Tuesday, June 10, 2008
Susan and Sharon's Excellent Adventure
As previously advertised, Sharon and I drove to Gabbs today, and then took 844 through the Paradise Range. Here's one of my favorite pictures from the trip, taken as we drove back over the Paradise Range to go home. This gives you a small idea of the kind of vista that regularly greets anyone driving across central Nevada. Our basin-and-range geography makes for stunning vistas!
(Note: You'll get much more detail in all of these shots if you click to enlarge.)
Here's another shot, taken through the car windshield as we headed east on 50 towards 361, the Gabbs turnoff. Wherever you drive in this part of the state, you can see mountains.
Sharon and I weren't alone; we brought her little dog Misty, who was excellent company and gave us a great excuse to get out and stretch our legs periodically. I'd been a little worried that Misty would bark, but instead she just whined politely when she needed to take a rest stop.
This shot of Sharon walking Misty by the side of the road gives you some sense of how easily the Nevada landscape dwarfs humble creatures like people and dogs. Alkali flats like this are especially humbling!
Later on, Misty had a fine time scampering through sagebrush. We kept her close, though, because we didn't want her to become coyote bait! She spent a lot of time waiting patiently in the car, often sleeping. We had water for her (and for ourselves: one never ventures into the desert without water!), and Sharon had also brought some food for her, so she was well cared for.
Our first sight of Gabbs, population 350, was this set of signs. You can see that there used to be many more. Gabbs was a much larger community during WWII, when the magnesium in the area was in high demand for munitions. The valley's also rich in brucite, and there's at least some gold.
Mining still goes on here, as you can see from this photo. Someone in Gabbs told us that geologists and mining companies seem to be newly interested in the area, so someone may have found some kind of new deposit (or figured out a way to get more from an old one).
In Gabbs itself, there's a definite theme: tarantulas. A friend of mine says that there's a tarantula migration through town every year -- although a local who's been there for four years told me she's never seen one -- and tarantulas are the mascot of the school teams. This is a mural painted on the wall of one of the schools (all the school buildings are clustered together; I think this one's elementary, but I'm not sure).
And here's another! You can never have too many tarantulas! I'm also now the proud owner of a lapel pin, shaped like Nevada, with "Gabbs NV" and a tarantula on it. This item's too small to photograph well, unfortunately.
I'd really wanted to see St. Michael's Catholic Church, because an important wedding takes place there in my book. It turns out that the building is tiny and can probably only hold about fifteen people, so I'll have to pare down the guest list!
My favorite thing about Gabbs was the library. It's only open two hours a day during the summer, but we hit it just at the right time, and the librarian, Myrna, was very warm and welcoming (as was just about everyone we spoke to). She photocopied some historical documents for me and, when I bought a copy of a book about the area, gave me a free copy of a cookbook compiled by the local Republican Women's Club, "because you've been nice to us." When she mentioned that they have a hard time coming up with money for new books, I gave her a small donation, and she threw her arms around me and said, "Thank you!"
Isn't this a beautiful little reading room? If I lived in Gabbs, I'd spend a lot of time in those comfy chairs! (Sharon and I were fantasizing about buying a house there, since the median home price is only $27,500, but it's not really practical. We might go back and visit, though. There's a tiny hotel, although I couldn't find anyone to ask about room rates.)
The library also has a pretty substantial SF collection. Myrna told me that the kids who live there love fantasy (after I told her that I write fantasy), although I suspect my stuff's a bit darker than they're used to! Anyway, it was nice to see lots of Tor books in remote Nevada, even if none of mine were there.
And, of course, the library had its own collection of tarantulas. I was especially tickled with this specimen, fashioned out of a seedpod and pipe cleaners. What do you want to bet that half the kids in Gabbs dress as tarantulas for Halloween?
But you also have to love this plush guy, just waiting to leap upon the head of an unsuspecting reader.
And this stalwart fellow, loyally guarding a stack of children's books, is really very endearing.
I suspect that Gabbs kids have a healthy lack of fear towards spiders and other critters. Either that, or they're all traumatized for life!
Okay, so here's how things work in a small town: outside the high school, Sharon and I chat with an ambulance driver. I mention that I learned a lot about Gabbs from Ruth Danner's wonderful history of the town and the region, and the ambulance driver says, "Oh, sure! I went to school with Ruth. She's living in Elko now and writing another book." Then we go to the library and meet Myrna. Myrna doesn't have any copies of Danner's book, but is expecting more. "I have to call Ruth and have her send some." Myrna takes my card and promises that she'll call me when the books come in so I can buy one and have it shipped to me. (I can't renew it at the UNR library indefinitely.) When we're talking about the attractions of living in Gabbs, Myrna tells me about someone who came here from Cleveland to visit family and loved it so much she promptly moved.
Sharon and I go to lunch at the local cafe. The cashier, who's having some trouble with the register, explains that she's new at the job, and that she recently moved here from Cleveland. "Oh!" I say. "Myrna was telling us about you."
The door opens. It's the ambulance driver, who waves to us. As we're leaving, Sharon peers at a passing car and says, "Look, it's the librarian." We wave to Myrna, who waves back as she pulls into the cafe parking lot. "She must be having lunch there," Sharon says. Well, sure: not too many other places to have lunch.
Somewhat reluctantly, we left Gabbs to head across the Paradise Range into Ione Valley (I don't think it's officially called Ione Valley, but it's where Ione is, so that's what I call it). I'd wanted to stop near the summit and get photos and maybe do a bit of hiking, but it turned out that almost the entire road was under construction. A "pilot truck" with a big "Follow me" sign led us across the mountain.
In Ione Valley, we saw no tarantulas, for which we were very grateful. We did have a pleasant visit with a cow.
Nearly the entire area is open range, so we were on the lookout for cows, but this is the only one we saw.
She was a lovely cow, though, and she posed very patiently for photos. Misty, in the back seat, stood up on her hind legs and pressed her nose against the window to get a better look at the cow. The cow didn't seem in the least interested in the dog.
On our way back over the Paradise Range, we had a ten-minute wait for the pilot truck, which gave us a chance for a very pleasant chat with the flagger, a young guy who was as friendly and welcoming as everyone else we'd met.
He told us that he'd caught a lizard that he'd saved to show his friends. Would we like to see it? We told him that we'd like that very much.
I know people who are scared of lizards, but I adore them. They look like miniature dinosaurs.
The lizard was a lovely specimen, speckled with blue. The flagger had put it carefully in a cooler on top of a rock.
The lizard also had a blue belly; the flagger held it gently upside down so we could take a look. None of us knew what kind of lizard it was, but it was certainly pretty.
When the flagger was trying to return the lizard to the cooler, the animal got away. It stayed near his truck, though. He told us that he thought the lizard liked him. He also said that if that lizard went away, he'd find another to show his friends. I had the feeling that once they'd seen it, he'd release it. That made me happy.
Once the pilot truck showed up, we headed home, gawking at more beautiful scenery. At that point, though, we were both really tired. It was a lot of traveling for one day!
It was a wonderful day, and I want to thank Sharon and Misty for sharing it with me.
The cats wouldn't have been nearly as patient with a long road trip!
And, as a final wonderful treat, when I got home I discovered that Gary had picked wildflowers for me during his hike. They're beautiful, although unfortunately, Bali thinks so too, and has already had his way with several of them. ("Salad for me? How thoughtful of you!")