I left Winslow in the wee hours of Sunday morning and looked longingly at the exit for the crater as I drove by, knowing full well I had neither the time nor the vehicle to venture in there, and kept on driving. I was psyched for this drive - a lot of new and interesting territory to cover over the next two days filled with massive lakes, dams, casinos, brothels, military bases, deserts, mountains, and ghost towns.
Fubu was psyched for it, too.
I was especially excited about crossing Lake Mead. I was under the impression that I would be able to cross at the Hoover Dam. There was no mention of it being restricted in my Atlas and my brother, who drove a truck for seven years in the 90's told me that trucks were allowed over.
Alas, this wasn't the case:
According to the DOT hotline I called, commercial vehicles were not allowed over the dam "until further notice", and mentioned that there was some serious road work being conducted over the dam until the year 2007. *sigh*
So, I followed the alternate route which took me over a little skinny portion of Lake Mead into Nevada and within an hour, I was in Las Vegas, as you may have gathered from my previous entry. With all the traffic snares I encountered trying to get through Vegas, I had plenty of time to snap photos of the strip as I sat beside it on the freeway.
My route along US 95 northward through Nevada promised to be a desolate one, but not without its interesting sights. On my right, for the next 150 miles was the vast military installation, of which the infamous Area 51 is a part of. I was nowhere near Area 51, it being on the eastern edge of the installation - however I was treated to sights of tanks far off in the distance on testing ranges and one of the Air Force bases located along this road.
As I was driving by the landing strip, I noticed a small, grey plane coming out the mountains for a landing on the air strip. It was one of the remote controlled drones. I tried to take a picture but it was so tiny and so far away it didn't turn out. A little further down the highway was a small mountain that was being carved up, into, and around by the military for some reason.
It looked rather strange among all of the virtually untouched natural beauty of the desert mountains - and just a little bit creepy. Seeing something so strange in a place that is one of the most closely guarded secrets in the country makes one wonder. I kept half expecting to see something come flying out of the top of the mountain at any minute.
I think it creeped Fubu out a little, too.
There are brothels throughout the state of Nevada. Most of them are on the outskirts of the major cities and towns, but I was surprised to pass not one, but two brothels on this leg of my trip. The first was the "Shady Lady" ranch. It was about twenty miles outside a little town called Beatty. This one I could understand as Beatty is situated as a entrance point to Death Valley a little further to the west. The town boasts a couple of motels, and RV park and a casino, so it stands to reason that a brothel might do enough business between the US 95 traffic, tourists, military personnel and locals to justify its existence.
But it was "Cottontails" ranch that surprised me. Between Beatty and Goldfield, Nevada on Highway 95 is a 71 mile stretch of road with absolutely nothing on it. It was getting dark and I was coming down off of this small mountain. In the valley below me, in the distance, I could see a solitary flashing red light in the distance. 15 miles later, I passed by Cottontails, it's gawdy, flashing red light on top of the house.
I finally got into Goldfield, which I had been anticipating all day but due to my detention in Vegas it was now way too dark for me to look around this modern day ghost town. There were still quite a few residents it appeared, judging from the amount of electric light being put off by the residential district as I came into town. Along the main drag there was one filling station, a liquor store, and a few road side stands selling rocks and Indian crafts, all closed for the day, or possibly the season. There were also abandoned houses and the shell of the old train station. I drove slowly, trying to take in what I could make out in the dark. I passed the darkened frame of the old hotel and it looked like it probably was a marvelous building. Its wrought-iron balconies could be seen silhoutted against the cobalt skyline. I read somewhere when discovering about Goldfield that Teddy Roosevelt gave a speech from one of those balconies in 1908, when the hotel was considered to be one of the finest between Denver and the coast. Across the street was the remains of the old saloon. It ran the length of the block. Again from things I had read about Goldfield, in its heyday, it was rumored to have required the presence of 80 barkeeps to man the massive bar which lies inside.
I drove on through and made it the additional 25 miles to Tonopah where I planned to spend the night. Tonopah might as well be considered a ghost town as well, at least compared to what it used to be. On Main Street in downtown Tonopah is a grand old hotel/casino with a big "For Sale" sign in it. The old sign above the entrance read "The Mitzah Hotel". I found parking across from Tonopah Station which is a small square containing a grocery store, hotel/casino, and several small business offices. I went inside the casino and found as array of slot and video poker machines that typifies so much of Nevada's "casinos" outside of Vegas and Reno. Of interest though was that they had memorabilia on the walls from the salad days of Tonopah's gaming legacy, including a very nice display of cards and chips from the old Mitzah casino downtown. I milled around a bit longer and called it a day.
The next morning I got up and began the final leg of my journey to Grants Pass, Oregon. It was dark when I headed out, so I got to watch the sunrise slowly over the mountains to the east and paint its soft colors on the mountains ahead of me.
And the moon became a distant memory above the mountains to my left....
...while Walker Lake spread out into the distance on my right.
I stopped at truckstop when I got to I-80 for some breakfast then continued on toward Reno. Just before Reno lies the city of Sparks and Sierra Sid's Truckstop and Casino.
This is a regular stopping point for me on my journies to Oregon because 1) it is a fueling stop and 2) it is a tire chain bank that my company utilizes. Trucks are required to keep chains on board in the states of Oregon and Washington between November and April. Rather than issue chain sets to all 8,000 trucks in my company's fleet, we have to check chains in and out of these bank locations when entering and exiting those states. So I fueled and got my chains and prepared for the last leg of my trip up through northern California and into Oregon. Having gotten up at 5am, it was turning out to be a really long day. Fubu was already one pooped kitty.
One of the things I love about this part of the trip through northern California is Mt. Shasta. I've had the opportunity to see quite a few of the "super" mountains on the west coast. By "super" I mean the really big ones, the ones that are over 10,000 feet: Mt. Rainier, Mt. Hood, etc... but none of them are as impressive as Mt. Shasta. You can see Mt. Shasta from distances of nearly 100 miles, her massive, 14,162 foot twin-peak summit towers over everything as you get closer and closer.
Here's what Mt Shasta looks like from about 60 miles away....
...and from about 30 miles away.
When you get right at her base, though, there are few things as breathtaking.
I kept rolling and put Mt. Shasta in my rearview...
..and reached the Oregon state line about an hour later. Another hour after that and I was at my destination, weary, yet fulfilled. It's trips and days like these when I really love my job. A friend of mine recently posted a picture of her office in her journal and asked everyone what their office looked like. I simply commented with a picture of Mt. Shasta and quipped "My office is cooler than yours."
And what did Fubu think of the trip? She was too busy enjoying the setting sun to bother telling me.