It is time to head home. The heat wave makes it difficult to enjoy camping right now. Last night I was looking for a place where we could cover a good deal of distance towards home and end up somewhere with a reasonable high temperature. Along the route Austin is at a high point, and the high here was projected to be a relatively chilly 91 degrees. So today we are in our second Austin of the trip the much less known Austin Nevada.
As we were loading Scout up it was 111 degrees at 9:45 am. Our poor refrigerator has been putting up a good fight but has been steadily losing ground. Despite us doing everything we could I guess the interior temperature of Scout was around 125 degrees at times. We moved as much of our food as possible into the room, but we still had to throw a couple of things out. The good news as we sit here in Austin at a mere 88 degrees the refrigerator is recovering and things are getting cold again.
When we were at the Tiger rally we had told Kathy Howe that we had come from Austin. She told us about a great forest service campground just outside Austin and told us we should stay there next time we were there. Later it came out we were talking about Austin Texas, and she was talking about Austin Nevada. But Kathy is right the campground outside Austin Nevada is awesome. Thanks Kathy for the tip.
Alex wanted to take us around town and show us some sites today. He has been in Las Vegas for 7 years now which pretty much makes him a long term resident in this very transient town. I arranged to meet him at the security gate of the Air Force Base to sponsor him. The last time we tried to get a guest on this base it was a mess, and we failed due to the complexity. I was expecting to have to fill out a bunch of paper work and told him to meet me at the visitors center. Alex and I arrived at the same time and I heard the Airmen guarding the gate telling him the visitors center was closed. I asked the Airmen what I needed to do to get him on the base and he replied, just get in the car with him, sir! What a change a few years makes.
Despite covid three new casinos have opened in Las Vegas in the last six months. Alex wanted to show us one of them in the Fremont area of town. Ton and I are not gamblers, we enjoy watching the people in the casinos. As usual we were not disappointed, the people watching was superb.
Alex also took us to the arena where the Knights play as he shares season tickets with a few friends. Ton was intrigued with the Hersheys Chocolate store and we ended up walking out with a bag full of chocolate bars. Our chore for the rest of the day was to try to keep them from melting in the 112 degree heat, we kind of succeeded.
Ton and Alex had been cooking up a fathers day outing which was the real reason for going out today. We started out at a very good brewery called Able Baker brewing. The brewery is named after the first two nuclear bombs set off in the Nevada desert. The government used to test nuclear bombs about 70 miles outside of Las Vegas. When a test was scheduled people would gather outside to watch, presumably they made sure the wind was blowing away from town to keep the radioactivity down. Both scarier and simpler times. We ended the day with a delicious Mexican meal in the arts district, which is the old downtown of Las Vegas before the casinos came in the 1950’s
We shifted hotels this morning. Vegas is back as hotel availability for the weekend was very limited and the prices were high. Luckily we can stay at the temporary lodging at the Air Force Base. The Air Force has nice facilities compared to the other services and our room here is just as nice as the hotel we spent the last two nights in.
Alex had to work, and today was field day, which includes being able to dunk your teacher so he would have to go home and change out of his wet clothes. We agreed to meet at the same brewery where we had done trivia as their parking lot was very Scout friendly. Also, the beer is good.
Our main purpose was to watch the local hockey team on television. Alex is a die hard Golden Knights fan and lives and dies by their performance. Tonight was the third game of the play off series with Montreal. The Knights dominated the whole game, but Montreal’s goalie kept them in the game, with less than 2 minutes to go the Knights were leading 2-1 and seemed to have the game in the bag. Unfortunately, the Knights goalie committed a giant blunder and allowed the tying goal much to the dismay of Alex and all of the other fans in the bar. Montreal than came out in overtime and quickly scored the winning goal. It was a heartbreaking night for Alex and most of Las Vegas.
During the drive over the thermometer on Scout registered 118 degrees.
This one is going to be short and sweet. We spent the day in our room avoiding the heat. We only left once to run to the Costco nearby to see if they had a couple of things we were looking for. At 2pm it was 116 degrees.
Alex joined us when work was over and we headed to a Korean restaurant nearby. The food was delicious and inexpensive. We all ate too much before heading back to the room to watch some TV. We did decide to extend our stay for a couple of days to spend some more time with Alex, so tomorrow we will be shifting to the Air Force Base because the temperatures are not expected to improve.
We woke up early after a good nights sleep despite the heat. The southwest is undergoing an unprecedented heat wave. Not only are the high temperatures extreme, but the over night lows are setting records for how high they are. Because of that we booked a hotel for our stay in Las Vegas to see our son Alex.
Right after we left Cedar City we realized that Las Vegas was in the Pacific time zone and it was an hour earlier. To kill some time Ton recommended a stop at the Costco in St. George Utah. After killing about an hour we were off to Las Vegas. When we arrived at the hotel it was 116 degrees Fahrenheit, so we felt good about our choice to pick a hotel.
Alex joined us after school. He is teaching summer school this year to try to help kids overcome the negative effects of Covid. He invited us to join him for trivia night at a local pub with a group of teachers. Ton and I had fun watching the local hockey team in the playoffs and trying to contribute to the trivia contest. Alex’s team won and we felt like we contributed enough to make a difference.
When we left the pub at 10pm it was still 107 degrees, which is incredible.
We were up bright and early at 5:20 am to catch the sunrise on the Alvord Desert. It lived up to its billing and was worth the early wakeup call. I also got up at about 2:30 to use the facilities and on a whim stuck my head out to look at the sky. It was absolutely fabulous. The Alvord is located over 150 miles from the nearest city, and the nearest town is over 100 miles away so the night sky is truly dark. There were thousands of stars out and the milky way was clearly visible it was spectacular, in fact it was so good that Ton did not complain when I woke her and dragged her out of bed to look at it. Unfortunately we did not bring a camera so you will have to take our word for how beautiful it was.
Since we were up, we decided to get an early start on a long days driving. Today we drove about 400 miles thru the Great Basin of Nevada. The desert here is huge and while the topography is very similar for the whole drive, large valleys at about 4000 feet elevation ranging from 15 to 20 miles across with mountains on either side of the valley around 6000 feet. It is extremely dry and the plant life is similar the whole way. Some people find it quite tedious, but Ton and I really enjoy it. There are no oh wow beautiful sites, but the shear size and distance to us is awe inspiring.
It is an extremely inhospitable place with little water and extreme temperatures so towns are very few and far between, typically around 100 miles between towns with any service such as fuel or food. All you see of people are ranches every few miles and an occasional mine. Due to the lack of population the armed forces use the area for low altitude flight training. Today we were buzzed twice by a F-35 fighter flying at 200 feet. Both time we did not see the plane until it flew straight over us. It is quite startling to be cruising along without a car in site only to have a fighter jet go straight over head at high speed. The pilot was nice enough to give us a little waggle of their wings to acknowledge scaring the heck out of us before disappearing out of site. Again no pictures as it is hard to get a shot of a jet pulling away from you at 450 knots or so.
Tonight we have moved to the much less exotic RV park behind the casino in Tonopah Nevada which is one of the mining towns I talked about above. It seems to be having some kind of a boom as there were a lot of workers staying in town with their pick up and work trucks, a couple of the hotels that have been abandoned for years have been remodeled and reopened, the RV park behind the hotel is completely full tonight as people are starting to feel more comfortable venturing out on vacations. It does look like things are starting to move towards normal, though no one seems certain where or when they are supposed to be wearing masks.
As we were driving thru town we saw the sign for the Tonopah Brewery so our evening was planned! The Kolsch beer was really good, and the barbecue was also excellent. If you are ever in town I highly recommend them.
Today I made like a commercial truck driver and focused on miles and not fun. I covered a little over 600 miles in 10 hours. It was made easier by driving a route I really enjoy. I love the quiet roads and expansive views of the Great Basin. For me it really is low stress driving for me.
I decided to begin pointing towards home last night. I am beginning to miss Ton. But I wanted to try one more Nevada Park before leaving. A couple of years ago Ton and I swung thru Cathedral Gorge State Park without stopping. I wanted to check it out so that was the target for today.
The day began with a bit of a mishap. I woke up just after dawn so I decided to take a walk to enjoy sunset as it was only a three hour drive. It was a nice walk and the red rocks of Valley of Fire were spectacular. When I arrived at the campground I met a nice couple from Washington out walking their dog. We chatted for a while about different places before I went in to finish up preparing to leave. I needed to brush my teeth and I reached into the bag I keep the toiletries in and instead of grabbing my toothbrush I grabbed my razor and managed to cut the end of my index finger pretty deeply. I threw a band-aid on it and started to finish up packing. While I was putting up the electric cord I noticed my finger was bleeding considerably, so I grabbed the first aid kit and tried to stop the bleeding. I finally got the bleeding somewhat under control and was heading out when I saw the couple from Washington waving at me vigorously, I thought how nice, but then they shouted at me to stop. I had forgotten to close the door, and left the steps down on Scout. How embarrassing, fortunately my finger was starting to drip blood to show the reason for my incompetence as a RV’er.
The drive to Cathedral Gorge was uneventful. When I arrived at the park around 12:30 I debated whether to stop, it is going to be cold tonight and since I am heading home why not get in another 3 or 4 hours towards home? I drove in and after checking the excellent campground complete with electricity I decided to stay.
Cathedral Gorge is another beautiful site. It is a box canyon with interesting sides eroded to look like cathedrals if you have imagination.
In the 1930’s during the depression the Civilian Conservation Corps built some interesting structures including a water tank and a picnic area that have survived until today.
They also have a nice trail system that is well signposted and easy to follow. Someone did a nice job with interpretive signs describing the flora and fauna of the area. It was a nice easy walk to make the day. As I am typing this I am watching a beautiful sunset to confirm my decision to stay was the right one.
Valley of Fire State Park has been on my list for this trip since the beginning. Ton and I stopped here last year and it is really spectacular. The name is apt as the hills in the park are a bright red.
The drive over was even windier then yesterday and the temperature has fallen nearly 30 degrees. The sky is blue but the wind chill is at or a little below freezing. Scout was getting blown around pretty good on the highway as I made my way thru the desert from Laughlin to Las Vegas. I decided to by-pass Las Vegas by cutting thru the Lake Mead Recreation Area. I do not have to pay the entrance fee with my senior pass and there is no traffic on the scenic highway thru the recreation area, making for a much more relaxing drive.
When I got to the Valley of Fire I had to pay my entrance fee (no free entry for State Parks, only National Parks.) When I went by the visitors center to check things out and pay the fee, the ranger told me that as it was so cold there may be a couple of spots available in the full hook up area with electricity, but if I was interested I needed to head right over there. Since it is going to below freezing tonight having electricity to run the heater seemed like a good idea so I hustled over there and claimed the last electric spot.
A few hundred yards from the campground is a Petroglyph site. It is pretty high up a canyon wall so they have built a nice ladder and platform so you can observe the Petroglyphs. As i climbed down I saw a group clustered around a rock a couple of hundred yards away so I wandered over there to see what they were looking at. It turns out it was another large set of Petroglyphs at ground level that the park does not advertise. It was fascinating to try to interpret the symbols. Some are pretty obvious and some are not obvious at all to me.
After finishing up I decided to take a short hike thru a rock formation that I suspected would loop around and return me to the campground. After about 30 minutes walking thru the desert looking at the red rock formations I popped thru a narrow wash and came right into the campground feeling like a real adventurer.
After warming up for an hour or so I took another short hike to a display I saw off in the distance. It was late afternoon and the wind was getting even stronger and the display was disappointing so I called it a day and returned to Scout, turned on the heater, cooked supper, and put on The Sand Pebbles with Steve McQueen.
It is going to be a short one today as there is nothing much to talk about. I needed to begin moving towards home and after a couple of days of looking for something around Phoenix I could not come up with anything that caught my interest. So I decided to spend the day driving and have stopped in the economy Las Vegas, Laughlin Nevada. In fact it is so economical that I am staying in a casino hotel for less than most campgrounds.
The other reason for my decision to wimp out was the wind was blowing a gale, with steady wind around 40 mph and gusts to 60 (if you can believe the warning signs posted by the Arizona Department of Transport).
I do not gamble so there is not much for me to do in a casino. I walked around the lobby a little, noting that KISS was going to be playing there at the end of the month. The crowd looked to be a mixture of seniors, Chinese tourists, and people coming over from California on tour busses for cheap gambling. After a while people watching I went back to the room and watched some TV before turning in early.
It is a short one today. Alex and I met in the morning and had a buffet at one of the casinos at the strip. We then walked the strip and did some people watching, and kept up with the news of Kobe Bryants’ death.
Alex had a baby shower to attend so I went back and cleaned scout, and did some laundry. Alex joined me again for dinner and we had a good father son talk it was an enjoyable day for me.
Today was a quiet day in Las Vegas with Alex my son. He is an elementary school teacher here and has been at the same school for 6 years. I realized I had never seen his classroom so I asked if he could show me. He walked me thru the school for about 30 minutes and told me about the joys and the trials of teaching. While he has a lot of frustrations, he truly enjoys what he is doing and works very hard to help his kids. I am proud of him.
The original plan was to drive to Tonopah NV which was about 250 miles. I woke early and while I took my time getting going and doing a trip to Walmart to get some supplies I was still on the road at 8:15.
The route thru central Nevada goes thru some more remote land, though not quite as remote as yesterday. The roads are pretty good, straight as an arrow and posted at 70mph. I took it easy and cruised at 65mph, and while there was not much traffic it was all faster than me including tankers and semi-trucks.
The highlight of the drive was a giant gold mine at a place called Round Mountain Nevada. Gold was originally discovered there around 1880 and it was a very large and initially easy strike as it was surface gold. Over time while there was quite a bit of gold still around it became much more difficult to get at, and according to the signpost at the mine all of the different techniques for gold mining have been used there. At one point it was abandoned, but as mining technique became more sophisticated the mine was reopened and now it is quite a spectacular operation. It is now a pit mine and there are extremely large trucks moving the dirt form the hole to the site where it is processed. I stopped and watched these oversized dump trucks run up and down the hill for a while before moving on to Tonopah.
It was only about 12:30 when I got to Tonopah, and thanks to the miracle of satellite technology I was immersed in the Arsenal v Chelsea game on the radio so I decided to press on to Death Valley today. This turned todays drive into 380 miles. I arrived about 3 and went into the visitors center to register when I realized I was now eligible for the Golden Age pass which is a lifetime pass for all of the parks in the US. It also gives you 50% off at campgrounds. So taking advantage of my senior status and $80 I now have lifetime access, and half off in the campgrounds. Publishing this is probably going to be delayed as there is no internet at the campground, and really marginal phone service.
Winnemuca 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. There are several large gold mines in the area, and one of its 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.
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 besides 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.
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.
I arrived in Winnemuca 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 Winnemucas’ 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.
Today we spent the day with our son Alex. He wanted to have Korean food for lunch so we had our second Korean barbeque in three days. It was also good and Alex really enjoyed it.
After that we headed out for some shopping and then went to watch the local hockey team on TV as Alex has become a big fan. Who would have ever thought of Las Vegas as a hot bed of hockey. Unfortunately the home team lost.
Ton was looking for some Mexican food and had a place in mind. When we got there though the restaurant was closed. We just drove randomly down the road after that looking for a Mexican restaurant and found a place called Pepe’s. It turned out to be both the cheapest and possibly the best meal we had in Las Vegas. Ton really loved their salsa.
This was the last day for all of our friends in Las Vegas as they all need to get back home to go to work. The guys and Ton wanted to watch the football games, while the girls were either sleeping in from their club adventure, or shopping.
Las Vegas has a replica of the Hofbrauhaus from Munich and we decided to watch the game there. We found ourselves in this cavernous beer hall with one other couple. It was kind of strange to have that much space to ourselves. Both Ton and Tim one of our friends had been to the original Hofbrauhaus in Munich and they thought it was a pretty good imitation. Our waitress had a slight accent so we asked if she was German, and it turns out she was from Heidleberg in Germany. Her and her husband are touring the US by RV for the past few years and have stopped here to raise a little money. We enjoyed comparing the experience of RVing here and Europe for a while until she had to get off to another table.
Following the games everyone decided we had been in the posh part of Las Vegas too long and decided to head down to Fremont street. The clientele are not as elegant, but Ron felt like he belonged there, and the drinks were significantly cheaper. Our friends decided it was time to take advantage of the lower cost of gambling there, so we took our leave and headed back to Scout for the night.
When we got back there was a Blood Red Wolf Moon which was nice. The weather was talking about high wind warnings, and while a couple of good gusts hit it did not seem to be as bad as they indicated.
Today we spent with our friends, beginning with a walk down the strip for lunch at a Beer house. After that the group splintered for a while with different people doing what they were most interested in in Las Vegas. Some went to gamble, some went shopping, and Ton and I relaxed in one of our friends posh rooms in the Cosmopolitan Hotel.
In the evening we headed out to dinner at a great Korean Barbeque near the strip. Everyone ate far too much beef and pork, but it was delicious. Following dinner we headed back to the Cosmopolitan and shared some drinks in another friends room. They had a fabulous view of the strip at night, and got to see a fireworks show, and the fountain show at the Bellagio from their balcony.
When the group decided to go clubbing again for the night, Ton and I headed home to Scout for a good nights sleep.
Our route today was on one of Ron’s favorite stretches of roads. US-95 from Fallon to Las Vegas passes thru some of the most stark terrain in the US. There is a town about every 100 miles and the rest of the time you are surrounded by desert and mountains. Generally the traffic is light so you can enjoy the views.
We have traveled this route quite a bit as in addition to being the way we prefer to go to Las Vegas to visit our son, it also is a way to access Death Valley National Park.
It also passes by Area 54 which is an Air Force test and bombing range, where if you believe the movies the US government keeps the aliens we have captured!
In addition to visiting our son on this trip, a bunch of our friends from Portland are flying in for the weekend to celebrate some birthdays and to enjoy Las Vegas. Alex picked us up at the RV park and we decided to head to the strip for dinner. While Ron was parking our rental car, Ton and Alex ran into Goi one of our friends so she joined us for dinner.
Later we went out for a late dinner and some drinks at a nice but expensive Tapas bar. The rest of the group headed off for some clubbing while Ton and I used our advanced age and ailments to skip the clubs and head to bed.
After getting up we both felt a little better so we decided to push on. We planned an easy day down to Fallon, and Ron optimistically commented that if we got to Fallon too early we could go on to the next town so we would have a shorter drive into Las Vegas the next day.
The weather was supposed to be rain with a chance of mixed rain and snow at the passes. They were mostly right, and the first 150 miles from Klamath to Alturas was just that. The next leg was about 80 miles from Alturas to Susanville California. As we climbed up to the pass the rain turned to mixed rain, and then turned to just snow. Before we new it we were on snow covered roads and in 4 wheel drive. After about 5 miles the lane we were driving in was suddenly clear of snow though the other lane had about 8 or 10 inches covering it. It turns out we were behind a snow plow. We lucked out and followed him for about 20 miles until he turned off. We covered the last 15 miles or so to Susanville in 4wd. While it was slow we made the trip without any real drama, though we did see one accident. Once we descended to Susanville we were back in the rain for the rest of the trip.
Because of the snow Ron’s optimistic hope of going past Fallon was dashed, and his back was pretty stiff from driving so we decided to spend one more night in a hotel.
Alex had to teach so we had a day to kill in Las Vegas. We are not gamblers so we decided to have an easy day taking in a movie and doing a little shopping in Costco and another Mexican Supermarket.
Later we met Alex for dinner at one of his favorite place in Las Vegas Nacho Daddies. As you can guess from the name they are famous for their Nachos. They have been featured on one of the restaurant shows on the Travel Channel. Alex and Ron had big plates of Nachos while Ton ordered soup and ceviche.
Afterwards we did our favorite thing in Las Vegas which is watch people. It is a great place for people watching, and our favorite place is the outside arcade in the old town. We enjoyed a nice walk and the people did not let us down providing great free entertainment.