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The Great On-Going Nevada Road Trip
a car, some maps and two women...
These Nevada travel stories and recommendations are drawn from the experiences of two best friends/fellow geeks/quirky goddesses, who decided after 15 years of friendship that going car camping together was a brilliant idea.
...And then it really did turn out brilliantly!
Here are notes, recommendations and road stories from our many adventures in Nevada. The more we go there, the more we find to do!
Due to our involvement with a Vegas group that hosts events several times per year, we've found ourselves in the "Battle Born" state at least once a year for the better part of the last decade. We don't always have time to do an extended road trip for each visit, but there have been several that lasted more than a week, plus handfuls of short jaunts. Add that all up and we've managed to cover just about every part of the state not owned by the government (which turns out to be a lot).
So, how did the "May Tour" get started?
Meet the characters and their mission
The two of us have been friends since we met years ago, living in Santa Cruz, CA, when we were both working at SCO. Being the techno-brainier of the pair of us, Calyxa was working as a sys admin, and I was working swing shift, doing light-industrial assembly, i.e. putting software and books in boxes.
Suffice to say, a strange friendship got kindled. That was the early 1990s, and it's still going, stronger than ever. We're sisters from different mothers. There is a Penn-and-Teller-like quality to our interactions, although there is only a 5" difference in our heights. Calyxa does talk, really, but it's also possible to miss those bits in my veritable verbal wake. I use weeks and much Virgo-ness to formulate the trips, and then Calyxa does all the driving. I mean ALL the driving. Calyxa leaves a cat and a husband at home when she travels, I leave a moss farm.
It used to shock the hell out of people that we did those first road trips without a single cell phone. Rae still doesn't have one but everyone else she travels with does, so she's better covered on the road than when she's at home.
In 2005, determined to get to Nevada for a fire circle gathering, I convinced Calyxa that this was somehow a moral imperative, a mission from the Goddess and not really a bad idea, even though we'd never traveled anywhere together before. We had our first visit to the Sekhmet Temple that spring, and in the fall of 2011, marked our sixth year of visiting the temple site.
The 2005 Experience
We made a gigantic reverse C in 2005. I was living in the Bay Area, just north of my intrepid driver. I went down to her house the night before we were to depart with all my gear. We packed the car in the AM, made one final round of visits to the loo and we were off.
We started out heading south in CA, and then made a big curve up and around Nevada. Our route was a big backwards letter C. We started off through Joshua Tree and Mohave, then went up to the Valley of Fire, then back through Las Vegas to Cactus Springs. Then we crossed over to Rachel, then up to Ely, and over to Ruth, Austin, Gabbs, Fallon and Reno. We stopped at Rachel and Ruth, just 'cuz those are our names.
We went to the Mitchell Caverns in Mohave and the Lehman Caves up near Ely. Flat-top Tom at Big O in Yucca Valley totally save our road trip with a used tire on day one, and Ranger Tom at Mohave's Hole-in-the-Wall totally got our fire going and his dog Max was great entertainment.
The Vegas Vortex are the folks we hang with in the Vegas vicinity. I've been doing alchemy with this gang for a few years now.
We saw the Amboy Crater (in CA), saw lots of train track, cows and cow grates. As you approach Lehman is this great stretch of road with fencepost art. We got hailed and snowed on, despite the fact it was May. We stayed one night at a Goddess temple.
And when we got to Reno at the end, we saw "The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy" movie (OF COURSE we had our towels with us!), and the kickass show of Maxfield Parrish that was in town at the time. Then after all that, we told all our crazy adventures to my driver's friends, who put us up for the night in Reno at their house and let us soak our road-weary bods in their hot tub.
Their parting words were.... "gee, if you do this again, you should borrow our Jeep...."
2005 Points of Interest
2005 Roadtrip Notes - web sites used for the May 2005 trip
This road trip took place between May 9th and May 20th.
- Joshua Tree National Park (National Park Service)
We had an awesome campsite here with no neighbors and the rangers had done maintenance on the land so there were piles of firewood provided. And we found a rock formation that is definitely an elephant.
- Mojave National Preserve (National Park Service)
We stayed at the Hole-in-the-Wall site here, named for the various rock features in that area. There are very cool barrel cactus all over, which the Indians used to use as cooking pots.
- Amboy Crater - BLM California
A unique natural feature out in the middle of nowhere. Lots of cool rocks, and lizards. Bring water and start early to do the crater as a day hike.
- Vegas Vortex - MayFire
We spent four days camping in the Valley of Fire State Park with some rocking alchemists, enjoying all night sacred fires and intentional community.
- Sekhmet Temple in Nevada
The Temple of Goddess Spirituality Dedicated to Sekhmet and a project for the study of the "gift economy." A very unique and sacred place to visit.
- Rachel, Nevada
Rachel, aka Area 51, is home to lots of clover fields, about 100 residents and the most UFO sightings of anywhere in the US. A good place for gas, lunch and t-shirts.
- Lehman Caves, Great Basin National Park
A fantastic national park area, with a great cave tour. I hope you get the guy who does the interactive bit where everyone on the tour gets to be a different interactive character, that rocked!
- Austin Nevada
One of the only spots of civilzation along Highway 50. Cute, charming, good eats and reasonable hotels for when the campground is too rained out.
- Lahontan State Recreation Area
Our most spectactular campsite of the trip, just below the dam. Tons of sage growing everywhere, uncrowded and peaceful.
- NMA Exhibitions - Maxfield Parrish Master of Make-Believe
Maxfield Parrish: Master of Make-Believe, April 30, 2005 - June 26, 2005 at the Nevada Museum of Art
One of the best things we did on the 2005 trip was our visit to Lehman Caves. Neither of us ladies is all that into really hot temps so the chance to go underground was welcome.
Lehman Caves is part of the Great Basin National Park, and it's located east of Ely, NV. We were going to camp near Lehman, but a freak spring snow storm changed all that.
Our park ranger had a great little schtick for the tour. He had little bits of paper with historical facts on it and each one was a "character." He took volunteers, passed out the bits and everyone got to read their pertinent historical tidbit when that moment came up on the tour. Calyxa got "the geologist" and I got "the wizard."
See, it turns out, back in the 1960s, a low-budget sci-fi movie was filmed in the cavern's. What you see here, "the Wizard's Grotto" was used to show the surface of Mars. The ranger station had a picture of astronauts sitting in a raft in the middle of the grotto in it. We thought that was pretty funny.
Looking at it, I kept expecting Gollum from THE LORD OF THE RINGS to appear, muttering about his precious and trying to catch a fish.
The 2006 Experience
Highlights of the Infinity Tour
This year's road trip made the shape of a figure eight that was tipping over, and thus the Infinity Tour was nicknamed! We started in Reno this year, totally holding our friends to their offer of their jeep. We had 4-wheel drive, a moon roof and a GPS unit plus higher clearance and better car tools. We also had up-to-date road maps. We were definitely upgraded car and tech-wise this year.
This picture is from our first night officially on the road, or really, at the end of the road. We were going to camp in Wells, NV, way up in the NE corner of the state, but the road up to the campground was closed. Whether it was from there still being snow, or washed out due to rain, we don't know exactly but our night in the motel was a good call. We both woke up very early and heard pounding rain.
We were trying to find a site for rockhounding near Ely, but to no avail. The Ward Charcoal Ovens were fantastic anyway. Highway 6 brought us sights of the Wall, the Lunar Crater, a gathering pow-wow, a guy who was camped out in the middle of nowhere to watch US military secret flights at night, and the Clown Motel.
Our leg down to the Sekmet Temple to work on the goddess labyrinth took us past art cars and the best homemade jerkey in Beatty. We only got gas and groceries as we passed through Las Vegas this time, and an abortive hunt for neck coolers.
After our gathering, we actually saw the petroglyphs at the Valley of Fire this year. We took a very weird backroad north from there and had the best 10 miles on a nearly washed out and closed-to-locals-only highway on our way up to Cathedral Gorge. Once there, we stayed at the snazziest state park campground we've come across yet. Our swing back up through Ely let us stumble across the rockhounding site we'd missed the week before, so we quickly pulled over and hunted garnets. That was amazing.
We took one look at the Jerusalem crickets swarming all over the campsite near Austin and went into town and got the same room as last year at the Pony Canyon Motel. We also learned there's a guy who has visited that motel annually for over 50 years. We visited the historic Stoke's Castle and the graveyard on our way out of town this year.
2006 Points of Interest
2006 Roadtrip Notes - The Infinity Tour
By this year, I was now living in Seattle, so I flew down with all my crazy camping and gathering stuff to Reno. Calyxa drove up from the Bay Area.
Our trip ran from May 6th thru May 17th. This year's travel plan made a sort of figure eight shape that takes us all over most of Nevada in just those 11 days, hence the "infinity tour" nickname. We got temps that ranged from daytime highs of 100 to nighttime lows that hit freezing.
- Elko, Nevada, U.S.A.
A woman I'd known for several years from being an editor at Bellaonline lives very near here, and I decided after being friends with someone for three years, it was time to meet.
- Wells Nevada
The road to the campground was closed so we wound up in town in the motel here. Good thing too, as it rained liked all heck that night. The town appears to have three brothels, a historic downtown block that is nearly abandoned and little else.
- Ely, Nevada - Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
Ely is pretty big for what you will find in NE Nevada. You can gas up, restock, eat out, send mail or catch nearby historic sites.
- Ward Charcoal Ovens State Historic Park
Fantastic state park and campground! The charcoal ovens are leftovers from the silver mining days and were built by Swiss-Italian workers in the late 1870s. Very scenic and quiet.
- Lunar Crater National Natural Landmark
The Lunar Crater National Natural Landmark is geologically termed a 'maar', the name given to a shallow, broad crater formed by explosive eruptions close to ground level, usually caused by heating of subterranean water. It's huge and beautiful and a
- Saulsbury Wash Campground
Saulsbury Wash is a Rest Area that has overnight facilities. Totally in the middle of nowhere, but a cheap place (free) to stay. We ran into a pseudo-UFO nut out there the night we stayed.
- Clown Motel
This has to be seen to be believed. 521 N. Main St., Tonopah, NV. Also, there's a great Mexican place in town to eat, the only one, so it's kinda easy to find.
- Sekhmet Temple in Nevada
This year we visited ahead of our Vortex visit, and got to help work on the goddess labyrinth that was being built.
- Vegas Vortex
We had such a great time last year, we came back to do it again. Temps were very hot but we did see the petroglyphs in the Valley of Fire, very cool!
- Cathedral Gorge State Park
Best campsite of 2006! Real showers/bathrooms, firewood on site, very friendly camp host, canyons to explore and more. We're sorry we didn't have time to do the 4 mile walking loop around the grounds.
- Garnet Hill - A Rockhound's Delight
Passing back through Ely, we found a site were you can rockhound your own garnets. These are amandine garnets, which range from blood red to brown due to their high iron content.
- Hickison Petroglyph Campground
We did not camp here due to the veritable plague of Jerusalm crickets swarming the campground. Spent the night in Austin like last year, had as good or better a time than last year.
- City of Reno
Reno, where you can finally find a car wash to try and get some of the dust off your 4WD.
Nevada Travel Guides
You can tell by the travel guides that we like to get off the beaten path a little bit. And doing historical and/or geeky stuff on the road is always good too.
I'm the one in charge of compiling any and all travel details. We always have alternate plans in case of inclement weather, or sudden flights of fancy.
The Clown Motel
A pure road trip moment
Ok, I'll confess right up front, we've never stayed at the Clown Motel in Tonopah. However, it's become the #1 entry on what's slowly forming as the "Grand NV Tour" where we purposely do a bunch of our fave stuff just 'cuz.
In 2005, we drove thru Tonopah, saw the sign and photographed it. Calyxa was the one who said this year, hey, let's go photograph that wacky place again. It was way more spiffed up looking then last year, and then Calyxa said, no really, let's go in the office and see if they have a card or something.
She must have been having a funny sixth sense or something because this office was THE CLOWN MOTHERLODE. I figure it's what it's like on the inside of those crammed little cars you see at the circus.
There are several sets of shelves that are wall to wall clowns. I could hear the sound of small children crying off in the distance as they all leered at me. It's fantastic, and thank the Goddess, they don't have that evil Pennywise, ala Tim Currey from IT. That clown I just can't take...
The woman at the desk was named Pearl, and when Calyxa said "Hi, we've just come to admire your motel" she cackled back "Ha..too late!" Pearl was a total treasure. She told us the story of how a couple came to stay once. The husband had made the reservation, and the wife had a fear of clowns. She asked if they could take down the clown art on the walls of the room. Turns out all the clown art has been made permanent to the walls so it can't be stolen. Pearl was all "I mean, it's the CLOWN MOTEL.... what did she expect?!"
We totally have to go back there someday and just stay. Your clowniest room, please!
lens of the day honors
This lens tied for runner-up in the
Squidoo Travel Challenge!
It was co-featured as
Lens of the Day
on August 26-27, 2006.
The 2007 Experience
The Alchemists' Circle
In 2007, a combination of things (mostly lack of money) reduced our adventures to just our usual fire circle gathering. No, it's not Burning Man. That takes place over Labor Day weekend and it's held in the northwest corner of the state. Plus our gathering has a distinct lack of drugs and drinking, pretty much the opposite of BM.
It was freezing this year, with windy temps in the 40s and 50s, a big change from days of 105 which was what we got last year. I think I learned everything and anything you might learn about having sand in your tent. This is our campsite in the Valley of Fire. Since sleep schedules can get wacky and the car often is moved to a remote parking area once unloaded, we both bring tents to ensure better rest and sanity.
The Sekhmet Temple - our favorite Nevada place to visit
If there's one place that Calyxa and Rae visit again and again in Nevada it's the Center for Goddess Spirituality Dedicated To Sekhmet, aka the Sekhmet Temple. It's a women's retreat center about an hour northwest of Las Vegas and if they find themselves heading anywhere within that vicinity, they stop and stay for a visit.
In fact, they've stayed there so many times and done so much fun stuff that there's a whole lens about that too:
It was a pleasure having you travel with us! If you enjoyed our adventures, please let us know by signing the guest register below, thanks!