Kevin Standlee (kevin_standlee) wrote,
Kevin Standlee

The Road from SMOFCon, Day 7: Tonopah to Fernley NV; Home at Last!

Today was the 16th and final day of our road trip to SMOFCon, a relatively short trip of just over 200 miles from Tonopah to Fernley via Fallon. This allowed us the luxury of sleeping in for a couple of hours, having a relatively leisurely breakfast in the hotel restaurant, and not rushing as we moved out of the Tonopah Station Hotel. As we were checking out, Lisa spotted a book entitled Discovering the Ghost Railroads of Central Nevada in the hotel gift shop, and we not only bought it, we also decided to try and visit some of the places listed in it on our way home.

Most of the spots listed in the book are actually south of Tonopah and will have to wait for another day, but there was one only a few miles north of Tonopah, located near the Miller's Rest Area on US-6/95 at which we've stopped most times we pass this way. Just north of the rest area is an unmarked dirt road that leads west for about a mile, where another road turns south along the the power lines. The abandoned railroad bed is visible as a low mound to your left as you drive this road a short distance and come upon the former Tonopah & Goldfield shops.

T&G Miller's Roundhouse
Without the book's directions you would never realize that there are the remnants of a roundhouse complex just off the highway. In the foreground are the concrete foundations of the complex, while in the distance, the trees mark the rest area about a mile distant on US-6/95.

T&G Miller's Roundhouse Stalls

The Tonopah & Goldfield Railroad ran through here until the railroad suspended operations here in 1910 and moved its shops to Goldfield.

T&G Miller's Roundhouse Service Bays

Lisa stands next to the footings of the large service pit that was located here. You can see where the rails were located. Steam locomotives were serviced in a building on this spot.

T&G Miller's Roundhouse Turntable

Considering that this turntable pit hasn't been in use for over one hundred years, it is in remarkably good condition. Weather action has not filled it in. We needed to take care in this entire area, as falling into the pit would have been inconvenient at the least. The whole area is full of concrete with small bits of rusty iron sticking out where the building's walls were located, so you have to watch your step.

I've geotagged these photos in case you are curious about where they are, and in case you might by some chance want to go visit Miller's Roundhouse someday, I've located it on Google Maps.

Heading back from the roundhouse site, we took the opportunity to use the rest area. Just as Lisa pulled in to the rest area, my phone rang. It was Diner's Club, asking me if I'd just used my credit card to purchase something at a Winn-Dixie store in Florida. "No!" I said, and confirmed that the most recent legitimate transaction was at Beatty yesterday afternoon. Diner's Club said they'd cancel the card and send me a new one, and that I wouldn't be responsible for that Florida charge. Thank goodness for a good suspicious-transaction algorithm. Fortunately, I have other cards I could use for the rest of the trip.

Continuing north on US-95, the next place we planned to explore was Tonopah Junction, where the T&G diverged from the Carson & Colorado route. (This is the current location of the US-95/NV-360 junction, the latter being the road we take when heading toward Bishop and on to Southern California.)

Tonopah Junction Wind Storm

We stopped at the junction and pulled off the road, then began to hike in to the site of the railroad junction, when the wind came up, blowing a dust storm down upon us. We retreated back to the minivan. Further exploration of this area will have to wait for another trip.

As we returned to our northbound journey, the weather grew steadily worse, as the forecast predicted. Rain started to fall as we passed through Hawthorne, and it got heavier as we passed through Walker Lake. Lisa then noticed that our oil pressure was down, and it was then that we remembered that we hadn't checked the oil level any time on this trip, and that I was quite overdue for an oil change. (In fact, I should have had the oil changed before we set out for Texas.) Stopping at Schurz, Lisa drove into the town's only service station, gaining us a slight bit of shelter from the whipping wind and rain, and we got out to check the oil. As I stood trying to shield Lisa from the wind while she checked the oil, my Jacaru hat (the "Aussie cowboy" hat some of you have seen me wearing, particularly in Fort Worth where I sort of fit in wearing it) blew off and took off in the general direction of Ely. I chased after it. For a while, I feared I'd never catch it, and if it had gone much farther it might have ended up in places where it would have been unsafe for me to follow, but fortunately the wind relented just long enough for me to catch it. In retrospect, I should have been wearing that hat I bought two days ago in Las Vegas, which also would have provided shelter from the rain but also had a chin strap.

When I got back to the van, Lisa confirmed that we were down at least one quart of oil. We bought a quart from the mini-market and felt lucky to be able to get the oil in at this point, because it was the only place between Walker Lake and Fallon where we could get it.

Dust Storm Near Fallon

Not too far after Schurz, the rain let off, but the wind continued to howl, blowing us all over the road, it seems. This part of Nevada is prone to high winds. US-95 is periodically closed between Fallon and Hawthorne to big-rigs, and I was actually surprised that they didn't close it today. As we approached Fallon, we spotted this huge dust cloud off to the east. Fortunately, it was downwind from us; had it blown across the highway, I expect we would have been in near-zero visibility.

After a stop in Fallon to check for something at the Big R there that they don't have at the store in Fernley, we turned for home, arriving about 3:30 PM, 1,763 miles from Fort Worth and 3,520 miles from when we set out for Texas sixteen days ago. Lisa ended up driving all but the first 100 of those miles home, and a substantial part of the trip out as well, which gave me a chance to do some sightseeing and take photos.

Weather-wise, we were pretty lucky. While it had been raining in Fernley earlier that day, it was clear (but cold) when we got home, and we were able to get the van unloaded without incident. Lisa got the house and travel trailer restarted, I shoveled the ashes from the fireplace, and as I started to kindle a fire in the fireplace, the predicted snow began to fall outside. Once the fire was burning well, I ordered a pizza and went to the grocery store to pick up some immediately needed supplies. I was impressed with Pizza Hut; within a minute of my walking in their door, they called my name to collect the pizza.

We enjoy traveling, but we are also very glad to be home.
Tags: lisa, nevada, trains, travel, weather

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