Wednesday, June 29, 2011

Tonopah, NV to Benton Spring, CA on US Route 6

Tonopah, NV to Benton Spring, CA
81 miles

I just had to play the slots before leaving Nevada.  Amazing how fast $20 goes when pulling the 25 cent one-arm bandit a hundred times. 

Couldn't resist pairing Smash-Mouth's
"Who's There" with this segment of the drive.

Heading to Cali on Route 6; listening to “Alien Radio” – I kid you not – a great mixed bag of rock, country, pop of every age.  Oh yeah – THIS is the desert, baby.  Bring on the roasted animal bones and mirages.

Today, however, there’s lots of traffic.  Everyone is traveling mid-day. It’s the most congested on the road since I left Spanish Fork, UT.   A few miles out of Tonopah, I pulled into the beautiful Miller’s Rest Area – once a station and watering stop, now just a few shade trees, covered picnic tables, a water pump and bathrooms.  It’s amazing what an underwater source will do. Gorgeous.

Route 6 pairs with 95N here (not the Interstate, obviously), and I passed random upheavals of basalt and red sandstone hills. Otherworldly.

Once 95N peels off from 6 and I take the left towards Benton, traffic thins – though it’s still busier than yesterday.  The black blocks of lava, patches of white sand, snowcapped mountains, sepia mountains, dull green sagebrush and hazy blue sky put me into a kind of trance.  There are no jarring colors to perk me up.

Along the way, I see wild horses (there are plenty of Horse Crossing signs), and abandoned burned out buildings.  I can’t tell whether the structures were houses, motels or military installations, but I can tell they are very, very uncared for.  Gutted, charcoal, decayed.  There’s nothing on Route 6 except the relentless high desert and mountain landscape.

The small “Welcome to California” sign is shot through.  Who knows why.  Target practice?  Ironic considering the next billboard I see states; “Enjoy and Care for the Eastern Sierra.” I’m welcomed to California through a state Agricultural Inspection Station and with a few questions by an Ag. Official. Driving into the car-wash-like bay, I feel as if a) I’m entering another country and b) my car should emerge cleaner than it went in.  Neither applied.

Benton Springs B&B Hot Tub
Benton Springs, CA
In a few miles, I arrived at the one-pump gas station and 4 table café that is basically all of Benton, CA.  I had a good grilled cheese sandwich (my fallback when I’m unsure of meat and produce), and got directions to the Benton Springs B&B – just four miles up the road on Route 120.  It might as well have been on another planet; it was the loveliest B&B I’ve seen since Idaho Springs, CO – over a week ago.  Owned by uber-bicyclists, Diane Henderson and Bill Branlette (they bike all over the world for months at a time), it’s one of those places so good to be true it looks like a mirage.  Nine rooms (most with shared bath) ring a Spanish terra cotta courtyard and working fountain.  Guests can either eat in the café back in town or cook dinner on a grill and eat outside on a shaded patio.  There are three spring-fed hot tubs available for those who stay here.  Trees shading gorgeously landscaped yard - flowers everywhere - this is truly an oasis in the middle of the desert. 

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