From the time my son decided to attend the University of Nevada at Reno, I have been making the 8 hour drive with stops at the speed limit several times. I always have to make stops, but I don’t always go exactly the speed limit. Sometimes I even get to do the drive with someone, but for the most part, I drive by myself. In its most basic form, the drive can be broken into roughly four, two hour segments. But there really is a lot more to it. Despite being a drive that most people just want to get done, there are some really neat things to see out there. There are also the little known things.
My drive always starts in Northwest Las Vegas near Durango and Hwy. 95 as I head towards Beatty. On the way, I pass Kyle Canyon, Lee Canyon, and the road to Cold Creek. All of these lead up to or over Mt. Charleston, where there is a resort, a ski area, and a four wheel trail over the mountain respectively. About a year ago, Kyle Canyon experienced the Carpenter 1 Fire which contributed to later serious flooding issues. Who would have thought that there would be floods in or near Las Vegas? But that is a separate blog entry. Lee Canyon has the Las Vegas Ski and Snowboard Resort which is only about 30 minutes away. While visitors from the far northern parts of the country come to Las Vegas wearing their shorts in the winter, some of the locals are in ski gear up yonder enjoying the snow. That snow one year even resulted in an avalanche, taking one life with it. The turn off to Cold Creek has both a federal and state prison right there. The road dead ends at Cold Creek, unless you are very adventurous and have 4-wheel drive on a high clearance vehicle. About the second year we lived here, my husband and I drove up over the the mountain. It was a really rough ride, but it was really cool seeing wild horses at the top. Going down the other side toward Pahrump was a bit smoother as we dropped into a state park and campground. Of course Pahrump at that time was really small. It has experienced its own growing pains, although it is still very small by most standards. Out beyond the Cold Creek turnoff by about 8 minutes is the town of Indian Springs and Creech Airforce Base. Another small town, one that has stayed small. Most of the Airforce base personnel drive in from Las Vegas. On an interesting day, one might see people standing by the road protesting the use of drones. Alright, that doesn’t happen often, but it did happen on one of my trips. It seemed to be protest season in the state during that trip. A bit beyond that is Mercury, NV. Mercury is actually the area where they used to test atomic bombs. I have always been intrigued as to whether going through Mercury would shorten my trip. So I visited Google Earth to see what I could see out there. There are all kinds of unidentifiable things out there, as well as some that can be identified. While you will see vehicles on Google Earth, no one is allowed in there without clearance and it definitely is not open to the public. If you get your name on the list far enough in advance, and are cleared, you can take one of the yearly tours that goes into the area. BUT, no phones or cameras allowed. I think I might pass on that. Right at about that spot, the highway goes from four lane to two lane. Anymore, taking that route, you are not alone. There is always someone out there, it is just a matter of how many someones. You are sharing the road with semis and RVs, so there is bound to be some passing involved. Not far after that is one of the paved ways into Pahrump and then one very old rest stop and a few shops with gas at the junction to Amargosa Valley. Amargosa Valley actually has Ash Meadows National Wildlife Refuge. A friend was telling me about it on one of our trips back. Sometime, I think I will tag along with her and see what kind of damage I can do with photo devices. I believe she said it was primarily birds. The next thing of interest along this stretch is Big Dune. If you are into 4-wheeling and sand, then this is probably a good place for you. It is indeed a big dune, that is constantly under change by weather and wind and has been around since 1000 AD or possibly earlier. It amazes me that we can have something like this in Nevada in the middle of nowhere, but it exists. It is another one of those place holders that lets me know where I am on that long trip. You also pass what looks like an iron ore mine operation. I haven’t researched this one. Whatever is coming out of the ground looks dark red like iron ore. I have to admit to being clueless on this one. Next stop is Beatty! If you are not used to driving distances in Nevada and have a heavy foot, listen carefully! If the speed limit is 25 mph, you better do 25 mph and not one mile over. The little towns get their revenue from people who think they are among the priveleged. There is always law enforcement around in all of the small towns on this trip. I have been followed for 26 mph in town. Beatty has a lot of claims to fame. I remember driving through many years ago, when the highlight for me was the casino that is there. Later, the Death Valley Fruit and Nut Company sprung up, as well as Subway, an ice cream place and a jerky place. Everyone stops to use the restrooms-trust me! The variety of candy, nuts and chocolate is enticing and well worth the stop. I buy something every time. Beatty is also known for being near Rhyolite, a ghost town which is nearby in the Bullfrog Hills. I haven’t been there yet, but I want to go to this one. It is featured in one of the Tomas the Tortoise books that I have in my school library. But there is one more thing that I learned about Beatty a couple of years ago. They have a sufficient number of homes in Beatty for the size town that it is. They also have an unusually high number of quonset huts, garage sized buildings, and garage type buildings. Back in August of 2013, the Las Vegas Review Journal published a piece about a photographer who spends her summers trying to catch pictures of test cars. The engineers test the cars around Death Valley and then garage them and the teams in Beatty. I keep looking for those test cars every time I take a trip. I think I have only seen one so far, but I will keep looking. Beatty also has a thrift store, an antique store and a guy who sells military surplus items.