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I had thought about driving US 6 from end to end for many years, taking a two-lane road instead of an Interstate to really see the country. Finally in September 1988, I had a relatively new car that could actually make it across the country, a couple of weeks off from school, and a little bit of money.
I had just moved to Vermont at the time, and headed out for Cape Cod at about 4 am on the Friday morning of Labor Day weekend. I went down I-89, I-93, and MA-3, making it through Boston before 7:00, encountering no traffic at all on my way. I thought to myself that later on that day getting to Cape Cod would be a very different story, but for now it was smooth sailing. This was my first time on Cape Cod. I made it to the eastern end of US 6 in Provincetown, turned around, and began my journey westward. I decided to do most of the trip without my radio on. This left me alone with my thoughts, the road, and the scenery.
I grabbed lunch just after leaving Cape Cod. I stopped at a supermarket to save money, buying an apple and making a peanut butter sandwich for myself. I sat in the supermarket parking lot and ate my lunch, excited about my forthcoming journey. Soon I was back on the road, and after about an hour I was leaving Massachusetts and entering Rhode Island. While going through Providence, the signs for US 6 seemed to just disappear. I stopped a few times to look at a map and try to figure out how to follow the route, but to no avail. I just could not seem to find my way through the city. Finally I gave up; got on I-95 southbound and then I-295 northbound where I knew there was an exit for US 6. This put me back on the route, but unfortunately I had already skipped a small portion of US 6, and it was still only the first day.
In almost no time I was leaving Rhode Island and entering Connecticut. The point where US 6 crosses the border is also where the Connecticut Turnpike used to end, suggesting that the US 6 corridor through western Rhode Island was once intended to be at least one of the major routes to Providence. I enjoyed my drive through eastern Connecticut. Around Manchester US 6 was an old limited access highway. This further seemed to suggest that the US 6 corridor in eastern Connecticut was once expected to carry far more traffic than it currently does.
Although I usually preferred the two-lane sections of US 6, I was happy to make up a little bit of time when US 6 multiplexed with I-84 through Hartford. Through the rest of Connecticut, US 6 would alternately parallel and then multiplex with I-84, providing a nice balance of slow travel through the small towns of rural Connecticut and high speed Interstate travel.
Night began to fall as I crossed the border into New York. Luckily I had family in New York near where US 6 enters the state, so I spent my first night with family.
Early the next morning, just as the sun was rising I headed back out on US 6. I worked my way through New York City’s outer suburbs and through the mountains surrounding the Hudson River before entering the rural countryside again as I continued westward toward Pennsylvania. Soon I was driving through the quiet streets of a sleepy Port Jervis, and crossing the Delaware River into Pennsylvania.
Most of the trip through Pennsylvania was comprised of small towns and miles of wooded hills. I stopped for gas in some small town, where the attendant kept having problems processing my credit card. I wondered if this was a small sign of future problems.
As I crossed western Pennsylvania, I started to hit a few periods of rain. Soon after reaching Ohio, there was a detour on US 6 which put me on to OH-11. Since it was getting close to sunset and the rain had become a downpour, I decided to stay on OH-11 and take it south to Youngstown, where I planned to stay at Motel 6, a relatively inexpensive lodging option for road warriors with limited funds.
I found the Motel 6 without too much trouble, but was shocked to learn when I arrived that they were full. The Motel 6 was in an area with a lot of other motels, so as darkness fell I went to another motel. Unfortunately, they too were full. I started to come to the realization that waiting until nightfall on a Saturday night to find a motel room was a pretty stupid thing to do unless I was OK sleeping in my car, which was not really in my plans. I next went to a Days Inn. Luckily the Days Inn did have a room available. It was a double room which cost over twice what I had expected to pay at Motel 6, and was located right behind an often noisy ice machine. On top of that it was a smoking room which drove my sinuses crazy, but at least it was a room.
After a semi-restful night, I awoke early the next morning just before sunrise, and was back on US 6 as the sun rose and skies cleared. This was my first time driving west of Pennsylvania, so the novelty of my first trip through Ohio filled me with anticipation. As I continued west through the rolling hills of northeastern Ohio, I realized I was almost out of fuel. I started to become really concerned as I realized that all of the gas stations in the small towns along this section of US 6 were closed this early on a Sunday morning. Luckily, with the car running almost on empty, I reached the east side of Cleveland and found an open gas station. The neighborhood looked a little scary, but I didn’t want to risk trying to find another gas station.
The east side of Cleveland sadly appeared blighted, but I thought downtown was pretty nice, especially early on a Sunday morning when there was no other traffic whatsoever. I felt like I had the city all to myself. I also thought the west side of Cleveland was pretty nice, with its quiet tree-lined streets and grand old homes.
As US 6 continued west it followed the shore of Lake Erie. I stopped a couple of times to look at the lake. The city of Lorain provided another example of an old Midwestern industrial city before US 6 headed southwest across the flat green farmland. I found the seemingly endless green fields quite beautiful, and very different from the landscapes I had seen for most of my life.
Having learned my lesson about letting my gas tank get low earlier that day, I stopped for gas again in Butler, Indiana. As I gave the attendant my license plate number, she assumed I was from Ohio. When I said it was a New York license, she was amazed at how far I had traveled. Apparently that part of US 6 did not see a lot of cross-country traffic.
Northeastern Indiana was also where I saw my first Amish person. I actually saw many Amish in this part of Indiana. It was one of my many “firsts” on this journey.
As I got to western Indiana the traffic slowly increased, and soon I was driving through the heavily populated Chicago area, including a short stretch of the very crowded multiplex with I-80. I saw Chicago as another big milestone in my trip, since it was one of those places I had never seen in person, but seen many times on television and in the movies. Of course since I was staying on US 6 I never really saw Chicago, but it was close enough to feel like Chicago.
Thinking it was 5:00 when I reached Joliet, I stopped at the Motel 6 and checked in for the night, figuring it would be getting dark soon. Unfortunately after checking in I realized that I had crossed into Central Time, and it was in fact only 4:00, much earlier than I had intended to stop. Had I known beforehand I would have continued for another 100 miles or so. Stopping early did allow me to fill the car with gas, avoiding my mistake from earlier in the day, and gave me some time to do some exploring back toward Chicago.
I took I-80 back toward Chicago, an incredibly bumpy, congested ride that helped to remind me why I was taking US 6 across the country instead of the Interstate. My 30 minute ride on I-80 was more exhausting that the 9 hours on US 6.
Early the next morning I headed back out onto US 6, past the power plant and jumble of high voltage electric transmission lines that for some reason formed my strongest memory of Joliet for years to come. My ride across Illinois was far more rural than I expected, with seemingly endless greenery. Every 10 miles or so there was a small town, and about every 50 miles a large town.
Reaching the Mississippi River was of course another major milestone, as was my first time in Iowa. I remember Iowa as being the first and only state that had new Grand Army of the Republic signs along US 6 in many places. There were a couple of older signs in some other states, especially in New England, but Iowa was the only state that appeared to have been signed with the highway name recently. Iowa was also noteworthy because large portions of US 6 were multiplexed with I-80, but still well signed along the interstate. US 6 still followed surface streets through most of the cities though, so I did get to see some of Iowa City, Des Moines, and Council Bluffs, all places that I had heard of, but really had no idea how they looked.
US 6 also took me through downtown Omaha, Nebraska, a city much larger than I expected. As US 6 left Omaha to the west, I found myself on a crowded old limited access highway as I followed it west through Boys Town. As US 6 began heading southwest, there was a detour posted that put me on I-80 for about 15 miles as I continued toward Lincoln. Once in Lincoln, US 6 followed the Cornhusker Highway through town. I spent Monday night in Lincoln, once again at Motel 6.
I left Lincoln early Tuesday morning to make my way across the Great Plains of Nebraska. Not too surprisingly, most of what I saw as I crossed Nebraska was farms. Although many people had told me that the never-ending farmland that makes up most of the center of the country was boring, I found it really quite fascinating. From the smaller farms in the east to the very large ones I saw as I continued west through Nebraska, I found there was plenty to keep my interest.
Aside from the farms and endless line of grain elevators, there were a few other things that really caught my attention. One of these was the miles and miles of earthen mounds to the south of US 6 near Hastings. This was clearly some kind of military storage facility, but I have no idea what was in all of those store rooms. As I reached very sparsely populated western Nebraska, the landscape slowly became drier, hillier, and I felt as though I was quickly gaining altitude.
As I crossed the very desolate border into Colorado, I realized that eastern Colorado was much flatter and drier than I expected. I was ready for lunch as I crossed the border, but locating a place to eat was very difficult. Finally as I was driving through Holyoke I spotted a drive-in hamburger place. I stopped and had what at the time seemed like one of the best hamburgers I had ever tasted. I also thought the atmosphere couldn’t be beat. The grain elevator, which looks huge when you’re right up next to it, was right across the street. Soon, the parking lot was full of pickup trucks and people getting lunch. One of the people getting lunch was a little girl who when she saw the New York license plate on my car, excitedly started pulling on her father’s jeans and pointing at my car to show him what she had found. He quickly pulled her away, but I thought her excitement was really cute.
As I reached I-76, US 6 remained as a parallel route for a little while, but eventually multiplexed with the Interstate. I was sad to see that on the I-76 – US 6 multiplex there were no US 6 route markers.
Denver and the Front Range appeared around 3:00 that afternoon. Since it was still pretty early, I decided to push on to Grand Junction, confirming my reservation so I would be sure I had a room when I got there. The ride through Denver was uneventful, mostly following older limited access highways. West of Golden, US 6 finally entered the mountains, passing through a gorgeous canyon as it made its way to I-70. US 6 left I-70 again to make its way up to Loveland Pass. The view offered by US 6 as it went through switchback after switchback was amazing. I watched as I-70 appeared smaller and smaller below me. This was also the first time I had seen gates used to close the road in winter. As I crossed Loveland Pass and the Continental Divide, I put yet another major milestone behind me.
To the west of Loveland Pass, US 6 alternated between being a separate two-lane road and being multiplexed with I-70, although once again the US 6 signage along I-70, including signage indicating the end of the multiplex, was minimal. In a number of places along I-70 the old two-lane US 6 could still be seen, often eventually literally disappearing under the new Interstate. At one point US 6 went through a very tall, narrow canyon where the river, railroad tracks and two-lane US 6 seemed to fill every inch of space at the bottom of the canyon. Above me though I could see the new I-70 being built in this already overfull canyon. Clearly the US 6 pavement I was current driving on would need to be obliterated to complete I-70. It was kind of sad to realize that I was seeing the end of another old US highway.
As night fell, I realized that the drive from Denver to Grand Junction was a bit longer than I had expected. Since it was now getting dark I really didn’t mind that I was once again on the Interstate. I was kind of upset that I was missing this part of the landscape though. The other drawback from night driving was that my car was being pelted by thousands of insects making it almost difficult to see out of the windshield.
After spending the night at the Motel 6 in Grand Junction, I headed back east on I-70 a few miles to the end of the westbound I-70 – US 6 multiplex and continued on US 6 westbound. As I continued west through westernmost Colorado and into Utah, I attempted to take two-lane US 6 wherever it was marked, but since I-70 never had any US 6 reassurance signs when the two routes were multiplexed and the exits often did not indicate US 6 when the routes split, it was often difficult to know when I should be searching for the two-lane US 6 and when I should be on the Interstate.
As I drove across eastern Utah, the mountains to the north were obscured by a thick haze that I later learned was smoke from the forest fires in Yellowstone National Park, hundreds of miles to the north. One of the Utah towns US 6 went through was Green River, where I stopped at a truck stop for some breakfast. A bit further west, US 6 left I-70 and headed northwest to Provo.
After passing through the Provo area, US 6 passed through a very dusty rundown town of Eureka, and then into a desert valley. The drive through the desert southwest of Provo was very different from anything I had seen before. Most of the time I couldn’t see another car, and there were almost no towns along the road. Concerned about the lack of fuel remaining in my tank, I stopped at Lynndyl to refill my tank. Although the town was comprised of only a few houses, it did also have a small gas station and convenience store. The girl working behind the counter appeared to be in her late teens. I wondered what it must be like to grow up in a town that was so small that it only had a few dozen people.
In Delta, US 6 multiplexed with US 50 for the journey across the desert to Nevada. A little past Delta, US 6 passed by the huge dry lakebed of Sevier Lake. Its sands seemed to stretch for miles to the mountains in the distance. Everything in this area seemed to stretch on forever.
I reached Ely, Nevada early in the afternoon, but I knew it would be hours before I would reach the next town, so I decided to spend the night here. I checked in to the Motel 6, which appeared to be brand new. Since I had quite a bit of time to kill, I decided to walk downtown and see what there was to see. After some time walking around, I spent a bit of time relaxing in a park in town. Some kids were hanging around outside the high school across the street. I thought to myself that this must be a very different environment to grow up in compared to what I had experienced growing up outside New York City. After perusing the town library for a little while, I returned to the hotel so I could get a good night’s sleep and be on my way again early the next morning.
As I traveled across Nevada, I was struck by how few other people there really were. I would drive for miles and not see any man-made objects other than the road. I was also struck be the scale of everything. The mountains, valleys, everything just seemed huge. I found this would play tricks on my mind sometimes. I would be driving on what seemed like a level road wondering why my car seemed to be moving more sluggishly only to realize that I had actually been climbing a hill for so long that the uphill grade now appeared level.
As I reached the California border I rejoiced that I had made it all of the way across the country on US 6. A few miles past the border I came to something I had never seen before, a border station at the state border. I thought to myself that I knew California was a different place from the rest of the country in many ways, but I never thought they viewed themselves as a separate country. I stopped at the inspection station as required. The officer asked where I was coming from and I instinctively replied “Nevada”, thinking to myself where else could I have come from. Then I realized that he probably meant before Nevada since that was the obvious answer and added “New Hampshire originally”. He asked if I was bringing any fruits, vegetables, or plants with me. I said no, but then added “except an apple I bought in Nevada”. He confirmed, “You bought it in Nevada?” “Yes” I answered, “I bought it in Nevada.” He then let me continue on my way.
Soon I reached Bishop, California and the end of US 6. It was exciting to have driven the route from end to end, but kind of sad that it was now over.
Since this was my first time driving across the country, I figured I had to make it to the Pacific Ocean, so I headed north on US 395, and then west through the Sierra Nevada Mountains into Yosemite National Park. As I made my way through Yosemite I stopped at a visitor center to look around a little and mail some post cards, then continued west out of the park. The road out of the park had far more traffic than any of the roads I had been on the last few days, and was unbelievably curvy and slow. Finally I reached CA-99 for my trip north toward San Francisco. My trip on CA-99 continued my rapid re-acquaintance with heavy traffic. I longed to be back on the nice quiet roads of the previous few days.
I took CA-37 to the north of San Francisco Bay. This was the first place I had ever seen signs saying to turn on your headlights during the day for safety. I took a quick detour into the Napa Valley on CA-121, and almost got into an accident merging back on to CA-37. I went through a “Yield” sign expecting an acceleration lane and found that in fact there was none. As night fell I found myself in Petaluma, where I checked in to yet another Motel 6.
The next morning I headed south on US 101 to just north of the Golden Gate Bridge where I took CA-1 out to the Pacific Coast. After a quick look at the ocean, I started my journey back east. I made my way to I-80 which I took to Sacramento. From Sacramento I headed east on US 50 through the mountains to Lake Tahoe. I thought the Lake Tahoe area was stunning, and thought it was really interesting how quickly the desert reappeared as I dropped down out of the mountains into Nevada.
As I left Carson City for my journey back across Nevada, I stopped to get a large cup of ice-cold soda for the ride across the desert, since my car did not have any air conditioning. When I picked up the cold soda to take a drink, I was surprised that although the cup was still ice cold, it was completely dry. My mind was used to thinking that on a hot day, a cold cup would “sweat” and be wet on the outside. Of course in this environment, there was no moisture in the air, so although the cup was cold, it was still dry.
My trip on “the Loneliest Highway in America” was beautiful, but it was already dark as I reached Ely again and checked back into the Motel 6 for the night. The next morning I continued east on US 50 and US 6. As I passed Sevier Lake I at first figured that the silvery shimmer over the sand was just a mirage. As I kept looking at the lake though, I realized that there really was water now. It had rained the night before and water had collected in the lake.
After passing through the dusty town of Delta, I stayed to the south on US 50. Eventually US 50 multiplexed with I-70. I found this part of I-70 very unusual since it was only a two lane road, but still carried an Interstate designation. Upon reaching Grand Junction, Colorado I continued on US 50 taking a more southern route through the Rocky Mountains compared to my westward trip.
After spending the night in Colorado, I continued east through Kansas. US 50, although a four lane divided highway, had much more traffic on it than US 6. The landscape was also very different. Instead of miles of crops, it seemed like most of the farms along the route raised cattle, making for an often smelly ride. I stopped for the night in Wichita. The most unusual thing I remember about Wichita is that some of the city streets were not paved. They had curbs and sidewalks, but the road surface was dirt.
Unfortunately, the breakfast I ate the next morning did not agree with me, and I spent miles driving through western Missouri searching desperately for a restroom. Finally I found a small general store where I stopped for about a half hour to cure my upset stomach. Driving across the country while ill was definitely not enjoyable. The wooded landscape of Missouri was quite beautiful however.
I spent the night in Bloomington, Indiana arriving at the hotel well after midnight. My late arrival the night before resulted in my not getting on the road until late morning the following day. I crossed the rest of southern Indiana, and then followed the Ohio River around Cincinnati before continuing across southern Ohio on US 50. In western West Virginia, US 50 was a limited access highway, allowing a quick ride across the western part of the state. I stopped for gas just before nightfall where the cashier, after learning where I was from, told me about how much she enjoyed visiting her sister in New York City a couple of years earlier. Since I had been making good time, I figured I’d continue for a couple more hours before stopping for the night.
After US 50 crossed I-79 it became a curvy two-lane road, winding its way through the West Virginia mountains. Soon the sun had set and the darkness combined with rain and fog, making the drive much slower than it had been before, and requiring an extraordinary amount of attention to avoid driving off the road. After spending over an hour negotiating the hairpin turns on this zero-visibility night, I started to feel very tired, and checked the map to see where I might be able to stop for the night. Unfortunately the dark little town I was in appeared to be the largest population center for miles. I-79 was now well behind me, and the map indicated there was just more of the same in front of me. It looked like my best bet was to continue on US 50 for a few more miles, and then make my way north through Maryland on US 219 to the eastbound Interstate. Although the drive through Maryland seemed to take all night, eventually I made it. It was close to midnight by the time I made it to I-81. I stopped at a few hotels to try to get a room for the night, but unfortunately every place I stopped was full. Finally as the sun rose, I found myself back on US 6 in New York, only about an hour from where I had spent the first night of my journey. I was a bit sad that I had given up on US 50 so close to the end, but was really ready to get back home.
I took the photographs of US 6 in Massachusetts, Rhode Island, Connecticut, and New York east of the Hudson River on many short trips I took in the mid 1990s. The pictures of US 6 west of the Hudson River in New York and those in Pennsylvania and Ohio I took in 1996 on my way to the beginning of US 12 in Michigan. I drove from my home outside New York City to Toledo, Ohio that first day, taking pictures of US 6 along the way.
In 1996, I also photographed US 6 between western Ohio and eastern Colorado. After completing US 14 and US 16, I headed south from Wyoming into Colorado where I began following US 6 eastbound from Sterling. Although I was actually driving east, the photos I took were all westbound photos so they would represent the trip I took when I first drove the route eight years earlier. Unfortunately because it was late afternoon, I took many of these pictures into the sun. On this trip, I spent the first night in McCook, Nebraska at the Super 8 motel. Early the next morning I started on my journey again, taking my first early morning picture in McCook.
When I reached the Iowa – Nebraska border, I headed back westbound across the Missouri River so I could take a picture of the “Welcome to Nebraska” sign. Unfortunately, the US 6 exit off of the bridge was closed due to construction, and this construction created a major traffic jam. Because of all of the traffic I was not able to get a clear picture of the Nebraska sign. On the way back across the bridge eastbound though, I managed to pull over to the side of the road briefly and take a picture looking eastbound. After getting my picture of the Nebraska state line sign, I continued across Iowa, taking pictures of US 6. The second night I stopped in Iowa City, Iowa.
When I reached the Mississippi River and the Illinois – Iowa border on the third day, I was determined to once again get a picture of the state line sign. Unfortunately the “Welcome to Iowa” sign was up on an old suspension bridge that was just wide enough to carry its two travel lanes. I spent some time on the ground on the Illinois side of the bridge, trying to find a place where I could get a good view of the sign, but the bridge was much too high to take this picture from the ground. I then drove across the bridge again and noticed that although clearly marked with “No U Turn” signs, there was an old abandoned parking area on top of the bridge. I had to cross the bridge a few times to get to the point where I could safely turn in to the old parking lot, but once I did I was happy to see that this lot offered an excellent view of both the “Welcome to Iowa” sign and the bridge. I took my picture and left the parking lot without any trouble, and made my way through Illinois.
As I made my way across Illinois, I took a few pictures of US 6, including a picture in Joliet of the power lines I remembered so vividly from my first trip. I also took a picture of US 6 just after it leaves the Interstate in the Chicago area. US 6 crossing the Indiana – Illinois border into Illinois was one of the more difficult pictures to obtain in this area. As US 6 crosses the border, it is multiplexed with I-80, a very busy highway. Pulling off of I-80 / US 6 at the border wasn’t too difficult since there was a nice wide shoulder. I was still a little nervous about getting out and taking the picture with all of the traffic speeding by me, but after a few minutes I had my photograph and was back in the car. Getting back on to I-80 was a lot more difficult than getting off. I had to sit and wait for what seemed like a very long time for a gap in the traffic in the right lane to open up so I could get back on the highway. Even when a gap did finally open up, I had to accelerate as quickly as my car would go to avoid being someone else’s hood ornament.
I photographed the rest of US 6 after driving US 18 in 1998. My wife joined me on this trip. We picked up US 6 a bit northeast of Denver, and took a few pictures of US 6 on the way into Denver. We spent the night at a Ramada Inn just off the freeway portion of US 6 between Denver and Golden.
Since it was still early when we arrived at the motel, we decided to take a side trip into the mountains. After winding through the mountains for a little while, we arrived at the base of the Mount Evans Auto Road. We paid the fee and began our ascent of Mount Evans on the highest paved road in America. There was very little other traffic on the road, allowing us to pretty much drive along at our own pace. The ride up the mountain was quite beautiful, with a few scenic pull-offs along the way, including one at a lake near the top of the mountain with a huge cliff behind it. After a bit more driving we were on the top of that cliff in the parking lot at the end of the Mount Evans Auto Road. Currently the only thing at the top of the mountain is an observatory that is not open to the public. There are also the stone ruins of an old restaurant that apparently exploded one day. While the parking lot was near the top, to get to the actual peak we had to hike up a few hundred more feet. The trail looked like it was in good shape, so we figured we should hike the last few hundred feet to get to the top of the mountain. The hike seemed like it would be relatively easy until we realized that the thin air made climbing much more difficult. We had to stop every 50 feet or so to rest and catch our breath, but eventually we made it to the top.
The next day we continued west on US 6. While we did take US 6 west of Golden, we had a very hard time finding places to stop and take pictures as we made our way through the canyon. We took US 6 over Loveland Pass again, and stopped for a few obligatory pictures. By now I-70 on the west side of the Continental Divide had been completed, obliterating some sections of US 6 that I had driven ten years earlier. Where US 6 still followed its old alignment, we traveled the old alignment and took pictures of the old road. While beginning to head out of the mountains, I saw my first forest fire. It seemed strange to see the big orange flames and thick smoke rising from one of the mountains a few miles south of us.
We stayed in Grand Junction again, but this time at an old hotel in downtown Grand Junction. The hotel was recommended by the book “Road Trip USA” by Jamie Jensen, and we agreed that it was acceptable. It was also nice to be in a downtown area for a change. The city had done a nice job of making the main street inviting by narrowing the road and adding curves, trees, and parking to make the road less of a thoroughfare and more pedestrian-friendly. We also found quite a few good restaurants within walking distance of the hotel.
We spent a few nights in Grand Junction, seeing the sights in the area each day. We spent part of one day riding through Colorado National Monument, an area with some very interesting natural rock formations. Before spending some time in Grand Junction, we didn’t even know this National Monument existed.
On a couple of the days we took trips to Moab, Utah. The trip to Moab took us through Cisco, Utah, a town on old US 6 that had almost disappeared, and then down along the Colorado River through a stunning red-rock canyon just south of Arches National Park. On one of these days, we took a rafting trip through this canyon. It was a beautiful gentle ride down the river. On the way we learned about western water rights, something completely foreign to folks who grew up on the east coast, and the use it or lose it attitude. We also saw the tour guide’s excitement at seeing a brief rain shower. Apparently rain is so unusual that it is celebrated any time it does rain. We also got a brief lesson on the layout of virtually all Utah towns. The Mormons had ensured that virtually every town follows the same simple, orderly pattern. Overall the rafting trip was most enjoyable. We also visited Arches National Park a couple of times, taking multiple hikes around the interesting rock formations. Although relatively crowded each time we visited, we were still very happy we took some time to explore it.
As we headed out of Colorado for the last time on this trip, I convinced my wife that although there were multiple signs warning that following old US 6 across the Colorado-Utah border no longer provided access to I-70 once in Utah, we should take the old road for a few miles anyway just to see where it goes. This turned out to be an excellent decision, since when we finally reached the Utah border we found an old concrete obelisk marking the border. The deteriorating old road out of sight from I-70 really made us feel like we were driving across the country 50 years earlier. Although the signs had suggested otherwise, after driving for awhile on old US 6 in Utah, we had no problem finding an interchange with I-70.
We took a detour on this day also, in this case to visit Canyonlands National Park. Unfortunately although our tour guide from a couple of days earlier had talked about how rare rain was, this turned out to be a cloudy, rainy day. We drove the road through the park, seeing little more than grey clouds. As we reached the end of the road, the clouds lifted just enough to realize that there was probably a really stunning landscape in front of us, but after a few minutes the clouds thickened again, and we decided to continue on our way.
As we headed toward Green River, we found an old US 6 reassurance sign on a part of the road that was so rarely used that grass was growing through the pavement. We stopped for lunch at a local restaurant in Green River, and then continued on our journey to Provo, where we spent the night.
The trip from Provo to Ely, Nevada on US 6 the next day was sunny and uneventful. We spent the night in Ely, checking into the historic Hotel Nevada right in the middle of downtown just after noon. This was another hotel recommended by “Road Trip USA”. The room was clean although the bathroom was very small, but for $20 a night, it seemed like a good deal, especially since the room was actually intended for three people. We had lunch across the street at a Chinese restaurant, which offered a nice change of pace. We spent the rest of the afternoon losing a couple of dollars in the casino downstairs in the hotel and taking a scenic train ride to the north of town. All in all it was an enjoyable day.
As we settled in for the night, we realized that the hotel room door did not have a deadbolt or chain, just the keyed doorknob lock. Although this doesn’t happen to me very often since I usually stay at chain hotels, when it has happened in the past I have always propped luggage and/or furniture against the door so at least if someone did break in at 3:00 in the morning I would hear them. We did the same thing here, piling our luggage in front of the door just in case.
Since it had been a long day, we settled down for the night pretty early and drifted off to sleep. At around 11:00 that night, there was some noise at the door and someone started to force their way in. Once he realized we were in the room, he apologized saying he had just checked in downstairs, and then left to get a different room, but needless to say my wife and I were a bit shaken up. Apparently their record keeping wasn’t that good. Since we had checked in with the day crew and only taken two of the three keys for the room, the night staff didn’t realize that the room was already rented since one key still remained for the room. They apologized and assured us it wouldn’t happen again, but my wife was too shaken up to spend the night there, so they refunded our $20 and we left to find another hotel.
Not too surprisingly finding another hotel at midnight was a little difficult since many of them were full. We ended up going to the Best Western down the street, which was a lot more expensive than $20, but my wife felt better about staying in a hotel that she had heard of before. Unfortunately, even this did not go too smoothly. When we went to the first room they gave us, the deadbolt was engaged and someone was already in the room. We started to wonder if Rod Sterling was going to appear in the parking lot to explain that we had crossed into another dimension. The desk staff was really surprised someone was in the room, but gave us another room. This room reeked of stale cigarette smoke which was not very pleasant for a couple of non-smokers, but we were happy to at least have a room. After an only semi-restful night, we awoke early the next morning to begin our trip across Nevada.
Soon after leaving Ely, my wife mentioned that she needed to stop and use a restroom. Since Currant was only about 10 minutes away, we figured we’d stop there for breakfast. Unfortunately the gas station, restaurant, and motel in Currant looked as though they had been abandoned for quite some time. As we left what remained of the small town, there was a sign saying there was a gas station in 80 miles. Although I suggested that there was so little traffic that she could pretty safely just stop on the side of the road, she preferred to wait the just over an hour until we arrived at the gas station. After a lengthy ride, a new building that appeared to contain a home, gas station, and convenience store appeared on the left side of the road. Unfortunately it was closed. I pointed out once again that it was so quiet that you could here a car coming 5 minutes before they actually got to you, so there was plenty of time to just use the desert as a restroom, but my wife preferred to hold out another 50 miles or so until we got to Tonapah.
As we crossed the California border this time, the inspection station appeared to be closed, so we did not need to stop. After reaching the end of US 6 in Bishop, we headed south this time taking US 395 to CA-168 and NV-266, two very scenic state highways over the mountains and back into Nevada. From there we headed south to Las Vegas.
We spent a couple of days in Las Vegas, staying at the Orleans Hotel which we found very affordable for the quality of the room. We did the usual visit to the strip, but only did a little gambling. The pinnacle of our visit to Las Vegas was really the trip we took to the Hoover Dam. It is an amazing structure! I was happy to see that tours of the dam were available. At the time there were two choices, a general tour for around $10 per person that would visit most of the key aspects of the dam and where we would be in a tour group of around 50 people, and a hardhat tour. The hardhat tour was a lot more expensive, I think around $45, but had only about 15 people in the group and visited more parts of the dam. Although I’m usually pretty stingy, in this case I decided the smaller tour group was probably worth it; besides, we got to keep our hardhats. This turned out to be an excellent decision. The hardhat tour was fascinating. We visited the base of the dam and power plant like the larger tour group did, but also went to a number of smaller areas that the larger tour group did not visit. One interesting area included on the hardhat tour was one of the diversion tunnels. When the dam was being built, the Colorado River was diverted out of the riverbed and through these tunnels bored into the canyon cliffs. Now the massive pipes in these tunnels carry river water to the turbines in the power plant. We also walked through one of the inspection tunnels about midway up the dam. From here we could see one of the seemingly endless stairwells that span the height of the dam inside. We also went through a small round tunnel that at the far end came to a grate on the face of the dam, just about in the center of the structure. On the way back to the main inspection tunnel from the grate on the dam’s face, the tour guide turned on some additional tunnel lighting that revealed that the grates beneath our feet were covering vertical shafts that were so deep that the bottom was not visible. It was kind of a cruel trick to play on anyone who was afraid of heights since the only way to exit the tunnel was to step on these grates again, but along with the rest of the tour made for a really memorable visit. Unfortunately, I think these tours were discontinued after September 11th.
The next day we left for the airport first thing in the morning for our flights back home.
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