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10/10/2010: Day 17: Halfway across Nevada on 10/10/10
The text for this day's post was written while sitting in a coffee shop at 9th and 9th in Salt Lake City a couple of days later. The pictures were added just before Halloween. So much for Just In Time.

Here is an overview of the trip through 10/10/10, ending at Battle Mountain, NV.Each blue pin marks overnight stays.
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Picture Map10-10-10
As you may see on this map, we've covered quite a bit of territory.

So I woke up at dawn in our room overlooking Lake Topaz and processed pictures from Day 14 (Yosemite). Karen woke just before the sun broke over the mountain. Very bright.
I woke before sunrise and did some writing. Karen woke in time to see the sunrise over Lake Topaz.
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One difficulty with taking pictures through a window is the unfortunate tendency of the autofocus to think that the window is the object of interest.
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But lateral sunlight has its uses
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"Chicken Fried Chicken" was not my choice for breakfast
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This was a pretty nice place for an exhaustion/impulse stop in the night. Warm lake, snowy mountains, and hearty breakfast.
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We broke fast in the Casino Coffee Shop. Then I went back to the room to rest and make some changes to this blog code. Karen fed slot machines. She likes the clunky mechanical wheel kind that are fast disappearing from the casino ecosystem. As for me, I find that I hate losing so much more than I like winning that I'd rather not play.
A couple of motel items obviously harking to an earlier age.
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A bottle opener and a razor blade disposal. Both classic retro fixtures.
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Yes, the Lake Topaz Casino had its niceties
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Anyway, we got on the road by 10, and went on up to Carson City. We've visited five state capitols so far on this trip. Those silver domes are hard to photograph.
North of Lake Topaz, along US-395, we hit another State Capitol, Carson City. The dome is octagonal and silver. hard to photograph.
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The Capitol is named for fellow Missourian Kit Carson (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Kit_Carson)
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The Capitol Building has several lesser domes, all in silver.
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Pause and ponder. "A.L."? I looked it up at my next connection. It's a Masonic affectation for After Light. Using the Ussher (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ussher) chronology (the best guess for the origin of the universe before the methods of the Enlightenment) they date buildings from the beginning of time. They rounded 4,004 B.C. up to 4,000 B.C. for simplicity.
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I stop for chocolate. This place had some interesting confections.
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A big fiberglass miner, a windmill, and an unfinished segment on the future I-580 that will connect Reno to Carson City are all behind the Chocolate Nugget. Meanwhile, people stop along US-395 to see the sign. There does not appear to be an interchange planned here.
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Karen catches Dan involved in his shutter-buggery with a miner.
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Another piece of the unfinished interstate spur. An elegant arched bridge in front of a nice mountain.
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We then moved on and stopped in Reno. The nominal goal was a mining-themed display at the Silver Legacy Casino. I decided to take old US-95 (Virginia Avenue) up through town instead of the new pass-around highways. But in the center of town we got diverted by a big Italian Festival occupying the two blocks of the city that we were trying to get to. Oh, well. We found parking and walked back. The mining display was predictably plastic. And I wandered around and found myself in the Midway of Circus-Circus, a casino across the street. I hadn't crossed any street! The bridge is so smoothly integrated into the confusing casino pageantry that one has to study with a practiced eye to find any hint there even is a bridge. "They" don't want patrons to be confused by reminders of the outside world.
A marriage mill in Reno
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Biggest town sign we've seen
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After we parked and walked toward the street fair and target casino, I noticed how the new monster casinos had killed the classic roadside motels and other local businesses.
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Boarded up and fenced off, the motels of the heyday of family vacations die away.
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This road is Virginia Street, also known as US-395 through Reno. This artery was closed for an Italian festival.
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We were heading to the Silver Legacy because the giud book said it had a mining display. I like mining museums. Stilt walkers in gondolier outfits are okay, too.
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This, it turned out, was the mining display. A fantastic plastic mockery of heavy equipment, ponderously turning and huffing, full of sound an fury, but signifying, well, you know.
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This restaurant sign gave me a mental wedgie, somewhere in the camouflaged overpass boundary between Silver Legacy and Circus-Circus. On the ground level, there is a 5 lane street with wide sidewalks between the two institutions. But above that, they flow together.
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The Italian Festival was well attended.
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We watched the grape stomping contest for a while. A couple of contestants donned Lucy suits.
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I am nostalgic for the 1960's motel signs. They had heart.
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I remember seeing these yellow arrow motel signs in every town during family trips as the 1960's faded into the 1970's. Has anyone seen a Diners Club card in the last couple of decades?
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Outside, I wandered up a block of the fair from one corner of the casino to the other. It was more like Brownian motion than strolling. The grape stomping contest at one end of the festival was a hoot to watch. We did not partake of the fair foods or games. But the bowls of gelato were tempting.

Then more driving. After yesterday's hard driving on winding 30 mph roads across Yosemite, today's endless, straight 75 mph roads were simply tedious. Well, the colors of the mountains and alkali flats we traversed kept changing. And there are clouds to watch. Yes, more time lapse was taken.
So we are following the California Trail back to the Missouri river.

And Eastward we go, along part of the California Trail on I-80. This is at a rest area east of Reno.
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History just feels better if you actually visit the locations. But now anyone can read about the California Trail (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/California_Trail) just by sitting and clicking. It's a different world.
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We call these cattle guards, "Gronks" for the sound they make as we roll over.
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This is mining country. The geology concentrated many interesting materials in and between these hills. As each is discovered, it begets a factory, and economy, a town, and then a ghost town. One can see how resources that take a million years to accumulate get used up in decades. Yet we still live in a culture of disposables.
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High voltage towers that look less than stable.
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I enjoyed the interplay of clouds and mountains this day. Much time-lapse footage that may well get put into a finished video.
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Nothing like road travel to remind you where things come from and how they get there. Trains still contribute a lot to commerce.
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Clouds imitate mountains.
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A picturesque homestead
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Another rest area with creative signage about, among other things, the Humboldt River (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Humboldt_River) and the Dwight D Eisenhower Highway.
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Another rest area sign
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The North Valmy Power Station, turning coal into watts. Apparently, one of the mineral riches here is a thick carboniferous stratum.
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We stopped for the night at dusk in Battle Mountain, a town with nary a mention in the AAA guidebooks. But we had hope because it is a gateway to an Indian Reservation. At first glance, the town appears to be a surviving travel stop from pre-interstate highway days, the heyday of family automobile travel. We later learned that it was a permanent covered wagon stop settlement on the trail. Later it became, and it still is a gold mining town.

So we found a classic motel on the 304 (Bus I-80) in Battle Mountain, NV
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Just past new moon
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We checked into the Big Chief Motel. It is actually run by an Indian. But the original variety, not the people misnamed by Columbus. The owner is a cheerful man who happily shared local stories. This motel harkens back to the 1950's, although it has been expanded and remodeled a few times. The current lobby section is newest, built in 1980. Most of the place is presently a residence for contracting gold miners who work this area.

There is a small rail yard across the street (I-80 business, old US-90??). I began channeling my father, a fan of trains, and watched a train reassemble itself. Given two tracks and a switch that was manually operated, they re-sorted the cars, and separated out several black tank cars to leave behind. I love the sounds of the train accelerating: The engine roars up, then each coupling in turn pulls forward with a deep clunk, shooting down the train from far left to far right, like auditory chasing lights. When the train backs to couple to another car, a yard man watches the standing coupling as the train approaches, advising the engineer a half mile away about the progress. The train slows, and the couplings gently touch with only tons of impact. Bone shaking BOOM! And the yard man then hooks up the brake and signal lines, and moves to the next disconnect.
I watched the train reassemble for a while. Noisy and fun.
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We had dinner in our room, but went out for pie and decaf. Karen played slots while I wrote in the Owl.
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Here's a view on downtown Battle Mountain, gateway tothe reservation, and still a gold mining town
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Who are these modern gold miners? We met a few of them as they played soccer with their kids and grilled their dinners in the parking lot. They are engineers of shafts and sumps, and dams for tailings and leach fields. They are geologists and mineralogists to find richer concentrations of element 79, almost as rare as tungsten. I also met an archaeologist (through the auspices of her bouncy big, black dogs). She presumably makes sure that others don't destroy prehistoric cultural information before she has a chance to document it.

So we settled in, had leftovers from our cooler for dinner. Then we went to The Owl Lounge, a coffee shop and casino a half mile down the highway, for pie and decaf. I worked on captions for Day 15 at the table, and Karen fed a pittance into the slots. Unfortunately for her, the machine she liked choked and died in a self-proclaimed self-diagnostic loop. She got her money back from a supervisor and we called it a night. Karen did laundry, two rooms. I spent another couple of hours fixing my software and finishing up the previous day online.
Next: Day 18: Battle Mountain to Salt Lake City

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