Trip Meter 390 miles
Sunday April 5, 2015
Unusual day for us today. Joan has offered to rise early this morning to ensure a 9 AM start, and we both agree to stick to the route. We intend to put 400 miles behind us by day's end. Averaging 50 miles an hour (time/ speed reduced for bio-breaks and stuffing in food) that means an 8 hour day on the road. Not our usual forte.
Breaking the rule within the first several minutes of the trip, I had Joan step out of the bus and snap a photo of the elaborate and well restored train station in Caliente as we rolled through town. Trains still use the tracks in front of the depot- they just don't stop here any more.
We point the bus north on US Route 93 which will take us to, for us, unexplored parts of Nevada. This is an ambitious route simply for the elevation gain/loss. We will ascend and descend 10 mountain passes, all of which are over 6,000 ft elevation and most of which are over 7,000. Any sane person would choose to go down to Las Vegas and head up US 95 which has 3 mountain passes for the same destination that are all under 6,300 feet. What's the fun in taking the easy way- we'd never see anything else if we didn't change-it-up once in while. Besides, we have the perfect motorhome for the job- our 330 hp Caterpillar engine is the perfect power unit for our 26,000 lb rolling home. The passes will slow us to at most 45 mph if I follow Mike Cody's instructions from my Camp Freightliner class of 2013. His advice is to shift down to keep the tachometer between 1750 and 1900 rpm for best cooling and engine efficiency while climbing. Do this and it will never overheat- and he's been right so far.
Our first pass was Panaca Pass at 6,719 feet just up the road from Caliente where we stayed the night, the rest of US 93 was easy sailing all the way to US 50 which would take us west to Fallon where we will stay overnight.
One thing we did check was the weather forecast- that's one thing that would give me pause- snow. The mercury got down to below freezing at our resting place in Caliente and it was only at 4,000 something elevation- so any moisture falling overnight would be snow in these elevations for sure. Instead the passes were clear and the weather was sunny. We did have a fantastic tail wind that pushed us up 95 this morning. Unfortunately when we turned to head west at the junction of highway 50, that meant we now had a strong and gusty wind blowing from our port side- not so much fun.
US Route 50 across Nevada is called the Loneliest Highway in America. It got this moniker in an article published in Life Magazine in July of 1986. It was intended as a slight, but Nevada officials thought it would be a great theme for a marketing campaign. There are only two highways that traverse Nevada in a "straight" line east-west and this is mostly because the mountain ranges are, for the most part, oriented north- south and to go east-west means traversing most of them. If you are willing to compromise on the straight here-to-there, you can miss a greater number of mountain crossings. In our case that meant that if we had dipped down to Las Vegas (some 150 miles behind us and come up US 95 we'd have only one or two passes to climb. But today's route is labeled a scenic route in our atlas and that settles the question right there.
US Route 50 also follows some of the route of the old Lincoln Highway, and that gives us yet another reason to choose this route. The Lincoln Highway was the first road across America and the stretch we are on from Ely to Fallon pretty much follows the original route. The highway was the brain child of Carl Fisher back in 1912. Fisher was also the inspiration behind the Indianapolis Motor Speedway. Fellow Blogger Brian Butko publishes a fascinating blog on the history of the Lincoln Highway and I urge you to read at least one of the many stories he has accumulated in his blog by following this link: The Lincoln Highway News (the link will open in a new window)US 50 is also a part of the original Pony Express route. How could all this history not persuade us to endure all those mountain passes!
Two towns we pass though on our way west to Fallon have meaningful names to us. The first town is Eureka, NV founded in 1854 by miners who discovered silver and lead deposits here. My sister and her husband live near Eureka, California and have the local Harley Davidson dealership in Eureka. Click this link Redwood Harley-Davidson Joan and I have been to Eureka, CA many times.
Down town Eureka, NV is a very inviting an well-cared for place. The preservation of the old downtown is obviously a priority for them. We mark Eureka, NV as a place we want to visit again, and spend some time.
The Second town is Austin, Nevada. A town that shares Joan's Family name. The town site is nestled in a valley and closely follows the serpentine highway that winds through it.
Austin, unlike Eureka, has seen better days. The buildings and homes have not been well preserved and most of the storefronts are empty. It has the potential to look like Bisbee, Arizona, but that's clearly not their mission. Austin is billed as a "Living Ghost Town" and we think that fits it well.
Being on the eastern slopes of the Toiyabe National Forest, it has found a niche as a mountain biking mecca. Is there a future for Chris Austin in Austin, NV?
As we topped one rise we thought what we were seeing was a large lake ahead of us
Victims of the famous mirage, we were were fooled by heat shimmering off the salt flats below- no water here.
Instead of water, what we saw mostly were gusts of wind picking up the salt and dust. Made it look like steaming hot water.
Joan even captured several mini-tornadoes or dust devils, whirling hundreds of feet into the air. Glad they are over there and not over by the highway. As we mentioned before, it is very windy today.
By 6 PM our time, we rolled into Fallon, NV and Joan has scoped out a spot for us in the Churchill County Fairgrounds for the night. Water and electric only for only $15/ night for a pull through. Only thing is- we can't find an address and it doesn't come up in any of our web searches. Luckily Joan remembers that one of the bloggers talked about hearing traffic on Highway 95 so we head down 95 and find it at Scheckler lane and 95. Home for the night.
Your Traveling Friends
Jeff and Joan