After our stay in California, we set out on our way east to St. Louis, Missouri. We’ve made this trip many times. The default trip going either way is to travel to I-80 east to eastern Nebraska where we pick up I-29 south to Kansas City and then I-70 to St. Louis. When we make this trip we are usually on a schedule so time is important and the interstate fills the bill. We’ve detoured several times, to visit friends, to see the Grand Tetons. We sometimes stop in Denver to visit relatives so the trip isn’t always exactly the same.
This time we decided to take our time, traveling fewer miles per day and take a route which is not fast but has scenery we haven’t seen before. We departed on Sunday afternoon headed up California Highway 88 into the Sierra Nevada Mountains. In Carson City, Nevada we turned east on US 50, known as the loneliest highway in the US. It wasn’t lonely as we left Carson City. We parked at Wal-Mart for the evening in Fallon, NV. Fallon is home of the US Navy Top Gun training center.
Leaving Fallon on Monday morning the road narrowed to two lanes with little shoulder. The scattering of houses and buildings soon disappeared. We drove for miles across the desert. There were other cars and a few trucks, and only an occasional small town. Historical markers, the Pony Express ran through this area. Imagine a man in the 1800’s riding a horse through this area. Even today it doesn’t look that friendly for one man or for the horse. The road rolled ever onward. For miles it was straight making only occasional slight turns to weave the way between the block faulted mountains that give the area the name, basin and range. We pulled over at a wide spot overlooking the community of Austin. Here the road began an assault into the Toiyabe Mountains and Bob Scott’s Summit which was 7205 feet, a climb of about 1000 feet from the floor of the basin.
After we cleared the Toiyabe Mountains, the road once again straightened out and continued weaving between mountains. In places the desert was noticeably green and we saw water standing in low spots along the road. Then suddenly there was a car approaching flashing its headlights. Over the hill came a highway patrol car with lights flashing. But wait, he was weaving all over the road, into our lane and back to his lane. I slowed and he pulled up alongside us to tell us we had to pull completely off the road. He informed us there was a wide load coming toward us. I slowly pulled to the side, putting our right wheels in the ditch to get clear of the pavement. Louise grabbed the camera and handed it to me. Two more highway patrol cars appeared followed by the mandatory wide load escort vehicle and finally the load appeared. It was a dump bed from a mine truck. If it were driven down the center of the road it would have completely filled the road. The truck hauling the load must have been doing 60 MPH. It was gone in no time. I thought about the mountain roads we had traversed and wondered if they had to go that far. I guess US 50 was the highway to use for this trip, there were few vehicles to be cleared from the road and we hadn’t seen any overpass on the route.
Soon after the wide load passed, it began to rain. It was cloudy and cool and we were crossing the vast span of desert. We realized how lucky we were to have such mild weather. The rain lasted for half an hour and we met several trucks. Of course the toad was stuck to our tail and all the spray we generated was sprayed onto the toad. I hate when that happens. In the desert, rain makes mud and the toad looked horrible by the time we parked for the night. We stopped in Ely, Nevada and stayed at the Valley View RV Park. Ely is the site of one gigantic copper pit mine. The tailings were visible as we drove into town. Now those in tune with mining know that there are copper ores in other countries and mining in those countries costs less than in the US for a number of reasons. Anyway, Ely’s main source of employment has dried up and it is easy to tell by driving through town. We spent a quiet night and slept well. For the first time since we left California we had internet access and our phones worked! I think that those who live in the heavily populated areas of the country would be amazed at how little of the modern electronic communications has touched the remote areas of the US. Even in Fallon, we had marginal phone service and I learned that many of the apps which I have are useless if we don’t have 3G service. Our hot spot was useless and we were totally out of touch for most of the day.
From Ely we climb over another mountain range and then descend as we travel the remaining 70 miles of Nevada before entering Utah. US 50 joins I-15 for seven miles and then we’re back on US 50. About 70 miles into Utah we come to the town of Delta. Here we find beautiful farmland. Vast fields of hay and crops and a thriving farming community. We encounter I-70 next, now we are on the fast road. I-70 in Utah runs just north of the canyons, Zion, Bryce, Capital Reef, Canyonlands NP and Arches NP. As such, I-70 has spectacular scenery and numerous scenic areas. We spent the night at the Sand Bench viewpoint. The sunset photography was wonderful. In the morning we drove on stopping at several other scenic view areas.
In Colorado we decided to continue our slower trip and diverted to US 50 at Grand Junction. We went up and over Monarch Pass at 11,000+ feet and down into the Arkansas River valley. We spent the night at an RV Park near Salida. We are in the mountain time zone and losing an hour but not losing that hour at night, we get plenty of sleep and wake up late. We pass the Royal Gorge area which has been destroyed by fire. The bridge is still there and will reopen sometime in the future. There is still a zip line in operation and all the Arkansas River float trip operators seem to be doing well. Colorado highway 115 takes us into Colorado Springs and US 24 takes us to Limon, Colorado and onto I-70 for the remaining trip back to St. Louis.