Reaching the bottom of the Wells
Mon, Oct 1, 2007
290 miles from home
We open the door to leave our hotel room and "Aiyeee! It burns! It's so bright!"
Sometime during the night, the storm blew through (and "blew" is right—there're cock-eyed
traffic lights, branches, and tumbleweeds all over town). Suddenly, it's bright and sunny
and our brains aren't ready to deal with it.
We load up on plastic-wrapped butter horns from our complimentary continental breakfast
(we don't know where this "continent" is, but remind us not to ever visit there, because
they have no freaking idea how to make breakfast) and hit the road.
And, just in case today is more of what we saw yesterday, we load up on gasoline.
Laura squints into the sudden sunlight as we get ready to leave
Drinkwater Pass (elev 4,212)
Yup, it's been a heaping helping of nothing again today. Lots of hills and scrub and
nary a 7-11 or a Subway in sight. Lots of geology, but not much else.
A heaping helping of Eastern Oregon geology
9:37 am ==> 10:37 am
Yikes! There's a sign informing us that we're now in the Mountain Time Zone (one hour
later). We haven't even crossed a state line! Some county in Oregon decided to
arbitrarily take away an hour of our lives! And these aren't even really
mountains—more like foothills.
Robert is quite agitated until Laura points out that this means he gets to eat lunch an
"Well, alrighty, then!"
West of Juntura, Oregon
We're driving along twisty hilly roads and suddenly—"Shoe Tree! Shoe Tree!" and Robert
skillfully puts our trusty PT Cruiser into a 180 and pulls off the side of the road.
Yup. Out here in the middle of nowhere (77 miles from Bend) is a tree with all kinds of
shoes on its branches. Mostly tennis shoes, and mostly pairs, it's covered top to bottom
with footwear (and it's about 40 feet tall, so there must be some very athletic people
that live around here).
One of the smaller branches has become overloaded and crashed to the ground, so Robert
checks the shoes ("Dang! None of them the right size"). Sadly (for Robert) none of them
fit, so we saddle up and head out for more nothing.
Oregon shoe tree
Robert and his trusty toothbrush in front of the Oregon shoe tree
We're at the Bates Motel!
(Robert was firing up his GPS equipment and loading up his DVD full of maps, ready to
guide us in when Laura just pulled into the parking lot. "Hey—how'd you do that!")
Of course we have to stop and get photos (and Robert gets one of him using his toothbrush
in a stabbing motion—his Dental Hygienist wants photos of her patients in front of landmarks
with their toothbrushes).
Now, some of you are going "Cool!" but most of you are probably thinking "What the hell
are these baboons yammering about?"
In the classic movie,
Psycho, by Alfred Hitchcock, the hapless Janet Leigh checks into
the Bates Motel and is promptly stabbed to death by Norman Bates in the shower. It's
a classic movie scene and a great movie. If you haven't seen it (and we're talking to
you, Peder) go rent it.
But plan on taking baths for a while after...
Robert gets into the spirit of the Bates Motel
We've added to our list of places to pee. In addition to Wal-Mart ("Wal-Mart! Come to
pee and then leave!") you can also pee at City Hall. They're very friendly about it,
because you might be a taxpayer (we don't make enough money to pay taxes, but we used
Laura heads in to transact some business at Vale City Hall
Afterwards, Robert walks outside and starts hitting the brick building that is Vale City
Hall. A guy walks by and looks strangely at Robert.
"Well, they're right. You can't fight City Hall," says Robert who shrugs and walks away.
Robert fights City Hall
(sorry, this is the only size we have, the original is very very out-of-focus)
A large sign announces that we're now in "Onion Country" and one building has a sign
saying that it ships 20,000 truckloads of onions every year.
"And they all end up at the onion factory across from the Day Center," points out Robert.
The down side is that the entire area sometimes smells like a giant cocktail onion. The
upside is that sometimes you get free onions because they fall off the truck.
We're now entering Nyssa, where a large sign announces "Nyssa: Thunder Egg Capital of
the World." Remember this—it could be a Final Jeopardy question some day.
Our odometer turns 90,000! Yippee! Woohoo!
We celebrate for a while and keep driving. There's probably some sort of maintenance we're
supposed to do, but we're hoping it'll wait until we get home.
We're entering Bliss. Specifically, the town of Bliss, Idaho and—Oh My God! An
apatosaurus! Laura skillfully snaps the PT Cruiser around and back to the statue of
It's 30 feet long and about 12 feet high (about 1/10th scale, we reckon). It's got a two-tone
paint job (green and gray) and is actually a fairly respectable model. It's in front of
a closed rock and gift shop, where it probably served as an attraction. Now it sits and
In another 10 million years, it'll turn into oil.
(It's across the street from the "Stinker Sinclair" gas station and the "Bliss Country
Store" if you want to go see it.)
The Bliss apatosaurus (across from Stinker Sinclair)
Laura (left) and Robert (right) with the Bliss apatosaurus
Idaho seems WAY more populated than Eastern Oregon. There's farmland and houses and sometimes
even gas stations. The signs say "last exit for 16 miles" instead of "71 miles" like they
did in Eastern Oregon.
5:30 ==> 4:30 pm
Near Jackpot, Nevada
Inexplicably, although we're traveling due South (and have been for some time), we
change time zones again. As we enter Nevada, we switch back to Pacific time. "Woohoo!
We got an extra hour of life!" hollers Robert.
Then Laura points out that this means he has to wait an extra hour before eating dinner.
near Wilkins, Nevada Elev 6,252 ft
It's now pouring down rain and the landscape is nothing but scrub desert and soggy
tumbleweeds. And take our word for it—when the desert is rained on, it doesn't turn
into "a magic wonderland of flowers." It just gets wet.
Look! A soggy desert!
We were originally planning to camp out every other night to save some money. (Robert
hates camping, but he hates spending money unnecessarily even more.) But it's pouring
down rain and the only campground in town is basically a vacant, gravel lot on a
"I was thinking of camping more as lounging around the campfire singing Grateful Dead
songs. Not huddling in the tent watching all our stuff get soggy," says Robert. Laura
agrees, so we decide to find a motel to stay in.
This turns out to be a bit of a challenge in Wells, which has seen (much) better days.
The first place got out of the motel business. The next two are closed down. One is being
remodeled. The next one is full. Finally, we find one out by the highway that's got free
Internet and a room for $59 a night.
We head across the street to the "4 Way Cafe and Casino" which is one of two places
to eat in town. The other place features Basque dishes. Really. We've never even seen
a Basque restaurant, but it's one of the two restaurants in Wells, Nevada.
Laura says, "We're in Nevada, we should get the casino experience," so we head for the
cafe. The casino is also sort of sad. Lots of slot machines (some old enough that they
still have handles that you pull!). Two blackjack tables—only one is in use as a hand
is played without enthusiasm by a bored gambler and an even more bored dealer.
We grab a copy of the local paper ("The High Desert Advocate") and read about the sheriff
whose wife, a stripper at a local club, was arrested by Federal Agents for drug dealing.
A more heinous crime is splashed across the front page of an earlier paper (they don't
bother taking old papers out of the machine when they add new ones, so we were able to
dip into the archives). Cheating at cards! The paper opines that they should be locked
up for a long, long time.
The food is respectable, we easily resist the temptation to throw money at the slot machines
and we head home to sleep—more than one mile high!
Tomorrow: Mo' Moab?
Robert & Laura
Square State Tour