“It was an Elan. A delightful little thing famously made of Kleenex and unicorn farts.” ~ Sam Smith
DAY THREE – Today was a surprise in many ways. As I posted yesterday, I anticipated a long boring drive across the Great Basin with straight roads and little of interest. Well, what a map does not do is provide elevation and topography. What I really found was many smaller basins within the Great Basin. And between each of these basins, is a ridge or small mountain range.
Starting from Cedar City at about 4,300 feet elevation, I crossed no less than five major passes of over 6,000 feet one almost 7,000, and several ridges exceeding 5,200 feet. Each of these had some nice twists and turns, along with varied vegetation from scrub pine shrubs to real forest. And another surprise was how cool it was. Again I had anticipated hot temps but the weather was cool and the wind minimal until late morning when it really began to blow.
My big disappointment of the day was Modena. I had seen the sign saying it was 12 miles ahead and for that entire 12 miles I was anticipating seeing Ferraris of every description but there was nary a one. In fact, there was barely a town.
Once I reached Nevada I got my next surprise, I was in the Pacific Time zone so I got to my planned mid-morning stop at Caliente and it was only 8:30! I think it was when I turned on to the Extraterrestrial Highway that I got my next surprise.
Looking for aliens in strange shapes I was astonished to see a large black creature ahead in the distance presenting an almost rectangular profile on legs. As I got nearer I realized it was in fact a Black Angus Cow standing IN the road. Slowing to about 20 mph, I took the left lane around her watching intently to see if I had cleared her. I did, and as I looked in my mirror she never moved until I could no longer see her. Since there is nothing to eat on the asphalt it did seem strange she never moved an inch. This is open range and the cattle do as they please. Then later, I came upon this crew and their herd.
As I drove further along I realized I was heading north when my destination is the southwest corner so I wondered if the Extraterrestrial Highway was leading me to the Twilight Zone. But no, it was the way around the Nellis Air Base Bombing Range, and, since I wanted to remain in one piece, I accepted the detour. It was about then that I realized there would be no gas until Tonopah which was still almost one hundred miles ahead but I was pretty certain I would be fine as I still had nearly half a tank. I refilled at Tonopah and took 9.8 gallons so I could have gone another 25 miles easily. When I turned south, the wind became my friend as it was almost directly behind me and I cruised easily at 70 with barely any throttle input at all. That was a first in the entire trip and it was a delight. I made it to my planned stop in Beatty in time for a late lunch and check in.
It was a spectacular day, but tomorrow I will get an early start to beat the heat in Furnace Creek where it was 98 degrees today. Later this summer it will reach 120 degrees or more!
Impressions from the third day:
• It was a great day, especially the early morning treat of getting an hour added. I was worried when I left Cedar City that it would be boring but it was almost perfect.
• The only thing on the entire Extraterrestrial Highway that even began to connect to the name, was a strange little restaurant/motel called the A’le’ Inn, a quirky Area 51-themed inn, which was a sad stretch to relevance.
• There are a lot of cattle roaming around the very sparse vegetation of the high desert and I wondered at every sighting how they manage to find enough nourishment to stay healthy. Beats me. A Pronghorn antelope raced across the highway several hundred yards ahead of me and bounded away so fast I could easily see how he would find enough to sustain him.
• The high desert is not an empty place of desolation at all. There is life everywhere and fascinating things to see out here, if we will take the time to look for it. Perhaps that’s a metaphor for other places in our lives as well.
Hi, I’m Ross and I’m a tripoholic. I love driving especially in my old cars and then writing about the adventure that always follows. I’m old enough to know better but that doesn’t stop me. If you like stories of the road, every word true no matter how far fetched it may seem, then grab a beer or a cup of coffee and join me!
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3 thoughts on “West Route Post Number Three”
Ross, did you see any jets while you were driving around the Nellis ranges? Probably not on a Saturday, but maybe. We liked to roll in on (buzz) 18-wheelers on those roads as “training” for road recce missions. Of course that was a mere 40+ years ago, I suspect the Air Force takes a dim view of that these days. PS The map you attached to yesterday’s post didn’t show the distance and driving time from Cortez to Cedar City which is a pretty long haul. How long did it take you?
Mike, I didn’t see any jets but there were signs to “Watch for Low Flying Aircraft” Now I see why!!! It was 380 miles and took a little over seven hours from Cortez to Cedar City.
Ross I was drafting you the my 50 Lead Sled or if you drafting me you would get about 100 miles per gallon and you can enjoy the scenery more if you kept your eyes off my trunk if you know what i mean