Wednesday, September 02, 2009

Road trip - Ely to Vegas

We’ve driven up to Portland from Last Vegas to visit our daughter and granddaughter twice now,driving due north from Las Vegas, up into Idaho, then heading west to Portland. The total drive is about 1,000 miles, and we spend one night at a hotel in Twin Falls, Idaho where we have dinner and rest a bit. The speed limits out here are usually 65 or 70 on the open road, with all of the Nevada portion on two lane asphalt like I’ve documented before, where you drive in a straight line without turning the wheel for an hour, then a few curves, then another hour of straight. In Idaho and Oregon we are on interstate, which is usually two or three lanes in each direction with a big center divider. That portion is more interesting, with lots of ups and downs and curves, with trees and rivers to look at instead of flat desert terrain.

Driving back this last time we took a different road for the last segment, Ely to Vegas. We drove on a road a little to the west of our normal route, on the other side of a mountain range along what’s called the Extraterrestrial Highway. It’s named that because it is near Area 51, the supposed site of space ship landings, and close to the Air Force secret test range, where new planes and weapons are developed. It’s been a while since I’ve driven across country, so my memories of open Kansas and the Midwest are not too current, but driving in Nevada desert country is unlike most areas of the US. The first indications that things are a little different are the signs just as you leave Ely: ‘Next gas 100 miles’, providing a little reminder that perhaps you should go back and visit one of those half dozen gas stations before continuing onward. There also isn’t too much going on around you either.

Sorry, the ‘next gas’ sign flew by too quickly for me to get a photo of it. This day was a little unusual for us in that there were clouds in the sky, and we even got to drive through a bit of rain. I’m always talking about how dry it is out here, and according to today’s paper our precipitation so far this year (and it is September already) is 1.28 inches. Usually the summer is our monsoon season, with thunderstorms coming up from Mexico, but this year was pretty barren as far as rain. Again, in eight months we have had an inch and a quarter total of rain. Our humidity is usually around 3%, mostly because of evaporation from everybody’s lawns. This week we have unusual hazy conditions, because of all the smoke blowing up a few hundred miles from the California fires (sorry to everybody out there).

During the drive we would periodically see a house or two off in the distance.

This one was in the middle of a little rain shower, you can see some of the rainfall against the sky. I know some people don’t like neighbors, this guy probably complains about all the traffic on the road we are on which is about two miles from his house. We probably passed two cars or a truck every hour or so on this road, and as you can see from the first picture we weren’t really in a line of cars going in our direction either. Looking at the Wikipedia entry for Ely, I see part of the road we were on is officially labeled ‘The Loneliest Road in America’ by Life magazine.

Some of the mountains just north of Ely still had snow on them. The general elevation around here is about 6,400 feet above sea level, so I guess Ely, Nevada ties Boulder, Colorado for being called the ‘mile high city’. The snow on these mountains is probably around the 12,000 foot level, running alongside the Great Basin National Park. You can see how green the desert has gotten because of the summer rains.

After the 100 miles of no gas we came upon a small town in the midst of a thunderstorm.

I don’t know the name of it, there probably weren’t 50 houses spread out in town and on the surrounding farms, but there was some farming down in a river valley (which only had water on the surface when it rained). I might like living on a bigger lot, but it sure is nice to be five minutes away from a supermarket and restaurants, not a two or three hour drive like these folks (and that’s to Ely, population 4,041 not Vegas). Eventually our road ended up driving through a hard rock ridge where the periodic river had carved a canyon.

The road followed the bottom of the canyon, rather than somehow going over the ridge. This was a pleasant change from all the flat, so B ended up taking quite a few photos as we drove through.

And then down back into the flats, and another two hours into Vegas. So there it is, the last quarter of our road trip back down from Portland into Las Vegas. I’ve got some shots of Twin Falls; have to pull those together as well.

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