile home park. A sign advertised a place where you could shoot machine guns. I felt great; a good night’s sleep will do that for you. Breakfast was trail mix.
Twenty miles from Hoover Dam, mountains rose up to greet me. The first time I went down that road, the highway changed into a 2-lane right at the Lake Meade sign. Years of construction later, it was 4-lane all the way to Las Vegas. The mountains seemed to accept the minor intrusion by man’s highways; they knew they’d be around a long time after we’re gone. I was impressed the highway included a couple of bridges that allowed wildlife to come and go.
Five miles from Hoover Dam, the road descended quickly. I was heading straight for the bridge I’d always told myself I would never cross: the O’Callaghan-Tillman Memorial Bridge over Hoover Dam. I’d watched them build the thing for years, and just looking up at it scared the heck out of me. A sign told “high profile vehicles” to use the inside lane. Another sign warned “strong crosswinds possible.” The road went through one more cut in the mountain, and suddenly I was on the bridge! Aaaaaah! I couldn’t see anything off to the sides, because the bridge designed 5-foot high barriers along the sides to lessen the impact of the wind. In moments, I was across. I made it! Heck, that wasn’t so bad. What was there to be scared of? Ain’t no thang.

The road slowed to 45 MPH to go around a sharp turn, and I soon found myself in Boulder City. A local casino advertised Tanya Tucker was appearing. Another had Johnny Rivers coming soon. I followed Highway 95 into Las Vegas and exited at Durango Drive to find some gas. I pulled into a gas station, and discovered it was a full service station. A lovely carhop named Kelsey came up and pumped gas for me, and even offered to check my oil. It was going on 11 when I headed out of town. It was 189 miles to Tonopah. A guy on a motorcycle beeped at me when he passed; I don’t know why.

The speed limit slowed to 45 MPH passing Creech Air Force Base at Indian Springs. The RV park I’d previously stopped at for lunch was closed and blocked off. Did the Air Force take over the property? Fifty miles after leaving Las Vegas, the road narrowed to a 2-lane asphalt. It had turned into a bright, clear day. I fell behind a rolling road block past the Pahrump turnoff, and traffic got suddenly hectic for a few minutes. I found a Mexican radio station to listen to. At Armagosa Valley, I stopped at the Area 51 Travel Center. The Brothel Museum next door was closed for remodeling. Inside were lots of Cathouse Bunny Ranch t-shirts and brothel shot glasses for sale. “Midnight at the Oasis” played on the loudspeakers. I put a quart of oil in Satori and got a Dr. Pepper. The place across the highway had an RV park with showers.

It was 29 miles to Beatty. Down the road, I noticed a line of cars behind me, and I realized: I was a rolling roadblock. Hey, Satori was a 12-year-old Caravan with over 275,000 miles on her. Going around me did not hurt my feelings. I discovered Sarori did not do well at elevations over 6,000 feet. I figured I'd take it easy on higher elevations. The speed limit in Beatty was 25 MPH. I passed the Space Station, and was pleased to see Miller’s Hot Springs was doing a booming business.

There was a lot of empty landscape past Beatty. An occasional road cut off into the hills just heightened the scale of the desolation. Yucca plants were scattered all over the hills going up to the Goldfield Summit. The wind was really fierce when I went through Goldfield, where I did not see any place to make a pit stop. So, I kept going. To the east, a quarry was slowly dismantling a mountain.
In the distance, dust obscured mountain peaks, and I realized it wasn’t dust—it was smoke. I’d read about how smoke from California wild fires was causing problems in Reno. It looked like smoke had made it down to southern Nevada, too. Mountains to the west were almost completely obscured. I wondered if the smoke made it to the Black Rock Desert.
My ears popped crossing the Nye County line outside of Tonopah, where I arrived at 2:18. Gasoline was $4.29 a gallon, the most I paid the whole trip. I called the Desert Rose in Fernley and made a reservation. I gave them my credit card number but said I’d be paying in cash when I arrived. “We take all kinds of stuff,” the lady said. It was 82 degrees in Tonopah, and the sky was hazy with smoke. It was making me sneeze. It was 3:13 when I left town; it had turned into a hot day. It was 175 miles to Fallon.
Graffiti Junction was still at the Highway 360 turnoff. An old mine tower rotted away nearby. It was a good thing I liked Brazil nuts; my trail mix seemed to be full of them. There were no cars parked at the Wildkat Ranch brothel outside of Mina. In Luning, I passed a car with fuzzy bicycles on the back parked under a shade tree. I had seen almost no Burners on the highway all day. A half hour later, Walker Lake appeared as a blue haze in the distance. One of the sections of highway just before Hawthorne is adopted by “Veterans of the Global War on Terror.” A police car followed on my tail all the way through town. I don’t know if it was my out of state tags or what. I stopped at the Shell station in Hawthorne. It had a lounge, showers, a laundry and lot machines along the windows. I counted the cash I had left. There was just over half what I started out with. I had a short list of supplies to get in Fallon, but subtracting $20 for gas and the upcoming camping fee, I figured I had $30 to shop with. I was watching my funds because I wanted to have half of my original stake to get home on. I got some gas and headed out towards Schurz.

The land around Schurz is desolate, but the town itself has a pretty green park. I passed irrigation canals running through dry salt marshes and lush farmlands. It was 5:44 Oklahoma time and 95 degrees out when I arrived in Fallon, “The Oasis of Nevada.” I stopped at the Walmart, and my mad shopping skills got me everything I wanted for exactly $30! I felt so smart. There was still plenty of sunlight left as I made the remaining 20 miles to Fernley. At the Desert Rose RV Park, the camping fee and tax came to $17.44, and counting my pennies I had exact change. “You made my day!” the lady said. I pulled into my spot, which looked to be the same spot I had one year before, when I was on my way home from Burning Man.

I got settled in, took a hot shower, had a sandwich and a beer, brushed my teeth and shaved. Sitting in the back of Satori, a huge land yacht arrived, and through the windshield it looked like the opening scene from “Star Wars.” I checked Facebook on my smartphone. Ranger Hermione was stranded on Highway 95 at mile marker 106. It looked like the water pump had blown. That turned out to be Tonopah, where I just was a few hours before. If I hadn't gotten such an early start, I might've been able to help. (She later posted, “Truck is f***ed.”)

I needed to fill my water jugs before leaving in the morning. There was a water spigot at my site, but it was flush to the ground, no way to fill the jugs. The park had a special Burner spigot setup, but it was 25 cents a gallon. However, the nice lady at the desk said that water from the spigot at my site was included in my fee, so I borrowed the hose from the Burner spigot and used that to fill up my jugs. I had enough change left for a load of laundry, but there wasn't enough dirty clothes to bother with. The couple of dirty things I had I just soaked in water and hung up to dry. I called home, but the line kept breaking up. I fell asleep in the back of Satori soon after sunset. 
Prologue  Aug. 22  Aug. 23  Aug. 24  Aug. 25 
Sunday  Monday  Tuesday  Wednesday  Thursday  Friday  Saturday  Sunday  Monday 
Sept. 4  Sept. 5  Sept. 6  Sept. 7 & Epilogue
Original material (c)opyright 2012 by Tim Frayser
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LINKS: Desert Rose RV Park The Mike O'Callaghan–Pat Tillman Memorial Bridge 
Last updated: September, 2012