Elko, Nevada – Part 1

On Sunday, July 10, we left Sparks in our rearview mirror and headed across the desert toward Elko, Nevada, with a quick stop in Lovelock for lunch. The courthouse parking lot gave us plenty of space for our rig in this quaint town.

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Lovelock County Court House
A walk around the building to stretch our legs seemed like a good idea and what should we see but clusters of locks hooked to chains stretched between short pillars.

img_8918There must have been thousands, from old rusty locks to shiny new locks, engraved locks, and plain locks. Name a brand. I’m sure it’s represented somewhere in Lovers Lock Plaza. Had we brought along our own lock to add to the bunch, I’m not sure where it could have been clipped.img_8922

We pulled into Iron Horse RV Resort where we planned to stay for three or four nights. Iron Horse is unique in that customers also have access to the Hilton Garden Inn up the hill, including a discount for a hot breakfast. Although they advertise a pool at both the RV section and the hotel, they are not large enough to propel your body for more than one stroke. We did, however, make good use of the treadmills and dumbbells at the inn, using the walk up the steep hill to the Hilton as our warmup.

Let the sightseeing begin.

Anxious to start poking around, we packed a lunch and hit the road the next morning. A few minutes later, a check engine light flashed on the dash. Now what? A quick look in the manual revealed a possible problem with the deisel exhaust fluid (DEF) system, which is the equivalent of smog control for diesels. Great! The situation wasn’t critical so off we drove.

What a surprise to find an oasis like Lamoille Canyon after 290 miles of crossing the flat and rolling desert hills from Reno.

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Ruby Mountains – Still snow on them hills

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View of valley from overlook
The geology, flora, and fauna of Lamoille Canyon reminded me of sights in Yosemite and Mammoth Lakes.

The canyon, twelve-miles long, is the largest valley in the Ruby Mountains and includes waterfalls, sparkling pools, snow-dotted peaks, campgrounds, picnic areas, and hiking trails. I felt sorry for all the travelers up on Interstate 80 missing this experience. It’s a perfect respite from the monotony of driving through the desert.

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Indian Paintbrush
Large sections of tree stumps showed evidence that beavers had been hard at work.

 

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Beaver Chew Marks

Except in pictures and movies, I had never seen a pond built by beavers. This one reminded me of an infinity pool.

 

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Beaver Infinity Pool

When driving through Elko, Nevada, the short detour through Lamoille Canyon is a great place to break up the monotony of freeway travel.

 

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Hanging Valley

 

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Canyon’s End

Back in town, it was time for a visit to the local GMC dealer. The service writer hooked up his diagnostic scanner and confirmed there was an issue with the DEF sensor(s). The fix usually results in pulling and replacing the reservoir. “The earliest we can get you in is next Monday. The worse that can happen is the truck will lose power.” What? That didn’t sound good. Losing power while pulling 8,000 pounds up a hill, was not something we wanted to tackle.

We were stuck in Elko for at least another week. Everyone we talked to before our trip had encouraged us to make reservations. We were glad we hadn’t listened. No reservations, no need to cancel. We prefer to keep our options open to explore a place in more depth, leave when we want, or pivot when complications arise beyond our control.

A week wasn’t so bad. We had more time to explore.

 

Sparks Nevada

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We began our forty-four-night journey on July 6, 2016. Yellowstone National Park was our primary objective, and we would try to include the southwest corner of South Dakota if time permitted. Our first stop was Sparks, Nevada, to spend a few days visiting with friends and exploring the area. The Sparks Marina and RV Park served as our home base. We had found this spot during our last stay in Sparks. The paved roads, cement pads, artificial turf, and wide spots all within walking distance to the marina and lake impressed us. Our visit, this time, did not disappoint. We enjoyed walking along the two-mile marina and lake trail, greeting pet owners and their dogs, and watching the ducks floating in the water before fresh baked pastries and brewed coffee enticed us to stop at Lighthouse Coffee for breakfast.

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Paddleboards on Sparks Lake

 

Their patio had a great view of the paddleboards and kayaks (available to rent) skimming across the calm waters. Volleyball courts and playgrounds for children, along with the water sports, make this park a favorite place for everyone.

 

The next day we visited Pyramid Lake and Museum making a loop northeast out of Sparks on Route 445, then back down Routes 446 and 447 to connect with Interstate 80. The lake is within the 475,000 acres of the Pyramid Lake Paiute Tribe’s Reservation and home to five different species of fish including the Cui-ui and Lahontan Cutthroat Trout.

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Used through Creative Commons License 3.0, #81876: Sunlight on Pyramid Rock, copyright 2015 Tanya Wheeler, http://www.fhwa.dot.gov/byways/photos/81876

This is an excellent place to get away from the city for a day of fishing or to stay awhile and camp. Pyramid Lake Marina and RV Park offers twenty-five sites with full hookups or beach camping with no hookups. It was refreshing to see that development of hotels and casinos had not spoiled the natural beauty of the shoreline. The tribe focuses on preserving the recreational and cultural resources of the reservation, which includes the lake and related fisheries.

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Front of Pyramid Lake Museum

The  Pyramid Lake Museum and Visitors Center in Nixon has informative displays and exhibits about the tribe.

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Rear of Pyramid Lake Museum

 

 

 

 

 

While driving the roads to the lake and back, we commented on the bumpy ride and questioned what the department of transportation did to make the roads like washboards. Were they like this because of the snow?  When we hit the freeway, we knew what was wrong. We had experienced the same bumpy ride twice on our trip to Texas earlier in the year. This time, both rear truck tires had bulges that looked ready to burst, evidence the tires had separated.

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At least, we could get them both replaced at the same time. Goodyear sent us to Discount Tire for the warranty adjustments, which took most of the next day. So much for sightseeing around Reno and Sparks.

Next stop? Elko, Nevada.