From the Blog

Tank Full Of Gas (Multiple), Chapter Nineteen, Part 3: Goose Lake

The Tuesday morning following Labor Day, we bid a fond adieu to The Stroms, The Elko Division.

Ahead of us, was a 350 mile drive, and Google said it would take 7 hours. Seven hours!

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Has Google even SEEN these roads? Do they know you can go 153 miles per hour out there in the outback?

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I have driven across country a couple of times, in various directions. I come from a family of nomads, which is somewhat odd because we are from Massachusetts. It is more common that New Englanders stay in the land of their forefathers, so they don’t have to clean out their attics or cellars.

In all my drives, however, I have never seen country as remote as this. At least along interstates, you get small towns or gas stations every 50 miles or so. On the secondary state roads, you get a lot of nothing, for a long way. Then, more nothing after that. After that, more nothing.

And the remarkable thing, we would pass by ranches and houses out there. Waaaay out there. Hundreds of miles away from anything. And I think of practical things, “Where do they go for groceries? Gas? What if someone cuts off a toe?” What do you do out there?

We blasted through Nevada going just under 80 miles an hour. You can do this when you don’t see other cars for half hour increments. As we approached the Oregon border on route 140, the speed limit dropped to 55 MPH. We thought this was total bullshit. 55 miles an hour. It was offensive.

As we drove and drove and drove, we climbed multiple plateaus. At the top of every hill, we thought we’d see a crest with a fabulous view. But we would just see another slow hill to climb.

On this drive, as the entirety of our trip, we strained to see wildlife. We saw a coyote cross the road somewhere between Bend and Burns on the way down. We saw an antelope/deer/elk creature at the ranch outside of Elko. We were excited about lizards on our walks in the desert.

So we were excited that this guy was just hanging out by the side of the road.

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So we’re driving, and we’re climbing, and we’re climbing, and we are seeing summits and passes in the hills at over 5000 and 6000 feet.  And we see something coming up on the map called the Doherty Slide.

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The Doherty Summit was about 6200 feet. We descended 2000 feet in about 6 miles. Here’s what the road looked like.

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No guardrails. Whatever. The passenger “oh shit” handle got a good workout on this drive. This is a good example of when Dave, Road Photographer begins “singing” nervously, (as he does frequently when I am driving) with an occasional “holy shit” or “jesus christ” thrown in. His singing sounds like “aaaaaaah,” or “eeeeee.” It’s lovely.

Below, at the valley floor, looking back.

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Okay, we began to see why the speed limit in Oregon was 55 MPH. The road got curvy not long after the border, and well, we didn’t think our car would be much of a hang glider.

We began climbing again after the Doherty Slide, and we began to see scraggly trees and rolling hills. Route 140 is a lovely drive. The trees filled in and got bigger. We saw creeks running though each of the flat valleys, with green vegetation, ranches in the hills, and it began to look like land you could spend your life on.

We turned south upon reaching Lakeview to get to our lodging for the evening, Goose Lake Campground.

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It was not our normal preference for camping, but this was a stop over on our way to Crater Lake. It was largely an open field with some trees and ground cover between some of the sites. Not a lot of privacy. It was meant more for RVs than rugged tenters like us.

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We walked a rather lame nature trail on the periphery of the park. It was hot and dusty and there were bitey bugs and the sap fell out of the trees like rain. We never saw the lake, whose edges fluctuate dramatically with the seasons. We did hear the geese, however. And cranes, and owls, and cows, and at night, coyotes.

The campground grew on us as we stayed. It was quiet, and it felt remote. Lakeview is the county seat of Lake County, but Lake County isn’t even classified as “rural.” It’s classified as “frontier.”

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Frontier! There are still places like that!

Crater Lake next.

Comments

  1. Sounds like the lack of wildlife was made up during your night in the field.

  2. Oh….I see you saw Kanye West on the side of the road!

  3. Ha! How pathetic is my life that I know exactly where the photo of the mileage to Denio was taken? Or the giant bowling pin at the side of the road? (I knew what it was because when I lived there I was a meteorologist and worked with pilots a lot) I lived in Winnesuck- er, Winnemucca for 3 years. The photos brought back memories!

    We used to count how many miles passed before there was a curve in the road! The only danger out there was hitting a cow. I read a story from Hunter S. Thompson where he commented that the roads were so straight he thought he could just take a SHORT nap and he would probably be ok.

    I was going 78 miles an hour once when a cop flew by with lights on, passed me, and disappeared down the road. That’s back when the speed limit WAS 55 in Nevada. One of my friends got pulled over for doing 90 mph once, and was charged a $15 misuse of energy fee (burning gas too quickly), and that’s all.

    And that super-steep drop is familiar too, because my grandfather lived in Lakeview and I would take that route to visit him. Once in January the snow-bound road was blocked by a semi that had jackknifed on its way up the slope. Poor driver was from Louisiana, and he was cursing a blue streak because he didn’t know how to put on his chains. Finally he was able to scooch over a few inches so I could creep past (on the drop-off side of course) and go on my way, since I didn’t know how to put chains on an 18-wheeler either.

  4. I live in Lake County, Oregon, our county is made up of high desert (sometimes 5000 feet elevation) and wide open spaces and the cattle feeds on open range land. Sure the wildlife is not always by the road, but our county is known for its heards of Antelope and deer and coyotes. We are far from everything as you stated. It is hard country to live in if you are a rancher or farmer. I personally live within the Town of Lakeview and shopping is limited but that gives way for reasons to visit bigger cities. I was a city girl before I moved to Lake County but the very blue sky is what keeps me here. In the winter it may snow, but we always have blue sky about every 3 days. Thanks for visiting our area and for posting your experience traveling through. Come back sometime, you are always welcome.

  5. Thanks for your comment, Debe. I am itching to see more of that part of the state. It was lovely.

  6. i know that drive all to well i will never forget the day i drove that route in a rig 75 feet long and 80,000 pounds of flammables. i thought i wasnt going to make it to the bottom. i never gripped a steering wheel like that in my life and prayed all the way too the bottom again. next time i will take the long way to white city oregon not to good to do this drive in a rig. not to mention the remaining passes after doherty’s slide.

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