Nevada

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Nevada

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NEVADA is not a state I know very well, I'm embarrassed to say. I usually speed through it on my way to somewhere else. I have nothing against it, I'm just usually headed to some thing elsewhere. I plan to change this, this year. I've got a couple of shortish (week long) trips planned, and I'll fill this out somewhat.

I did take one decent trip through about 1987 or 1988, down Route 50, through Austin, Hickson Petroglyphs, Eureka, Ely and Route 93. A few things stuck and I'll record those now.

Route 50 is one of those obscure well=known places with a slogan attached by some AAA type: "the loneliest road in America". Well it might actually be; it's actually a pretty fucking desolate road. I love driving through strange places, that make you fantasize about how horrible it would be to break down in the middle of it.

Lahontan petroglyphs are some 10,000 year old artifacts along what was the once-upon-a-time edge of Lake Lahotan, about 20 - 50 miles east of fallon on Route 50. This is the sorta stuff the mod-prims swiped for their big black tatoos. Some of it is kinda arty, and some looks like doodling. (Refer to the wonderful book "MOTEL OF THE MYSTERIES" for a take on over-investment in too few facts.) There's a cave-like overhang with remnants of old cooking fires, not all of which are so ancient.

Further east along Route 50 near a singularity called Frenchman, are some lovely things called "danger areas". Complete with signs that some times of the year say "DO NOT STOP!" The Danger Areas are a broad, flat high soda/salt flat, the dried-up remains of some ancient seabed. The Danger is threefold; when wet, it's mushy but deceivingly solid-looking (like Route 80 through Utah); since it's so wide high and flat, the wind is strong, and blows nasty feelthy sand and potash at you, lowering visibility and stinging your eyes; and lastly, if you do anything really stupid (like drive off the road in a drunken stupor) there's no one around for a looong way to help you out.

Sand Mountain is really just a large, damn peculiar sand dune. It's almost hopeless to visit; it seems to have a permanent infestation of ATVs. But far more interesting is the phone booth. See, there are no wires out here (though AT&T has a 500-mile-long trench with a fiber or two in it; the signs parallel Route 50 end to end), so this phone has a solar panel and Yagi antenna on a pole, and a stylish little egg that holds the actual telephone. I didn't actually make a call from it, though next time...

Austin: On a trip through here years ago I drove this route, and in a hurry to get out out of San Francisco, always a mistake. So I drove too long and too late. It was April 30th, and miserable weather. I decided to push through to Ely. Duh. I get up to Austin, a little ramshackle town on a hill, and it starts snowing. I bought some overpriced gasoline (back when I used to burn that stuff) and headed off.

Hickson Petroglyphs: It was already getting late, and dark, and snowy, when I paused -- very briefly -- to check out the Hickson Petroglyphs. Hickson seems and odd name for an Indian, and since these seem quite ancient, it's not real clear how they determined his name and transferred it to a phonetic alphabet, but he was a pretty cool artist anyhow. Basically they were scratched into an outcropping of granite, and in the gloom and snow were kinda scary. By this time I was getting a little scared, I recall. It's actually snowing, and I discovered I didn't bring my boot type shoes, and had on only Coverse hitops. Hmm. I head east.

Eureka is a tiny town that's obviously seen better days. (Hell, it'd be easier, and quite no exaggeration, to count the rural south/west towns that had not had a dizzying plummet in the last 50 years.) By now it's dark, and I'm hungry. The snow threatens to turn into a real storm. Dammit to fuck, it's April 30th! So I stop into this old hotel that has a weird small theater-like room, with a stage and velvet curtains all turned dark, and there's a TV on the stage, and some dogs laying on the floor. Everything's all old and small and dark. There's a couple of grumpy looking old men watching TV and drinking coffee, sitting at this big old picnic table sort of along one side of the theater room. I ordered some basic food and coffee, and the old guy (no one but old guys and babies in these places; everyone mobile has fled) says, "there's coffee there in the kitchen [pointing through the door], help yourself anytime". We talked briefly about the weather, which wasn't exactly just small talk at this point. Like, there's a big record-fucking-setting storm coming or something. Great. Later on I realized the place was once a big burlesque type whorehouse, way back in the Good Old Days. This guy told me the place was built in 18-mumble something. Since it was my first day out on this trip (I'm always antsy to get as far away as posible first day out) I decide to head to Ely, even though it's totally foolish. I didn't want to rent a room in Eureka and bore myself to death watching TV. So, like the complete idiot I was, I drove off to Ely, at night, in a snowstorm.

Ely: Well the last stretch of road to Ely was a complete terror. I mean, this is a two lane fucking road to/from nowhere, at night in a snowstorm. And -- get this -- my car, my 1970 AMC Hornet, has vaccuum-powered windshield wipers. Huh? Most of you will say -- most cars since the late 50's had nice reliable electric motors making the wipers go back and forth using a little bell-crank. Oh no, not Rambler, they had to stick with their 40's style beast, which runs off the engine-created vacuum and a little booster pump driven off a cam and lever, that sucks a little vane that swings back and forth in a hemispherical chamber; when it reaches the other side it pushes a little slide that diverts vacuum to the other chamber to suck it back the other way, etc. Well if they're not in top-notch shape when the going gets tough, they -- stop moving. So my wiper blades, at night, in a snowstorm, on a two-lane road, in the mountains, on a deserted and desolate highway, stop working. To assist the now-feeble motor I remove the passenger side wiper arm, which helps. I reach out the window and give the blade a push when it eventually gets reachable (swerving a little every time). It's of course now quite unthinkable to stop. Add to this I have to go through two mountain passes. Great.

Oh yeah, Ely. I got there about 8:00pm. It's now a fucking blizzard, for real. I pull into a motel. What an insult! I have no choice but to rent a room, and go find a restaraunt, since by now I'm starving. No sooner than I get into the damned room, and turn the TV knob round and round at the half-dozen TV channels, then the power goes out. I took a shower in complete darkness, then head down the street to a lounge/bar/restaraunt/casino to forage for food. Kitchen's closed! But I got me a tuna sammich and lukewarm coffee. Back to the motel I go, but my room is totally dark, and it's too early and I'm too wound up to sleep, so I go into the motel lobby, where they have a filthy Mr. Coffee and some lights operating off a generator out back. In here is the proprietor and his wife, 50-ish gnarly rural-types, and their teenage daughter, who is working herself up into a sweat over this Nostradamus stuff she was reading about, how on May first (tomorrow!) the world was going to end because of one of those foolish vague things occultist nutcases dig up ("on a day when snow befalls ye mightly etc...") and she was encountering non-linearity for the first time, apparently, and she was quite upset by it. I'm not sure that she believed it so much as wanted to believe it, especially seeing how nothing very transcedent seemed to be going on in Ely, as even the Mormons seem to have become just another form of normalcy. Eventually the power came back on, and I went to bed.

When I got up, late morning on May first, it was like I never left Boston -- the car us completely buried in snow, doors stuck, windows iced, etc. Not quite so much like the high-desert driving I was expecting.

I forget where my nominal goal was, further east somewhere, but I decided to go south, ASAP. From Ely, this means Route 93. South, south, south, where the weather was warm [I'll jump ahead here because I'm not going to write that far, and tell you that when I finally reached Seligman AZ, the next night, where I met the scrawny blue-eyed boy at the KOA Kampground I still sigh over, it was 20 degrees in my tent, and my water jug froze solid. It was a cold trip!].

Route 50 at least has some distinction; Route 93 is just obscure. Everything was frozen solid, though it had stopped snowing, and plows were out, but that doesn't mean quite the same thing it does in sub/urban places. Roads remain icy, with sheer dropoffs. Of course I didn't have tire chains. And of course the local auto parts store was closed that day (Sunday). It was flat fucking IM-possible unthinkable to spend the day in Ely just to get chains -- so I head south anyhoo. Well, it was pretty bad for about 25 miles, then either the sun evaporated the ice or it wasn't so bad south of Ely. The only notable thing on Route 93 to my recollection is a small restored mining town, just a little pull off, but with stone buildings, and cool tiny houses. Can't recall the name, and it ain't on my maps. Oh well. Nice place to have lunch.

End of thread.

A person I corresponded with a couple of times said I could include his brief encounter with Ely.

Monitor Valley is an obscure place if there ever was one. It's this large valley, about 100 miles long. It has one ranch about 30 miles in. About 15 miles east of Austin, Route 376 heads south; down 376 about 1/2 mile is a tiny dirt highway heading east, across the Toquima Range; shown here is a 30-mile 4% or so grade up into the range. Luckily it was well-graded, and I was able to go about 40-45 miles/hour, though the cloud of dust worked its way into absolutely unbelievable places.

Toquima cave is up in the mountains, which are really a long series of ridges filled with animals and little cavelets that people lived in and left the obvious human detritus behind. The cave in this particular photo is blocked off with a big chain-link fence; I aimed my shitty Walgreen's camera through a hole, used flash, and scanned the photo at hi-res and contrast-enhanced it. Miracle of modern technology, etc. The big white blob in the corner is actually a chain-link wire in the fence blocking the lens.

Rachel: Well as far as I can tell, there really isn't a town per se, it's more of a belief system shared by it's dozen or so residents, and held together by the Li'l Ale-Inn. I don't really have any interest in UFOlogy, though I like the swirl of weirdness the UFOlogist create. I really came here because my friends Scot and Erika told me I *had* to come here, and they're rarely wrong. And I do plan on very shortly re-visiting the area to check out some specifics, and maybe do some psychedelics to check that scene out.

But basically, I went down Route 375 (south from Warm Springs on Route 6) to have lunch or dinner in Rachel. You know you're in the right place when you see this sign. Route 375 here is a bit odd. Open-ranging cows run the place, along with their accomplices, the suicide birds. The cows are either really stupid or really smart. They wander into the road, and sometimes hurry into the road if it looks like they are going to miss you. And the birds. My brother Eric will recognize this: imagine this vast cattle country, giant sky, no buildings, trees, poles, or other aerial obstructions. So what are the birds doing all swooping in front of my car -- I mean, they disappear from view in front of my radiator! -- like every 100 feet, for almost 100 miles? I'm serious -- if I went more than 0.25 mile without some damn bird flinging itself at my car I would be surprised. It became quite nerve-wracking. Seriously, they would line up along the road, up ahead about as far as I could see, and when I got close, leap up and start swooping at me. >thump< more than one turned into a little cluster of loose feathers I had to scrape off my grill! I took to beeping my exceedingly loud horns (stolen from a 1948 two-ton Studebaker truck, and carefully rebuilt and well-aimed forward) to get the little fuckers to BUZZ OFF. It didn't work!

The Little Ale'Inn is in a tiny cluster of mobile homes and heavy equipment. You can't miss it. I entered the building, somewhat wary. There's about six people, some men at the bar, some older couples at a table, and one young military couple just came in. Everyone turns at looks at me. Hmm. I nervously head to the bar, sit down. Order a Bud. Redneck feller sez, "Buffet's really good tonight, ribs. Whole thing's $4.95, all ya want." Another guys asks where I'm from, where I'm going, etc. This is what usually happens. I enter scary redneck place, looking like a freak, and everyone surprises me by being friendly.

Seeing how this trip I've decided to not rough it and do my camping thing, but to eat real roadside food for every meal, just to see what it's like, I get the buffet. I get ribs, potatoes, bread, I forget what else. Salt, grease, meat. It's actually tasty in that way I had forgotten, that heavy concentrated taste and texture of heavily salted, overcooked food. Nasty but pleasant at the same time, like smoking ten cigarettes in an hour, or drinking a whole pint of really bad booze. I even get seconds! I remember now, the wilty vinegary salad like high-school, which I always liked, like pickles.

After eating, I walk around the place, looking at all the photos of military planes, people, horses, local chit-chat, etc. There's a whole corner devoted to UFOlogy, with special emphasis on Area 51, Groom Lake, etc. Some topo maps, and a big fat xeroxed book of UFOlogy on the area. I would have boughten one, but they was like $15. Too much for me! So I bought the bumper sticker, and signed the guest book, as "World Power Systems".