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Starting The Journey - Us 40 & Other Roads Through Nevada And Utah

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In July my father, son, and I embarked on a journey to follow the Lincoln Highway, Pony Express Trail, and US 50 west from Salt Lake City. That journey was chronicled in a series of postings that can be found in the Lincoln Highway forum. To start the journey we first needed to drive east in the general direction of Salt Lake City from our starting point in Angels Camp, California. While that 680 mile drive could have been done in a single day we stretched it out into two so that we could explore some of the historic trails and roads that follow the Interstate 80 corridor.

 

We got an early start from Angels Camp arising at 4:30 am and on the road by 5:30. Following CA 49 into Jackson we then turned east on CA 88 and with the sun rising in front of us we followed it over the Sierra Nevada range and into Nevada. In Minden we turned north on US 395 and followed it into Carson City before turning east again on US 50. We followed 50 until we reached Silver Springs and turned north on Alt US 50\Alt US 95. We reached I-80 at Fernley and then headed east towards our first stop of the day in Lovelock.

 

Lovelock is interesting in that it is one of the only towns along the I-80 corridor in Nevada that existed before the Transcontinental Railroad was built. The town served as the last refuge for immigrants on the California trail before they traveled further west across the desolation of the Carson Sink with wagon trains stopping to rest their teams before the perilous journey ahead.

 

Carson Sink west of Lovelock, Nevada

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The Interstate bypassed Lovelock in 1983 and the stoplight on that is currently on Main Street was the last one to regulate traffic along this route between New York and San Francisco.

 

After gassing up and in Lovelock we took a few photos of vintage motel signs and relaxed for a few minutes at the Pershing County Court House before we journeyed further eastward. The original flight plan called for a tailgate lunch in the ghost town of Unionville. We never made it to Unionville. While we were driving towards the ghost town we missed the road that we needed to follow and while turning the car around I was able to embed a very sharp rock into the tire just above the treadline on my right rear tire. Within 90 seconds the tire was completely flat.

 

My ‘gung-ho lets explore the desert’ attitude immediately became extremely conservative with the priority of getting a replacement tire or fixing the flat. Using the GPS I looked up tire stores in Winnemucca and instead of eating lunch in Unionville we tailgated at a tire store in Winnemucca. Fortunately the flat was repairable and the repaired tire became my spare. I did learn that tire shops now charge a $10 fee to reset the pressure sensors that are in the rim when they repair a flat.

 

We continued on westward for our next planned stop at Palisade. Very little of the town of Palisade still exists with no buildings and only a cemetery to mark the spot. For many years Palisade was a transfer point for the Nevada Northern Railway and Southern Pacific Railroads bringing ore up from the mines to the south. More recently it has been considered as a transfer point to deliver nuclear waste to Yucca Mountain.

 

The Humboldt River and both east bound and west bound Union Pacific tracks run through Palisade.

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Our next destination was Carlin Canyon which is about 5 miles east of the town of Carlin off of I-80. Carlin Canyon is a horseshoe shaped canyon that at various times in recent history hosted the California Trail, Transcontinental Railroad, Victory Highway, and US 40. The Interstate and rail lines all now bypass the Canyon through tunnels leaving a very nice, abandoned, stretch of highway to explore.

 

US 40 Roadbed in Carlin Canyon

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After our exploration of Carlin Canyon we continued east giving consideration of where to stay for the night. Our options were motels in either Elko or Wells, or camp for the night. We opted to camp for the night in a campground located in the mountains Southwest of Wells. Located at an elevation above 9,000 feet the Angel Creek campground featured an alpine lake and very comfortable temperatures. After a dinner of Top Ramen mixed with dehydrated vegetables we slept under the stars and dozed off watching satellites trace their way across the sky.

 

We awoke with the sun and after a quick breakfast of oatmeal and fresh apples we proceeded into Wells to refresh our ice and bread supplies. Northwest of Wells is the ghost town of Metropolis which we drove to and explored before continuing east.

 

Victory Motel on 6th Street in Wells, Nevada

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7th Street in Wells, Nevada

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My original plans had us following an old section of the PPOO from Wells to Montello, Utah, but after the previous days flat tire experience I wasn’t quite ready to venture to far away from pavement. So we got back on I-80 and headed east to Nevada 233 before turning north.

 

We followed 233 into Montello stopping briefly to look at some of the older looking buildings and to take a few pictures. After Montello we had the option of driving towards the railroad stop of Lucin or continuing on Nevada 233. Nevada 233 turns into Utah 30 after crossing the border. Shortly after crossing into Utah we found a dirt road that took us down to the abandoned Transcontinental Railroad railbed.

Montello, Nevada

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This section is now part of the Transcontinental Railroad Back Country Byway and while it is open to vehicle traffic we opted to walk a short section instead. The section between Lucin, Promentory Point, and Ogden was bypassed in the early 1900’s when a bypass was built across the Salt Lake between Ogden and Lucin. The rails were pulled up in 1942 to recover the iron as part of the war effort. Prior to leaving on the trip I read an account of a group from Utah that traveled the same section and nearly every vehicle on the journey suffered a flat tire from railroad spikes. During our short walk it didn’t take long to find a spike lying on the roadbed.

 

Grandfather and Grandson walk along the the abandoned transcontinental railroad roadbed.

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Road hazard to drivers along the Transcontinental Railroad Back Country Byway

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We continued on Utah 30 through the towns of Rosette and Park Valley before turning onto a gravel road that took us towards the railroad siding of Kelton. There we followed the abandoned railbed further east towards Promontory Point. For the next 40 miles we followed a well maintained and graded railbed that lead us to the sight where the Golden Spike was driven connecting east with west.

 

Oue re-enactment of the Golden Spike ceremony at Promontory, Utah

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I was pleasantly surprised to find upon arrival at the Golden Spike National Historic Site that there were 2 replicas of the original locomotives on the tracks in the same spot where they would have been on May 10, 1869, when the spike was driven. The original locomotives present during the ceremony had long since been sold off as scrap which completely amazed me. If I recall, both engines lasted for another 30 to 40 years before being sold off to the scrapper for the sum of $2,000.

 

There was a man from Australia that was running around the engines taking video and still pictures of the engines that I had the opportunity to talk to. It turned out that he came from Australia for the sole purpose of seeing that site and the presence of the two engines belching steam had him over the moon. I thought I had journeyed a long way to see a couple of trains.

 

After looking around the Golden Spike site we drove some more of the railbed stopping at the Last Cut, Chinaman’s Arch, and The Big Fill as we continued east and finally getting ourselves back on pavement.

 

Chinaman's Arch is a naturally formed arch that was named in honor of the Chinese laborers that built the Transcontinental Railroad

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We made one last stop before heading to Salt Lake City and a warm shower and that was at the Thiokol Rocket Museum that lies just outside the park boundaries on Utah 83. Coincidently enough the museum is within a few hundred yards of the transcontinental rail line. From steam engines to the Space Shuttle in a matter of a few miles.

 

The Space Shuttle Booster Rocket and other rockets manufactured by Thiokol on display.

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The next day we would start our journey along the Lincoln Highway.

 

Continue on to Part 2

 

Roadhound

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We finally see the beginning of the journey!

 

Once again I wish I could take a trip through that area. Someday..

 

Old U.S. 40 looks like it still gets some use, at least compared to the lesser-used roads around here, which have grass growing in the centreline.

 

Now to reread your entire series of posts from this trip.

 

Tracy

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We finally see the beginning of the journey!

 

Once again I wish I could take a trip through that area. Someday..

 

Old U.S. 40 looks like it still gets some use, at least compared to the lesser-used roads around here, which have grass growing in the centreline.

 

Now to reread your entire series of posts from this trip.

 

Tracy

 

Sorry for taking so long, a few other projects came up over the last few weeks that required my attention. I do hope that this series of postings was able to give you a feel of what it is like to drive in the western deserts and show that there is more to it than sage brush and jackrabbits, maybe even inspire a few of you to take a similar trip.

 

That posting was also my 100th post. Woohooo! This posting is 101 which is also a good number and one of my favorite highways.

 

That section of US 40 wouldn't get much traffic across it. The Eastern end is still connected to I-80 but it is barricaded off. Although it is accessible from the east side if you drive around the barricade the only real access is from the west side. Although, now that I think about it, I suppose that it could be used as a temporary bypass for westbound traffic if the tunnel on I-80 had to be closed for any reason.

 

Being in a desert might also explain the lack of vegetation growing through the cracks. Its also a BLM Wildlife Refuge so I doubt that they do any spraying to control the vegetation.

 

Roadhound

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Rick, is there anything back there on that section of 40 that people might need to get to? I'm curious about why the road is barricaded only on one side. jim

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Rick,

 

I spotted the latest post last night but was headed for the sack and didn’t reply. Another masterwork! I recognize several sites, but several are new for me. I want to get out my map and review the details of your route again. There are some fascinating places pictured.

 

Isn’t it funny when you encounter someone from another country exuding over one of our historic sites. The Australians, Germans, and Japanese seem to be as interested in Route 66, as we are! I suppose when we get all excited about a Roman road in Great Britain, it is somewhat the same.

 

BTW, ppoo has come on board. He is a Pikes Peak Ocean to Ocean pro, but says his direct knowledge of the western sections is less developed. You might want to share a bit of your route, as I think it was on, or pretty close, to the PPOO for some distance (as you well know).

 

I remember reading about the group following the old route and the punctured tires. That would sure dissuade me. I carry one of those cans that re-inflates the tire, but a railroad spike would make a hole too big to close with the goo in the can. I think that is one road to definitely avoid!

 

Flat tires can be disconcerting, but I think of the times when you carried 2 to 4 extra casings and tubes, and did your own patching. Makes the $10 insignificant. And, no, I was not referring to something I personally experienced!

 

But boy I wish I had one of those fancy trucks with tire pressure sensors. My car has a flat tire alarm also. When I get one, the car starts to swerve, and if I don’t heed the warning, there is a flop flop sound, followed by a grinding sound with sparks identifying the location of the problem. I don't have to pay $10 to reset it either!

 

I recall the California Trail connection with Lovelock...wasn’t that Big Meadows.....I forget. And BTW the area around Winnemucca is also connected with the Applegate Trail cutoff of the Oregon Trail. They headed west across the Blackrock Desert and into Oregon from the south. But hey, we are talking auto trails here!

 

As usual, your photos are like being there.

 

Keep the Show on the Road!

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Rick, is there anything back there on that section of 40 that people might need to get to? I'm curious about why the road is barricaded only on one side. jim

 

There is a road that comes off of the highway about midway through the loop. I would assume that they want to prevent drivers from coming directly off of the Interstate and force them to access from the West only.

 

40 43'39.73N 116 00'50.76W

 

Roadhound

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BTW, ppoo has come on board. He is a Pikes Peak Ocean to Ocean pro, but says his direct knowledge of the western sections is less developed. You might want to share a bit of your route, as I think it was on, or pretty close, to the PPOO for some distance (as you well know).

 

Maybe ppoo can help validate what I think was the PPOO. The section I was going to follow was part of the original roadbed of the CPRR going east from Wells and roughly following the same path as the present day Union Pacific line through Cobre. A description that Keep had sent prior to the trip let me to believe that this was the case. I know I printed out what I recieved but will have to look for the soft copy.

 

I remember reading about the group following the old route and the punctured tires. That would sure dissuade me. I carry one of those cans that re-inflates the tire, but a railroad spike would make a hole too big to close with the goo in the can. I think that is one road to definitely avoid!

 

Flat tires can be disconcerting, but I think of the times when you carried 2 to 4 extra casings and tubes, and did your own patching. Makes the $10 insignificant. And, no, I was not referring to something I personally experienced!

 

But boy I wish I had one of those fancy trucks with tire pressure sensors. My car has a flat tire alarm also. When I get one, the car starts to swerve, and if I don’t heed the warning, there is a flop flop sound, followed by a grinding sound with sparks identifying the location of the problem. I don't have to pay $10 to reset it either!

 

I believe all new cars are required to have the sensors now, at least that is what the tire guy said. I didn't even know I had it until the warning light went off. I'm sure I had read it in the manual but forgot about it. :blink: Fortunately the symbol was easy to understand plus I could feel the truck start to handle differently.

 

I recall the California Trail connection with Lovelock...wasn’t that Big Meadows.....I forget. And BTW the area around Winnemucca is also connected with the Applegate Trail cutoff of the Oregon Trail. They headed west across the Blackrock Desert and into Oregon from the south. But hey, we are talking auto trails here!

 

I believe you are correct. Lovelock may have been called Big Meadows before they changed the name to that of the storekeeper who ran the trading post. Lovelock is also known as the banana belt of Nevada because of its fertile soils and relatively mild climate.

 

Wasn't there also an auto trail that went from Winnemucca to the coast?

 

 

Roadhound

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A very nice report that enforces my desire to get there.

 

I'm guessing you got the idea of posting the trilogy's episode one last from George Lucas. It seems to have worked out well for him.

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Wasn't there also an auto trail that went from Winnemucca to the coast?

Roadhound

 

The only practical way to get from Winnemucca to the coast I know is the way you went...i.e. the Pikes Peak Ocean to Ocean/ Victory/ Lincoln. The Applegate Trail went from Winnemucca across the Blackrock Desert, passed near what is now Cedarville (a rare authentic western town today well worth a visit), over Fandango Pass (I love that name, and have been over it a couple of time), south of Goose Lake (actually through it) then toward Klamath Falls and ultimately into the Willamette Valley from the south. It is a wonderful route to explore (with no railroad spikes!), but you will have to add wagon trails to your auto trails interests to qualify.

 

I want to add that you are a great asset to this Forum! Thanks for your terrific contributions!

 

Keep the Show on the Road!

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The only practical way to get from Winnemucca to the coast I know is the way you went...i.e. the Pikes Peak Ocean to Ocean/ Victory/ Lincoln. The Applegate Trail went from Winnemucca across the Blackrock Desert, passed near what is now Cedarville (a rare authentic western town today well worth a visit), over Fandango Pass (I love that name, and have been over it a couple of time), south of Goose Lake (actually through it) then toward Klamath Falls and ultimately into the Willamette Valley from the south. It is a wonderful route to explore (with no railroad spikes!), but you will have to add wagon trails to your auto trails interests to qualify.

 

I want to add that you are a great asset to this Forum! Thanks for your terrific contributions!

 

Keep the Show on the Road!

 

My contribution to this forum will never be close to what I have recieved so far. I am glad that I can provide something.

 

What I like about this forum, and the information that is shared, is that it inspires me to research subjects that I had never heard of before. Take the Applegate Trail for instance. Until yesterday I had never heard of it, now I want to explore it. I found this website that gives a good photo essay of the Applegate route as well as the Lassen route.

 

I like to think of the early routes taken by immigrants headed west (Oregon Trail, California Trail, Lewis & Clark, etc) and the the later the routes chosen by the railroads as predecessors to the auto routes to come. Some of the pioneer trails never made it to asphalt while others became the foundation of some of our modern roads. Take the California Trail for instance, US 40 and later I-80 were able to cut across some of the more challenging sections of the California Trail but there is a large section through Nevada that I-80 follows closely. The Lincoln Highway roughly follows the Pony Express Trail through a good section of Utah and Nevada. US 99/I-5 follows the Applegate Trail through Oregon. I'm sure there are many more examples.

 

Roadhound

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