Great Roads - Los Angeles to Las Vegas - In About 14 Hours

By: Drew Kelley

It had been about three years since my last extended drive in the 330 GTC so, with the track event in Las Vegas on the calendar, I thought that this would be the perfect opportunity to explore areas of Nevada I had only seen on the map.

My plan was: Up 395 to Bridgeport on the backside of the Sierra Nevadas, a right turn into Nevada, and a little meander through some of the small ranching and mining areas until I could pick up Highway 95. Once on 95, it would be South to Las Vegas through Hawthorne, Tonapaah, and Goldfield.

Leaving Los Angeles at 6:30 AM Friday, I had the usual slog through the East LA congestion to pick up the 5 North to the 14 through the Antelope Valley - just your usual drive to Willow Springs. Continuing North past Rosamond on 14 finds 395 at the North edge of the Mojave Desert. I continued through the Owen's Valley to Bishop, a perfect place to stop since the 300 miles from LA had left me with just 2 Gallons in the tank of the 330. Not to mention, it was 11:00 and a quick lunch sounded good.

Climbing North on 395 out of the Owen's Valley to the first of several 7,000 and 8,000 foot summits was beautiful. The valley was green, the mountains were capped with brilliant-white snow and small clouds clung to the mountain peaks like wisps of cotton in a clear, blue and windless sky.

On the outskirts of Bridgeport you can take the right fork towards Nevada on California Highway 182. This road (two lanes with no shoulders) follows one of California's better trout streams through the foothills into Nevada. For most of the route, you'll find the East Walker River just a few feet beyond the edge of the pavement and just a couple feet below grade. Every wide spot and bend finds motor homes and campers pulled off into clearings and their owners along the banks of the river, rod and reel in hand. Leaving East Walker, the road (now Nevada Highway 338) climbs over Sweetwater Summit and descends into the Smith Valley at the town of Wellington, and the West Walker River. Turning right onto Nevada Highway 208, I eventually got to Yerington, the County Seat of Lyon County (which just happens to be where we have to go to get permission to block off the bottom portion of the Highway for the Virginia City Hillclimb each year). Yerington has most of its historic downtown still intact and its a great place to browse and shop. They also monage to have a gambling establishment or two on most any block. It's sort of like Virginia City on flat land and with parking.

Going East on Alt 95 brought me to Schurz, Highway 95 and the headquarters for the Walker River Indian Reservation. If you're a railroad buff as I am, Schurz is where you pick up the route of the Carson and Colorado Railroad. Unfortunately, it is also where you lose virtually any trace of this old narrow-gauge line that was built over 100 years ago from Carson City Nevada to Keeler, California, at the South end of the Owen's Valley. The tracks are there but, everywhere else along the route where the railroad was, there is now nothing.

My next place to drive through was the famous mining town of Tonapah and the center of anti-Government sentiment in Central Nevada. Funny, I didn't see one militia-man in camos with an assault rifle. It was happy hour though, maybe that explains it.

Leaving Tonapah, the next place along the road was Goldfield, which has some absolutely beautiful hundred year old cut-stone mansions and business buildings in the center of town. Some of them were three and four stories high with the old-style spacing of fourteen foot high ceilings to provide coolness in the high summer heat - just gorgeous buildings.

Well, I had made gas stops in Bishop and Hawthorne and was able to make one more in Beatty. Unfortunately, driving through the countryside calls for more than just fuel stops: it seems that you have to make about three windshield cleaning stops on every tank of gas. It sur