Tuesday, May 21, 2013

Point A to Point B: 5 Miles

Written by Adam
Still traveling along Highway 50 in Nevada - aka “The Loneliest Road in America” - we eventually reached the biggest metropolis in the immediate area: Ely, Nevada.  Just like in Las Vegas, there were a couple of gas stations, a McDonald’s, a saloon or two, and the omipresent miniaturized Nevada casinos.  Sure, there were other business enterprises...but this blog entry just covers the biggest business enterprises operating in Nevada.

After topping off with some fuel, we headed out of town.  Before long we were presented with our first optional detour of the trip: seeing the Ward Charcoal Ovens.  These stone furnaces were constructed in the mid-1870’s by fine Italian stone masons.  What fine Italian stone masons were doing way out there in rural Nevada in the 1870’s is another story best told by others in the Italian language.  

The ovens were originally designed to manufacture the charcoal that was used during the smelting that is inherent to processing ore.  The ovens were lined up all in a row, and they were all simply enormous.  We joked about how they could probably still be used to create sixty foot diameter pizzas if you could somehow remove all the trees that comprise about 35 acres or so for fuel and fire them up once again.

All of the above knowledge about the remains of these massive industrial ovens was revealed to us only after we committed to drive thirteen miles down a dirt and gravel road.  Along the way we saw several fine examples of Pronghorn.  We quickly became part of a small cattle stampede as a couple of scared calves decided to run alongside the Vanagon for a short distance.  I guess they have not yet learned to run away from danger out there in the boondocks, but heck - we weren’t really all that dangerous.  And, when a young cow can outrun a Vanagon on a dirt road...insert your own punch line here.

Bumping dustily along at ten miles per hour or so, we eventually passed the local taxidermist on the left and eventually made it up to the state campground, where we spent the night camping all alone among the pines that comprised the pygmy forest.  The water at the campsites ran a bit rusty out of the seldom used spigots.  Evidently, the really big crowds must be all back in Ely gambling their stakes away.

The next morning, we packed up and headed over to see the ovens up close.  It took all of ten minutes to see the entire place.  We appreciated the fine stonework that it took to create the local economic engine of their time.  We even saw the collapsing old lime kiln used to create the copious amounts of mortar on-site as part of our diversion and bonus history lesson.  Afterwards, we set our sights on returning to the highway using the same dusty trail that cut right through the wide-open grazing land.  The only traffic on the trail when we departed was bovine in nature, moving smoothly at their speed limit slightly above ours.  

We saw an old sign stating that we were in Hunting Zone 221.  The thought crossed our minds that we did not want to be in the line of any enthusiastic rifle fire.  Trigger happy leads to trigger sad if the shot is somehow not on the mark or randomly deflected by a length of old barbed wire stretched at shoulder height.

Suddenly, we came upon a fork in the road; maybe it was more like a “T” now that I am thinking about it.  But, it represented yet another choice we had to make.  We looked towards the east and there was a small weathered sign that announced that the State Highway was to be found only 5 miles ahead in that direction.  We had somehow found the shortcut back to the highway without even trying, and thus saved eight miles of bumpy off-road driving to boot.  Easy choice.

What was interesting about our discovery was that the distance that comprised the entire length of 5 miles was clearly visible right before us just by looking through the front window of the Vanagon.  I mentioned to Karen that where we come from, a sign stating that something is 5 miles away is pretty useless.  In traffic, sometimes you cannot even see 50 feet in front of where you are sitting in your car.  Out here - where seemingly petrified cows run alongside your car in a sincere panic and the brush often struggles to rise barely one foot above the ground - five miles is still five miles.

The ovens as arranged in the 1870's
Portal used to load the lumber into the oven
Heat and smoke escape directly above
Just after leaving Point A on the way to Point B
What five miles actually looks like

1 comment:

David in SF said...

I love those open roads, and the ovens seem spectacular!