Monday, May 22, 2017

Central Nevada Road Trip – a father and son experience in deep Nevada - Part 1. The Beginning

Eric and Tony Mindling, Berlin, Nevada, May 15, 2017
Photo by Eric Mindling
(Click on the photo to view larger versions of all of the photos in sequence)

Pops and the Kid. Today we emerged from Deep Nevada back into the world of cel and internet and people in too much of a hurry to do who knows what. We went to another world beyond the sagebrush curtain, saw vast places, met people who live by another rhythm and shared time together that was pure goodness for the heart and soul. Pictures will follow, and those of you lucky enough to cross our paths in these days can hear stories. There are things truly worth doing in this life, and this was one of them.
Eric Mindling, May 15, 2017

Part 1. The Beginning

The funny feeling in the truck’s steering was back. On the straight, as our long-suffering F150 patiently hauled our 27-foot travel trailer up the long grades leading to Donner Pass, where the I-80 finally drops over the summit of California’s Sierra Nevada, I’d been trying to convince myself that all was well. I was about an hour from our home in the foothills on the gentle west slope of the Sierras, and finally relaxing into this first leg of a much-anticipated road trip with my son Eric into Central Nevada. I’d soon be meeting him in Carson City, from which, according to plan, the next morning we would be heading south down 395 beneath the steep eastern face of the Sierra’s to Lee Vining, spend the night camping in the desert on the shore of million-year-old and mysterious Mono Lake, then east toward Tonopah from which we’d plunge off the pavement into “deep” Nevada.

The trip would be a photographic re-visit to the desert clarity, weathered old mining town buildings, hot springs, and cattle ranches I’d last seen 50 years earlier. Then I was a young geologist, bouncing a stiff 4X4 over two-track roads in search of springs which I would sample, measure their flow rate and temperature, and describe their occurrence. Enthralled by the colors and texture of the desert, my latent interest in photography received a reboot carrying my pleasure in it to my present 77 years.

Amazingly, and to my great pleasure, my son Eric picked up a passion for the craft, taking it far beyond my imaginings, to photograph for many years in southern Mexico, and most recently returning from projects in Cuba and India. So when I’d emailed him a few weeks ago with my idea to revisit the desert places I’d known in my 20’s, ending with, “Wanna come?!”, I’d assumed he’d be soon flying off for another project and I would be doing the trip solo.

But now I was truly on the way to meet him and soon together we’d be off on a father-son adventure of a lifetime. Except that as I eased my truck and travel trailer rig into one of I-80’s smooth freeway bends I could no longer ignore the resistance to turning the steering wheel, as if the power steering had failed. After pulling off onto a fortuitously wide section of shoulder, a straightened out bit of the old Lincoln highway, still bounded by lovely hand-laid stone protective fencing, I found that, indeed, the power steering no longer functioned, along with the alternator, fan, air conditioner, and coolant pump, all of 
which had been driven by the now-deceased serpentine belt whose shreds were now complexly wrapped around the fan’s shaft.

No doubt we will bore our grandchildren with the details of how on the side of the road, despite the failure of CSAA to be any help at all despite the membership dues that I pay expecting the benefits of “roadside assistance”, a replacement belt was obtained, and Eric diverted from his trip from Oregon to his mother’s home in Carson City to lend his strong arm as the third hand necessary to slip the new belt over the final pulley, and I was on the way again in time to arrive in Carson City in time for a glass of wine before a very welcome supper served up by Eric’s mom, Jean.

The Cosmopolitan Hotel, Belmont, Nevada 1968
Sitting around the old round table, we paged through a book of old silver-gelatin prints of the photos I’d taken of the ranches, abandoned mines, and weathered buildings of the central Nevada of 1968 and 1969. Those black and white photos – rusted ore cars tumbled from tracks leading into an abandoned tipple, branding irons casting shadows on a white-washed stone building, a close-up of a weathered door – had hung in our home for a decade and longer. Eric no doubt expected that we would be travelling through a world of tones of gray in the days to come. I feared finding buildings covered with graffiti, surrounded by trash, their history unappreciated. In fact, we would both be filled with the beauty of the colors and textures of the desert, the warmth and unaffected kindness of its people, and their deep appreciation of the land and its history. 

Nye County Courthouse, Belmont, Nevada. 1968

Ore cars and tipple, Silver Top Mine, Tonopah, Nevada. 1968

Branding Irons, Twin Springs (Fellini) Ranch, Nye County, Nevada, 1969

Weathered door, Belmont, Nevada. 1968


  1. Thoroughly enjoyed the text and the photos--- the photos- wow! Thanks! ~Tom~

    1. Glad to hear you enjoyed the post. We were out for a week, so there are more stories and photos to come.