Travels in the American Southwest

Ely, Nevada

Saturday, 8/30

Spent an uneventful night ay Ely's Holiday Inn. Since there was no charge for one night's stay, we patronized their laundry facilities...At 4:30 in the morning.

Up early and headed to the cheapest gas in town - Sinclair at $2.02 per. Our morning objective was Success Loop, a 37 mile mostly dirt road which runs from Cave Lake up over Success Summit and joins US93 north of McGill. The Success Loop  is magnificent. The road weaves through groves of aspen trees. I was sorry that it was the Labor Day weekend and not 2 weeks later; The aspen's leaves had not yet begun to change to their famous golden color. The Success Loop is a narrow dirt road. It is not maintained between October and May. It contains many switchbacks which could be of concern to some motorists. It is also not a one way road. More than once we had to pull off the road to let oncoming traffic squeeze by. It also offers outstanding photo opportunities.

The Loop Road ends at US93 north of the little community of McGill, a one time company town. We stopped at the McGill Drug store on the way back to Ely. Now a museum, you feel like you've been transported back to Smalltown, USA when you cross the threshold. Dan will probably be behind the soda fountain, ready to serve you ice cream sodas, milkshakes or a double scoop cone. "Welcome folks! Feel free to browse through the store, back rooms, everything. Touch whatever you like," said Dan so MSO and I did. We saw medicinal prescriptions going back to the early 1900's. They are now available for genealogical research. Dan tells the story of a woman who located a prescription for an ancestor who worked at the McGill smelter. She excitedly told Dan of her discovery to which he deadpanned, "Ma'am, this shows and unpaid balance." Apparently, the woman was not amused. I walked down aisles lined with old products like Dippity-Doo, Ipanna toothpaste, and several varieties if trusses. Feminine needs were kept in a separate room in the back indicating the mores of the times. We wandered through the pharmacy, marveling at the empty bottles of opium derivatives, bottles of paregoric, mortar and pestles. There's a bow-making, ribbon machine to liven up presents and a bow tie making machine for the properly attired gentleman. Old Kodak displays compete with the memorable Timex (Takes a lickin' but keeps on tickin') display. Nothing in the store is for sale except ice cream products. Dan laughingly told us of the many tour busses which make the Drug Store a favorite stop for tour groups. He boards the bus, gives a brief talk on the history of the store, mentions that it is a museum and nothing is for sale. Invariably, some member of the group walks to the cash register with an item to purchase. In good humor, Dan reminds them that it's a museum and the prices still attached to the merchandise reflect the price decades ago. I figure that people forget it's a museum because unlike any other museum I've ever ventured in to. Dan encourages you to leaf through the old files, hold the apocathary equipment in your hands as you inspect it, read the ingredients in a full, 40 year old bottle of Welches grape juice. (You wouldn't want to drink it, trust me.) This is a museum and a wonderful trip back in time for anyone who remembers a simpler time in America. Or has seen episodes of "Leave it to Beaver".

I'd planned a special treat for MSO. A ride on the Northern Nevada Railway's steam-driven Ghost Train in Ely. This two hour train ride was a lot of fun. A narrator mentioned highlights as we approached them providing ample opportunity for picture taking of long abandoned miner's camps, played out mine shafts and the remains of a train accident where six fully loaded ore cars derailed. The cars sit on their side to this very day. Another highlight was passing the northwest corner of Ely. As old Engine 93's whistle blew loud and clear, workers from Big 4 and the Stardust Ranch came out onto the sidewalk to give the Ghost Train's riders a big wave. "The girls always come out to wave," explained the narrator. "Unless of course they're 'occupied'". Laughter erupted from the train. It was a lot of fun hearing the steam whistle blow and the Engine 93's bell clang and the experience of riding an open-windowed car through a small tunnel is unforgettable. Steam mixed with the smoke of the burning coal wafted through the car. I'm sure the folks who were riding on the open platform car received a much stronger dose of nostalgia than did MSO and I! If you find yourself in Ely, take a ride on the Northern Nevada Railway. Different themed train rides are available including The Dinner Train, Wine Train, Full Moon Train, Snow Train and the like.

Took a side trip to the Liberty Pit, the world's largest open pit mine. It's located in nearby Ruth but a large fence with prominent Keep Out signs kept us from approaching the pit's edge.

Topped off the gas tank and we were off to Baker, Nevada. Baker is the gateway to Lehman caves located in Great Basin National Park. Did yet another side trip, this time to the Ward Charcoal Ovens. Brochures available on site describe how and the amount of time it takes to make charcoal and delve into the area's history. It made for an informative and photogenic stop as we continued to cruise east on US 50.

Approached Baker in the late afternoon. All the park's campsites were occupied so MSO and I stated looking for a place to boondock for the night. Most property between Baker and Lehman Caves is privately owned so we headed south of town where the perfect campsite awaited us. Tucked behind a large mound of gravel about a half mile off the road, we spent the night in absolute quiet. Tomorrow, we'd tour a major Great Basin National Park attraction - Lehman's Caves.

Main | Trip Reports | E-mail | Next Report