This past Monday my wife and I took off for a little “Date Day”. Plan A was to take our son and go up to Lee Canyon to the ski lodge, enjoy a little lunch at the snack bar and take a walk around before heading back down into Vegas. But the boy had pulled an all-nighter playing video games and watching Youtube, so he ended up sneaking back off to bed while we were getting ready.
Oh well. Next time.
But Kim and I still wanted to get out of the house for the day, so we headed out for the mountains. We had only been there once before – we took her sister and brother-in-law up there on Valentine’s Day to see the snow (they were visiting from Hawaii). We all ate at the snack bar at the bottom of the ski run, and I thought it would be interesting to sit there again for lunch and see how different it is now that it’s summer.
But on the way out of town, Kim mentioned the town of Tonopah, and we both talked about how we had heard of it from locals here but didn’t know where it was or what there is to do there. Well, moments later we passed a sign that said “Tonopah……..175 miles” and that was it.
We were headed to Tonopah.
So we stopped for gas and chocolate (because) and off we went!
Tonopah or bust!
We headed north on the 95, off through the 100+ degree Nevada desert. There’s not a whole lot to see in the 100+ degree Nevada desert, but that’s okay. The mountains here aren’t green and luscious like the islands that I called home for the past 20 years. But the desert is still very beautiful — just a different kind of beautiful. I kinda like it.
One quirky thing we’ve noticed in our short time here in Vegas (we just made one year) that stands out compared to Hawaii is the road signs. Yeah. Of all the things to grab our attention, one thing that stood out to both of us was the road signs.
You guys have a lot of weird road signs here on the Mainland.
My favorite one was “PRISON AREA: HITCHHIKING PROHIBITED”. Okaaaayyy…we’ll just keep moving along, then. Of course after that sign, for the next several miles, every time I passed one of those big drain pipes alongside the highway I had to look to see if there was anyone hiding out in there.
Several more uneventful miles passed, so we got to have a little conversation here and there.
You know what, after 17 years of marriage I realized that I didn’t know what my wife’s favorite color was. Well…at one point I knew: black. But that was mostly when it came to work clothes. People update their favorite color as the years go by, so I needed to know what her current favorite was.
Last song she bought on iTunes?
“I’ll Do 4 U” by Father MC. She whipped out her phone and we listened to it. We enthusiastically sang along to whatever lyrics we actually remembered (which wasn’t much) for about 30 seconds and then we got bored; so that was it for that song.
We also passed an intruiging road sign that said, “Big Dune –>”. Sadly, there was were no sand dunes anywhere near the sign that said, “Big Dune –>”.
Amargosa Valley, Nevada – home of aliens and legal prostitution
What is it with Nevada, man? These folks are REALLY into aliens out here. There have been several places around Vegas that incorporate aliens into their tourism marketing. Oh well, I guess cowboys aren’t much of a hot selling point nowadays, so…aliens.
But we’re not just talking about photo ops and t-shirt stands. No. We have alien prostitutes here.
Fun Factoid #1: Nevada is the only state in the US where prostitution is legal (in state-approved brothels).
Fun Factoid #2: Amargosa Valley is home to the only alien-themed brothel on planet Earth: Area 51 Alien Travel Center.
I spotted this place while driving through, but it wasn’t until later on that I googled it and discovered what it was. I’m feeling a little creeped out just writing about it, so I’m going to just move on…
Beatty, Nevada – home of weird and expensive meat jerky
Not much to see in Beatty, Nevada, so we didn’t stop there while on the way up to Tonopah. On the way home, however, we would stop there for a bathroom break and to check out the many varieties of jerky advertised along the road. But what those hobbled-together, hand-painted signs don’t tell you is the price — $30 and up for 8 ounces! No thanks.
Goldfield, Nevada – home of more roadkill than you can shake a stick at
Another 45 minutes or so and we come to the quaint little town of Goldfield. Like so many of these other little towns in Nevada, Goldfield was a flourishing little mining town…at one point. But today, these buildings are OLD. Very rustic. Very falling-apart.
My dad would love it.
I wish we had taken more pictures. I would have stopped to look around, but we had to use the restroom, and this did NOT look like the place to stop to sit and use a public toilet, you know what I mean? We were determined to hold it in til Tonopah, which was only supposed to be another 30 minutes away, according to the big faded billboard for Tonopah Station Casino.
Turns out, that was a lie. It would take us more like an hour…
Anyway, as we left Goldfield, we kept noticing little dead animals smushed along the highway. Poor little cottontails.
Oh…there’s another. Poor thing.
And two more.
Okay, this is getting weird…
And three more…no four…no six…
Holy shit there are bunnies splattered all over the place!
At one point I counted over 50 roadkills in just one mile of highway. Good god, that’s a lot of blood and fur streaked along the road.
Man, I really have to pee…
The convoy from hell
After passing through Amargosa Valley, Beatty and Goldfield, we were approaching a long climb that would last for several miles along our final approach to Tonopah. Unfortunately, we had a huge train of vehicles up ahead of us, and we were all crawling along up that hill with just one lane in each direction.
And of course…we both really had to use the restroom. We had decided to skip Goldfield and opt for a newer, cleaner restroom in Tonopah, but now we were second-guessing that decision.
It kind of sucks when the speed limit is 70 mph yet you’re in a long line of cars and slow trucks going less than half that speed. Like every other driver ahead of and behind us, I was growing impatient, so I took the liberty of passing a truck whenever I could. Now, I don’t like pulling out into the oncoming lane of a highway where cars typically drive 80 mph in each direction, but I made exceptions that day.
It turned out that there was a military convoy out in front that was holding up everything. These guys were driving really slow. No biggie. Nothing personal.
But we have to pee!
We gradually leap-frogged our way toward the front of the convoy, when suddenly a pack of several cars directly ahead of me pulled out at once to pass. So I floored it and went with them.
We passed one Army truck.
My heart began to race a little, of course.
Then we passed another truck.
How many more can we pass before the next oncoming car comes along?
We passed another truck.
Heart really pounding now.
Keep in mind. I’m on a 2-lane highway, driving the wrong direction, and because there are several cars ahead of me who are also passing the convoy, I can’t see what’s up ahead. I have no idea if there’s a big-ass semi barreling down the highway directly toward us.
Passed another truck.
My wife isn’t breathing.
Neither am I.
How is this possible? I passed some trucks earlier on this trip, and I never had more than a few seconds to get back over before getting slammed by oncoming traffic. When is our luck going to run out?
Finally we get to the front of the convoy and I see the passing cars ahead of me jerking back over to the right lane.
We got oncoming traffic!
I get over and my wife and I breathe a sigh of relief.
We must have been in that oncoming lane for well over 60 seconds.
I don’t plan on ever doing that again.
Well, a few more miles ahead and we realize why there was no oncoming traffic for so long: road construction closing the entire highway down to one shared lane – for traffic in both directions — so you and the other 50 cars with you have to stop and wait for the 50 or so oncoming cars to pass, then you can have your turn.
It took us a long time, but we finally got past that construction and pulled into Tonopah.
Tonopah At Last!
After using the restroom, we ate pizza.
All you can eat pizza.
And soup (wifey loved the soup).
There might not be a whole lot going on in Tonopah, but at least they got a good pizza place. It’s not quite the best pizza ever, but it’s a whole level up from Pizza Hut, Dominos and Cici’s.
It took us almost three hours to reach Tonopah from our home in Las Vegas. Once there, we used the restroom and ate lunch, and we knew we weren’t coming back for awhile (at least until that construction project would be completed), so we decided to look around a little more before heading home.
Tonopah was like Goldfield, but bigger. And there were some slightly newer buildings there too. We ended up taking some pics outside the mining museum. Then another photo sitting next to some metal statues.
Did I mention it was over 100 degrees that day?
After touring Tonopah for about 10 minutes, we were tired and hot and we’d had enough. Back to Las Vegas.
Fun Factoid #3: Tonopah has one of four Tesla electric car charging stations that are located along US Highway 95 from Las Vegas to Reno, Nevada. They have stalls for like a dozen or so electric cars to charge at once. But there were no electric cars around when we were there. Also, there was one of these charging stations in Beatty too, but I didn’t notice it.
The Hills Have Eyes
That would have been the end of our little mini-road-trip-adventure Date Day, if it weren’t for what happened next.
So a couple hours after we left Tonopah – and after we had stopped in Beatty for a bathroom break and not a single bite of crazy-expensive-weird jerky, my wife mentioned that the gift shop in Beatty had these really cool post cards of people four-wheeling around on nearby sand dunes. Apparently, that sign that said “Big Dune –>” really did lead to some big sand dunes somewhere around there. So we kept our eyes open as we neared the area.
And sure enough, right out there in the middle of all these rocky mountains and flat desert was a huge sand dune. It stuck out like a sore thumb. I mean, how did we miss it on our way up? Big Dune covers about five square miles and the peak is about 500’ high. That’s a big pile of sand! And an even bigger mystery – how is it even there? There’s nothing like it within 200 miles. Where did it come from, why has it turned to sand while everything else around it for miles is rocky cliffs, and how has the rain and wind erosion not spread it out all over the damn desert by now?
Fun Factoid #4: I have no idea…
So, we watched for the road sign and were only slightly alarmed when we saw that it pointed to a dirt road that was still several miles from the dune way out there in the distance. But…we had our adventuring caps on, I guess, because off we went onto the dirt road!
Man, it was bumpy. I was a little nervous that our 2WD Hyundai might end up getting damaged or stuck in the boonies with no cell phone reception BUT THIS WAS DATE DAY, DAMMIT – so we pressed on.
About five miles in, we came to another dirt road that intersected ours. It looked more like a wide path than an actual dirt road, but the road we were on was still headed way off to the side, and we were wondering whether we were even on the right road at all. But this new dirt road was pointing straight toward the dune, so we made a sharp left and took the new road.
That didn’t last long.
The first road was bumpy, but this one was practically booby trapped. I could feel the tires losing traction and sliding in the sand as we drove, so I started to think this was a big mistake. But then we suddenly hit some large bumps and it felt like the tires might have left the ground for an instant. We both let out a loud, “GAAHH!!!” and I looked up into the rearview mirror just in time to see all of our stuff in the back of the car suspended in midair and flying around inside the car, bouncing off the ceiling and side windows.
I hit the brakes and we skidded to a stop.
All our stuff in the back stopped bouncing around and settled onto the floor or wherever.
We got out and I checked for damage: none that I could see. So we turned the car around, climbed halfway up onto the roof to get a good view and took a picture of the dune off in the distance.
Time to go home.
Every scene from “The Hills Have Eyes” movies was flashing through my mind as I nervously drove back down the dirt road toward the highway. I was SO GLAD when we got back onto that pavement and turned south toward Vegas. Another half hour or so and we were back in town.
So, that was our little Monday adventure. As far as “Date Days” go, I think it was one of our favorites so far.
I’m not sure what we’re going to do next week, though.
Probably just sleep and eat.
That sounds perfect.
Hey, So What About You?
- Have you ever just suddenly decided to drive 200 miles to go to lunch in a town you’ve never visited before?
- Have you ever taken a road trip or even a mini road trip?
- Where did you go?
- If you and a friend were to hop in the car this weekend for a mini road trip, where would you go? And who would that friend be?