Today isn’t the best day for weather in Las Vegas. Cloudy, slightly rainy and hovering in the high 40s/low 50s, it’s not a pretty day for a Sunday drive…but I went anyway. Every so often, I like to drive through the Red Rock Canyon Preserve. Every day when I go to work, take a walk, or just look to the west, I see the Spring Mountains. They’re like friends of mine that I promise to visit, but never do. Well, today was the day to pay them a visit. After lunch, I headed out toward Red Rock Canyon. It’s only a few minutes away and the views from the car are breathtaking. The weather made the mountains and surroundings even more ominous, really.
After driving the 15-mile route, which starts in Summerlin and dumps you out on Blue Diamond (Highway 160) in the southwest corner of the valley, where a left turn brings you back into Las Vegas. What happens if you turn right? No idea. I’ve never done it before. I always turn left. So what did I do today?
I turned right.
I had no idea where, precisely, I was going. All I knew is it was something I’d not done before and I was about to see something I’d never seen before: Nye County. I’ve never been out of Clark County, so this was truly a first for me. So I charted a course to Nye County’s most famous city: Pahrump. I had a quarter-tank of gas, Pahrump is 42 miles away, so why not take a northwesterly drive into the Spring Mountain foothills as the temperature drops and rain is falling from the sky? What could POSSIBLY go wrong on this drive as the highway climbs in altitude on a day like today?
Truth be told, there was no danger at all. This drive is nothing like my friends from Colorado experience on a daily basis with the Rocky Mountains. There are no switchbacks. Falling rocks and the occasional burro? Perhaps, but I saw neither on this day. The closest you get to any mountainous driving is when passing Mt. Potosi, the southernmost peak of the Spring Mountains. It was a bit windy and the altitude made my ears pop, but nothing like what I experienced several years ago when driving up Pike’s Peak, obviously.
Mt. Potosi’s elevation is just a shade higher than 8,500 feet; rather unimposing and somewhat diminutive when compared to the Spring Mountain’s highest peak at Mount Charleston. But it holds a footnote in American pop culture history, as it is the site of a 1942 plane crash that claimed the life of Carole Lombard and 21 other passengers.
I enjoyed this up-close view of the Spring Mountains from a different perspective. I’m used to seeing the eastern face of the mountains bathed in sunlight every morning as I drive to work, so this was kind of fun, for me.
After Mt. Potosi, the drive is no longer interesting. I was reminded of portions of Arizona and New Mexico, where the highway stretches for miles across a desolate desert landscape. I was half expecting to see Walter White’s RV parked in the distance, cooking up a new batch of meth.
It took about 40 minutes of driving from Red Rock to reach Pahrump. In a word: meh. I honestly have no idea what would compel a person to live in a place that feels so detached from the world. Seriously! Pahrump is an hour away from Las Vegas, but I got the sense that people here in Pahrump don’t want to be bothered much by out of towners. Case in point: Pahrump is Art Bell’s hometown. Need I go on?
I stuck around long enough to gas up the vehicle, then turned around and came home. The drive home was only made interesting by the worsening weather as I passed Mt. Potosi. Temperatures at the higher altitude dropped to the low 30s and the rain was starting to turn to sleet. I’m glad I got out of there when I did.
Today’s adventure was small and uneventful, but enjoyable nonetheless. I finally ventured out of Clark County and saw a part of Nevada I had not previously seen. Perhaps next time I’ll take a different route and check out Area 51…if they’ll let me get close enough, that is.