The desert is vast and expansive. It lies before us, folding out on itself repeatedly. Even in the high elevation of 5-thousand-some-odd feet, the desert does not look altogether different from some of the lower elevation deserts. Sand. Rocks. Prickly plants of various varieties competing for the minimal rainfall that drops each year, and hunkers down to turn brown as the snow covers them with blankets to brace against the cold. Most of Western Nevada, it seems, is mostly just pieces of high desert that seem oddly copied-and-pasted.
We left the San Francisco Bay area last Monday after a ten-week stint that could have been done anywhere in the country. At the time of booking our RV space there, we simply didn’t know if COVID was around to stay. Spoiler if you haven’t been paying attention: COVID is still here. So it was finally 2 and a half months later that we found ourselves in the desert, off the Loneliest Road in America, highway 50 through Nevada.
The desert, nestled between nothing and more nothing, has reminded us why we bought our RV two years ago. We wanted more and simultaneously less.
Less stuff. More adventures. More meandering and figuring things out as we go. And more nights sitting outside, waiting for bats and stars to come out. Evenings watching the sun set on a long day. Days seeking out weird things that we’d never otherwise see. This is a big thing for both of us: we want to find places we would otherwise avoid or never even think to consider traveling through. The middle of Nevada is absolutely a place I never thought to care about.
While we rarely research much about things to do in places we’re heading to, we often look up “landmarks” on our route. Well, no. That’s not true. There’s no “we” in this. It’s all me. I look up weird places and then say, “here we are!” Most often, Jeremiah thinks, hey, this was a goodie. Sometimes, not so much.
This happened twice this past week – the searching of landmarks and peculiar places.
The Strangest Place on the Loneliest Road in America
First, let me introduce you to Shoe Tree. Before you guess what that is, let me tell you: It’s a tree filled with shoes. Sorry, should I have let you guess? Next time, I’ll let you. This place off I-50 is a little smelly and really filled with shoes.
There’s many. Hundreds of pairs. When I realized that there was a possibility to see semi-old pairs of dirty shoes that were no longer useful all hung in branches in a tree, how could I not go see it. I asked Jeremiah if he wanted to go see something weird, and then I drove 8 miles from our desert boondocking site to this out of place tree growing in the desert. Sure. After about 60 seconds of looking at strange shoes, I think we both thought the same thing: why did we come here?
When I asked Jeremiah what he thought of it, he said, “That was weird.” He’s not wrong. It was weird.
Earthquake faults off I-50
So, we decided we’d go see an earthquake fault, but this was about a 40 minute drive. Unlike the Shoe Tree, there were physical signs for it, so we assumed it would be worthwhile.
Let me save you the hassle of every exploring the Nevada earthquake faults outside the metropolis of Fallon, Nevada: population, about 4-thousand people. Do not drive 6 very slow rickety-miles on a dirty/gravel/rock/desert road to see them. You’ll spent more time driving there than you’ll ever spend looking at the landscape.
We looked at each other.
“This is a bust,” I said.
Jeremiah nodded, “think the shoe tree wins this round.”
The desert is vast, and expansive. The views are largely uninterrupted, and on the loneliest road in America, you should skip the earthquake faults, but maybe pull over for a very stinky tree. But perhaps the best thing to do is just pull over on a gravel site, and listen for the song of the coyotes, and watch common nighthawks dipping into the sky.