Wide Open Journal


by John Rettie


Here’s a day-by-day account of my four-day adventure with Zero One Odysseys.


Day 1


Arrive in Las Vegas. Meet up with the Zero One Odysseys people. After formalities, we board a motorhome for a three-hour drive to Goldfield, 200 miles northwest of Vegas. The tour guides discuss what to expect and answer the inevitable questions.


By early evening, we’re in Goldfield, which was the largest city in Nevada back in 1905 with a population of over 30,000. Now it’s a ghost town that is being revived by a handful of inhabitants. After a quick look at our buggies in a nearby ranch called Diamondville, we retire to the only bar in town – the longest continually operated saloon in Nevada. Wyatt Earp’s brother Virgil spent many evenings there. Ancient, rusted-out cars and ruins surround the area.


Conveniently, there is a small motel with a handful of rooms behind the saloon. That’s where we spend the night.


Day 2


Although we embarked on our adventure in May, snow had fallen the day before, and the tour guides excepted it to be bitterly cold the next morning. Luckily, it was not too bad, although we had to wear several layers of clothing. It was hard to imagine the temperature was in the 90s the week before.


We had 190 miles to cover the first day, so there was not much time to stop. The vistas were spectacular as we made our way to the east of Tonopah and then headed towards Reno. We crossed just one paved highway and several smooth, well-graded dirt roads. At times we were easily driving at 60 miles per hour; at other times, we were crawling at approximately 12 miles per hour.


Although we were in a convoy, there was no need to keep in visual contact with the car in front. Because of dust it was best to stay well back so we could enjoy the scenery. Each car is equipped with a radio for necessary contact.


Incidentally, the tour leader in the leading buggy gives out instruction over the radio to the next car in line. In addition, all cars are equipped with GPS navigation with accurate mileage readings. It’s then up to each car to radio to the one behind with instructions and make sure the instructions have been correctly copied and followed through.


There are no windshields, but a Parker Pumper keeps dust from getting inside our helmets. It doesn’t stop our clothes from getting caked in dust though!


Miles from any signs of civilization, we round a corner and there, beside a smooth dirt track, is the same motor home we’d been in the day before. The crew had driven several miles off a highway to provide us with a sit-down lunch at a picnic spot. No packed lunches on this tour.


After lunch, most teams swapped driving and navigating.


The day was long and tiring, but exhilarating. Our night stop was Middlegate. It’s no more than a bar and motel on Route 50, which is aptly called the loneliest road in America.


We’re welcomed by the support crew, who give us each a nice cold beer and immediately fill up the cars with gas and clean them, making them ready for day three. The motel leaves a lot to be desired, but at least there is hot water and the bar is full of interesting characters.


Day 3


We were told today would not be nearly as tiring because we only have to go 80 miles, and we’ll have much more time for site seeing.


By now everyone is comfortable driving the buggies, and we are driving a tad faster.


We visit Ione, the ghost town with its fascinating ruins. Lunch is in Berlin-Ichthyosaur State Park, where a dinosaur lies in a giant building. We’re the only visitors, and it is not open. But we can see its skeletal remains through a window. 


Tonight we will be in Belmont. On the way, we pass through Manhattan, which is a community for workers at a nearby quarry and mine. Although there are some old buildings, it does not have the appeal of a real ghost town.


Belmont, however, is just such a town. It was founded in 1865 and was a ghost town by 1901. However, it is undergoing a revival, and there are several new homes being built as weekend residences. An impressively large, two-story, red brick City Hall is being restored In the center of town.


The Belmont Inn is a welcome change. It provides the best rooms and meals of our trip. We’re at 7,000+ feet in altitude, so the evening air is crisp. But it’s nice to be in the restaurant and bar with roaring fires, talking with some of the friendly locals.


Day 4


Our adventure is almost over, but we still have another 90 miles back to Goldfield. The scenery is spectacular as we cross from one uninhabited valley to yet another. Some of us are lucky enough to see a herd of wild Mustangs racing across the valley floor. One team saw a badger, while several saw antelope and wild burros.


Much of the track today is fast and smooth, so we make good progress. We even cross the edge of a dry lake bed before getting into a section that turns out to be the roughest of all. It’s a stretch used in an off-road race from Las Vegas to Reno each year, and it is really torn up. Everyone has to go more slowly here to avoid punctures from the rocks strewn about by the monster race trucks. We all make it through without any problems, and we’re greeted again with cold beers and a barbecue lunch. It’s then just a three-hour drive in the motorhome back to civilization – Las Vegas!


It seems so remote.


What’s the Cost?


If you like the idea of an exciting getaway adventure driving a fast, smooth, race buggy across desert terrain, consider a  Zero One Odysseys tour. Costs vary, but except to pay approximately $7,000 for an all-inclusive, four-day adventure starting and finishing in Las Vegas.


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