August 23, 2014 – to Reno

There is a fierce storm overnight and our off-roading trip today is cancelled. We head out across the barren Utah landscape with the road stretching in front of us.

UT-21 stretches out before us

UT-21 stretches out before us


Our original idea for today is to go to Great Basin National Park via some dirt roads, spend some time at the park and then head to Ely and spend the night. As we enter Nevada and see the Pacific Time Zone sign we realize that we didn’t factor in the gain of an hour today. Maybe we won’t have enough to do to fill the time until check-in at Ely.
Welcome to Nevada! Please use the sign for target practice.

Welcome to Nevada! Please use the sign for target practice.


We get to Great Basin National Park before 10 AM and look inside the Visitor Center. Things to do here are a cave tour that you need a reservation for, a two mile hike to an arch, and the scenic road up towards Wheeler Peak. We watch a film about the Park and decide that maybe we could do the drive and then perhaps take a walk on the Bristlecone Pine Trail.
This National Park is quite out of the way.

This National Park is quite out of the way.


Wheeler Peak is over 13,000 feet in elevation with the top being above the tree line.

Wheeler Peak is over 13,000 feet in elevation with the top being above the tree line.


We take the scenic ride and stop at the overlooks. At one overlook there is a plaque honoring Stephen T. Mather, first Director of the National Park Service. John’s high school is named after him. Their team is the Rangers. Of course, we have to have our pictures taken with the plaque.
John and the plaque

John and the plaque


A fellow traveler offered to take our picture

A fellow traveler offered to take our picture


Up and up we go. We pass elevation signs. The hike at the end of the trail is seeming less likely.
We are living the high life now!

We are living the high life now!


The huge peak is looming larger and larger in front of us.
Wheeler Peak

Wheeler Peak


We get to the end of the road which is over 10,000 feet. Leaving the car the wind is blowing and the temperatures are in the high 40’s. We are dressed for 60 degree weather. We walk over to the description of the various trails. I really would like to see the Bristlecone Pines but the nearest one is a mile and a half away. I am not sure that I can hike mostly uphill for three miles in thin air and cold weather. We retreat to the car and drive back down the road.

Now it’s shortly before 11 AM. We are in Ely by noon. What to do? We cancel our reservations and decide to spend the night in Reno. We head off down the loneliest road in America. We reach Reno around 6 PM and finish our trip home the next day.

Highway 50 in Nevada

Highway 50 in Nevada

August 22, 2014 To Beaver

Before leaving this morning we have an early breakfast at Hell’s Backbone Grill. Everything
seems a bit super-sized, giant toast, thick bacon. We are quite full from what we could eat of it.

Good thing because circumstances transpired to keep us from lunch until 3 PM.

Our original plan had been to take a combination of scenic byways and dirt roads to Beaver, UT. When he was checking out John asked the proprietor about the condition of the dirt roads due to some rain recently. He was warned not take the dirt roads due to extreme downpours in the region. so now we have to rethink our day.

Signposts for the Boulder Mountain Lodge

Signposts for the Boulder Mountain Lodge


Sunflower at Boulder Mountain Lodge

Sunflower at Boulder Mountain Lodge


We start off traveling north on UT-12. As was true yesterday the scenery is spectacular . We pull into many viewpoints where as usual people feel compelled to talk to me. Tidbits from today – one woman is so excited that we are from St. George because she is from Cedar City. Cedar City is 50 miles north of St. George. We are not neighbors. Another lady who was in the lady’s room at the same time as I explained that towels were better than hot air machines since the air can blow the flora from your hands up to six feet away. She also mentioned that she was a scientist. I have some weird attraction that makes people want to talk to me. They can’t help themselves.

Any way, the trip over Boulder Mountian is beautiful and we see deer and chipmunks scurrying across the road and cows on the verge looking at us balefully.

View of the land that we traveled over yesterday from atop Boulder Mtn.

View of the land that we traveled over yesterday from atop Boulder Mtn.


It is really chilly up here

It is really chilly up here


A cow gives us a look

A cow gives us a look


Coming down the other side of Boulder Mtn.

Coming down the other side of Boulder Mtn.


Our new plan is to visit Capitol Reef NP. We stop for photos along the way and drive the scenic drive. We have to avoid the washes since there are flash flood warnings.
Twin Rocks - the two on the left look like they are gossiping about the one on the right who is yelling

Twin Rocks – the two on the left look like they are gossiping about the one on the right who is yelling

View

View


At the Visitor's Center

At the Visitor’s Center


Another view

Another view


The only other place we stop at on our ride to Beaver is Antimony because who can resist a place named after an element. John thinks the town motto should be, “Antimony-It’s elementary.”
Antimony - It's Elementary!

Antimony – It’s Elementary!


Antimony probably has a population of about 40 people, no wonder the USPS is going bankrupt!

Antimony probably has a population of about 40 people, no wonder the USPS is going bankrupt!


We drive and drive and drive. There is no place to eat lunch. Reaching Beaver around 3 PM we have a quick lunch and scope out the town. There is no place to eat dinner. We finally decide on a trip to the local liquor store, Beaver Liquor, and the grocery store and end up eating dinner in the room.

Tomorrow we are off for Great Basin NP in Nevada!

August 21, 2014 – To Boulder, UT

Today we start to take the long way home. I am the first driver. As we head north on I-15 and past our usual exits I notice a sign that I have never seen anywhere – speed limit 80! Now I am no stranger to pushing the legal speed limit to somewhere between 75 and 80 but now I am allowed to? It seems too fast to be allowable.

After a quick breakfast in Cedar City, Utah, John takes the wheel. He always drives when there are high places involved and as we will be climbing UT-14 to 9000 feet, it is possible that I could get a little freaked. As we ascend we get our first glimpses of Cedar Breaks National Monument.

Cedar Breaks National Monument from UT-14

Cedar Breaks National Monument from UT-14

We stop at an overlook to view the panorama looking back towards Zion NP. We are at the top of the staircase that starts with the pink rock of Cedar Breaks and Bryce Canyon and ends in the ancient rock at the bottom of the Grand Canyon.

Panorama from near Cedar Breaks NM back towards Zion NP

Panorama from near Cedar Breaks NM back towards Zion NP


A lot of the evergreens here have died due to bark beetle infestation. Opportunistic aspens take over.

A lot of the evergreens here have died due to bark beetle infestation. Opportunistic aspens take over.


By noon we reach Bryce Canyon NP. After a quick stop at the visitor’s center so John can get his National Parks book stamped we head out to Bryce Point. The park is fairly uncrowded. Most of the visitors appear to be Europeans as American children are back to school and have already been assigned to write what they did on their summer vacations. We take the walk out to the point. At 8300 feet we notice we are a bit breathless negotiating the small hills. The views are astounding. The rock formations called hoodoos fill the colorful landscape.
John at Bryce Point

John at Bryce Point


View from Bryce Point

View from Bryce Point

The Wall of Windows which are actually mostly alcoves

The Wall of Windows which are actually mostly alcoves

Here's a free standing window

Here’s a free standing window

Another view

Another view

One more

One more


We decide to have lunch at the Bryce Canyon Lodge. We have managed to arrive at the moment when the computer goes down. We wait over half an hour for a salad and a sandwich which are mediocre. Certainly the time would have been better spent looking at the incredible formations in Bryce Canyon.

Lastly we take a look at Fairyland Canyon. Once more there are beautiful views. As we turn around to head back to the car, the sky is looking ominous. Being out on an exposed point with an electrical storm approaching is not a good place to be.

Mary at Fairyland Canyon

Mary at Fairyland Canyon

View from Fairyland Canyon with sinking ship formation

View from Fairyland Canyon with sinking ship formation

Uh oh

Uh oh


We hop back in the car to finish the drive to Boulder, UT where we will spend the night. Along the way there’s more fabulous scenery and REALLY scary stretches where the road is on a spine between two canyons. The two lane road takes up the whole space between the canyons. We stop once to look at Powell’s Point. On his second expedition Wesley Powell mapped this area. It was the last area in the continental U.S. to be mapped.
A view looking towards Powells Peak

A view looking towards Powells Peak

Close up of Powells Peak

Close up of Powells Peak


We make it to Boulder just as the rain drops start to fall. We are staying at the Boulder Mountain Lodge. There is a restaurant here called the Hell’s Backbone Grill. After resting up for a while we go to dinner. By Utah standards the dinner is really outstanding. What is especially good are the vegetables that they grow on their farm a mile or two down the road.

Tomorrow we hope to do some off-roading on the way to Beaver, UT

August 12, 2014 – Roadtrip to St. George, Part II (Tonopah, NV to St. George, UT)

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.)

Tonopah in the early morning light. The "T" on the hillside helps you to remember where you are.

Tonopah in the early morning light. The “T” on the hillside helps you to remember where you are.


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.
Go straight for about 60 miles.

Go straight for about 60 miles.


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.
Warm Springs defunct bar and cafe. The white stuff in the left of the picture is mineral residue from the spring.

Warm Springs defunct bar and cafe. The white stuff in the left of the picture is mineral residue from the spring.

The warm spring

The warm spring


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 turn right onto NV 375, The Extraterrestrial Highway

We turn right onto NV 375, The Extraterrestrial Highway


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.
Jaunty open range beef cattle

Jaunty open range beef cattle


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.
The Little Ale-e-inn in Rachel is always worth a stop

The Little Ale-e-inn in Rachel is always worth a stop


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.
The Alien Research Center in Crystal Springs. Snoopers welcome!

The Alien Research Center in Crystal Springs. Snoopers welcome!

Alien Fresh Jerky

Alien 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!
Caliente train station

Caliente train station


Me with the Sinclair dinosaur

Me with the Sinclair dinosaur

John fueling up

John fueling up


Yay, we’ve reached Utah! And what’s that in the corner of the picture? Yes, a stolid dairy cow!
Welcome to Utah!

Welcome to Utah!

Here's a close-up

Here’s a close-up


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.
Main street in Modena, Utah

Main street in Modena, Utah

The Last Chance Saloon in Modena

The Last Chance Saloon in Modena


Picture of a reported UFO sighting over Modena in 2005

Picture of a reported UFO sighting over Modena in 2005


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.
Mountain Meadows Massacre site

Mountain Meadows Massacre site


One more town to go before we reach St. George. The town of Veyo in volcano country is known for its cindercones.
Cindercone in Veyo

Cindercone in Veyo


This volcano's caldera is apparent

This volcano’s caldera is apparent


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.
A view of Snow Canyon from Utah 18

A view of Snow Canyon from Utah 18

We can see that its raining over Snow Canyon State Park

We can see that it’s raining over Snow Canyon State Park


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.
Through the gate...

Through the gate…


Down the street...

Down the street…

and home!

and 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.)

August 11, 2014 – Roadtrip to Saint George, Part I

Sometimes a drive is just a drive, but sometimes it is a ROADTRIP! John and I have probably made this trip 50 times over the last 11 years, but there is always something new and interesting every time we go. Today’s trip starts at home and ends up in Tonopah, NV. We will go the rest of the way to St. George, UT on August 11. Rather than a lot of text, our journey is narrated with pictures.

Since we need to break up the trip about an hour at a time, first stop is for some breakfast and gas in Oakdale, CA.

Since we need to break up the trip about an hour at a time, first stop is for some breakfast and gas in Oakdale, CA.


The Kiwi Tavern in Chinese Camp has been for sale for several years now.

The Kiwi Tavern in Chinese Camp has been for sale for several years now.


This is the first time we've ever stopped in Groveland. It's too early in the day for the Iron Door Saloon.

This is the first time we’ve ever stopped in Groveland. It’s too early in the day for the Iron Door Saloon.


Groveland is at the top of the Old Priest Grade, a really steep narrow road with a scary drop next to it.

Groveland is at the top of the Old Priest Grade, a really steep narrow road with a scary drop next to it.

There are even old timey wood boardwalks in Groveland. We stop at the Firefall Coffee Roasting Co.  and pick up a couple of sandwiches for a picnic later in the day.

There are even old timey wood boardwalks in Groveland. We stop at the Firefall Coffee Roasting Co. and pick up a couple of sandwiches for a picnic later in the day.


Reaching the entrance to Yosemite National Park, it is time to stretch our legs again.

Reaching the entrance to Yosemite National Park, it is time to stretch our legs again.


In the park there is still a lot of evidence of the Rim Fire from a couple of years ago.

In the park there is still a lot of evidence of the Rim Fire from a couple of years ago.

One of the perils of traveling through the park is that you can be held up by road work for 20 minutes at a time.

One of the perils of traveling through the park is that you can be held up by road work for 20 minutes at a time.

Although the scenery is spectacular, we are now in a long line of cars

Although the scenery is spectacular, we are now in a long line of cars

Storm clouds begin to gather

Storm clouds begin to gather

The park is packed. It is hard to imagine enjoying the wilderness with all these people!

The park is packed. It is hard to imagine enjoying the wilderness with all these people!

Uh oh, it's starting to rain and there's another traffic delay due to roadwork

Uh oh, it’s starting to rain and there’s another traffic delay due to roadwork

Finally we are out of the park and taking the scary road down to Lee Vining.

Finally we are out of the park and taking the scary road down to Lee Vining.

We've been here when the snow is still deep during the summer.  This year there are just a few patches left at higher elevations.

We’ve been here when the snow is still deep during the summer. This year there are just a few patches left at higher elevations.

After passing Mono Lake and driving the exciting rollercoaster road, we arrive in spooky Benton where we have never seen anyone at this park.

After passing Mono Lake and driving the exciting rollercoaster road, we arrive in spooky Benton where we have never seen anyone at this park.

There's a playground here that we've never seen any children play on.

There’s a playground here that we’ve never seen any children play on.

The basketball nets swing quietly in the breeze. No one shoots hoops.

The basketball nets swing quietly in the breeze. No one shoots hoops.


Here's what is left of Coaldale, NV. Over the last 10 years it has fallen into more and more disrepair.

Here’s what is left of Coaldale, NV. Over the last 10 years it has fallen into more and more disrepair.


Yay, we are finally in Tonopah, NV! It is after 5 PM. This has been an unusually slow trip. I think we'll pass up the Clown Motel.

Yay, we are finally in Tonopah, NV! It is after 5 PM. This has been an unusually slow trip. I think we’ll pass up the Clown Motel.

Wouldn't you?

Wouldn’t you?

We are staying at the BW Hi-Desert Inn. You always need reservations in Tonopah these days. A solar energy project and gold mining has made this place a boom town again.

We are staying at the BW Hi-Desert Inn. You always need reservations in Tonopah these days. A solar energy project and gold mining has made this place a boom town again.

There's only bad food in Tonopah. We settle for bar snacks at the recently renovated Mizpah Hotel.

There’s only bad food in Tonopah. We settle for bar snacks at the recently renovated Mizpah Hotel.


The hotel and bar has a real Victorian feel to it.

The hotel and bar has a real Victorian feel to it.

Time for bed. We still have about 5 hours to drive tomorrow!