Tuesday, June 17, 2014

It Was a Devilish Sort of Day

Last week when I drove southwest on I-80 through western Nevada, the wind was blowing strongly from the southwest, gusting to 39-44 mph. The drive was challenging (or horrendous, depending on your POV) in a jeep with a metal rack.
Dust devil blowing northeast across the north end of Rye Patch Reservoir, probably across the Upper or Lower Pitt-Taylor Reservoir.
Even the devils were having a hard time: they were blowing rapidly across the terrain and were often going to pieces before they could really form.
As I rounded the corner at Humboldt House and the Florida Canyon Mine, I realized that the usually visible West Humboldt Range was nowhere in sight to the south.
Visibility was reported as 10 miles, but in places it was much less!
Poorly formed dust devils in a mass of dust near the junction of the Limerick Canyon and Rochester Canyon roads in the Humboldt Range near the Oreana exit (Oreana millsite).
Because of the strong and gusty winds, I decided to get off at the Oreana exit and head south on a still usable alignment of old U.S. 40, which is no longer signed anywhere in Nevada but is still drivable in places.
Here, we're looking southwest along one alignment of old Highway 40; a second, non-drivable sub-parallel alignment of 40 is running in the bushes just to the right of this paved alignment.
You can see a semi or two on I-80 in the right part of the photo. The paved road ends by being cut off by I-80 just at the horizon.
A locally known cutoff will take you from old 40 through a tunnel beneath I-80.
On the west side of the single-vehicle tunnel, I turned left to follow the frontage road south towards Lovelock.
I'm now driving southwest on the frontage road on the west side of I-80, which is right there on my left. Part of an immense dust storm can be seen beyond the local horizon.
The frontage road is now about to cross one alignment of old Highway 40 and join with a second. Dust is strongly diminishing the visibility (10 miles?!?).
In the above photo, I-80 is still to the left. At the corner ahead, the frontage road will join with a drivable segment of old 40, one that was still in use when I moved to Nevada in the 1970s. An older alignment of old 40, still partly paved, can be seen as a faint, sage-colored line between the corner ahead and the bridge crossing the railroad just right of center (above).
Now I'm on that bridge, on one alignment of old 40, looking south toward EP Minerals' Colado Plant, which processes diatomaceous earth (DE) and perlite. 
The non-drivable alignment of old 40 runs indistinctly toward the plant through the bushes ahead of us (above) or on the west side of the tracks, although it seems to get lost somewhere in this area. Judging from Google Maps, there may be two old and barely passable (to impassable) alignments of old 40 in this area, besides the paved one I'm driving on, with the one we saw in the last photo running straight for the EP plant. Or, perhaps there was just one older alignment. I'm not sure where the older alignment(s) crossed the railroad.
Some of the dust is coming off piles of DE at the Colado plant.
This is a part of old 40 that I remember from my first years in Nevada, the stretch approaching Lovelock, lined with tall cottonwoods.
I think of the old days every time I drive this section of old Highway 40.
I'm now approaching the overpass that used to put us onto the built part of I-80 in the 70s-80s, when the bypass around Lovelock hadn't yet been constructed.
Dust storm in downtown Lovelock.
A dust devil off to the northeast, as seen from a truck stop parking lot near downtown Lovelock.
I ate a quick lunch, and continued on into the near gale-force winds and dust afterward.


Tony Edger said...

Enjoyed the post. Seems that old roads don't die, they just fade away.

Hollis said...

Gross! I hate those kinds of days. But beautiful cottonwoods :-)

Silver Fox said...

Tony, thanks. Good thing for old roads (and new ones, too). Gives me something to write about.

Silver Fox said...

Yeah, the wind sucked, but the cottonwoods were well worth driving by. Too bad I couldn't bypass the entire freeway!