Travels in the American Southwest

Leaving Las Vegas (& the 1st Oh Darn!)

Up Thursday morning before dawn, I was due to pick up a Minivan to serve as my home away from home while visiting Nevada's more remote and obscure sights. Using Alamo's Quicksilver option, I was in and out and on the way to my vehicle in space A21 in under a minute. No lines, no hassles!

Vehicle turned out to be a 2002 Chevey Venture...with four (4) miles on the odometer. That was sure going to change over the next week and a half! (While not really an upgrade, after my first two upgrades of the trip, it sure felt like one!) Headed to the UPS customer center on ML King Blvd. to pick up my 200+ pounds of camping gear I'd sent out a week earlier. Quick, customer oriented sevice seems to be the rule at this UPS location. They are truly a pleasure to deal with. Dollies are available for heavy packages.

Checked out of the Golden Nugget (again, nice and quick, no surprises on the bill) and headed north to Lamb Road to score some wooden shipping pallets. If you're going camping and like a nice campfire, why buy firewood from some Home Store? Grab a couple of pallets from Lamb Road's short-dump sites; You'll help clean Nevada and preserve natural resources!

Craig Road has a number of grocery, home building, and mega-discount stores. If you're heading north on US95, it makes a convenient stop to stock up on supplies.

Headed north on US95 making great time as I passed Indian Springs and the Nevada Atomic Test site. From Las Vegas to just south of Beatty, you'll see miles and miles of desert scrub. To the north of the highway lies Nellis Air Force Bombing and Gunnery Range. You may see fighter jets crisscross the sky.

You know you're approcahing Beatty when the mountains to the north become streaked with green, white and maroon strata. Remants of Carrara, a marble mining town, can be seen a few miles north of the highway. Ten miles north of Beatty are stands of Cottonwood trees. These large leafy trees protect what was once the town of Springdale, now a collection of privately owned ramshackle houses and trailers. A chain link gate prohibits access to the area.

A dozen miles north of Springdale, US95 skirts one of Nevada's many dry lakes. Plumes of dust rose high above as dust devils swirled over the playa. You won't see much civilization between here and Goldfield except for some businesses unique to Nevada, the Shady Lady and Cottontail ranches being but two!

Ten or so miles past the Cottontail Ranch, you'll notice Joshua trees begin to dot the surface of the surrounding hills leading you into Goldfield, county seat of Esmeralda. If you've ever had the hankering to own a piece of the old west, Goldfield might be for you! Tax sales are being held (usually the weekend before Labor Day Weekend) for properties on which taxes have not been paid...In some cases, taxes haven't been paid in decades. I may just check out next year's sale! Seven miles north of Goldfield, you're surprised to see that the Joshua trees which so liberally sprinkled the hillsides only a couple of miles back, are gone.

As you pass by an large alkalai wash, you'll be fifteen miles from Tonopah, current county seat of the enormous Nye county. I've been told that Nye is the sixth, fifth and third largest county in the US. Irrespective of which figure is correct, Nye County is one big place. I've heard that there's talk of relocating the county seat to Pahrump where the population is growing exponentially due to nearby Las Vegas. Passed the historic Mizpah Hotel (in which Joe Louis never tended bar or was a bouncer nor did Wyatt Earp ever stay). The hotel is currently closed. Though I wasn't running low on gas, I figured that this would be a good time to tank up. Just past the Chevron station (as you're going north) is Rebel Road, so named for the Rebel Oil Company. Self-serve gas for $.10 - .15/gal. less than any of the gas stations in Tonopah is available on weekdays, 9-4. Cash only. While I was there, a half dozen locals came and went after filling their cars with the less pricey gas.

Since I was a few hours early for my evening's stay at the turn-of-the-century Monitor Inn in historic Belmont, I decided to visit a ghost town I'd been unable to find on a previous trip. Millers is located at the end of a well traveled five mile dirt road by a rest stop about 12 miles west of Tonopah on US6/95. As I stopped to photograph the town's remains, I noticed that the odometer now read 261. Spent an hour capturing what remained of the town and then hopped in the van to continue my way to Belmont. Shifted the van into drive and went nowhere. "Hmmm. Must be up against something", I thought as I threw it into reverse. Rolled back ten feet and the van came to a rest. "I don't know what I'm going to see when I get out of the van but I'll bet right here and now that I'm not going to like it," I said aloud. Walked to the back of the van an noticed a clump of sagebrush stopped the van. "That shouldn't have stopped the van." Walk around to front of van and notice a large puddle of red transmission fluid. "Oh geez. Not good." Looked back down the road from which I'd come. "Nope, not good at all," as I surveyed the long line of leaked transmission fluid on the dirt road. 261 miles and I've destroyed a brand new vehicle. That has to be some sort of record!

Slathered on sun block and donned my wide-brim hat. Filled my liter water bottle and started hiking down the road as the wind whipped the loose dust into clouds of a choking nightmare.

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