Tuesday, February 24, 2009

Completing the Circle

23 days ago, we left Las Vegas and drove north on I-15 to Lehi, Utah. Then, a week later, we continued north to Salt Lake City and turned West on I-80 to get to Reno, NV.
Now, 2 weeks later, we loaded Melody Yellowvan and Trailer and headed south on highway 95, coming back full circle to Las Vegas.

Nathanael woke me at 10:00 for his usual feeding, and I was so excited to get home that I didn't go back to sleep, despite the fact that I was up a lot of the night worrying about the baby (he has RSV and, at 6 weeks old, really doesn't cough effectively, and sometimes vomits instead and once coughed while he was vomiting so that milk came out his nose and I'm pretty sure he aspirated some of it--so I was worried about him).

We left Reno Regency Apartment #1020 (Their name for it. I'd call it a tiny hotel room) by 12:30 and were on our way. I had never traveled that road before, so I was excited to take the long drive. I love wandering the highways and byways with Tim, and this was a great drive.

US 95 is not a freeway. It is a highway that goes through half a dozen small towns and a whole lot of desert.

Still, it was a fun drive. Not too far into it, we drove into a small valley and noticed immediately that a fighter jet was doing tricks in the sky right ahead of us, turning on its side, diving until it almost hit the ground and then pulling up, and zooming over the road close enough that the sound waves from the jet engines shook the van. I have never seen anything so cool before. We passed a couple of other cars that had stopped to watch. It was that neat.

Then we found a lovely lake called Walker Lake, with some pretty dramatic mountains around it. That was neat. It was a pretty enough area, despite the desert, that when we had to stop for construction, I didn't mind.

Just after Walker Lake, we found a sign that said, "US Naval Airbase." Right there in the middle of the desert, with no ocean nearby, which struck us both as funny. I guess it's pretty well hidden, for the navy!

Anyway, just past that, we noticed what looked like bunkers, but there wasn't any military place on the map. Then we started seeing "Danger. DO not enter" and "Property US Army" signs all over the place. Then we drove into Hawthorne, which has signs like, "Trucks carrying live munitions not allowed in town" and is decorated with pieces of bombs. I kid you not. Turns out there is an army munitions plant there. The entire valley is filled with heaps of dirt bounded by cement walls. Doors lead into hillsides. Train tracks run through the valley, stopping beside buildings surrounded by heaps of earth with doors in them. The whole place reminded me somehow of an explosive beehive on a grand scale, and I couldn't help but wonder if all those heaps of earth and concrete walls were connected underground. The place just begged for stories to be told about it.

My personal favorite part of the absolutely deserty town of Hawthorne was the big sign that read, "US Naval undersea research facility". Right there in the middle of the desert, hundreds of miles from the sea. I would have stopped for a picture, but I kind of thought the pair of guards on the road checking the cars coming near the sign wouldn't take kindly to that.

The rest of the drive was more desert (including huge spaces that were sandy desert--like sand dunes laid flat. I'd never seen real desert like that before!), really impressive rocky desert mountains, and awesome half-ghosted mining towns, complete with log cabins that were still standing and impressive but empty hotels that were clearly built at the turn of the last century. And mines, of course. One town, Tonopah, looked like it had an observatory on the hill as we approached, and when we got into town, Tim discovered it claims it's been voted the best stargazing city in the nation (or something like that). That far from anything, up on a hill surrounded by empty desert valleys and clear skies, I could see how that could be true. We decided it would be fun to return there sometime and go on the mine tours and sleep out and watch the stars. I seriously wanted to explore the half-ghosted towns, and wander a few spots in the desert I saw that had the telltale copses of cottonwoods that usually surround old homesites and line old roads.

It was a fun drive. My favorite part is talking to Tim. We do lots of talking on long drives, and nobody seems to mind that we never have a working radio or cd player in any of our cars.

And, for the first time maybe ever, we arrived at our destination early enough in the evening to have some time at home before going to bed!

The baby did really well on the drive, but has been fussing in his sleep since then. Dan wandered the house when we got home, making sure his bed was still there, etc. All the kids were delighted to find the masses of toys available to them, and Benji has been gorging himself on kid videos.

And boy am I glad to be home!