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Desert Trip 2006

Sun, September 24
Reno, NV - Las Vegas, NV

We got a late start out of Reno when Peter's bike decided not to start. Normally such non-fatal mechanical gremlins attack me in Kingman, Arizona -- could the Superhawk sense that we were headed that way? Fortunately, I had some 16 gauge wire on me and Peter's an electrical guru; he was able to charge his bike off of mine just enough to get it started. We still don't know what happened; the bike was just fine for the rest of the trip.

Once on the road, we took Alternate Highway 95 from Fernley south and then east to meet up with Highway 95. It was a great day -- bright blue sky, not too hot -- and there was a surprising amount of traffic. Everyone must have been out taking advantage of the nice fall weekend.

Desert along Alt Hwy 395.
More desert.

We came upon Walker Lake shortly after turning onto Hwy 95, which was a welcome sight already after even just a few miles of desert. Walker Lake was once part of the prehistoric lake, Lake Lahontan, that covered most of Nevada during the last Ice Age (the one that brought the icthyosaurs to central Nevada's present-day Berlin-Ichthyosaur State Park). When the climate dried, the massive lake shrank to become dry lake beds and scattered smaller bodies of water (California's Mono Lake is also a remnant of Lake Lahontan, as is the dry playa of the Black Rock Desert, for you Burning Man-goers out there).

Walker Lake.

Coming into Hawthorne, we passed the world's largest army munitions depot. A shining example of the NIMBY principle that seems to plague Nevada at every turn, Hawthorne was selected as the new munitions site in 1926 after a massive explosion at the east coast site. The plus side for us is that we got to play around on a 3" 50-caliber twin rapid-fire gun, conveniently placed in a neighborhood park/children's playground. Hooray!

Rat a tat tat!
The couple that shoots together, stays together.

What's a visit to Tonopah without a photo at the Clown Motel? On second thought, don't answer that.


Highway 95 from Tonopah south to Beatty was straight and bright enough for me to play around with photographing shadows and sunlight while zooming ahead at what I'm sure was the safe and legal speed limit. It's stuff like this that makes me really like the desert.

Peter's the dark speck in the road behind me.
Fun with light.

One thing that I was surprised by along Highway 95 was the brothels...not the existance of them, but the condition of the buildings. The ones I could see from the road were much smaller than I'd imagined -- nothing more than a couple of trailers and maybe a one-story small cabin -- and looked pretty run-down.

In Beatty, we stopped at the vaguely creepy "EddieWorld" gas station (complete with an assumedly old photo on top of the pumps of Eddie as a young boy). It was getting dark, but we didn't really want to stay in Beatty overnight, so we kept riding to Indian Springs, by which point it was completely pitch black out.

I really don't like riding through the desert at night very much...aside from the rational dangers of animals and blind curves, it just makes me vaguely agoraphobic. Kinda like scuba diving for me, in a way...I don't like the feeling that I'm all alone and tiny in this huge ecosystem (especially one in which I am clearly the newbie visitor) and can only see what's 2 feet in front of me to any side.

But we didn't have much choice but to press on, so we donned our heated vests and rode into Vegas, guided by the Luxor's mile-high beam, visible from 30 miles northwest of the Strip. My GPS led us painlessly to our hotel, where we had an excellent Italian dinner and some drinks before bed.

Day's mileage: 447 miles
Day's max speed: 112 mph
Total trip mileage: 739 miles

Next Day --> September 25: Las Vegas, NV - Williams, AZ