Christian Kemp's USA travelogs

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Leaving California

Outside the Motel6 in Vallejo, CA I woke up at around 5:15am and couldn't sleep anymore. I've learned from experience that the best thing to do in such a situation is get up and move on. So I took a shower, got dressed, packed the car and was on my way out of Vallejo at about 6:15.

Almost immediately, I was on I-80 again, and traffic moved smoothly most of the time, with just a few occasions where I had to slow down to just below 65mph. I-80 is scenic in places, but there's not enough pull-outs.

I stopped in Truckee, a small town near Donner Pass that we had driven through September last year. I walked a few hundred feet up and down the main street, and then got back into the car - with the miles I still wanted to drive that day, there was no way I could spend extended time in any one spot.

The "loneliest Road in America"

Picture of "The loneliest Road in America" Hwy 50 sign just outside of Eureka, NV I crossed into Nevada, stocked up with supplies in Reno, and then drove just a few more miles on I-80 before heading Southeast on Hwy 50, the "loneliest highway". The first few hours on it weren't as lonely as one might think - if seeing other cars is a contradiction of "lonely" - but it certainly was hot. Around noon, temperatures topped out at 100°F, and would hover around the 97 degree mark for most of the day. Still, out here it's what they call "a dry heat" - which doesn't make it any colder, granted, but it's much better than what we get in Luxembourg when temperatures get as high.

After a stop to take pictures of a Union Pacific train, I later stopped at Grimes Point Archaeological Area. This mainly featured some rather unspectacular petroglyphs, combined with some nice vistas and the noise from a nearby airforce base, so I was on my way again pretty soon.

Further along, I saw some sand dunes, but opted to not drive up to them, to save time. I did stop, however at what looked like the remainder of an old mine, with a delapidated old building next to it. There were no "do not enter" signs that I could see, so I decided to take a closer look. Just as I had walked around the house, I heard a guy yell at me, and seconds later he let his two dogs loose.

The two dogs looked intimidating as they came running towards me and then circled around me barking. Strangely enough, that didn't really get me scared, but I was thinking more like "a dog bite could really ruin your vacation". I slowly retreated towards the car, called to the guy to call back his dogs, and a minute or two later he met up with me. We talked for a while, and hee explained that I was indeed on private property, and that the owners of the mine were paying (?) him to watch the area, citing liability reasons (like, "what if someone falls into a mine pit and sues the owner"). So after a short talk, I headed back to the car, and drove on.

The "Shoe Tree"

Numerous shoes hanging in a "Shoe Tree" on Nevada's Hwy 50 Some time later, I wanted to take a few pictures of an interesting rock formation (although I only saw a pull-out half a mile later). So when I stopped, I saw an interesting tree, took some pictures of it from a hundred feet, and then wondered "what's that hanging in its branches" as I got closer. As it turns out, there were what might have been thousands of shoes hanging from the branches. Later investigation (back at home) turned out that it was what's commonly referred to as "shoe tree", and it seems to be an American phenomen where people just fling their old shoes on a random tree in the desert for no particular reason.

More driving, more mining towns

Pretty soon, I was on the road again; enjoying more of the relative loneliness and the big sky. I reached Austin, NV, and stopped several times on the main street to take pictures; but opted not to diverge too much; for I still wanted to cover quite a few miles.

About an hour later, this experience was repeated in Eureka, NV; another former mining town that had probably seen better days.

My last stop for the day was close to Ely, where the Ely Copper Mine is located. I didn't venture off the highway, but took pictures of some of the adjacent structures in the fading sunlight.

Into Great Basin National Park

Wheeler Peak can be seen from a long distance, but to get to it I had to drive around the entire mountain range and approach it from its adjacent slope. Thus, I finally left US 50, drove through the small town of Baker, and headed uphill. My chosen campsite for the day was Wheeler Peak Campground, located at an elevation of almost 10,000 feet.

I arrived at 8:05pm, drove through the loop and selected campsite 8. I then walked back to the entrance to drop off an envelope with $10 (the typical way National Park camp sites are paid for), and then unrolled my sleeping bad and bag in the back of my jeep, and went to sleep.

Started between 4:30 and 5am at Wheeler Campground in Great Basin NP, revised 18th November 2004 in Luxembourg, completed 18th December 2004.

Miles driven: 593mi (954km)

Campground Accommodation: Wheeler Peak Campground (Great Basin National Park, NV): $10