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.”)
Last updated: September, 2012
|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.