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Sunday, June 4, 2000

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Las Vegas to Carson City

I woke right up this morning so I decided to get going instead of waiting for the alarm at 6:00 AM. I slept pretty good even though I was in bed by 10:00 PM and my roommates didn't come in till much later. It's a quiet place because it's in low rent area of the strip and everyone at the hostel parties elsewhere. I caught the city bus to the downtown transit center. It's a very nice large one with a McDonalds. Now that is convenience. I picked up some breakfast then walked down to Fremont Street and over to the Greyhound terminal. I had an hour and a half but it was nice to not be in a hurry. I relaxed, ate breakfast and people watched. I also made sure to get a printed ticket for the KTS driver.

One lady is moving from Maine to Carson City where she has family. She missed the bus last night so she stayed overnight in Las Vegas. There are a couple backpackers, one of whom needs a bath. Why don't people realize how offensive their stink is to other people? You can freshen up at a bus station restroom.

We took Main north the right on Stewart to 4th St, left on 4th to the freeway and US-95. US-93 and I-15 head toward Salt Lake City and US-95 heads alone across some of the emptiest land in the country. The bus is just nicely loaded so we all have a seat to ourselves. Vegas stretches northwest for a while. There's a hot air baloon floating over the mountains ahead of us. Las Vegas is very similar to Tucson with the city in the desert valley and the mountains surrounding it.

Soon we're out in the desert again and the land is flat around us and ahead but there are mountains surrounding the basin. We pass a prison in the middle of nowhere and next to it they're building a new one. On the other side of the highway is a sign that this is a testing and training range. Not a neighborhood that I would like to live in. The Indian Springs stop is at the casino but the driver just drives through the parking lot to see if anyone is there and goes on. At these flag stops you have to be right out there waiting.

One gentleman on the bus fought in WWII and talks constantly about that and the rest of his life. He hates California because he thinks all the police are corrupt and war is because of overpopulation. He also fought in Korea, lived in Europe while in the service and swears that cows can jump over a cattle guard.

The Lathrop Wells stop is at an Exxon station with a fake Fort Armagosa quick mart. This is where NV-373 heads east to Death Valley. Soon after there's a mining operation to our left and then some lage sand dunes to our right. Beatty slows us down to 25 miles an hour. It's a larger small town. The stop here is at the Exchange Club Motel which is also a casino and restaurant. The native americans must just hate Nevada. NV-374 goes west from Beatty to Death Valley.

We pass a burro crossing sign and then the Angel Ladies brothel. It's a bright pink building set back in a clump of trees. We're running through a valley that has green grass. There must be water somewhere. Houses are a little more common, which still means very few. We pass the Shady Lady Ranch. This brothel is bright yellow and I saw a sign twenty miles back advertising it. The land is back to scrawny shrubs and to the west I think I see the Grapevine Mountains that run along the east side of Death Valley.

No stop at Scotty's Junction and at Lida's Junction, NV-266, the driver just kept going till a lady yelled that she had to stop. He had to turn the bus around on a two lane highway and go back to Cottontail Ranch which was all that was there. The speed limit is 70 and could be more as it's a straight, flat road. We must be gaining altitude. My ears just popped and joshua trees appeared. We'll be going over Goldfield Summit at 6,097 ft before we get to Goldfield which has some interesting stone buildings.

The mountains far to the west have snow on them and the summit just before Tonopah is at 6,256 ft. The Tonopah stop is at a tourist strip with a grocery store at one end and a casino at the other end with a laundomat behind it. Downtown has more nice stone buildings and is larger than I first thought. One passenger never reappeared even though we left ten minutes than the driver had said. This is a hazard when all the stops have slot machines. We multiplex with US-6 here and turn west.

There are more and more playas where the water evaporated leaving sterile minerals that plants can't grow on. Just past Tonopah one was broken and you could see six feet of white minerals. I wonder how long it takes for that much to accumulate. At Coalfield US-6 leaves us and US-95 turns north along the east side of the huge Columbus Salt Flats. This section of highway is a Veterans Memorial Highway. I wonder how many Veterans Memorial Highways there are?

Coming into Hawthorne we see the ammunition dumps spread across the desert. We have ten minutes at an Exxon minimart. A new passenger gets on with a black trash bag as his suitcase. Bus passengers have some strange luggage but it's less usual now that luggage is cheaper and this guy was young and nicely dressed. He looked like he could have picked up a cheap duffel bag somewhere. After Hawthorne we turn north with Walker Lake on our right and mountains on our left. The lake is huge and blue in this arid land. It's looks odd that in barren land like this, on a Sunday afternoon, near a military base there is no one boating or swimming. We go around a bend and do see some people, but not many. The road runs right against the mountain.

At the end of the lake we enter the Walker River Paiute Indian Reservation. There is grass and cottonwood trees in the valley and cultivated fields. Schurtz is also oasis of green from the cottonwood trees. Past Schurtz we ride past an area of multicolored earths. The great thing about arid lands is to see the immense variety of dirt and rock there are. Before Fallon there is grass and irrigated pasture with cows on it, but even without the irrigation there is grass. It's so refreshing after the hours of scrub and alkali flats. Neat little farm houses dot the land and I think I see clover(?).

Fallon looks like a midwestern town with it's neat frame houses and trees in the middle of alfalfa fields and grazing cows. They're renovating an historic courthouse and have old brick buildings downtown. The omnipresent casinos seems a little out of place here. We finally leave US-95 and head west on US-50 . The land is barren but not as bad as what we've been through today. You can see a row of cottonwoods which usually means a river and there is some grass though it looks rather scruffy.

Things start getting more upscale as we get closer to Carson City and finally we pull into the bus stop at a liquor mart. I look around for a taxi to take me to my motel and see the Frontier Motel right there. I walked over to see what it was like and it was ok. Older and a little scruffier. My bath has big chips in the porcelain but everything is very clean and there is a new microwave, a coffee pot (supply your own coffee) and refrigerator in the room. The price is a little less than the budget chain that I would have had to take a taxi to. There are long term rooms in the building in the back that looks run down. There's a grocery store a couple blocks away and a McDonalds so there are all the conveniences. It will be nice not having to rush to get the bus when I leave.

I'm digesting a nice frozen dinner while typing and watching television. It's nice to have the privacy and the peace after two days on the bus and last night at the hostel.

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(c) Rachel Aschmann 2000.
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