Tag Archives: Nevada

running west with the wind

Buffalo Head

In the 1970’s I played my show in Colorado. Autumn was preferred. Instead by hubris in winter late near midnight I drove Highway 160 over Yellowjacket Pass in thirty below. I made Durango that night for a show the next day. My teeth chattering, I climbed into my goose down bag tossed a blanket over my dog. Getting out of my bag at daybreak was agony.

Four decades later Colorado mountain towns have swelled up and are too big. Roads are full of vehicles. Hillsides are dotted with second homes. While there are still vast sweeps of undeveloped landscape there are fewer to be found and their unbound nature has been nibbled on by the crush of humanity seeking a piece of their own.

A westerner understands what I mean. Emptiness is essential. Mustangs need room to roam. So do prospectors, outdoorsmen and curmudgeons.

Michael’s Diesel Truck

In Ely, Nevada I had the pleasure to speak with a retired military man. The mother had not much cared for Ely and had run off with another man leaving Michael and the children. Everything about life in Ely is hard including finding a reliable wife. So, it was to be the father completed the task of raising his sons.

For twenty-four years he worked at the Robinson Mine four miles west of town. This is an open pit copper mine. Gold is also found in the ore as well as molybdenum. There are no easy jobs when you hire on to work at an open pit copper mine.

Strolling the Neighborhood

Luck is changing for this Ely, Nevada resident. South 216 miles is St George, Utah. Michael has become partners operating a big rig diesel service shop. Putting the finishing touches on his home in Ely our military veteran is ending all these hardscrabble days preparing to sell his property and move on to life’s next chapter.

He’ll be leaving behind 4000 of Nevada’s most remotely located citizens to take up a new life in St George where near 88,000 Mormons, near Mormons and never will be Mormons reside. Michael’s servicing long haul trucks means he’ll be wrenching on equipment one quarter the size of the behemoths he kept serviced at the mine in Ely. Cracking off a two-inch bolt is that much more work from removing a three-quarter inch piece of hardware.

Backbreaking awaits high desert immigrants wanting to make a life out here. Punching water wells, wrenching on studded snow tires for the season, or assembling a Quonset hut will humble the uncalloused hands of a Great Basin newcomer.

Cooking beneath Cottonwoods

Michael invited us to remain parked right where we had stopped to make dinner and sleepover beneath the cottonwoods. Social distancing being what it is Michael explained most of what I’ve retold here. Michael’s veteran military status had provided him with a healthy skepticism. Politics and rattlesnakes were both to be sidestepped, left alone so that a citizen could move on to better things to do with a mind and a life.

Wandering into the least parts of the American West is where I often find the most durable characters. Keeping intact this emptiness makes room for those few odd citizens that seek to build a life as near to civilization’s edge as a soul may travel.

Border – Snake Valley

Sean’s front porch needing no improvement

Visit with my busking mate Sean Laughlin is two days back. Getting into the Nevada mood at his place in Silver City, Nevada is a way to begin the induction. Western rural hard rock mining outpost of yesteryear is a clean break from suburban Northern California life.

There is lot of dust, doors have no locks and what’s in the building remains in need of restoration though fixing things up wouldn’t add a lick of charm. The whole lot of Silver City citizens I’ve met have setup shop here because it isn’t like anywhere they’ve come from. Three or four streets, twenty to forty dwellings, three defunct saloons pretty much settles matters. Mustang tend to wander through the place. Traffic heading up the hill to Virginia City comes through.

Seller Motivated

Silver City men have to a one a picture in their mind of the prettiest girl they have ever loved. Most have spent years with a woman and then the drought of affection dried things up and what they once had thought was for keeps goes lost. Pile up all these Silver City loser’s shoulder to shoulder come sunset for a proper adult beverage and they’ll being singing at the top of their lungs with not one ounce of lament mixed into the thing.

That was Tuesday. They were all stinking liberals with tattoos, long guns and pickup trucks. Bernie, they had sympathies for, but it was their friend Joe they figure can get the job done.

Wednesday, I put on my pants, brushed my teeth, tossed my bags into my continental crossing vehicle and made my turn east on Highway 50. The first hour heading east you’ll see signs of sprawl. Of course, not much big money sprawl. What you’ll find are people that have ended up setting up on five acres out in the middle of to hell and gone.

By golly I think I’ve got it

Once past Fernley most of civilization has been removed from the landscape. There is this first long hundred-mile long leg that ends in Austin, Nevada. Then you’ll run another hundred miles further to Eureka. From high on up in this outpost you’ll come down the other side and go a fair distance until arriving in Ely. I prefer something smaller in the way of places and near perfect is 66 miles further in Baker, Nevada.

Baker is gateway to Great Basin National Park. Park, restaurant and motels are closed for a few more weeks. Instead I stopped nearby in Border. At this waystation you can find a casino, restaurant, bar, general store, gas station and motel. Everyone that lives in Border works at this location. Bartender was born here. He was also the motel manager. Best thing about this barman was his story of a crow warning him that a coyote was running off just out of his sightlines and his turning and getting the rifle shot off just in the nick of time.

End of Nevada

There was a great bit of consternation about the cornonavirus. Highway repair crew were holed up and working nearby. It was a big lot of these men. None were too pleased by the news of the spreading virus. To celebrate there was quarreling, shouting, and pounding of hands on the bar counter to get their point across.

Most important conversation of all had to do with the Las Vegas water grab that had just that same day been thwarted. For more than a decade the legendary Snake Valley had been subjected to Clark County officials trying to buy out ranchers so they could obtain water rights. With deed to the land and the water beneath it they could ship that water down to Las Vegas. Nevada’s State Supreme Court finally ruled after a long series of appeals that there wasn’t going to be any Snake Valley water going to be pumped and shipped south.

Snake Valley Sunset…

Basque sheepherders run flocks in these parts. This is good forage for sheep. You’ve got a few mining operations and employees that work for the national park. There are artists out here. Near perfect place to locate for an easily distracted writer because there is near nothing here to distract a writer from fulfilling his or her duty at a keyboard.

I aim to return soon. I have wanted to run the Snake Valley north to south. I’m hoping I can get an introduction to some of the ranchers out here. I’d like to come out to see the sheep being fleeced. I’m curious too about the people. Last nights stay in Border was plenty good and restorative. I have more faith in the most woebegone places. That’s a good thing

crusty INSOLUBLE nevada

Tuesday I am driving from San Francisco to Denver. First stop is Silver City, Nevada. Wednesday will shape more east on Highway 50 for Baker right on the Utah border. Will see how much stomach I’ve got for road Thursday. If I make it to Glenwood Springs, Colorado that would setup striking distance to arrive in Littleton on Friday.

I’ve been worried for four years about the sanity of our Executive in the White House. I have been looking at the problem of climate emergency we’re trying to come to grips with for a good many years more. Add the emerging pandemic from the Coronavirus to the existential threats and you’ve got yourself a red-hot short list to what is keeping responsible military officials at the Pentagon awake night and day.

Now an unwanted bug is going viral. In honor of this threat and in consideration of the hazard it represents, my wife and I are battening down the hatches here at the one-man and one-woman amusement park. We are provisioning our apartment in Colorado this weekend. Being sailors we’re expert on stocking a pantry with dry goods. That bit of nuttery has caused us both much Mormon like sorrows.

Cruise ships are departing harbors across the globe as I write this tomb of viral doom, but among my vast readership, (vanity project) are there any anti-vaxxers ready to learn they are confined offshore on an infected ship? Didn’t think so.

Hunkering in an apartment isn’t so bad when considering the alternatives. The writer and his best half are both quirky vegans. You’d think Darwin would smile down upon such vaunted immune systems and I’m sure Charles is doing exactly that from high on but how much faith would you put in a grinning angel short of seeing one at closing time in the prime of your lost post adolescent youth?

I place my marker, and I am not a betting man, this is not a wager, this is a concern, and what has my attention isn’t today but where the numbers might suggest we are headed two weeks from now.

?

Running across Nevada dawn to dusk Wednesday. The Silver State delivers a respite from the crush of humanity. Nevadan’s possess a warmhearted insular misanthropic neighborliness. Crusty rural types are as likely to give you the shirt off their back as to toss a baby rattlesnake at your feet so they might get to laugh as you try dancing for your life.

The rows of mountain ranges oriented north to south come upon a traveler like waves. Dunes, snow capped peaks, pinion and juniper groves, everywhere sagebrush. High desert is stark, cold, seductive.

A desolate Great Basin landscape feels prescriptive. Putting all the troubles in the world in the rearview mirror, striking out on Highway 50, piling up one-hundred miles of nowhere and nothing is a soothing means of catching up on all those insoluble puzzles I’ve been intending to finish.

My wish list is short for things I’d like to see fixed. End fossil fuel subsidies and transfer that assistance to the renewable energy sector. That would be one thing. Next, remove the current autocrat running amok from the Oval Office. And last, wish you all a safe journey and good health through this rough patch that is barreling at light speed toward our precious Mother Earth.


 [DS1]

Baker, Nevada

Sixty-eight citizens call Baker, Nevada home. Five miles from the entrance to Great Basin National Park makes this unincorporated corner of the universe a park visitor must-do experience- like it or not.

Nearest grocery stores are 56 miles west in Ely, pronounced E-Lee. Nearest saloon once you depart the two saloons in Baker is 8 miles distant. This is why for safety in dog days of winter the barkeep will open up for the other 67 citizens stuck in Baker due to inclement weather. This is a Nevada nowhere public service,  Lord knows it is not for profit.
In particular writers prefer as little distraction as Baker may provide. Due to the consumptive nature of writing 67 other stubborn desert dwellers is regarded to be a near maximum number when giving consideration to writer focusing dysfunction. Procrastinating writers if wired up to the grid could provide enough electricity to light São Paulo. 
This thistle of tennis shoe torment begs my revisit. Parking my escape vehicle just yonder of my threshold, mere steps from my four cords of wood, where I may fend off the ice demons, where I may plunge my fingers into immortality, where I may give chase to time, where the Bristlecone pines on Wheelers Peak landmark their longest living thing on earth defiantly, where geology sneers, and the gods bait our convictions.