Rubber-Necking Our Way Across Nevada

Our trek from Winnemucca to Baker.

374 miles in one day may not be a record for us during the Sabbatical Project, but it sure ranks up there in the top two or three. We left Winnemucca, NV. about 9am and hopped on I-80 East. I'm not a big fan of Interstate Highways and am becoming less a fan as time goes along, but the 160 or so miles between Winnemucca and Wells, NV. was generally in pretty good shape. Traffic volume was light too. As a point of geo-historical information: for most of it's length between Omaha and Sacramento, I-80 closely follows the alignment of the first transcontinental railroad, built in the 1860's. During our drive I could see the tracks most of the way. Dar drove this leg and we made great time including a 20 minute stop for fuel in Battle Mountain (2.88/gal). She got us to Wells before noon and we found a truckstop parking lot where we could take a break and make a quick lunch in the bus-house.

Especially when on Interstate Highways, I keep the CB radio on to listen to trucker chatter and to maybe catch word of a traffic problem ahead. While sitting in the parking lot at Wells, the CB still on, we heard something new... "advertisements" for "legal brothels" right here in little ol' Wells. And not just one. During our short stay there were three separate announcements for, as near as I could figure, three separate establishments. Why, I hadn't been able to write down all the information from the first one and, by golly, there was another one right there on my CB radio! Now that's something a boy from Smalltown Wisconsin doesn't hear every day. Dar got lunch cleaned up quickly, got me in the drivers seat, and she had us underway in the opposite direction in short order.

From Wells we proceeded South on US-93 which we took all the way to Ely, NV. I've heard that Nevada claims it's the most mountainous state in the Union, not for the size of it's mountains but for the number of mountain ranges that cover the State. Natural forces have created a series of generally north-south aligned mountain ranges that run from one side of the State to the other... more than 50 ranges in all. Like the material your corduroy pants are made from, the ridges all run in the same direction. If you're traveling at right angles to the "grain", you've got a job on your hands... up and through a range of mountains, down and through a valley, repeat... over and over again. That's what it's like to cross Nevada in an east-west direction. Going the other way, north-south, is easier -- get in a valley and stay there. That's pretty much what we did coming down US-93. We were in a valley between ranges of mountains for well over a hundred miles. At Ely, we changed direction and headed east, and crossed two mountain ranges, before finding Baker, NV., our destination because it's the gateway to Great Basin National Park.

Baker certainly ain't much to brag about. With a population of only 120 and most of the town shut down for winter, it certainly didn't strike me as the gateway city for a National Park. The town appeared worn down and a bit shabby, just like the only RV Park in town -- our camp for two nights. But for two nights we figured could live with the environment in order to accomplish our main objective... seeing the National Park.

It was an interesting day of travel. There was always something to see: if it wasn't the mountains and interesting landscape itself, it was dark, heavy, clouds dumping rain on one of the mountains. My neck was always spinning this way, then that way, to see something new. But there were places, with a little elevation, where you could see 20 or 30 miles ahead... I mean, you could see and identify a landmark, maybe a bend in the road, a full 20 or 30 miles away and you just have to sit there, big Cummins motor droning away, and watch, and wait, and watch and wait some more, until finally, a half hour later you're finally at that curve in the road. In the wide open West the dimensions of time and distance... and patience... take on a new meaning.

In Baker, NV. -- the Gateway to Great Basin National Park


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