Four Wheelin' Free Wheelin and feeling 20 again!
Trip Start Oct 20, 2012
61Trip End Jul 11, 2013
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Where I stayed
Bob & Joy's Oasis
What I did
Virginia City... Fort Churchill...and the backroads
Farther east, the desert flattens out through Carson City and into Silver Springs, Nevada, where reside our good friends and ex-neighbors from Ferndale, Bob and Joy. Bob was my hunting partner/mentor and we worked together on and off for ten years, but the cold was getting to him, at 76 years old, and they wanted to relocate closer to family. At first glance, the town appears a little destitute, with a proliferation of modular and trailers exposed by the lack of trees and bushes, but then you pull into their little oasis of manicured Russian Olive trees, fruit trees, strawberries, weedless grounds of packed sand, a freshly painted house with a big welcoming front porch, tool sheds and shops in perfect order and a couple of RVs ready to take off at a moments notice. Inside, their home is immaculate and fresh, with a completely rebuilt kitchen and baths, new floors, textured walls, natural trim - Bob and Joy did it all. I half-jokingly offered my services before we arrived, to which he replied " I'm pretty well caught up ". I knew that - he's amazing - all 5'6" and 150 pounds of his 81 year old self. Joy works at the Lowes about 15 miles away and provides deeply discounted supplies for all of their projects. She also finds time to create incredible quilts, and she has a knack for finding deep deals that turn a handsome profit on E-Bay. Then there is the other favorite pastime, fishing, which regularly beckons them to hitch up a trailer and disappear to a remote lake.
Bob's life is a Steinbeck novel waiting to be written. He was raised in Oklahoma the second of 5 siblings, in a 2 room log house [ not bedrooms, 2 rooms ] with little or nothing, although he will tell you they were never hungry. His father died in the electric chair when he was 3, and he's been a survivor ever since. Hunting and fishing have been his life, and he often would have someone drop him off alone in some wilderness - " I'll be back in a week or two ". The family emigrated to Market Street in San Francisco, he was raised and mentored by his uncle. Life was a personal challenge for him, including robbing a savings and loan just " to see if I could do it ". He spent 8 years of a 15 year sentence in the state pen for armed robbery, which only hardened his survival skills as a small man, but he never backed down from a confrontation, although he quickly learned that a tempered response could deflate a situation just as well as a knee to the crotch. Bob found religion and became a preacher, teaching from his life experiences and new found devotion, married a woman with whom he had corresponded in jail [ 24 hours after his release ], stayed happily married for 24 years and 3 kids until an amicable split, then found Joy [ literally and figuratively ] and has been happily united for another 24 years. Sitting across from him on the front porch, I listened to his life's story for hours, and then it was time to take a ride in the desert. He still can't resist putting his rig in 4 wheel drive and climbing a hill, taking a bumpy dirt road over a paved one - the rougher the better. The four of us drove up a beautiful winding canyon up to Virginia City, where we walked the planked sidewalks after dinner in the Sawdust Saloon. Even though the place is a tourist trap, its authenticity is clearly evident in the lack of restoration done to the exteriors of the buildings, a wild west gambling and drinking mining town.
One of the benefits of casino towns is a cheap breakfast. Bob took us to one of his favorites, where we all had the $2.99 seniors special [ not on the menu - you just had to know ]. Then after we refused to accept the shirt off of his back - Bob will offer up and give away just about everything - we climbed back out of the desert and pointed Red west again towards the coast.