Travels in the American Southwest

US 6 and ET Highway

Spent the preceding night in an RV park in downtown Tonopah. I should have gotten a room but with all the camping gear in the van, I was leery of leaving the van unattended. Headed towards US6 but first had to gas up. Remembered a less expensive station just north of the famous Mizpah Hotel. Glanced in the rear view mirror to see "Oh darn" #5 - Flashing red lights. Found out later that I had actually sped up as I pulled to the side of Tonopah's Main Street/US95 but that's getting ahead of the story. Hands on the steering wheel, fingers spread, I know the drill. Out of the Sheriff's vehicle comes the deputy who reminds me of Hoss Cartwright. A big man. The kind of guy who commands respect without needing a uniform or gun. "Morning, I was t-r-y-i-n-g to slow you down and you went faster. Doing 35, then 40. License and registration." Told him my license was in my wallet on the console and gingerly reached for it while explaining that it was a rental but I do have a rental agreement. He studied the license. "Just visitin', eh? How long have you been on the road? Where are you headed?" Answered all the questions. He explains, "40 an' 25 is 150." "Would you repeat that, please," I asked having no idea what he meant. Giving me the look he reserves for the village idiot, he repeated with nouns "40 miles per in a 25 limit is 150 dollars." Ouch. "Double the posted speed limit is reckless endangerment good for $1,500 (or maybe he said $3,000, my mind was stuck on the phrase 'reckless endangerment'). He asked again where I was headed. I decided to try an historically successful approach used by others in the past. "I'm getting out of town." He smiled, returned my license reminding me that they take their speed limits very seriously. I thanked him for the break, gassed up and headed east on US6.

About twenty miles outside Tonopah, a road construction crew flagged me down. "Going to be twenty minutes", the flagwoman said. Hopped out of the van as another car pulled behind me. After a couple of hellos I discovered that she was a Hired Carrier for the Post Office. Though not a postal employee, she travels 282 miles a day delivering mail. She told me a bit about her route, to watch out for antelope which hide in the ditch on SR375, and about cows who do own the road. "The UPS guy hit one last week. The police made him use his damaged truck to pull the dead cow off the roadway. (But he didn't have to pay for the cow!" She told me about a family that lives on a nearby mountain top. Every few days, they hitch up their four mule team wagon and collect their accumulated mail. They have no running water, no electricity, no propane. Their light is kerosene lanterns, their heat is a wood stove. I wondered how long I could survive living like that. Thirty minutes later, we were off; she to deliver mail and me to explore.

CliffordFound the ghosttown of Clifford. Named For Jim and Ed Clifford who found silver there in 1905. They sold their claim for $250,000. By 1908, the town was populated by leasers who would buy the rights to a certain number of feet in the various mines, hoping to strike a rich vein. Charles Schwab (yes, that one) was one of many financial backers. Clifford had banks, stores, dozens of saloons and (of course) a thriving red-light district. The town died a lingering death as the strikes became fewer and fewer. Today some walls, a couple of rusted automobile skeletons, piles of rusting cans and dozens of abandoned mine shafts make up Clifford.

ET HighwayA half dozen miles east of Clifford is Warm Springs at the intersection of US6 and SR375 (ET Highway). I pulled into the abandoned parking lot and saw the pool which was surrounded by a chain link fence holding dozens of "Keep Out" signs. I also saw "Oh darn #6". Yet another flat tire. (Well it was the one that went flat before so it wasn't really a new flat!) Hello fix-a-flat; Hello compressor. Decided to have lunch while the compressor did its work. My chewing was interrupted by a car horn. It was the hired carrier, pleased I'm sure, at seeing me at one of the places she recommended I stop. We exchanged waves as she went on to continue her deliveries.

Lil Al-e InnHeaded south on SR375 traveling for miles and miles. At the town of Rachel, I stopped for a beer and to visit Li'l Al-e Inn. (Say it fast). A monument to the weird things that happen on this stretch of highway, they do a big business in food, beverages and Area 51/Alien merchandise. The walls are adorned with all types of UFO newsclips and information on the super-secret Area 51. Tee shirts are available for that special reminder of your trip to the middle of nowhere! There's no question to the political leanings of this roadside attraction. Bumper stickers plastered all over the beer cooler would leave Bill Clinton in no doubt as to where he stood in the local's opinion.

No Go-Area 51Since I was so close, I just had to drive the 25 miles down a graded dirt and gravel road. I kept telling myself that I was looking for the ghosttown of Groom...But I was kidding myself. I was looking for the access road to Area 51. Suddenly, there it was. Signs posted saying No Trespassing, Military Base. No photography without authorization. A half dozen signs like that. To the left on the nearby hilltop was a listening post with the antennas pointed at the signs. To the right, a large tan colored SUV with an unobstructed view of the entrance. I heard a low roar which got louder quickly. "Oh boy, this is it", I thought as I scanned the sky. Suddenly it blew by me; a large diesel bus with blacked out windows leaving the base grounds. "Well, that was interesting", I muttered as I slowly drove back toward SR375.

We hear you-Area 51  We see you too-Area 51

There are no more unauthorized photos here

Continued down SR375 until I met US93. On US93, I stopped and stretched my legs at Pahranagat Lakes. The lakes are on the Great Pacific Migratory Path providing a resting place for thousands of migrating birds. I'm told that fishing is quite good at the lakes, too. Makes sense as the birds have to gorge themselves for the next leg of their flight.

An hour later, the lights of Las Vegas twinkled on the horizon and I knew that a long hot shower followed by a cleansing steam bath and a quick meal would prepare me for a good night's sleep in a real bed! Man, it's great to be back in Las Vegas.

And so ended my tour of Nevada, ghosttown hunting and general exploring. 1800+ miles. 130 gallons of gas. Three flat tires.

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