I've driven trucks before but had forgotten how long a 27 foot truck was! Didn't prove to be a problem as we drove back to the airport to drop off the rental. Lots of room on I-15 for the novice RV operator. Made a quick stop at Home Depot, Walmart and Vons where we picked up 10 foot lengths of conduit, bottled propane canisters and perishable provisions to last us for at least a week. Also remembered to pick up six cans of Fix-A-Flat; Hey, it unusual for me not to suffer a flat tire while on my little excursions and since we were in an RV, I wanted to be extra, extra prepared.
At high noon, our trip began by heading north on US95. I got to play tour guide for MSO as the odometer racked up the miles. The Nuclear Test site, the ghosttown of Carrara which was known for its high quality marble, Beatty - Gateway to Death Valley, the abandoned salt harvesting site of Rhodes and Goldfield, Esmerelda's County seat now housing a population which could be counted on your fingers and toes. As we drove through Goldfield, crowds had gathered for the near-ghostown's 100th anniversary. The Lt. Governor was in attendance as was the grandson of Wyatt Earp and much as I wished MSO and I could stop and visit, we pushed onward. We did stop for snapshots of the Cottontail Ranch as I decided that my web site needs a brothels page -- simply photos and GPS locations, not critiques nor reports on the establishments!
Cruised into Tonopah just before 4:00. I had just minutes to visit the Rebel Oil company's gas pumps before they'd be shut off for the weekend. I was successful, saving better than a dime a gallon as the RV's tank slowly filled. Continued past town heading west on US6. I had some unfinished business from a year ago when my rental van blew a transmission hose at the ghosttown of Millers. A retired couple living nearby allowed me to use their phone saving me a long hike to Tonopah. Although my offer of financial thanks was declined last year, I had a plan this year. Earlier, MSO and I assembled a small fruit basket, discreetly slipping an envelope into the bottom of the basket. As I turned on to the dirt road leading to the house, I pointed out the high points of my previous exploits to MSO. Here's where the hose came loose and here's where I parked and here's where quarts of fluid exited the transmission. Oh yeah, that's Millers ghosttown there. She would only slowly shake her head. A U-turn and we were headed back to my benefactors house. I parked in the road and walked slowly to the front door, dogs howling at my arrival. A knock on the door and it opened a bit. "Good afternoon ma'am. You probably don't remember me but this time last year I had some van trouble and you let me use your phone to call Bumpers towing." Her eyebrow arched. "Well, I didn't have the opportunity to thank you properly last year so I had to stop by this year," as I held out the fruitbasket. A smile split her face as she took the basket. "I see you brought someone to keep you out of trouble this year," she said. MSO had chosen to remain in the RV and the surprise must have showed on my face. "I saw you both when you drove by the first time." The woman doesn't miss a trick.
Back into the RV I went and we cruised through town (mindful that speed limits are strictly enforced) taking in views of the still-closed Mizpah Hotel, the outdoor museum featuring mining implements and train memorabilia, and views of a town which is a shadow of its former self.
Our first night was to be spent in Belmont at the Monitor Inn B & B. Yes it's unusual to spend a night at a B & B when you've got a perfectly good RV parked outside but this B & B makes it worth it! Long hot showers washed away a day's worth of traveling grime; We knew that after tomorrow morning, they'd be our last for a while.
The Monitor Inn serves as a base for folks exploring this area of Nevada. Some people take day-hikes, others make use of personal ATVs or rent horses from the local outfitter to better enjoy the stark beauty of the surrounding desert.
The clock was hitting 5:30 as MSO and I arrived in Belmont. We walked through the open front door, calling "hello, hello". Now I knew we had reservations, I'd made them myself so we walked through the deserted building eventually ending up in the bar area where we heard voices. A couple of other guests were working on a bottle of wine while a twenty-something guy in a cowboy hat and boots tended bar. It wasn't long before I discovered that the bartender's outfit wasn't some uniform or affectation. His name is Wayne and he's a real cowboy whose family runs a nearby ranch. He "kills time" helping Judy Camarillo, the Inn's current owner. I don't want this to sound condescending but Wayne is the kind of guy that parents would be proud to call their son. Soft-spoken and polite, Wayne was the epitome of Western hospitality. After a beer each, MSO and I weren't just some customers but more like old friends come a visiting. Wayne explained that Judy wasn't able to greet us upon our arrival as she was "in town" getting additional provisions. Turns out that unexpected guests had showed up at the Inn making almost a full house. As we sipped our beers, Wayne filled us in on the latest news from Belmont. He was also able to locate a couple of sites I'd often wondered about including the location of the old Cosmopolitan where stars of stage and screen would perform to a packed house decades ago. He gladly shared his knowledge of wrangling and what it takes to be a buckaroo. There's an old joke about real cowboys and poser cowboys. Something to the effect that you can tell the difference by observing which side of his boots have manure on them. I can honestly state that on Wayne's boots, the manure was on the outside.
A cloud of dust and the squeal of brakes announced Judy's arrival, the truck laden with food for the night's supper. Our offer of lending a hand was politely refused so MSO and I ambled down the street to Dirty Dick's Saloon. Established before your parents, grandparents and possibly your great-grandparents were born, Dirty Dick's houses many treasures of the old west. Two paintings hung on the wall, one of an older, rubenesque woman who worked in the brothels and the other of a sweet-eyed sixteen year old...Who also worked in the Oldest Profession. Dick told me that the woman now lives in Las Vegas and is in her early 90's. Authentic western memorabilia, saved from destruction by Dick adorns this little bar. Dick doesn't own the place anymore. He recently sold it to Stella and her husband but he still hangs around should Stella need some help behind the bar. Speaking of the bar, it's a single piece of white pine better than three feet wide and close to twenty feet long. A lot of beer has been spilled on that bar and if it could talk, oh the tales it would tell. MSO mentioned how nice it was not having to listen to slot machines as we drank our beers. Dick's eyes lit up as he had Stella proudly show us the Belmont Slot Machine. A large jar filled with water containing a shot glass resting on the bottom in the center. A small slot was cut into the center of the jar's lid. Drop a quarter through the slot - If it lands in the shot glass, you win a beer. As we sipped our beers, the afterwork crowd arrived. Locals all, a couple and a man with a Heinz 57 variety dog. A lovable dog with personality who seemed to take to me right away. Discovered that he, like me, enjoyed the occasional pretzel and with his human's permission we shared a bowl full. As MSO and I placed our empties on the old bar and headed toward the door, the dog's human looked up and said, "Please don't take my dog, mister." I grinned and said I could never break up such a good team. The crowd chuckled as we headed to the Inn for dinner.
Dinner was served family-style, the platters and bowls overflowing with mashed sweet potatoes, potato salad and thick steaks. We ate and we ate well as this would be the last served meal we'd be having for a while. After the meal we were treated to a video of the movie "Searching for America" which was professionally shot and produced/directed by fellow guests John and Tom. Taped just before the dot com implosion, the video strove to capture the common man's America from the exuberance of Silicon Valley to economically hard-hit towns like Goldfield. It told the story of people coping with situations they found themselves in and was shown at the Sundance Film Festival. We gave the guys a standing ovation after the credits rolled at the end of the tape.
A quick look at the stars outside and we were ready for sleep. Tomorrow was to
be a heavy mileage day as we headed northward to Devil's Cauldron, the Center
of Nevada, Eureka, Palisade, Carlin, Elko and Beowawe.