Goldfield Calling

In the American Southwest all roads seem to funnel through Las Vegas. There is also another place which my travels invariably take me to when travelling the breadths of Nevada. That place is Austin. It is an old mining town. Like many ghostly communities in that state, it is perched high on a mountain-side overlooking a broad valley. The population is sparse. I’ve driven through it twice already this year. While returning from Mexico, I was there again, now on a vicious winter evening. Snow was blowing along the main street. I came face to face with a herd of approximately eighteen white-tailed deer. They seemed to have no concern about the weather or me. I stopped and let them cross the highway.

Looking back on the outskirts of Austin Nevada. Thazzit!

The Austin campground, run by the local Baptist church, was closed. It was where I had planned to spend the night. All the side roads were solidly drifted-in. I could find no place to pull in for the night so I drove on westward. Down across the valley I travelled into the gathering darkness for more countless weary miles. Highway 50 is called America’s loneliest highway. It certainly was that night. Finally there was a spot sufficiently off the road at an old Pony Express historic site. In the morning I read the narrative signs and took my photos.

I vividly recall how the history of that epic venture was described. A dismal financial failure from the beginning, after a few short years, the Pony Express was decimated by the then-new telegraph system. As I drive through that vast country I often think of someone on a horse pelting across the untamed wilderness. Even in a vehicle, you can drive for days across bleak and beautiful land that leaves one wondering about that romanticized era. What has not been glorified was the desperate lives of the station keepers of the express service. They were the backbone of the fabled trek. Horses had to be changed regularly, every few hours, and that meant there had to be stables with fresh horses all along the route. Not only did the folks at these places get no glory, they endured multiple deprivations of hunger, cold, heat, illness, loneliness and frequent native attacks all for a meagre income. It must not have been at all romantic.

Sadly, that day, the data memory card in my camera came adrift. I have no photos of that dramatic place but I will not forget that stop at aptly named ‘Cold Springs.’ On my homeward trek this was yet another night of bitter cold when the plumbing in my van froze up. By then, on that wintry drive, I had learned to fill my morning kettle the night before. Thanks be that my trusty propane furnace did not ever let me down but there was never a happier sound in the morning than when that old engine fired up! The came the whistle of the kettle and the first sip of hot, black coffee which I drank as the front heater began to produce more warmth. I’m not so sure I would have done well as a Pony Express employee.

Highway 50, “The loneliest highway in America.” This was taken westbound for Austin on the night described. It was as cold as it looks. Imagine this same scene from horseback, with no sign of civilization anywhere. You have not eaten all day, the horse is beginning to limp.
Looking west from Austin on another day when Mexico-bound. This is the valley described which I crossed that wintry night in the dark after a twelve-hour day of driving       I intend to go back there, soon, and hike the few miles up to the actual station. Apparently you can still see gun ports in its stone walls. That will be after I work out what the hell to do about funds and rebuilding or replacing my ill-fated little trailer. No-one seems to want to buy it outright as salvage nor as an interesting project. I’m beginning to wonder if the Gods are determined that I do this rebuild. I have my preliminary measurements and drawings complete. It will be a huge job but ultimately produce a solid off-road steel-framed trailer, (maybe even with a few gun ports.) What I envision will certainly be something to be proud off although I’d rather be out there taking it easy and enjoying a leisurely summer with my cameras. I am supposed to be retired but that is clearly a state of income.  I’m not qualifying.

This all came to mind recently as I uploaded my best photos from that trip to That is a website which heavily screens and files a photographer’s work then sells quality images as selected by a global clientele. On occasion I actually get paid a few coins for some of my efforts. Editing and submitting those images took my memory back to an intriguing old mining town in Nevada called Goldfield. Southbound, somewhere near here, is the latitude where one first sees Yucca trees growing wild in the desert. I’ve previously described the village as a full-time Burning Man event. There are funky relics, buildings and some interesting people. Like all the other old communities, it has a distinct personality.

One notable point is a wonderful volunteer FM radio station located on main street but also streams its programs live online. “Voice of the Wild, Wild West.” I’m listening as I write. There’s some Harry Chapin on, “The Cat’s In The Cradle.” If you know the song, you’ve dated yourself! Next is an old, old recording of Paul Harvey delivering an essay called “And God made a farmer.” Then comes Dylan with “Tweeter And The Monkey Man.” I love this station. Now I’m listening to the theme song for the ancient TV show, “Mr. Ed.”Then comes some Ian Tyson. “Cain’t beat it with a stick!”

Alive and in colour coming to you from the wild, wild west.

Here is the link:  Not only is the music earthy and pleasant, it takes me back to that town. It instills a deep yearning to return and linger. An outback humour is shared among it’s hosts who all joke about an imaginary station mascot. This burro, named ‘Tumbleweed,’ loves to drink thirteen beer at a sitting in the local saloon. There are of course many other backcountry radio stations out there which remain undiscovered to me. Check out KGFN Goldfield for some rustic comfort. Listening to local stations as they come within range and then fade behind me as I drive along is one of my travelling joys. Unfortunately that desert peace fades for me once I descend into Las Vegas.

The first yucca I saw on my way south. That is an entire old-growth forest of them in the background.

Friends have now discovered a route which allows one to sneak around Las Vegas (Spanish for the plains or lowlands) on its east side. I will certainly try to find it next time. All other roads force one to descend into the bowels of this horrible place. Real plastic! I don’t like greed, glitz, din, facades or pretentiousness which seems to be all that Vegas is about. Real plastic! Real plastic! World famous! World famous! The notion of gambling and all the maggots who feed on that industry has always wilted my biscuit. In Vegas even the churches look like casinos. There are flashing lights everywhere. Apparently casino chips are welcome in the collection plates! Enough said! Meanwhile, the desperately poor are apparently invisible within the shining throb and flash of all that shallow fantasy.

When I returned from my southern odyssey in February, this was the view at the old Swallowfield farm.
Five months later.
Another morning, another walk. It helps keep at least two old dogs youngish.

In the midst of my present woes I just received an e-mail from a boat owner. He has an Albin 27 on which I left my card last year saying “If you ever want to sell…” Now he does. It would be a perfect little displacement cruiser for me, tough enough to take to Mexico and very practical to own. Albins have been long-loved by me, simple and tough is my kind of sexy when it comes to boats. It could be a great summer home on this coast. Bugga!

This is the actual Abin 27 in question. I photographed it last summer when at the local marina. Then I left my card.

I continue to look for a way to hook my dream. I have a very hard time being hove-to and waiting for the storm to pass. They always do. Possessing a manic need for my hands and brain to always be busy, sitting day after day waiting to see which way the pickle squirts is damned hard. I know nothing happens until you do something but sometimes you just have to be cool; even when it’s hot. Speaking of heat, the thermometer here this afternoon rose to 32°C. For fun, I checked the temperature in Goldfield, 29°C. Go figure!

Blackberry Honey
The blackberry bushes are a-buzz with bees. There will be a massive crop if we have enough moisture. Their flowering seems to be at least a month early this year.
The last plum. Indian Plumbs are small but make good jam if picked when ripe. The birds know when they are perfect. Suddenly they are all gone.

After a long wet winter we’ve had a very dry spring. Streams are dry, some trees are beginning to wither. A long summer lays ahead. We will either dry up, turn to dust and blow away or burn, or…it will rain the whole season. One way or the other, this island is still paradise. Here is a link to my latest video-making effort. In three minutes you can get a sense of one facet of life on this island.

When I think of all the places on this planet where millions are born, live and die who may never see a real tree or can image unlimited amounts of fresh water… and the health and plenty and peace we take for granted I can only be thankful to live here.

“Ya well you bikers aren’t so tough when you’re on your own!” A cleverly motorized bicycle indeed.
That’s easy for you to say.
Lego world! Jack and I sometimes go for a walk past this old mine’s head rig. A historical site it is apparently under renovation. Ship’s containers make clever, strong scaffolding and perhaps…affordable housing.
I deliberately did not focus this orange cat to show how well he blends in. It is the art of not moving. Do you ever wonder how many creatures you pass closely and do not see? Jack didn’t.
A Barred Owl I was fortunate to see as it flew silently through the limbs and settled here.
Remember that while cream may rise to the top, so does scum.                                                                Some may want to take that as a political comment.
Your call!


For my part, I travel not to go anywhere, but to go. I travel for travel’s sake. The great affair is to move.” – Robert Louis Stevenson

Broke Down In Yuma

(I know I promised)

I know I promised to cut down on the prose and focus on photos. (Now there’s a pun.) At the moment I am writing while sitting in my van while a young man works on the engine four feet away from this keyboard. He is frustratingly slow. It is not because he is Mexican, he’s just young. And how the hell do you work under the hood of a vehicle while wearing sunglasses?

So where do the Catholics park? This was a sign I found in Austin. Nothing is sacred if there is a dollar to be made.
Hours north of Las Vegas I passed through Goldfield NV, a once thriving gold rush community. There are still mining activities, but the place is a living permanent ‘Burning Man’ sort-of gasping ghost town.
A truly great radio station!
Google it up and have a listen.
A product of the “Four Wheel Drive Truck Company”
No airbags!
No flats. Low-profile solid rubber tires, mechanical band brakes. She must of been a riot to drive.
A Cletrack. My camera heated up as I shot up this fascinating place.
Yes, it is real. A narrow gauge mining steam locomotive.
SEE! Burning man!
A wonderfully nutty town.
Main Street,
Goldfield. There was an aroma of wood smoke.
Say no more!


I mentioned my old tires in a previous blog. I finally decided that I had to replace them. Problem is, their cost equals my gas budget to get home again. But, it now feels like I’m driving a much newer vehicle. It would be irresponsible continuing to drive something that was clearly unsafe. After parking in Searchlight, my morning inspection revealed that my engine’s water pump was giving me fair warning. I bought a replacement pump in an effort to outwit Murphy and have made it to the campground where some friends from home are staying in Yuma. It was great seeing them and they have been wonderfully helpful. Replacing the pump is a straight forward job for an old wrench-bender like me but my experience says it is not a job to do on the roadside nor in the very civilized camp ground where I’m staying. And, if there is some small part I may need…! So here I sit, trying to patient while time and money vaporize.

Runway 24
My morning amble took me up and down on the runway at Searchlight Nevada where I stopped for the night
Crash landing. This place was clearly a failed development of a fly-in suburb built around a runway where you could taxi right up to your house.
Speaking of crash landings! north of Las Vegas I came upon the once infamous Mustang Ranch, a bordello just north of Beatty NV. There was a huge horse’s head in white on the hill above the site. The wreck is a Beech 18, famous twin-engined workhorse. A little further north I passed a sign marking the “Shady Lady Bed & Breakfast” Uh Huh!

It looks like I may not be going to Mexico after all . The friends I was rushing down to San Carlos to meet have moved on south because their plans shifted into sub-section F. After making repairs I think it is prudent to stay north of the border but…I am dead, burned-out exhausted and not making good decisions. I think I will stay in Yuma for one more day and just rest. I have long wanted to return to an area I saw from the top of Kitt Peak Observatory, a short distance southwest of Tucson. To the south of the observatory stands Baboquivari, an ancient volcanic cone that is a sacred mountain to the local Tohono O’Odham Indians. There is a remote campground there which will be a great place to rest, write, and explore with my cameras. After that, I’ll decide which plan is best. It is certainly not pleasant doing this pilgrimage alone and on a tight budget but I need to recharge my own batteries and have a rest. Baboquivari will make the whole journey worthwhile, and I’m not ruling Mexico out just yet.

On the road to Vegas
The long road home
Sundown before Las Vegas. I knew I should have stopped for the night!

Yuma is a bewildering mix of endless dusty barios and shining Neo-Amurica. It sprawls on and on and is the largest farm town I’ve ever seen, surrounded for many, many miles on all sides with some of the most productive agricultural land on the continent. Chances are the vegetables for tonight’s supper came from the Yuma area. The price of that production is the draining of the Colorado River. It no longer runs into the Sea Of Cortez. It is pumped dry for irrigation of the fertile dark soil. That is after several years of drought, a subject to discuss another time.

Beatty Nevada. That damned cop trundled along at 1 mph under the limit…of 25mph. I felt he was daring me to pass him!

Apparently, there were December rains this winter and I am told that desert will soon burst into a rare riot of blooms. Today a cold, dry winter desert wind continues to blast the broad valley but I am wearing short sleeves while many folks are in wool caps and parkas. I am a Canadian…like hundreds of thousands of other Northern Snowbirds crowding dusty campgrounds for hundreds of miles. I clearly have a very different notion of getting away from it all.It is abierto for me! In the distance, the ancient sun-blasted mountains of Mexico loom above the verdant plains of the Colorado River. Their call is so strong!

Beauty is truth, truth beauty. That is all ye know on Earth, and all ye need to know.” …John Keats