Kevin Standlee (kevin_standlee) wrote,
Kevin Standlee

Winter Road Trip Day 16: North Las Vegas to Tonopah NV (via the Extraterrestrial Highway)

Today's journey was ambitious, especially during the third week of a road trip, but I've never been over the Extraterrestrial Highway (NV-375), and the weather was good, so we decided to take the Road Much Less Traveled. We'd booked our hotel last night up at the north side of Las Vegas to give us a slight head start. It's wise to start such long trips with a full tank of gas, so we hit the Pilot truck stop near the hotel and left Las Vegas.

Little A'Le'Inn

Jumping ahead several hours, this was where we were heading: the Little A'Le'Inn in Rachel, Nevada. We would have lunch here, but first we had a lot of road to cover.

It's surprising to me just how abruptly Las Vegas ends. Mind you, I didn't particularly miss it. While apparently some people don't think any place with fewer than a million people sprawling in it is real, I'm not especially fond of Las Vegas.

Leaving Las Vegas

Very soon after leaving the North Las Vegas/Nellis area, the land got very desolate again.

US-93 to Ely

Before long, US-93, which was multiplexed with I-15 at this point, diverged from the freeway. Oversize loads bound for Salt Lake City are required to use US-93.

Last Look at the Train

As we exited the freeway, we got a last glimpse of Union Pacific's "Los Angeles & Salt Lake" line, which itself swings away from I-15 northeast of here to find a better grade to Utah.


US-93 traverses some all-but-empty land.



There's a lot of interesting geography here, although someone seems to have turned down the color in this area compared to New Mexico.

I was surprised to find that we had pretty good 4G cell phone coverage during most of this part of the trip, although the phone was working hard to keep connected, and would lose the connection now and then. And then we were pleasantly surprised to stumble across something we'd not noticed, like an oasis in the Nevada desert.

Pahranagat NWF

The Pahranagat National Wildlife Refuge is near Alamo, Nevada. We turned off looking for restrooms (a non-existent feature from North Las Vegas until here), and while this refuge does have them (very nice clean ones, too), there's a lot more.

Pahranagat NWF

We later learned that we were the first visitors of the day. They're open Thursday through Sunday.

Pahranagat NWF

Kuma Bear liked the wildlife displays.

Pahranagat NWF

They have different lizards here than the ones we have around our home in Fernley.

Pahranagat NWF

There are trails and picnic facilities here as well.

Lisa and I chatted with the nice volunteers staffing the center. We could have spent even more time here than we did, but we still had a long way to go today.

Upper Pahranagat Lake

Just north of the visitor center is a lake with both tent camping and trailer camping available. I think if one went during times when the weather was like the way it was today (spectacular and pleasant), it would well repay further study. If camping out or RV'ing wasn't in the cards, Alamo, just north of the refuge, has a couple of small motels and a small resort property.

Soon enough, we found ourselves at the south end of the Extraterrestrial Highway, Nevada state route 375. Note that except around Rachel and for the first few kilometers of the south end of the road, cell phone coverage is all but nonexistant. After sending off a few final tweets, I put the phone into airline mode to keep it from working so hard to try and connect to towers that weren't there. The phone cooled off considerably and recovered its charge — even though I kept it plugged in to the car charger most of the time today, whenever it was online, it lost ground on the battery.

This Way to Tonopah

NV-375 diverges from US-93 north of Alamo.

Alien Jerky

Just before the junction, you can stock up on Alien Jerky.

Extraterrestrial Highway

We stopped for a minute at the sign at the south end of the road. I don't know if there was supposed to be one at the north end as well, but if there was, we didn't see it.

Extraterrestrial Highway

Based on other pictures I've seen, they've recently cleaned up or even replaced this sign. I anticipate using this shot on the Tonopah Westercon web site in the future.

Alien Research Center

We did not have time to explore this one.

Alien Research Center

NV-375 does in fact skirt the edge of the federal reservation that includes Groom Lake, popularly known as "Area 51," but this is not an official government sign.

ET Highway

ET Highway

Much of the drive was like this, with the road going up and down over ranges and then arrow-straight across basins.

ET Highway

One of those basins includes the small town of Rachel.

Rachel, Nevada

We learned from our stop here that the town name is pronounced RAY-shell, not rah-SHELL. It was roughly the two-third point of today's trip, and it was time for lunch.

Little A'Le'Inn

We were happy to make the stop.

Little A'Le'Inn

Parking was not a problem. (Although we understand it was a mess during the absurd "Storm Area 51" gathering earlier this year. I'm glad we weren't here around that time.)

Little A'Le'Inn

We were welcomed inside, but I took a look around first.

Little A'Le'Inn

Little A'Le'Inn

This place is a hoot. As always, click through to see more pictures.

Little A'Le'Inn

The bar in the restaurant is festooned with currency donated and signed by past guests.

Little A'Le'Inn Menu

Little A'Le'Inn Menu

We had the Alien Burger, of course.

Lisa was tickled to see pictures of Bob Lazar on the walls here. She knew him back in her Los Alamos days and once towed his jet-powered Honda to a car show in Albuquerque as a favor for him.

Along the ET Highway

Leaving Rachel, the land quickly turned back to desolation.

Along the ET Highway

More up-and-down driving familiar to people traversing the Basin and Range Country.

Along the ET Highway

Signs warn that this is an open cattle range, and they mean it. As running into a cow at speed would be a Bad Thing, we kept a sharp eye out for cattle, and when they were close to the road, like this, Lisa slowed down to give herself time to react should any of them decide to try running in front of us. Fortunately, none of them did.

Day-Night Driving

One of the roads that branched off NV-375 had separate speed limits for daytime and nighttime travel. Lisa did not need that to tell her to slow down at night.

Along the ET Highway

While the setting sun made for some intriguing photos, it was also rather worrying, as we didn't want to be driving after dark on roads with wandering cattle on them.

ET Highway North End

As the light continued to fade, we reached the north end and the junction of US-6. Light conditions were not good, as the early twilight was in some ways worse than full dark. We still had quite a ways to go and (I think) three more ranges to cross. Soon enough it got dark enough that I could take no more photos.

We made it to the Mizpah just before dark.

Belvada Hotel

The work on the Belvada Hotel (diagonally across the street from the Mizpah, and once it opens the closest hotel to the Tonopah Convention Center) continues. The opening date has slipped somewhat, but they've got the exterior building lighting working since our last visit.

After getting moved in, we went to the Mizpah's Pittman Cafe restaurant for dinner.

Bears Love Fish

At Kuma Bear's behest, Lisa had the Dover Sole, substituting fries for rice because she doesn't like rice as much as I do. I had a bite myself: it was very good. There were many things on the menu I wanted, but I had their western burger with garlic fries and resisted the temptation to have the pumpkin cheesecake because my blood sugar was testing high, thanks to days of sitting in the car and getting no exercise.

Because of the big meal, Lisa and I elected to walk up and down Main Street for a while before turning in. Lisa took a bath and I tackled a Day Jobbe task that has been bedeveling me for days, answered a request from CoNZealand regarding video Lisa shot for them during Loscon, and (mostly) classified all of these photos.

We'll be here two nights, and tomorrow is the last half-day of work I do before returning to full time next week. I'm really looking forward to getting some extra sleep on Saturday morning. While I am grateful to my manager for allowing me to stretch my days off the way I have done during the past two weeks, it's still wearing me down, and I feel like I could sleep for a week.
Tags: extraterrestrial highway, kuma bear, nevada, tonopah

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