Saturday, August 31, 2013

Across the West and Back: The First Day

We set out in the afternoon of the first day, intending to make it as far as Elko, NV, where we planned to do some shopping for events scheduled for the third and fourth days of the trip (see the route of first day way below).

Because of our location (and not so much because of the location of our primary destination), we began our trip on the partly buried, partly extant route of Historic U.S. 40, which in Nevada has in most places been wiped out by I-80. We began with what might be considered a time-honored way of starting a trip on old 40: we ate lunch at The Griddle, an establishment on the main street through town, a street known as Winnemucca Boulevard, one of the remaining active sections of Historic U.S. 40 in Nevada. As for what old 40 is called now, one section of the main street running concurrent with the route of old 40 is now signed business I-80, and between I-80 exit 176 on the west side of town and the main intersection at Melarkey, it's cosigned U.S. 95. Historic U.S. 40 both west and east of the main intersection is partly coincident with the mostly unsigned S.R. 289, and NDOT shows much of the western section of of Wnmca Blvd, still along the route of old 40, as FRHU15 and 20. On the east side of town, where Wnmca Boulevard no longer follows old 40, it is signed S.R. 794.

Partly because I've driven I-80 east and west between Wnmca and Elko in the last couple years, and partly because I was driving the first shift, I took few photos the first day. (For more photos along this route, see this earlier post.)

At the Beowawe rest stop, I could see the Beowawe spring terrace off to the southwest, and I fully intended to take a photo of the terrace, although now that The Geysers have stopped geysing, the terrace is less photogenic than it used to be. Apparently, though, what we used to see from I-80 in the mid-late 70s was an impressive artesian release of water after "vandals blew the caps from four steam wells on the main terrace sometime prior to 1972" (NBMG, 2008). You can see this unnatural "geyser" (artesian water and steam release) in this video, and you can see some old photos of the actual geysers here, and read Rinehart (1968) for an early report.

While at the rest stop, I became distracted by the native American jewelry being sold, and was then distracted by the virga hanging from clouds off to the south, so I took a photo with the tiny berg (or ghost town) of Beowawe below clouds, instead of the spring terrace!
Photo looking south across Whirlwind Valley toward the notch at Beowawe,
with Mt.Tenabo of the Cortez Mountains in the background on the right.
The Cortez mine complex in Crescent Valley is near the base of Mt. Tenabo .

After our short break at the Beowawe rest stop, we continued eastward, finally making it across the hills of the southern Tuscarora Mountains via Emigrant Pass.

We experienced a lot of road construction on our trip, especially in Nevada where I-80 has been undergoing major repairs for at least the third year in a row. We have kind of become inured to the construction — ho hum, just another 55 mph zone, how long will this one last?

Consequently, when we were funneled into the westbound lane just east of Carlin while approaching the Carlin Tunnels, I didn't think much of it at first. Suddenly, however, realizing that the westbound traffic must be somewhere while we were going into the westbound lanes through the tunnels, I perked up and looked around. Sure enough, the westbound traffic was being diverted onto an old section of Historic U.S. 40 through Carlin Canyon, right by the famous Carlin Canyon unconformity! Those lucky dogs!

You can drive a part of old U.S. 40 from Carlin's main street (S.R. 221) east into the canyon along a road NDOT calls FREL05 anytime you'd like, but old 40 terminates rather abruptly against I-80 just east of the Carlin Tunnels (Google Street View from the west and from the east). The route is used occasionally as a hazardous materials bypass of the tunnels — and is apparently used during bouts of tunnel maintenance.

We contemplated turning around at the next exit (the California Trail Interpretive Center exit) so we could drive on old 40 through Carlin Canyon. That turnaround, involving a second turnaround at the east Carlin exit would have added about an hour onto our day's journey, so — hoping to make it back sometime before the completion of the Carlin Tunnels Project — we went on in favor of our needed shopping.

An opportunity missed, or an opportunity postponed?

View Day 1: Winnemucca to Elko in a larger map

The Google Maps image shows the first day's 124-Google-mile trip with photo locations and a few geographic locations. I've taken to calling trip miles indicated by Google Maps "Google miles," because the mileage is approximate.

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