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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.