Around the World... One Journey at a Time. Around the World... One Journey at a Time.

Across the U.S.: Day 2

by Kathy 12. June 2009 08:17

<< Day 1: California to Nevada Beach | Day 3: Hickison Petroglyphs to Great Basin National Park >>


Nevada Beach to the Hickison Petroglyphs


We all slept soundly. The RV has great spatial separation, with a “room” and queen size bed in the back for Ben and I. Genevieve sleeps in the pull-out sofabed up front, and Sebastian bunks in the loft area above the driver’s seat.

I heard the children’s voices a little after six, and they played quietly until Ben and I finally dragged ourselves from our cozy bed at 7:00. After breakfast, the kids watched their first “Bill Nye, the Science Guy” episodes on DVD, while we got things ready for the day. I had purchased a bunch of Bill Nye’s shows to bring along on our trip. The children giggled hysterically while learning all about “Planets” and “Gravity.” What more could a parent ask for—a children’s program that is both educational and highly entertaining.

Yesterday, we had spotted a wide bicycle path heading north along Lake Tahoe, so we thought we’d follow it this morning. We could see the mountains across the lake more clearly today, and it looked like their peaks may have gathered a bit more snow from yesterday’s light rains.

The bike path led us a few hundred feet to a big parking lot. Dead end. So we turned around to see what else we could find. The bike path was so wide, we thought for sure that it must lead “somewhere”. It led to another big parking lot, less than ¼ of a mile away. Perplexing. We backtracked and took another route, heading toward the main road.

There were signs indicating that the forestry service was doing some work, cutting down trees along the bike path. Some of the trees had pink ribbons or were marked with blue paint:

Before we reached the main road, we came to ribbons stretched across the path to block our way.

We decided to make another loop around our campground area. We could see our RV from the path, in its cozy nest of pine trees:

There was a gnarley looking machine that we had seen yesterday in the woods, and we could hear its grinding noise in the distance. I wanted to get a closer look. The machine was busy pulling small trees out by their roots and stripping the branches off.

The “claw”:

We could hear the crunching and ripping sounds as the machine tore the tree’s roots from the earth. Here the tree has been turned sideways, and the limbs are being shorn off.

It was fascinating to watch, but a bit freaky too. With its grasping claw and big saw, it exuded a touch of evil—just enough to mix in some fear along with the awe in my chest.

A nearby sign informed us that the U.S. Forestry Service was cutting down the diseased trees, as well as thinning out trees that were too close together. We learned that the forest here used to be spacious enough to gallop horses through, due to the natural forest fires that kept undergrowth to a minimum. Then, with the discovery of silver in 1859 in Virginia City, the trees became “green gold”, as people chopped them down for mine shaft supports, homes and other buildings. The forest along the lake was essentially obliterated. When the trees started growing in again, the people who lived here would suppress all of the natural fires, and the undergrowth was allowed to spread; many trees grew close together. Over the past decade, the forestry service has started a management program that is intended to bring the forest back to its original, spacious, healthy state.

Near the sign was a small ground squirrel munching on a nut—Genevieve watched in wonderment.

We drove north along the east side of Lake Tahoe, catching sporadic views of the blue water through the trees.

Cave Rock tunnel was short but impressive:

The mountains around us were covered in tall trees:

Our first stop today was Carson City, the capital of Nevada. We crested the last mountain pass and could see a large flat valley stretched out before us:

As we approached the city, the pines disappeared, and we were surrounded by the high desert—with scrub bushes and an occasional low tree.

We stopped at the Nevada Railroad Museum.

The friendly man at the ticket counter explained that it was self-guided. The exhibits had detailed explanations, and we enjoyed walking through and looking at all of the different train engines and cars.

Ben, Genevieve and Sebastian in front of Virginia & Truckee Railroad’s locomotive #22, named “Inyo”.

Inyo was built in 1875, and the name is a Native American word that means “dwelling place of a great spirit.” After many years of service pulling passenger and freight cars, Inyo was eventually purchased by Paramount Pictures and used in many movies and TV shows, including the 1965 TV series “Wild, Wild West.”

Sebastian and Genevieve liked “Whistlin’ Billy”:

A lot of loving care had gone into the restoration of these trains; they were in beautiful condition:

We wandered through the museum, reading all of the interesting bits of history about the building of the railroad.

In the back of the museum were some miniature trains:

Sebastian said that his favorite part was when Ben held him up to peek into the windows of the passenger cars.

We visited the large warehouse building behind the main part of the museum, where we saw additional trains as well as this railway pedal car:

We also met a wonderful volunteer named Shig.

He was a retired physician who loved trains; he had ridden the Zephyr train from Colorado to Chicago when he started medical school inthe 1950's. He had also traveled on a cross-country trip with his wife in 2007, so we spoke about some of his favorite places along the way.

Genevieve and Sebastian had fun playing in the area outside the museum:

After lunch in the RV, we continued through downtown Carson City. Carson City is the capital of Nevada, and two of the government buildings had roof domes that were silver colored (instead of the traditional gold) to reflect the historical importance of silver mining to the state of Nevada. I couldn’t get a good shot of the domes, but here are the buildings:

Here is the Nevada Commission on Tourism:

We stopped to visit the Nevada State Museum, which was surprisingly fabulous! The museum was housed in the old U.S. mint, with two large modern wings.

Outside was a small monument to the Pony Express, showing the route from St. Joseph, Missouri to Sacramento, California:

The Nevada State Museum contained an incredible array of exhibits covering the wildlife in Nevada, geology, silver mining, Chinese Americans, Native Americans, coin minting, and a recreated ghost town.

Here is Ben in front of the mint press:

From 1870 to 1893, the U.S. Mint in Carson City produced almost $50,000,000 in coins.

The museum had a large, underground replica of a mine, with several tunnels and many displays. This was an excellent exhibit and was thoroughly appreciated by all of us. The tunnels were dark, and it took Sebastian a few attempts before he mustered enough bravery to go into the mine. But after that, he and Genevieve kept asking to go through and explore on their own “one more time.”

Here I am at the entrance to the mine:

Sebastian and Genevieve in the mine:

This is not a very good photo of the world’s largest Lahontan Cutthroat trout; however, it shows the second row of teeth that this type of fish has on its tongue (the children and I were fascinated with this):

Here are additional photos from the museum:

All of us enjoyed this museum immensely, and I highly recommend it.

We then headed west across Nevada along Highway 50, dubbed “the loneliest road in America” by Life magazine in 1986. The label was intended to be derogatory to reflect the utter desolation and lack of any human services (gas, food, lodging) for miles and miles. The Nevada tourism board snatched the label up, however, and has been flaunting it as a marketing slogan ever since.

After leaving Carson City, the highway eventually narrowed from 4 lanes down to 2, and we left behind the many new subdivisions of tract homes. Ben turned to me and said, “Is this where it gets ‘lonely’?” I replied, “No, it starts near Fallon. Are you feeling lonely over there?” He smiled, “Not with you by my side.”

The sagebrush was abundant:

There was a newly constructed house for sale:

There were also some very old houses:

I spotted a single track trail running parallel to the road, with a short wooden posts and red marker every hundred feet or so. As a dirt biker, I am always on the lookout for thin lines denoting trails in the mountains and on the terrain that we pass. I was thinking that perhaps this was might be a trail that ran next to the highway for off-road motorcycles. But as the miles passed, I thought that a dirt biker would have to be crazy to want to ride for long distances along this straight road. Then I remembered that Highway 50 tracks the old Pony Express, and that the ride is actually recreated annually as a major event. I surmised that perhaps the wooden posts marked the Pony Express route. Ben and I mulled this over for a few more miles, and then we thought that we would just satisfy our curiosity by stopping to read the small writing on the red markers. This is what we found:

What a laugh we had! (We decided that we liked our fantasy about the trail markers more than the reality of a buried fiber optic cable.)

Amidst the dry landscape was Lake Lahontan, a reservoir formed by the Lahontan Dam on the Carson River.

After passing through miles of desert plants, we encountered the green agricultural fields around the town of Fallon:

After Fallon, the colors of the landscape became more muted:

We passed a total of seven bicyclists on the “loneliest road”, including these three:

The creamy expanse of Sand Mountain rose from the desert floor, and we could see tiny ant-like quads climbing the giant dune.

The rain threatened on and off, with dark clouds constantly either overhead or on the horizon. As we approached Frenchman Flat, which is a dry lake bed used by the U.S. Navy for low level flight operations, I saw a white expanse of what I thought was a salt flat. It turned out to be a small lake of water from the recent rain!

Middlegate Station is a former Pony Express stop, and it has a bar, restaurant and hotel. It is a popular overnight stop for bicyclists riding across Nevada; however, it did not beckon to us:

The hills often had large jagged rocks poking through the surface:

We came around a curve to find a bizarre looking tree by the side of the road. We had to stop and take a closer look.

We had found the “Shoe Tree”—a large tree draped with hundreds, if not thousands, of shoes.

The exact year that the tree starting bearing “shoe fruit” is estimated to be in the early 1990’s. The “legend” is that a newlywed couple was driving from Colorado to California. They began to argue as they crossed Nevada, and things became so heated that the husband pulled over and left his wife at the base of a big cottonwood tree to cool off. He then drove to Middlegate Station and had a beer. He then returned to the tree and found that his wife was still furious; he responded by grabbing a pair of her shoes and throwing them into the tree. Then he drove back to the bar for another drink. The bartender convinced him to go back and get his wife. He returned to the tree, and the couple reconciled. However, the husband could not retrieve the wife’s shoes from the tree, so the shoes were left behind dangling from a tree branch. Other people noticed the shoes and began throwing their own shoes up into the tree, and the tradition continues to this day.

We didn’t add any shoes, but we took lots of photos. Here are some more:

Someone had added a “Shoe Tree” sign, which was lying on the ground:

Genevieve and Sebastian explored the shoes underneath, searching for the most interesting pair.


Genevieve, who was not going to touch any of the shoes:

Some of the shoes had signatures on them. The black shoes below were signed “Elder Ortiz, Maryland”.

After we had had our fill of marveling at the tree, we headed onward into a downpour of rain. The surrounding grey mountains had wisps of low-lying clouds:

The recent rains had caused the sagebrush along the side of the road to be a beautiful bright green, which I had never seen before in the desert:

As we reached each mountain pass and descended into the next valley, we could see the road stretching into the distance:

One would think that we would wearily be singing “The bear went over the mountain,” but I never got tired of the scenery:

A huge, dark mountain range loomed in the distance—part of the Humboldt Toiyable National Forest. The highest peak was snow-covered Arc Dome, at 11,773 feet.

We spied Stokes Castle on the outskirts of Austin, which is one of the three small towns along the 409 miles of “lonely” highway:

A mine developer, Anson Phelps Stokes, completed this granite castle tower in the summer of 1897, using a family painting of Italy as an architectural model. His family only lived in the castle for a year, then sold their mine and the castle and never returned. The castle fell into neglect and was eventually purchased by one of Anson’s cousins, Molly Magee Knudsen. Molly moved from New York and became a well-known ranch owner in Austin. In 2003, the Stokes castle was placed on the National Register of Historic Places.

Entering Austin:

There was a pretty brick church on the hill:

The rain fell steadily as we left Austin. The mountains around us were green with a yellow tinge:

That yellow was created by the vast scattering of these pretty flowers:

The peaks of the hills around us did not have the abundance of vegetation found around their bases:

These rustic buildings appear to have been abandoned (although sometimes homes look empty at first glance, and then I will notice a thin wisp of smoke coming from a chimney):

Twenty miles east of Austin was our stopping point for the night, the Hickison Petroglyphs.

We arrived later than anticipated, and our hike to view the ancient petroglyphs would have to wait until tomorrow morning. We found a free campsite and settled in for the evening, cooking dinner inside out of the rain.

<< Day 1: California to Nevada Beach | Day 3: Hickison Petroglyphs to Great Basin National Park >>

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Comments (2) -

4/27/2011 9:00:28 PM #

Mikayla Lusi

Hi this is Mikayla Lusi. I am a Jr. at Shenandoah High School. This school is all project based and I am doing a project on the show tree where I have created a blog, Facebook page, a Facebook like page, and a short film with pictures of the before and the aftermath of the shoe tree. I would also like to make a small book of the stories/experiences that people have about the shoe tree. I would like to ask you if it is not to much, I would like to put you experiences in my short book. If it is to much to ask then I am sorry and thank you for your time.

Mikayla Lusi United States | Reply

5/4/2011 8:54:40 AM #


Hi Mikayla,
I just sent you a personal email in response.  Please let me know if you have any additional questions!

Kathy United States | Reply

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Map of Our Journeys

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Our travel map

Places We’ve Been, w/Quick Links

   Bumthang Valley
   Gom Kora
   Paro Valley
   Punakha Dzong
   Sangdrup Jongkhar
   Wangdi Phrodrang

   Janko Marca
   La Paz
   Laguna Colorada
   Laguna Verde
   Salar de Coipasa
   Salar de Uyuni
   San Pablo
   Santa Rosa
   Sud Lipez
   World’s Most Dangerous Road

   Banff National Park
   Battle Hill Nat'l Hist. Site
   Boya Lake Prov. Park, BC
   Burns Lake Bike Park
   Canyon Sainte-Anne
   Dawson Creek
   Eastern Townships
   Fort Nelson
   Jasper National Park
   Kluane Lake, YK
   'Ksan Historical Village
   Lake Louise
   Liard Hot Springs
   Niagara Falls
   Quebec City
   Thousand Islands
   Vancouver Island
   Watson Lake

   Forbidden City
   Great Wall at Mutianyu
   Hong Kong
   Summer Palace
   Terracotta Warriors
   Tiananmen Square
   Yungang Caves

Costa Rica
   Arenal Volcano
   Finca Corsicana
   Hanging Bridges
   Manuel Antonio
   Poas Volcano
   Proyecto Asis
   Sky Trek Zip Lining
   Venado Caves


   Amazon Rainforest
   Chaquiñan Bicycle Trail
   La Mitad del Mundo
   Napo Wildlife Center
   Papallacta Hot Springs
   Proyecto DCR
   Yasuní National Park


   Baja California
   Frida Kahlo Museum
   Hierve el Agua
   Marietas Islands
   Mexico City
   Monte Alban
   Oaxaca City
   Puerto Angel
   Puerto Escondido
   Puerto Vallarta
   San Agustin
   San Martin Tilcajete
   Santa Fe de la Laguna
   Santa María el Tule
   Studio of Jacobo Angeles
   Teotitlán del Valle

   Dead Vlei
   Elondo Village
   Etosha Nat'l Park
   Hippo Pools Camp
   Hoba Meteorite
   Khowarib Camp
   Moose McGregor's Bakery
   Mowani Camp
   Ngepi Camp
   Nkasa Lupala
   n'Kwzi Camp
   River Dance Lodge
   Seisriem Camp
   Treesleeper Camp

   Cañón del Pato
   Cerro de Pasco
   La Oroya
   Machu Picchu
   Nuevo Jaén
   Tingo Maria
   Yungay Memorial


South Africa

   Rock of Gibraltar
   Santillana del Mar

United States National Parks
   Arches National Park, UT
   Badlands National Park, SD
   Bandelier National Monument, NM
   Bryce Canyon National Park, UT
   Cahokia Mounds (UNESCO site), IL
   Carlsbad Caverns National Park, NM
   Canyon de Chelly Nat'l Monument, AZ
   Cape Hatteras National Shoreline, NC
   Capitol Reef National Park, UT
   Civil Rights Memorial, AL
   Death Valley National Park, CA
   Denali National Park, AK
   Devil’s Tower National Monument, WY
   El Morro National Monument, NM
   Ford’s Theater in Washington, D.C.
   Glacier National Park, MT
   Grand Canyon National Park, AZ
   Grand Tetons National Park, WY
   Great Basin National Park, NV
   Hawaii Volcanoes National Park, HI
   Joshua Tree National Park, CA
   Kaloko-Honokohau Nat'l Hist. Park, HI
   Kasha-Katuwe Tent Rocks, NM
   King's Canyon National Park, CA
   Martin Luther King Jr. Nat'l Hist. Site, GA
   Mesa Verde National Park, CO
   Montezuma's Castle Nat'l Monument, AZ
   Monticello, VA
   Mount Rushmore National Memorial, SD
   Mt. Rainier National Park, WA
   Olympic National Park, WA
   Petrified Wood National Park, AZ
   Pinnacles National Monument, CA
   Pu'uhonua o Honaunau Nat'l Hist Pk, HI
   Pu'ukohola Heiau Nat'l Historic Site, HI
   San Antonio Missions Nat'l Hist. Park, TX
   Tuzigoot National Monument, AZ
   Walnut Canyon National Monument, AZ
   Washington Monument
   White Sands National Monument, NM
   Wrangell-St. Elias National Park, AK
   Wright Brothers National Memorial in NC
   Yellowstone National Park, WY
   Yosemite National Park, CA

United States, Cities and Places
   The Alamo, TX
   Alaska Wildlife Conservation Cntr.
   Alpine Loop in CO
   Anchorage, AK
   Antares Junction, AZ
   Arctic Circle, AK
   Barrel Oak Winery in VA
   Biloxi, MS
   Bottle Tree Farm in CA
   Calico Ghost Town, CA
   Canfield Mountain Trail System, ID
   Cape St. Vincent, NY
   Carson City, NV
   Carter Caves State Park in KY
   Chappie-Shasta OHV Area, CA
   Child's Glacier, AK
   Circle B Chuckwagon Show in SD
   City Museum in MO
   Cody, WY
   Corn Palace in SD
   Crazy Horse Memorial in SD
   Custer State Park, SD
   Dalton Highway, AK
   Dinosaur Tracks in AZ
   Discovery Place in Charlotte, NC
   Dry Falls (Sun Lakes-Dry Falls), WA
   Fairbanks, AK
   Front Royal, VA
   Gallup, NM
   Goffs, CA
   Grand Canyon Caves, AZ
   Grand Canyon Skywalk, AZ
   Grave Digger Monster Truck in NC
   Great Salt Lake, UT
   Hackberry General Store in AZ
   Hannibal, MO
   Hatteras Island, NC
   Hawaii (Big Island)
   Hickison Petroglyphs, NV
   Holbrook, AZ
   Hole in the Rock, UT
   Homer, AK
   Honey Island Swamp Tour in LA
   Hoover Dam, NV
   Hyder, AK
   Jim Gray’s Petrified Wood Co. in AZ
   John’s Peak OHV Area, OR
   Kailua-Kona, HI
   Keepers of the Wild Nature Park in AZ
   Kennecott, AK
   Kennecott Copper Mine in UT
   Kingman, AZ
   Lake Havasu, AZ
   Lake Tahoe, NV
   Las Vegas, NV (winter 2010)
   Little Brown Church in IA
   London Bridge in AZ
   Loneliest Road in America, Hwy. 50, NV
   Los Angeles, CA
   Lost Colony Show on Roanoke Isl., NC
   Lowe’s Speedway in NC
   Mardi Gras World in LA
   Mark Twain Museum in MO
   Meteor Crater, AZ
   Million Dollar Highway, CO
   Minnesota Zoo
   Mitchell, SD
   Moab, UT
   Moab, UT (dirt biking)
   Montgomery, AL
   Montpelier, ID
   Navajo Nation, AZ
   Needles, CA
   Nevada Beach, NV
   Newberry Springs, CA
   New River Gorge, WV
   New Orleans, LA
   Niagara Falls 
   North Pole, AK
   Oatman, AZ
   Old Faithful Geyser in WY
   Omak Stampede, WA
   Painted Desert, AZ
   Park City, UT (summer)
   Plymouth, NC
   Portage Valley, AK
   Portland, OR
   Prospect OHV Trail System, OR
   Resaca, GA
   Riverside State Park, WA
   Rock City in TN
   Rosa Parks Library and Museum in AL
   Roswell, NM
   Russian River, AK
   Salt Lake City, UT
   San Antonio, TX
   San Diego, CA
   San Juan Islands, WA
   San Francisco, CA
   Santa Catalina Island, CA
   Seattle, WA
   Sedona, AZ
   Shoe Tree in CA
   Shoe Tree in NV
   Silverton, CO
   Sonora, TX
   St. Louis, MO
   St. Paul, MN
   Talkeetna, AK
   Telluride, CO
   Route 66
   Twin Knobs Recreation Area in KY
   Virginia Beach, VA
   Washington D.C.
   Wayne Fitzgerrell State Park in IL
   Williamsburg, VA
   Winom Frazier OHV Area, OR
   Winslow, AZ
   Zion National Park, UT

Planning Our Adventures

For us, each journey begins with the initial heart pangs to venture to a certain part of the world. Then the ideas start coming together . . . ahh, the possibilities . . . and the dream evolves gradually into an actual plan. But, oh, the joy of the dream!  Click here to learn more about how we plan and prepare for our journeys.

Where Are We Now?

Click here to discover where we are now, as well as our uncoming travel plans.

Words for the Heart

“. . . and then the day came when the risk to remain tight in a bud was more painful than the risk it took to blossom.”

Anais Nin