Monday, September 17, 2007

Nevada, Great Basin National Park

Hot and Dry
Well, Nevada is just as hot and dry as you imagine it to be. However, if you get to a high enough elevation, it cools off. Also, traveling early or late helps. I know all of these things. Did I do them when I was in Nevada? Not so much, no. In fact, not at all, really. I'm not what you'd call a "morning person". In fact, the only way you could call me a morning person while maintaining your poker face would be to declare it Opposite Day first. So we didn't get out of our hotel room much before 8 in Nevada, and we rode a short distance to Great Basin National Park, where we dorked around for most of the day.

We did get up to some elevation there, and I dragged my girlfriend on a short hike. It's not particularly comfortable to hike in motorcycle boots, just in case you were planning to try it. The elevation made the midday heat more bearable, and we saw some neat sights and took some good photos up there. We even met an interesting gentleman who learned the international sign language for "Holy Crap! Check out the deer up there on the shoulder!" while trying to pass us as we stopped in the middle of the park road to take pictures. See? Deer! In all fairness, doing the hand motions from "Rudolph the Red Nosed Reindeer" that I learned in third grade might not count as International Sign Language. But the gentleman spied the deer before he spooked it and let his car roll quietly back down the mountain a few score feet so we could finish our photography. We all pulled into the next scenic turnout together and had a nice chat. If my girlfriend can find his business card, I'll add a link to his travel blog here. He's retired and touring the country, blogging his adventures. I was a little jealous.

Too Far!Unfortunately, the time spent in the park meant we were stuck at Stateline through an afternoon power outage that crippled the gas pumps in every town we had enough gas to reach. Stateline is a fascinating place: a gas station and diner on the Utah side where taxes are low, and a casino on the Nevada side where gambling is legal. We took pictures of the old manual gas pump (how cool would it have been if it had contained actual gasoline!?!?!) and tried to decide what to order from the greasy spoon diner there, since they were cooking with gas. We ate some very greasy food and browsed in the gift shop and eventually the electricity came back on. This allowed us to press into Utah, where we rode through the sunset and into Green River.

One final note on Nevada, before parting: their Cattle Crossing signs are ... special. They were special enough that Rose and I both noticed and commented on them when we drove past them. Maybe it's the free-range law in Nevada that gives cattle the right-of-way. Maybe it's male chauvinism. Either way, in most states I've visited, the cattle crossing sign looks approximately like the one here on the left. Cattle Crossing Not so in Nevada! They have very fancy cattle crossing signs that look like this one on the right. It makes me want to write a lame joke about Steers and Queers. Or Steers That Are Queers. Or something. Maybe the critter depicted on the sign is just a very happy, free range steer. Either way, I leave you to ponder the question, since neither Rose nor I could answer it.

Now, as you may know from viewing my "Words I Like" section over there in the right-hand border of this blog, I have a pretty dim view of the Interstate Highway system as a means of tourism. As an engineer, I'm well aware of its purpose (Ike ordered it built out of the frustration he felt trying to marshal armies across Europe in WWII) and as a dedicated, lifelong roadtripper, I'm aware of its usefulness. Still, as a motorcyclist, I tend to look down on the "Superslab" as it's known among us two-wheelers. It is, as Charles Kuralt noted, a great way to get from one end of the country to another without seeing anything along the way. The exception to that rule, however, is I-70 through Utah. In ordinary daylight, the scenery is breathtaking. In the cool gloaming, as the night replaces the day, the soft light reflected by the jewelled earth tones of the landscape are achingly beautiful in a way that my words cannot touch. So I'll shut up now and let you see it, with a note that credit goes, as always, to Rose for the photos. Magical Utah


Your Scrumhalf Connection said...

man, i wish we would have had those "queers and steers" road signs for our theme at the pumpkinfest tournament last year...was it pumpkinfest? ohh what the was the best rugby theme ive had yet. i didnt even have to dress you're wondering if i was the queer or the steer? :P

Anonymous said...

Setting aside the gender preference issue, I think that the Nevada variation on the open range sign is a good thing. I've never hit a steer while riding or driving in Nevada, but I have helped to clean up the aftermath of such encounters several times. They are far from pretty. The last one I saw was a huge Ford Diesel pickup, and hitting an Angus steer at 40MPH totaled the truck, bending the frame in the middle so the bed was shoved into the cab!

So, if making the cattle on the open range signs a little fiercer gives drivers pause before they decide to set out across US50 at night it is definitely a good thing!

Thalassa said...

thanks for sharing your comment! i've heard tell of motorcycles crossing paths with moose in switzerland, and it was thoroughly devastating for both parties. and i've seen first-hand the conclusions of passenger vehicles meeting little ol' white-tail deer in texas.

personally, i strive never to hit anything with my bike, so i concur with your conclusion... making the cows look a little more active in the warnings is probably useful for the public safety.