Friday, October 22, 2010

Nevada's Lonely Roads

Hickison Summit, Nevada -- This is a very quiet place above 8,000 feet elevation in the middle of Nevada along Route 50, “The Loneliest Road in the World.”
We had started our ten-day tour of the West by driving east over Ebbetts Pass, through Carson City, Nevada, and then onto the best non-freeway road in the state.
Only the road isn’t near as lonely as it once was, what with trucks carry pipes for the thermal drilling in Eureka, the tourists looking to see the “real” Nevada or a quick blue route through the middle of the state. There is a speed limit, but no one seems to notice.
For us Hickison was a convenient place to spend the night en route to a circle tour of the National Parks in Utah. Hickison was a familiar spot where we had stopped before on trips on the way across the U.S.

The attractions here are the uncluttered views of the high desert, and the petroglyphs left behind by primitive -- oops --- ancient people about 800-1200 years ago.
The light was too poor and the hour too late for us to take pictures of the carvings in the stone walls, so you’ll have to trust me -- there are plenty there. Mysterious, not well understood, and numerous, the carvings are either of mythical creatures or giant men or the artists just couldn’t draw very well. Probably all of the above.
(I know you already know this, but a petroglyph is a prehistoric picture carved in stone, and a pictograph is a primitive painting on stone -- often in caves or canyon walls in the SouthWest.)

The campground is small, generally quiet, and has great views of the desert off to the East.

When we pulled in only four or so sites were occupied, of a dozen or so, and we spotted a good one and stopped to check it out. Unfortunately, giant RVs on each side were running their generators, so we kept moving and looking. When we came back to the same site for another look and listen, one of our neighbors came out of the RV and hastened to assure us he was going to turn off the generator within moments and he hated the noise too. Nice guy. Good neighbor.
We had a quiet evening in our van-turned-camper. When we woke up at dawn the van was covered with frost and ice, and the temperature was probably in the 20s.
A quick cup of coffee and we were off to the East and a big breakfast at the town of Eureka’s Owl Club and Casino (mostly a cafe and bar) where the local miners were having breakfast with their families, one or two were having a beer having come off the night shift, and a slightly worn woman was drinking vodka straight at the bar. They now mine something called molybendium, plus the area is having a mini-boom with well drillers probing the earth’s crust to generate steam for electric power turbines.

Nevada has its share of strange stuff, including two carloads of scudzy-looking fellows at a junction with a table, petition, and a signs that said “Impeach Obama” and “Unbama!” In the high desert there is a plant that apparently creeps up onto the highway, perhaps in the middle of the night when no one is watching. We saw a bunch waiting to cross the road.

And then there was the row of slot machines in the SaveMart grocery store, and the car burning along the roadside (fully involved, but no injuries).

The scenery was great.

And finally, near the Utah border of course, a town called Virgin. Who says old-fashioned values are dead.

Next: Zion National Park: beautiful, varied and efficient

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