You may recall an earlier post from today in which we assured our astute readers that we would NOT be jumping onto I-80 between Carlin and Wells, NV. To do so would obviously mean violating Nevada State Code which says: “A person shall not operate a motor vehicle at such a slow speed as to impede the normal and reasonable movement of traffic”. It would also violate a bond of trust between us and our readers.
So when we jumped on I-80 today between Carlin and Elko with a plan to avoid impeding the normal and reasonable flow of traffic, we were fairly confident no violations of trust or state code were occurring.
We would also like to make it known that we fully intended, and attempted, to proceed on the directions previously published, but after some hilariously harrowing ventures into the back country trails east of Carlin, prudence dictated we try a different plan of attack, and quickly since the sun was rapidly setting on us.
But before we get ahead of ourselves, we should probably go back to where today’s venture began, at Reese River Cabins, owned and operated by the incredibly wonderful Karl and Stacy Brooks. But before we can do that, we owe you an explanation as to how, exactly, we ended up at Reese River Cabins. That story begins in Gabbs, NV, a town in which we arrived late because we had flat tire in Hawthorne, NV, but that’s no longer important except to comment that the road between Hawthorne and Lee Vining, CA can be incredibly lonely and we were fortunate we noticed the low-pressure tire while refueling in Hawthorne.
Leaving Hawthorne later than intended, we headed east for Luning, NV and then turned north for Gabbs. But the climb out of Luning on Nevada route 361 left the cars hot and tired, requiring two rest stops on the way up to Calavada Summit (elevation 6,254′) near Mount Ferguson. While we were enjoying the views, we also kept one eye on the clock as our goal for the day was to sleep in Austin, NV.
Once over the summit, we headed down into Gabbs valley which consists of open ranges, expansive vistas and, there in the remote distance, the magnesium mine on the hill above Gabbs.
Upon arrival to Gabbs, which really sits to the side of route 361 and covers only 2.2 square miles, we made an impulsive decision to scare up the locals like two outlaws on horseback riding into town. Creeping into the silent town at about 10 mph, our ignition coils pleasantly chuffing like baby steam locomotives, we spotted a small market directly ahead and tied up outside. We all checked our watches again.
That’s when we met Ken.
Ken had saddled up to our horseless carriages like many others do, but he was outgoing and friendly and asked questions about our route ahead. Our plan was to head up and over Ione (Eye-Own) Summit between Bald Mountain and Buffalo Mountain on the Reese River Valley Scenic Drive, but Ken suggested the best way to Austin was straight up 361 (the road we drove in on) until it bumped into route 50, then head east to Austin.
We explained we really didn’t like traveling the wide-open roads and unless he thought it was a bad idea we preferred to try the Scenic Drive. However, we also admitted that we were concerned we wouldn’t make it Austin before sunset if we took that route.
Ken, who by now also had our attention on his pleasant-smelling cigar, said his brother lived along that route and even had cabins for rent. He’d be happy to put us in touch with him if we thought we’d want to stop there that evening. Although Austin was our goal, we immediately stopped watching the clock and started thinking about making one more stop at the Berlin-Ichthyosaur State Park, home of an old ghost town and the most abundant concentration and largest fossil remains of a marine reptile which swam in the ocean above Nevada 225 million years ago. Saying our thanks and goodbyes, off we went.
By the time we left the State Park the shadows were getting longer and we knew for certain our goal was to spend the night in some unknown cabins owned by the brother of a stranger who recommended them to us. Why not.
To find the cabins, we were instructed to pass Ione, also known as the “Town that refused to die”, continue past the Yomba Tribal Council, and a couple miles past that there would be sign on the right which said Reese River Cabins.
We had spoken with Karl Brooks, the owner of Reese River Cabins, back in Gabbs when his brother, Ken, called him for us to see about staying there. With darkness falling and our headlights on, while driving down a deserted, dusty road with sporadic cellular coverage, we found ourselves poking along looking for the sign. Then, as the last hues of sunlight were fading from the evening sky, we saw the headlights of an approaching car (probably only the third car we’d seen on that road all day). It was Karl and his dog Arthur, who had come out to find us and lead us back to the cabins which turned out to be only about a mile ahead. By the time we had both cars parked and shut down, Karl had our cabins ready and we joined him by the camp fire that had been built up earlier. There are seven cabins available for rent at Reese River Cabins, and if you ever find yourselves in the area, or are looking for place to just get away from it all, call Karl and Stacy.
Which brings us to today (Sunday).
Sunday morning we completed the last 20 miles of the Reese River Scenic Drive on our way to Austin, where we stopped for a late breakfast. We had driven close to 40 miles of dirt roads and people were starting to look at us funny.
After what seemed an eternity to get our food and pay the bill, we found ourselves once again watching the clock and thinking about where we were going to stay tonight. At issue was whether we took a longer route on paved roads, or a shorter route on dirt roads. We were trying to make up time from our unscheduled transmission repairs two days ago, so after talking it over with the locals about the condition of the dirt roads, we once again opted for the road less traveled. We knew we weren’t going to get to our planned stop of Wells, and we figured Carlin, NV was a good target. It was do-able even on the dirt roads and it would have lodging, so we headed east out of Austin on route 50, climbed up and over Austin Summit (el. 7484 ft) and took a left on Grass Valley Road. Ten miles later we were playing in the dirt again.
Which brings us to Carlin and the roads we’d planned on taking to Wells.
Since we arrived at Carlin with enough daylight to make some additional progress towards Wells, we noticed Elko lay right on our planned path and was only about 20 miles away. Again because we’d be avoiding the highway, we planned on taking the dirt roads. Pretty simple, just follow the roads which follow the highway. Except no one told us about the tunnel.
As it turns out, a tunnel can be, in some cases, accurately described as the absence of a mountain. And the Carlin tunnel is missing about 3/10ths of a mile of mountain. But the dirt roads surrounding the area aren’t missing the mountain and, in fact, to get where the tunnel ends, the dirt roads must go over the mountain in a very steep, but relatively short distance, or by going in a relatively not-so-steep but very long distance. And therein lay the problem. Unbeknownst to us, our planned route was of the former kind.
The first part of the non-highway route was pleasant enough, even paved, enticing us to complete the challenge:
But the dirt road turn-off was a little more rustic than we had been used to and before long we knew we needed another plan that would a) extract us from the current situation; b) get us to Elko before sundown; and c) allow us to continue on our own four wheels (i.e. not be carried on the back of truck).
It’s late, and we won’t bother you with the details but an extremely polite, professional and helpful Trooper of the Nevada State Police, Dan Schwedhelm, agreed to a proposal we had made and delivered us safely to the other side of the tunnel. So now we’re in Elko, thanks to the Nevada State Police and we’ll be headed out the door in the morning for more adventure.