Crossing the Great Basin Desert: Spring Break Part 1

dangerous weeds

The last vacation we had was in 2008. We never have the money. In spite of being laid off two weeks ago we decided to take off on a road trip to visit our friends J and E in Salt Lake City during spring break in a spur-of-the-moment decision. To get to Utah from California you have to cross 400 miles of Nevada on the I 80E highway.

400 miles

It looks pretty much like this for all 400 miles. Considering how big the United States is, 400 hundred miles might not seem like much, but believe me – it’s a punishing drive. I’ve been through part of the Mojave desert in California and Nevada and thought that was a thirsty god-forsaken stretch of land but it’s nothing compared to this endless empty stretch of country.

hard living flower

This hearty wildflower/weed was the brightest thing in that desert not including the sun beating down through God’s giant toy magnifying glass of a sky. Did I say God? If I believed in God I would feel abandoned in this landscape.

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I couldn’t quite shake the fear that our clunker of a car would break down somewhere between Fernly and Winnemucca. Too bad if you’re bleeding out from a car wreck, expect to die. Emergency services are all very far away. I admit that I packed food and water as though I expected to get stuck on I 80.

picnic for desperados

This is how I imagine al fresco dining in prison yards to be. I will say that most of the rest stops had decently clean and equipped bathrooms. I can’t say the same for the rest stops on I 5 through California and Oregon. But at this stop I couldn’t bring myself to use them. Truly, I worried I might get murdered in it.

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By the time we made our way to Winnemucca, the only decent habitation along the entire length of that Nevada Highway, it had become our favorite game to come up with epic insults about Nevada to vent our feelings.

Great Basin Desert

Max’s final assessment of Nevada:

NEVADA = SYPHILITIC BAG OF DICKS

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But our insults must be tempered with the fact that I know quite a few very cool people who come from Nevada. Please forgive our violent feelings!

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One of the great things about trips like this is to see with our own eyes the wildly different landscapes that are part of our country. We looked up information on The Great Basin Desert as we drove through it and learned some things about it. My son will never forget Nevada now. He’ll never take trees or water for granted.

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After 400 miles of brown desert, casinos lodged in every available crevice of habitation, and the endless parade of tiny townships that were no more than a handful of dilapidated trailer homes with a broken down barn or store, the salt flats just inside the Utah border were delightfully refreshing. We got there at dusk just in time to see the pink sky reflected in the pale expanse of salt crust.

2 comments

  1. pam says:

    I’ve come to really enjoy that drive. I’ve done it with Elizabeth twice and then by myself once. And Im doing it again later this year when I visit my friend in Alpine UT. The desert is weird, and I had to tamp down those horrible Criminal Minds scenarios when stopping at a rest stop. But the landscape is interesting, and holy cow you celebrate those changes like HILLS and the tunnel, I love the tunnel. And the prison, can you imagine how horrible it must be to be incarcerated in the NV desert? Did you see the little stone art work along the side of the rode? Little monuments , flowery designs, and little romantic groupings. Very cool. And what did you think of the weird tree sculpture. Pretty random right? Anyway, it was fun following along with you!

  2. angelina says:

    On our way back through Max said “I don’t mind it as much this time”. I really hate deserts but the whole time you and Elizabeth and my friend Jennie were commenting on that drive I thought it would be so cool to take that trip with all of you, respectively.

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