Getting out of the Sonoran desert takes some work. It’s a pretty long drive to anywhere else and an excruciating distance to leave the aridity behind. Nevertheless, that is the goal of our current trip. And, one day isn’t enough to succeed.
We drove from 8am to 6:30pm last night with but one significant stop. Crossed Arizona, through Phoenix and past the Hoover dam in really good time – apparently July 4 is a good day to get out of dodge. Las Vegas came and went without incident, and then it was just deadly desert as far as we could see.
The Mojave, Death Valley area is really just barren. It feels like we are ants surrounded by piles of rock and dirt. There is a smattering of scrub bushes that give it a fuzzy green appearance at the proper angle.
Three highlights of this desert driving day:
1. Deep thoughts with Bryan in the car and kids who are trained in boredom therapy. Podcasts galore, naps, staring out that window. No videos in our cars for our sad kids.
2. The International Car Forest in Goldfield; an artistic take on the need for a junkyard. Cars placed nose-in, butts to the sky, and covered with paintings. Made for a decent break just before our search for a campsite.
3. Lastly, we found a great boon-docking spot on BLM land just outside of Tonopah, NV. The luckiest part was our amazing view of the 4th of July fireworks in town, which was quite impressive!
Tonopah, Nevada, surprised us in a couple ways. First, the stealth fighter (F-117) history was oddly still mysterious. We drove out of town to the old base and found it nearly completely leveled. From google satellite images I could find where the infrastructure, dorms, and buildings used to be, but now it’s just crumbling roads and a smokestack. Weird! The only evidence of Tonopah Air Fields’ important role in testing the stealth is a mural in town.
Next was the really well done Tonopah Historic Mining Park. We walked around the park’s loop past three major mining operations and numerous fascinating buildings with machinery. We marveled at the depth these silver mines went; one was lit down 600 feet! Avi even got a bit nervous when we were able to enter the Burro mine and stand on a metal platform over the stope (a canyon-like dug out access to the silver vein). This was a stopover well worth the time to really learn about why Tonopah exists.
After two days straight of driving in the desert, the brown scenery is really grating on us. Passing the reflective blue of Walker lake and the massive Hawthorne artillery storage area was an interesting diversion, as was the relatively green valley near pony express stop Hawthorn station. But, really, spotting the snowy peaks of the Sierra Nevada range as we approached Reno was a soul-saver. Tonight we will finally trade the desert for the mountains.