January 20, 2020 Winnemucca NV

Winnemucca Nevada has been on my radar since last year when we passed thru on the way home.  I liked the name and it had an interesting history.  It got its start as  a railroad stopover on the intercontinental rail road.  Their are several large gold mines in the area, and one of it’s banks was robbed by Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid.  It has a Basque heritage, and boasts of five Basque restaurants in town.  The final reason is that it was only 230 miles from Bend and seemed like a reasonable distance for the day.

Windshield shot of the loneliest road in Oregon.  Don’t worry about my safety, I was in the middle of a 10 mile straight stretch of highway without a car in site in either direction.

The first 150 miles of the trip was on Oregon Highway 78 which has to be one of the emptiest highways in the continental US.  About 30 miles outside of Burns is a gas station and the Oregon Department of Transportation (ODOT, it comes up again later!) has put up a sign warning motorists that there will not be any fuel for the next 120 miles.  Ton and I have driven this road several times in our visits to eastern Oregon and we always comment on the lack of man made objects.  This time because I was by myself and had nothing better to do I paid attention, and for a 48 mile stretch of OR78 there are no visible permanent man made objects except the road and the power lines adjacent to it.  For a 100 mile stretch of OR78 and US95 there are six man made objects, I kept track.  In this stretch all you see are 2 ODOT facilities for road maintenance, 1 radar site for either the military or the FAA, 1 cell/microwave tower, and 2 very lonely ranches.  It is hard to envision the emptiness of south east Oregon.

Typical scene along OR78.  Sagebrush desert virtually unaltered by man.

Last night while researching things to do on the drive today I came across an entry for Paradise Valley in the Nevada tourism site.  It had an interesting history as a gold mining town in the 1880’s and was billed by Nevada tourism as a living ghost town.  The blurb showed a couple of interesting pictures.  It was close to my route so I decided to swing over for lunch.  I know that selling tourism in north central Nevada is tough but they really exaggerated the ghost town.  What is there is a small farming community with a couple of well maintained churches, a few nice houses and some derelict buildings that are old.  It is certainly no ghost town, and really shows the power of what a good photographer can do to make a mundane site look interesting.

The “ghost town” of Paradise Valley.

I arrived in Winnemucca around 1:30 and checked into a very nice campground a couple of miles out of town.  I was debating what to do for the rest of the day but I had noticed that there was a brand new sidewalk all of the way from town to the campground, so I decided if Winnemuca had gone thru all of that trouble to build a sidewalk I should use it.  The walk into town was nice as I spent a lot of it chatting with Ton.  The town itself was kind of disappointing.  I expected more, but it looks like Winnemuca’s downtown has suffered from the suburbanization of it’s shopping so there was not much going on downtown.  The tourist information office/museum was closed, and none of the other stores looked interesting.  The restaurants looked shabby, and they do not brew beer in town.  So after walking around a while I headed back to Scout and cooked up some of Ton’s Larb, which is my favorite Thai food.

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