Tuesday, June 13, 2017

(21) JUMPING OFF DAY - June 12, 2017

Day 2, June 12, 2017:  Donner Lake to West Wendover, Nevada

Donner Lake, June 11, 2017
Donner Lake to Reno

It was a cold weekend at Donner Lake. Morning temperatures have been just above freezing, and it has been windy. It had even snowed overnight.
Even so, with so many memories here it is hard to leave, even temporarily. Leaving was at least made a bit easier by the crisp, cold morning.

Linda and I spent much of the weekend repacking and working to fit our gear into the Mustang. Linda is a master packer.

Linda, the Master Packer re packing our "spare car".

Donner Lake, June 12, 2017
Donner Lake was rough and stormy with white caps covering its usual glasslike early morning surface. It had snowed intermittently Sunday and overnight. The pioneer Monument provided a  dramatic back drop at the east end of the lake.

June 12, 2017

Farewell to Donner, Hello to the open road

From Donner we drove through downtown Truckee. Truckee was originally called Coburn Station, so named for the proprietor of the stage stop. It was later renamed for Chief Truckee, a Paiute Indian who Guided the Stevens Party out of the Humboldt Sink and

up the Truckee River Canyon to the Eastern wall of the Sierras. There is some question as to Whether Chief Truckee was a chief  and whether his name was in fact Truckee.

Victory Highway Eagle relocated to Downtown Truckee

Original location of Victory Highway Eagle at Stateline
Across from the Amtrak station in downtown Truckee, on the north side of the road is a bronze eagle. This eagle was originally located at the Nevada-California Stateline. In addition to the Lincoln Highway using the Truckee River Route, the road was also used as part of the Victory Highway. The Victory Highway was created in the early 1920s as a memorial to fallen World War I veterans and was yet another cross country highway. In the Sierras it shared the Truckee River Route and the road along Donner Lake with the Lincoln Highway. These bronze memorials were placed State Lines and county lines along the Victory Highway. We proceeded through Truckee and eventually joined Highway 80.

After crossing the Nevada State Line we passed the town Verdi. East of Verdi stopped at a "point of interest" at exit 4. Here two culvert rails were relocated from the Lincoln Highway. One rail spells "Lincoln" while the other rail spells "Highway". From here it was on to Reno. We entered Reno along Old Highway 40.

Lincoln Highway Bridge Rails
Near Verdi  Nevada

-Reno is so close to Hell, you can see Sparks!

An old railroader's joke was that "Reno is so close to hell you can see Sparks". This is a reference to Reno's once notorious reputation as a "sin city" and the rather dull reputation of its hard working neighbor to the east, Sparks, Nevada. Reno and Sparks were first known as Truckee Meadows. The relatively mild climate and the lush grass made the Truckee Meadows a good place to rest before tackling the eastern wall of the Sierra Nevada mountains.

European settlers first began to settle in the Truckee Meadows area in the 1850s. With the coming of the transcontinental railroad the area began to grow rapidly. Couple the railroad with the discovery of gold and silver in the Comstock and Reno and Sparks developed the foundations of an economy that remains relatively strong to this day. Of course, making a living is somewhat harder in the rain shadow of the Sierras than it would be in California. Reno had to innovate.

In 1931 the Nevada Legislature legalized gambling in Nevada. About the same time Nevada also relaxed its divorce laws. Reno and Lake Tahoe became the gambling center for Northern California. Nevada's divorce laws had relaxed the cause necessary for seeking divorce and also reduced the residency period for one to establish residency and then file for divorce.
Washoe County Courthouse, site of many
People, particularly women, came from all over the country to live in Nevada for the six weeks necessary to establish residency and then to file for divorce. Wealthy Eastern socialites seeking to escape their marital bonds needed some place to stay. This gave rise to the divorce ranches where women could relax and wait to establish residency and then proceed to the Washoe County Courthouse where they would obtain freedom. There is a legend that after obtaining a decree of divorce, that the women would then cast their wedding rings
from the nearby bridge into the Truckee River.

Wedding Ring Bridge

Reno's marriage industry was later in developing, but was longer-lasting. Wedding chapels in Reno, Las Vegas and Lake Tahoe took advantage of the fact that there was no three day  waiting period to get married. The reason there was no waiting. The rationale for waiting periods to get married had to do with the time necessary for the blood test for venereal disease and the wait for the results. In rural Nevada there simply were not the doctors or facilities available to process the blood tests. As a result Nevada dispensed with the three day wait. There are still a few wedding chapels in Reno. But their heyday has passed. Even the casinos and downtown Reno are not what they used to be. Nonetheless, Reno is still known as the "Biggest Little City in the World" and is transforming itself once again to a recreation hub and destination.

Worth seeing when in Reno is the new and the old
Under the old Reno Arch
Hot August Nights, August, 2010
 Reno Arches as well as the National Automobile Museum. The National Auto Museum is made up of the old  Harrah's Museum. It is a small fraction of the Harrah's collection, but I have to say that more thought is given to the displays. On display her is the Thomas Flyer, winner of the New York to Paris Race of 1908.

June 12, 2017

Proceeding east on fourth Street through Reno and into Sparks one can see some of the motels and other businesses that provided services and lodging to travelers on the Lincoln and Victory Highways and get a sense what Reno might've been like in its golden era.
One of many Classic Motels along 4th Street

For me, in a strange way, a trip to Reno signaled an end to summer. In August Mom would take us into Reno for back-to-school shopping. Some years we would also make a visit to Stead Air Force Base for shots and, if it was necessary, back to school physicals. Although these visits signaled the impending end to the carefree days of summer, a visit to Reno was still exciting.

Sparks grew up as a railroad service center and industrial center when E.H. Harriman modernized the Southern Pacific Railroad in the early 1900s and moved the repair and service facilities from Wadsworth, Nevada 30 miles west to Sparks. Harriman's modernization went beyond simply moving the repair facilities under his leadership. Southern Pacific also improved right-of-way and reduced grades and curves. This would have a benefit for the Lincoln Highway as some of those abandoned right of ways were used by the Lincoln Highway.

-The Great Basin
Railroad underpass at Fernley, Nevada

After passing through Sparks, we again joined Interstate 80 and drove east to Fernley. We gassed up in Fernley, and after passing under the railroad tracks we were on Highway 50. We are now in the heart of the Nevada desert, an area known as the Great Basin. Actually, we had been in the great basin since Donner Summit, it just took a bit for the Great Basin to reveal herself. The term "Great Basin" was given the region by John C. Fremont.

Most people understand that we have basically two watersheds in the United States. East of the Rockies water flows either to the Atlantic Ocean or to the Gulf of Mexico. West of the Rockies it flows to the Pacific Ocean. But in a sense, there is a third watershed. The water falling west of the Wasatch Mountains in Utah and East of the Sierra Nevada in California flows into the great basin. Once you cross Donner Summit the water flows east into Donner Lake. From Donner Lake it flows to the Truckee River. The Truckee River originates at Lake Tahoe and ends in Pyramid Lake east of Reno and Sparks. There the water simply evaporates if it is to escape the Great Basin.

The Great Basin is a geologically active area. The Earth's crust is spreading and the Great Basin is growing. As it spreads the crust thins and where there are faults mountains are thrust up. This creates an area of Basin and Range which made the Lincoln Highway across Nevada difficult to cross, but it is also the source of Nevada's great mineral wealth. The mountain ranges in Nevada are oriented from north to south and flying over the state appear as an army of caterpillars marching north.

The first town that we came to after Fernley was Fallon.
Overland Hotel, Fallon Nevada. A favorite for Henry Joy
We saw many more cars on Highway 50 than we anticipated, "The Loneliest Road", it seems is lonely no more. Snow continued to fall.

Austin, Nevada

As we approached Austin Nevada we detoured from Highway 50 in order to see Stokes Castle.

The castle was built in the 1890's by Mr. Stokes as a summer retreat. Unfortunately we arrived too late for the tour. The castle is now an unoccupied shell. The Stokes family only occupied it for a short period during the summer of 1897. The property was recently reacquired by a descendent of Mr. Stokes. Mr. Stokes modeled the castle after a tower he had seen in Italy. I don't think he built it here for the view.
Austin, Nevada

We entered Austin and considered camping here for the night, but we decided to go ahead and try our luck somewhere east of here and warmer. Austin presently has a population of less than two hundred souls but all whom we spoke with were welcoming and proud of their community.

After an indifferent lunch, it  was back on the road, and on to:


Eureka, Nevada

Eureka which is at 6481 feet elevation and  is also the county seat Eureka County. It is a gem of a little city and it is certainly worth stopping and taking the time to walk the city and to view some of its historic structures. Perhaps the crown jewel of the historic buildings is the Eureka Opera House. Not far behind the opera house for beauty is the Jackson House Hotel. Eureka is probably one of the best preserved mining towns in the West.

Eureka, Nevada, "The friendliest town on the loneliest road.

 The town was first settled in eighteen sixty-four. And while it's mines did produce gold and silver it was best known for the production of lead. At one point in its history it was known as the "Pittsburgh of the West" for its many smelters.

There are tunnels beneath the streets of Eureka. Like many western cities, legends abound concerning these tunnels. One legend has it that these tunnels are a product of the many miners, the relatively severe winters and the need to get beer from the two breweries which were located at either end of the city to the saloons and residents. Another legend says the were built by the Chinese. Eureka's  population is 610. That is down from more than ten thousand in eighteen seventy-eight.

Ely, Nevada

Traveling east from Eureka we next came to Pinto Summit, Pancake Summit, and Little Antelope Summit in relatively quick succession. These passes range in elevation from 6500 feet to over 7400 feet. After the last Summit we were approaching Ely and began to see evidence of the extensive copper mining activity. There were huge mountains of tailings and other evidence of the activity. We did not get off the road to view the large open pit mine.
Ely, Nevada is the largest city in eastern Nevada.                                                                                
                                                                                    Pat Nixon was born in Ely.
Ely's Hotel Nevada at six stories was the tallest structure in the state until the 1940s.

Ely to West Wendover

After our quick sightseeing we proceeded from Ely North on Highway 93 through McGill and then North towards Wendover.

Originally, we had planned to make camp at either Austin, Eureka or Ely, but the unseasonably cold weather altered or plans. The overnight low would be in the 30's in the first 3 cities, in West Wendover, a low of 51 was forecast.

North of Ely we came to the junction at Schellebourne, Nevada where the original Lincoln Highway headed east then northeast towards Ibapah, Utah. As much as I might have liked to take that road, it would be foolish to do it on this trip. I will wait until we can drive it in a car which is four-wheel-drive. We continued driving north and in one sense we were no longer on the Lincoln Highway and would not be again until reaching West Wendover, Nevada. It seems that a dispute left a gap in the Lincoln Highway at this point from

After a Long day we made camp at the KOA in West Wendover, Nevada.

A place to camp

1 comment:

  1. Johnny called. He is having trouble finding your blog "A Ford on the Rincoln". He also says, "rots a ruck" on your trip.