From the Blog

Tank Full Of Gas (Multiple), Chapter Nineteen: Elko, NV Part 1

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We decided a while ago that we were going to rent a car for this trip. It was our ambition to drive to Elko in a day, and for that, I figured I would want to take a couple breaks and let Dave drive once in a while. As it turns out, I was not as worn out by driving as I thought I might be. The first day of driving was about 11 hours, not including an hour for breakfast, and about another half hour for various gas and restroom breaks.

One of the grand compatibilities between Dave and me is that I love to drive, and Dave does not. It’s been over five years since he even owned a car. I was happily behind the wheel for 99% of the the 1600 miles we drove over the course of six days.

Our rental was a Toyota Camry Hybrid and it turned out to be an excellent vehicle for this sort of trip. It was a little stodgy on mountain curves, and a groaning lazybones pulling out from a stop. But it was big and comfortable and was a great cruiser on the outback byways. And when it got up to speed, we easily passed slower moving traffic. We didn’t save all our gas receipts, but we estimate that we bought 46 gallons of gas for 1589.4 miles. That would be just under 35 miles a gallon. Not bad for mostly freeway driving.


We left 9 minutes behind schedule at 5:39 am. It was still dark and raining heavily. Our route was I-5 to Albany, to route 20, which took us through Bend and into the outback. Then in Burns we turned onto route 78 (not shown at this level on Google maps, I had to draw it in), to route 95 which led us to Winnemucca and I-80 to Elko.


Photos by Official Road Photographer, Dave Knows. You wouldn’t think Oregon looks like this. But it does. MOST of Oregon looks like this. It’s not all green and dainty and Subaru driving and espresso drinking.


I don’t want to tell you how long it took me to brush out the bug splat in this photo. Here is the original.

As we crossed the Oregon/Nevada border on route 95, the surrounding hills suddenly got pointier.


Every time I am on a drive like this, I kick myself for not studying geology. I want to know why these hills are more rocky and eroded than the ones we passed 20 miles ago. I can’t imagine there was more rain cutting up these hills than the previous ones. Somehow their guts are different and it irritates me that I don’t casually know why.

We entered Elko as the sun was beginning to go down behind us, casting distant mountains and clouds in shadow while lighting up the immediate hills. It was lovely.


We arrived at the Strom, Elko Division residence, and relaxed for a bit. There were plans to go to The Star for dinner, which is renowned for their Basque cuisine and vast portions. When we arrived, the place was packed. I mean, wall to wall. And I was not expecting to see ACTUAL cowboy hats on ACTUAL cowboys. I desperately wanted to take surreptitious photos, but I had been in town for less than an hour, and I was trying not to appear like such a fascinated city girl. I mean, real cowboys! Not fake ones! Come on!


The wait for our clan, six of us, was going to be two and a half hours. This was clearly the place to be on a Saturday night in Elko. We decided to get Mexican that night and arrive at The Star earlier for dinner the next day

The next morning, after a lovely home cooked breakfast, we all piled into the Strom van and headed for the hills. Our first stop was Fossil Hill, a local hang out for shooting stuff, fossil hunting, and teenage romance.


Here are the Brothers Strom standing in the desert. Steve writes a charming blog about Elko here. Steve and his family are originally from Portland, as you may be able to guess. They moved to Elko about four years ago. Here is another photo of the Brothers Strom that absolutely does NOT make me giggle because Dave is absolutely NOT sucking in his belly.

I want to mention at this point that I got a lot of photos of Fossil Hill. I got a lot of photos, as usual, of everything we did that day in Elko. However, most of these photos were taken by Dori, Steve’s wife. Because I accidentally deleted about 100 photos from my camera. It was the first of Three Really Dumb Things I Did on this trip. I’ll mention the other dumb things in chronological order as I relate our travels. So, thanks to Dori for sharing her photos. Otherwise, there would be no photographic evidence of Dave NOT sucking in his belly.

As I mentioned, Fossil Hill was covered with well, fossils, and a rainbow of different colored stones. I had a hard time not filling my pockets with rocks and long-dead sea creatures. And as I mentioned, there were a lot of items that people brought up there just to shoot at it. Dead, burned out cars for instance. Or computer monitors, or your standard bottles and cans. There were piles of spent casings along the trail we walked. Even as we picked our way back to the road, someone drove up and started target practicing on a nearby hill.

I have never so much as held a gun in my hands, nor have had the desire to. But in the desert, being armed felt more than recreational, it seemed required. I can’t imagine there are many households in Elko that are not armed in some way. I didn’t hear this story myself, but Steve related to Dave that when they were in the market for a freezer for the garage, they purchased a used one that was covered in blood stains. I think in Portland, a blood soaked freezer might get you arrested. Or not.

From there, we drove through Spring Creek to get to Lamoille Canyon in the Ruby Mountains. We had witnessed these sharp peaks as we descended into Elko the previous day. Naturally, I took a crapload of photos. Here is evidence.


Lamoille Canyon gorgeous and stunning and boy, I wish I wasn’t such a doofus with the deleting of the photos and stuff. As an aside, “doofus,” lately, has been my favorite word, especially while driving. One of my more common terms lately has been “GO, doofus!” It’s never inappropriate.

We went on a nature walk in the canyon.


Here is a pond created by a beaver dam. I convinced Dave it would be a good idea to pretend to chew on a log like a beaver, so I could, you know, get a photo. Sigh. Thanks again to Dori, for sharing her photos with us.


Here’s Nick, 13 14, and Andy, 11, having a great time on the nature walk.

From there, we dropped off the boys and headed for the Elko County Fair. All of the Elkoian Stroms entered something into the fair and won a prize. It turns out, for $5 bucks, you can enter just about anything, a photo, a baked good, a crab apple, a household plant, a weed from your yard, and win a prize. I think they got a gist of the fair this year and will likely dominate next year. I took a ton of photos, blah blah, accidentally deleted, etc.

At the fair, we got to see some real cow rustling. Notice: Real cows, real cowboy hats, real cowboys. These aren’t the Village People.


A team of three cowboys/girls from various local ranches had to herd a set of ten numbered cows, one by one, in a preselected order. They had a limited amount of time to do this and it didn’t seem easy. Of the half dozen teams we watched, only one rustled all the cows in the correct order before their time was up. Cow number 0 was a real bastard and liked to go ahead of its turn.

I also got to see my first horse race.

Elko County Fair Horse Race from Mile73 on Vimeo.

This is Steve’s photo. I think he should enter it into next year’s fair.


Nevada recycling.


By this time, I was taking my own photos again. I tried to snap as many sneaky photos as I could.

They also had a bunch of livestock and baby animals, and dammit if I can’t resist a good bunny photo.


Or this chicken that was clearly pissed at me for taking its photo without speaking to its agent first.

Irritable Chicken from Mile73 on Vimeo.

They had horses, goats, cows, bunnies, various poultry, and because this is Basque country, lots of sheep.


Real cowboys. I can’t get over it. And everyone we spoke to was friendly and accommodating. Folks who heard we were traveling wished us well.


I nearly got the “Cow Girl Butts” decal for my car.

After the fair, we got our butts over to The Star early and got us some grub. Indeed, the potions were legendary. And indeed, the spaghetti was confusing. I guess it’s a traditional, um, cowboy, Basque, um, American dish. By the time we left, the place was packed again.

All that, in one day. Elko is not for the faint of heart. We had a blast.

More Nevada next, then our drive to Lakeview, OR, camping at Goose Lake, and later still, Crater Lake.


  1. Glad you guys had a good time! Elko is definitely a “special” place.

  2. ooh, I just noticed, Nick is actually 14, not 13. Hope he doesn’t stumble upon your blog or he might hurt you.

  3. Ah! Thanks, Steve! I was hoping I got their ages right. I will fix it!

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