Ely's Coming!

Trip Start May 12, 2007
Trip End May 26, 2007

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Flag of United States  , Nevada
Wednesday, May 23, 2007

The next leg of our journey back home to Indiana was in many ways my favorite part of the trip since I got to spend some serious quality time with my son. Daniel and I had originally intended to spend two days in Yosemite but decided that it would be better to head for Utah on Wednesday morning so that we would have more time in Moab, Utah. We decided to forgo three of the proposed stops along our proposed itinerary, bypassing the Sutro Tunnel and the Johnson Mine (Ghost Town) in Nevada and the Royal Gorge Bridge in Colorado. In future travels I intend to visit all three locations; perhaps next time on Harleyback. But there just wasn't enough time to do everything we wanted to do and be back to Rocky Ripple by Saturday morning.
We left our previous night's campsite to head towards Sacramento where we would pick up U.S.Highway 50. It is claimed that Highway  50 is the loneliest road in America. I can not say for sure that this claim is accurate but I will say that as far as my traveling experiences are concerned it is true. For a very interesting article about Highway 50 go to the following link:
Before we could get to Highway 50 we needed to head north to Sacramento. I decided not to travel the quickest route instead opting to travel Californian Highway 49. Since we had camped just outside of the Southern tip of Yosemite we elected to meet Highway 49 in the central California town of Oakhurst. We stopped in Oakhurst to enjoy some simple aspects of civilization which included much needed showers at a RV camp, a change of clothing, and a good cup of coffee. It was in Oakhurst that Daniel showed me perhaps the ugliest thing I have ever seen! I will spare the gruesome details but if you REALLY want to know, give me a call if you dare and I will give you the story.
I wanted to travel Highway 49 because I have an affinity for ghost towns and  49 has a bunch of them. Highway 49 covers routes in the old California Motherlode country which was made famous during the 1849 Gold Rush era. In addition to its historical aspects Highway 49 has splendid scenery and some of the most winding mountain roads I have ever traveled.
We picked up Highway 50 just south of Sacramento and pointed the Jeep east towards Utah. Just east of Cornitos we were stopped for an hour in traffic because of a wreck which necessitated a medical helicopter landing in the middle of the highway. Daniel slept through the whole thing. In fact I thought about leaving the Jeep running, get out of the Jeep and yell really loudly to wake him up. When he looked over and saw the driver's seat empty and us on the freeway I would have liked to have gotten his reaction on camera. Then again he is big enough now to whoop my butt so I decided against it.
As we left the Sacramento area we started to climb up the Sierra Nevada mountains towards the south side of Lake Tahoe. I had never seen Tahoe before and was really amazed at how beautiful it is. This big blue lake atop surrounded by moutains and trees just looked so out of place. As we drove into Carson City the first thing that catches your eye is the number of wedding chapels. Nothing like a quickie Nevada wedding so they say.
As we headed east from Carson City civilization became more and more sparse and  Highway 50 became lonelier and lonelier. Soon we were in the middle of desert and bleak mountains. As we crossed this vast nothingness I yearned to see something that interrupted the endless vista of sand and rock. Occasionally we would pass what I assume were closed down brothels. As much concertina wire and and security fencing around the buildings it looked like some sort of military establishment. After passing through the middle of Fallon Naval Air Station we went through this pass and on the left side of the road were two cottonwood trees. Trees in the middle of this emptiness were surprising enough but what I saw next really knocked my socks off (pun intended). One of the trees was covered by thousands of pairs of shoes. I knew this tree had to have a story and you can find out all about it at:
That was a bit of excitement but the last bit till we got to Austin Nevada. It was evening by the time we arrived within sight of Austin and let me tell you Austin Nevada is no Austin Texas! After hours of nothing Austin looked like a thriving metropolis! Two gas stations, 6 bars and a lot of empty buildings. Fortunately we were able to get gas in Austin right before the only open station closed. When you ride into Austin the very first thing you see is what appears to be a castle on the side of a hill. We drove down a dirt road to check it out and indeed, it is a castle. The story of Austin Castle can be found at:
Though not a real ghost town, the 120 or so residents really does not make the goodly sized town seem populated. I would like to visit this town again on a future journey, maybe when gas prices come down somewhat.
After we left Austin the next place we came to that had anything resembling civilization was Eureka. The town was completed closed down, no food, no gas, and worse of all no coffee. I was driving and at this point I was doing the, "I have been driving for twelve hours nod".  Eureka is another semi-ghost town and would also be well worth another visit. To read about Eureka Nevada you can go to:
By this point I had determined that should I come across anything resembling a hotel I was going to stop and get some sleep. When we arrived in Ely Nevada it looked like a very miniture version of Las Vegas. I guess it was established for those who wante a last chance to lose what little money they might have leftover from other, more famous gambling Meccas such as Reno and Las Vegas. Fortunately for me Ely had plenty of Motels and we bunked down in one of the more "reasonable" establishments. Okay, it was a dive but a CHEAP dive and there was no bugs in the beds. Ely has a lot of things I would like to see and for those of us interested in western history, easily a day could be spent enjoying the attractions of Ely and its surrounding area. For more information on Ely Nevada go to:
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