May 20th, 2013

SMOF License

Back Roads to Oregon

We got away from Fernley at 8 AM, crossed under I-80, and headed north for Gerlach and the Surprise Valley. After leaving Nixon, we saw maybe a dozen vehicles going the other way and none going our way until we stopped briefly in Gerlach. There isn't even a stop sign until the intersection of Surprise Valley Road (Main Street) and CA-299 in Cedarville.

NV-447 runs from Wadsworth to Gerlach. This is the road to Burning Man, and I imagine this two-lane stretch of blacktop is a nightmare during the Burn, but for us it was long, mostly straight, fast, and surprisingly scenic. This is probably the best time of the year to be here, as it was neither too cold nor too hot, and brief desert spring was in bloom.

In Gerlach, the road changes to Washoe County 447 and heads over some mountains toward California. When it crosses the California border (with little fanfare), it becomes Surprise Valley Road. The next town is Eagleville, which as far as I could tell had no services at all. There was plenty of wildlife, including at one point a beaver that we saw slipping over the shoulder to a small stream or canal running along the road.

We stopped in Cedarville and I finally remembered I had the camera. I wish we'd taken some pictures back along the earlier stretches of road, because we won't be coming back this way on account of towing a trailer; the grades on US-395 are not as steep.

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After our stop in Cedarville, we turned left at the first stop sign since Wadsworth and headed over Cedar Pass through the Warner Mountains, joined up with US-395, and rejoined roads we've traveled before in Alturas. Here we bought sandwiches from Quiznos and Lisa took the wheel so I could have my lunch first, which was kind of her. We traded back at Canby, California, just before turning north on CA-139 and heading up a stretch we learned was known as "Howard's Gulch."

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We headed on up toward Oregon, playing tag with the railroad (a remnant of the ex-SP "Modoc Line." At one time (long before Lisa and I were born), you could ride a train from Fernley all the way to Portland via this route. At Tulelake, we saw equipment from the Modoc Northern Railroad, which attempted to operate the stub of the Modoc Line for a while, sitting abandoned in the small yard, and we stopped to take pictures.

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I took a lot of train photos, including some close-up details, and they're posted in a Flickr set. I don't know what the changes announced today about Flickr will mean. I am currently keeping my paid Pro account, but I don't know if that means you can still see the photos without advertising.

We got to the hotel in Klamath Falls about 5 PM, which means we'd gone about 300 miles in about 9 hours, which isn't that speedy, but we stopped quite a few times, and our budgeted travel time included wanting to stop a lot and try and enjoy the trip as much as we can, given that it's going to lead to a whole lot of stress in a few days.

After dinner, we went for a walk along the adjacent OC&E Trail. This trail is 100 miles long, but we only walked the first 1.5 miles, down past milepost 1 and the end of the paved trail to what implicitly should be milepost 0 but isn't signed; this meant we sort of got tangled up in the outskirts of Union Pacific's Klamath Falls Yard, and as we made our way out, we skirted around the remnants of the roundhouse and turntable; the former is gone except for the foundation, and the latter is disconnected and looks like it's being removed. This made for a good hour's total walk after dinner, which we needed after a day mostly sitting in the car.

I'm really glad we took this drive along the road less traveled. I was out of contact most of the day (there's no cell phone service from Gerlach to Cedarville, and not much most of the way from Wadsworth to Alturas). We got to see places we've never seen before, and we really enjoyed it.