lake mead

It’s 12:30am, and we’ve just arrived at Boulder Beach Campground on Lake Mead. We left Carson City at about 10:30 this morning and spent the entire day driving southeast through Nevada. Last night in Carson City it could have snowed; tonight at midnight it’s 82° farenheit.I won’t be using the comforter or the heater tonight.

From Carson City, we took Highway 50 to Silver Springs, and then headed south on alternate route 95 through Yerington to Schurz, where we joined the main route 95 heading south. The country consisted of one dry valley after another, pocked with the remains of mines and brothels. (I stopped counting these when I hit 10. My favorite name? “The Cherry Patch Ranch”.)

South of Schurz the road skirted Walker Lake. Remember that scene in “Planet of the Apes” where the spacecraft crashes into a lake surrounded by desert? That could have been Walker Lake. South from Walker Lake is the town of Hawthorne.

Hawthorne primarily exists as a U.S. Army munitions dump. The entire valley is filled with bunker after bunker. There are easily a thousand different types. The regular spacing gives the valley a weird, alien quality. (Incidentally, this isn’t too far from ‘Area 51’.)

We stopped for dinner at Tonopah, a boom-and-bust mining community currently on the ‘bust’ side of the cycle. Tonopah is very proud that the Stealth Fighter was tested here. There’s even a commemorative statue of the Stealth in front of the town firehouse. The football team is called ‘The Muckers’. Who came up with that name?

Tonopah is a model of prosperity compared to ‘Goldfield’, the next town south. It seemed that every other building in town was boarded up and abandoned. One brick hotel had a sign on it hopefully reading “Historic Hotel for Sale. Minimum offer $565,000.” Goldfiend isn’t far from being a ghost town. The people living here already have a haunted look.

About 100 miles north of Las Vegas, we spotted the glow in the sky to the south. If flooded out the stars, and must annoy amateur astronomers to no end. When we finally arrived, we detoured down the Strip because Shay wanted to see it. Las Vegas is horribly fascinating. It’s like the terrible car wreck that you can’t help looking towards. People walk around looking like kids at Disneyland, eyes wide and a big happy smile on their faces. And that’s appropriate, because Vegas has become an adult Disneyland.

Now gambling brings in money, which goes to purchase pirate ships, models of the Eiffel Tower, and more roller coasters than you can imagine. (If there is a unifying theme to Vegas these days other than gambling and wedding chapels, it’s roller coasters.)

While driving down the Strip, I started noticing a metallic vibration noise coming from the engine. It sounded like a loose heat shield. I would also get an occasional thrumming vibration. Scary.

When we finally got to the campground I left the engine running and poked my head under the rear of the car with a flashlight. The one thing that looked obviously wrong was that one of the bolts on the catalytic converter flange was spinning in place. I would expect this bolt to be tight, and it looks like it had worked loose. I’ll tighten this tomorrow morning, and see if this fixes the problem. If not, I’ll stop by a muffler shop and get it checked.

So finally here we are, on the presumptive shores of Lake Mead, though it’s too dark to see. Coyotes are howling back and forth outside. Kangaroo rats are foraging in the dark, collecting the remains of the Labor Day festivities. It’s now 1 in the morning, and I’m hot and tired. Tomorrow’s another long, hot day. I’d better sleep.


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