Thursday, September 26, 2013

Day 71: Elko to Fernley, NV

Just outside of Elko is the California Trail Interpretive Center, recently established using a combination of federal, state, and local funding. Though it is located more or less in the middle of nowhere, the quality of its displays is exceptional. The purpose is not just to show the history of the California Trail, but to imagine the trip from the travelers' point of view, so that the tourist gets a vicarious experience of venturing across inhospitable deserts.

In the plaza were excellent bronze sculptures depicting various types of pioneers. Here's a guide extolling the wonders of the wilderness.

Here's a young mother at the start of the trip.

Imagine packing for such an expedition.

Some displays combined very nicely painted dioramas with costumed manikins and artifacts to set the scene. At it's best, the journey was a giant family camping trip.

But everything was strange. You had to bargain with wild-looking people to get what you needed. And what did you have to trade under the circumstances? Nothing but trinkets, possibly your own precious things that you had hoped to have with you in California?

This was nothing compared with the harshness of the desert. How will you go forward if the ox that was pulling your covered wagon dies?

Some of the pioneers also lost their lives. This is the grave of an eight-year-old. What a touching exhibit.

Time to hit the road. The scenery in Nevada is attractive, in a barren, raw way. Most of the state is high desert that is ridged by even higher mountain ranges. We spent the day looking at rugged land scantily clad with a gray fringe of vegetation, surrounded by mountains in ever-changing configurations. The view was dominated by the sky and the weather, which went through all manner of changes. Wind buffeted the car. Long roadwork projects reduced the freeway traffic to one lane, but there wasn't all that much traffic.

For lunch we stopped in Battle Mountain at a Mexican Restaurant called El Aguilar Real. It looked pretty funky from the outside but it was surrounded by cars. The joint was jumping. There were work groups and family groups having a noisy good time. We both had a large bowl of fabulous albondigas soup.

Then it was back to the highway, the headwinds, and the mesmerizing clouds.

Fernley is one of our regular stops on these long journeys so we know it pretty well. We headed first for Starbucks for a latte. Then we picked up some Diet Coke. Next we stopped at Subway for a veggie delight chopped salad for my dinner.

Dan has a tradition of eating at China Chef in Fernley. He reported that this small cafe was pretty busy, lots of diners as well as takeout customers. The food was okay, not special. He had stir-fried shrimp with vegetables.