Thursday, September 25, 2014


Central Nevada and Utah Edition

Countless narratives may pop up on a road trip: themes of history or commerce or antiquity or just foolishness.  Then there are the singular or small clusters of images that don’t fit a particular story until, when added together, they form the story itself.

Following is an album of those:

A sucker for old trucks and the stories they might tell, this one was spotted in Benton Hot Springs…

…as was this vehicle awaiting repair.

Venturing out into Nevada on US 6, we realize we are visiting the old west.  Cue a little Elmer Bernstein movie music.

East of Tonopah we visited the aging proving grounds where the “Right Stuff” boys cut their teeth…

…and viewed the aging hangars that once housed their rocket planes.

A day later, we are racing along a highway in Utah where the cut bank exposes seams of coal – coal the folks in Utah are eager to release…

Nearby, we witness what is referred to as “clean coal technology.”

It is wise to use caution when walking the streets of Price, Utah after dark.

Driving into Nine Mile Canyon, another old truck begs to be photographed…

…when what we’d really come to view was this:

Our visit to the Golden Spike National Historic Site was preceded by a stop at Ogden’s Utah State Railway Museum…

…where this narrow gauge locomotive was in the throes of restoration.

Its cab in a shop nearly finished after what the volunteer there claimed was about eleven years of 10 AM to 2 PM Saturday only work…  

…assuming the gang didn’t tank up on too much hot chocolate and coffee in the winter or beer in the summer.  The shop, we are told, is neither heated nor cooled.

Heading west along the old CP line, we come to an unexpected placard telling that the historic Wheeler Survey charted this area back in 1869.

A sandstone benchmark, nearly ground smooth by water and blowing sand bears George Wheelers mark.  Mysteriously, at this point, I am asked to make a mental note of the Wheeler Survey.  
Not a mile further, we arrive at the site of Kelton, Utah.  Little remains except for the railroad grade…

…and the cemetery.  (Not a bad place to spend eternity.  It certainly is quiet.)

Later, we seek the encampment at Palisade…

…where the Central Pacific crew forged line through a tricky canyon (40 years later, the Western Pacific chose the same route)…

…while living in hollowed out holes in the sandstone cliff buttressed by railroad timbers.

Elsewhere, some old signs – like some old trucks – beg to be photographed.

Transportation across the Basin and Range is a huge part of the country’s history.  First we walked it, then we spanned it with rails.  Later we flew, and in so doing dotted the landscape with navigational aides…

…and fuel carriers.  (This photograph is of the running board on a derelict and rusting fuel tanker trailer at a little used airport in Nevada.)

Wovoka was a man whose gentle power came from wisdom and faith.

We pay tribute to him at his resting place on the reservation near Smith, NV. 

Heading over Sonora Pass, west of the summit, we find a wide spot and it becomes clear why I was asked to remember the work of George Wheeler so many miles ago. 

Here, his team had carved a benchmark into a tree.  Its scar remains today.  Look carefully at what is inscribed in the tree's flesh.  (USGS - B M - 9205)

One comes to a number of realizations as the result of this little five-day sojourn into lost elements of America’s past.  Perhaps one of the most significant is this:  When flying along the interstate and seeing a tattered roadway or even just a pair of ruts heading through the sage and over a hill off toward a distant horizon, those tracks always lead somewhere. 

They lead to something, to some piece of history, to some gain or some loss.  Perhaps to a rancher’s feedlot, or a long played out mine, or a railroad construction gang’s camp, or a singular, lonely cabin dilapidated by wind and weather.  Or maybe just to a grand view of the west: a west that will be forgotten if we don’t, once in a while, explore some rustic route heading through the sage and over a distant hill.


Note:  Thanks here to fellow former educator and life-long geographer John who, with his trusty Toyota 4-Runner, guided this adventure across Central Nevada and Utah and back.

© 2014
Church of the Open Road Press


  1. Love this- beautiful photos and so much to capture the imagination!

    1. Yep. Most "normal" people simply fly over this region of the country...

  2. Bravo! Excellent photos and commentary of a cool little trip.