After having typical night-in-a-motel kinds of sleep, we are up early to continue on to St. George, UT. There’s no fear of traffic jams today as we will be traveling through some of the most uninhabited land in the West. The good part is that you can pretty much go as fast as you want on the roads. Only thing to watch out for are cows wandering across the street.
We are off around 7:15 AM after a less than impressive breakfast of pre-made rubber western omelets, sausages with a lot of filler, toast from the anemic toaster and coffee with milk which is just a little too old. There’s really nothing much to keep us in Tonopah. (Pah in Paiute means water. There are a lot of names out here with “pah” in them such as Pahrump, NV. A natural hot springs spa near St. George is Pah Tempe Hot Springs.)
I love being on the road early in the morning. It really speaks of vacation to me. We head east. We are the only ones on the road which stretches out like a thin silver ribbon through the desert.
Since this is John’s first long car trip since his hip replacement we are careful to stop about once an hour to stretch and change drivers. Our first change comes at Warm Springs, NV. Warm Springs was settled in 1866 but since has become a ghost town. There is a stream that runs through this old town that is full of minerals and is steaming in the early morning temperatures.
Turning the corner here in Warm Springs we leave U.S. 6 and begin our ride on NV 375, The Extraterrestrial Highway. This road skirts Area 51. It used to have Extraterrestrial Highway signs at both ends and in the middle. The only sign left is the one in the middle near Rachel but it is so covered by stickers and graffiti that it is unreadable.
We tear along the road towards Rachel. The suggested speed is 70. John is driving now so we are closer to the posted limit. I will make up for that later. All along the road are the warning signs of “Open Range” with jaunty looking cows. Open range means that there are no fences and the cows can wander across the road. I keep a sharp eye out. If you hit a cow and survive, you have to pay the rancher. I guess if you hit the cow and both you and the cow die, your estate has to pay the rancher. There are two types of cows on the signs. In Nevada they are mostly jaunty beef cattle. In California and Utah they are drawn as stolid dairy cows with udders. You’d think from a survival point of view that beef cattle would be a little less happy looking.
Sixty miles have come and gone. Time to change drivers at Rachel, Nevada’s newest town founded in 1973. It’s claim to fame is the Little Ale-e-inn. There’s lots of E.T. and UFO kitsch here.
I’m the driver now and we really zip along to our next stop, Crystal Springs. Things out here don’t change much so it is pretty exciting that an Alien Research Center has been built here recently with a giant alien out front. Crystal Springs is also the best place to get E.T. Fresh Jerky.
We’ve been on the road about three and half hours when it is definitely time for some coffee. Being creatures of habit we always stop in Caliente, NV at the Sinclair station for a mixture of coffee and cappuccino. Caliente is famous for its hot springs and its Mission Revival style train station. Once trains became diesel-powered Caliente was no longer a stopping point. The train station was turned over to the town and has been repurposed. In another bit of notoriety, according to testimony given in the criminal case, Utah v. Warren Jeffs, the Hot Springs Motel located in Caliente is the site of several forced marriages between under-aged girls and older men. Hot times!
Yay, we’ve reached Utah! And what’s that in the corner of the picture? Yes, a stolid dairy cow!
We decide to take a side trip down the main street of Modena, Utah. Modena is a former railroad town and home to the Righteous Branch, a fundamentalist sect of Mormonism. It’s pretty dilapidated.
We are getting close to St. George now, only about 45 minutes away. We pass by the entrance to Mountain Meadows. This is the site where 120 men, women, and older children on their way to California from Arkansas were killed in 1857 by a Mormon militia. The Mormons in the Utah Territory were afraid of an invasion and had been educated to fear outsiders. Seventeen young children were spared since they would not be able to remember what had happened.
One more town to go before we reach St. George. The town of Veyo in volcano country is known for its cindercones.
We are traveling down Utah 18 now and coming around a bend we are treated to spectacular views of Snow Canyon. Snow Canyon State Park is about a mile from our house and has scenery and hiking that rivals the bigger national parks in the area.
We head through the gate and turn onto our street. We’ve been away for over two months and I am always a little apprehensive until I see the house. Everything seems in order, though, and we are happy to be in our home away from home.
(Update: Everything was not quite right unfortunately. Our air conditioning system broke and has to be replaced. With temperatures forecast in low 100′s this weekend. We are hoping that the new system can be installed quickly.)