Hikari's Food/Japanophile and Other Interesting Stuff blog

Going down to Vegas (in a car) and back again: Part 1

on July 7, 2013

More pictures will be coming, I just have to dig through them to see which ones to add.

Two years ago, Hubby and I went to Vegas. The first time for me, and it had been a while for him. Since he can’t fly (medical reasons, not a phobia) we decided to drive. We rented a car to save mileage, wear and tear on ours. It actually came out pretty cheap since we planned it very carefully (More in a later post on finding the best deals).

This time around, we had a time constraint, so it cost a bit more than last time. Here is our adventure.

Okay, so the first time we went (August 2011), we used Enterprise for our rental because they included Nevada in the 5-state unlimited mileage plan (and they were the cheapest with unlimited miles). We chose a compact car, but got upgraded to an intermediate (very comfortable Corolla) due to them actually running out of cars. Because of the 5-state limit, we had to be careful of our route as the interstate goes through Utah, which was not covered in the 5-state unlimited mileage deal. This involved a careful plotting of a route straight down through Nevada at night. There was some colorful debate as to which mountains we would drive over. This is the shortest, straightest route we could decide upon.


Google map with the driving time estimate. We took a bit longer, but then there were multiple pit-stops.

When we lived on the East Coast, driving to Florida took almost this long, so it couldn’t be that bad, right?

With our route plotted, the days selected (5 days, no weekend), and the hotel reserved, we began our adventure mid-day. I must add I was anal-retentive enough in planning this trip I even checked road construction and delays before departure.

Driving during the day was nice, looking at cities, crossing bridges, navigating the mountain pass in Oregon, but the real trouble started after we entered Idaho and the sun set. Normally, I can drive all day, as long as the sun is out. However, with nothing to stare at but dark road I get Very Sleepy. Hubby and I had been taking turns every couple of hours, but after the sun went down, I could barely last more than about an hour, so he did as much driving as he could.

Note: Twin Falls, Idaho smells bad. I’ve seen some equate it to a farm smell, but it’s not quite that… And this was BEFORE the yogurt factory got built, so I can only imagine it’s worse now! We didn’t even get to see any of the falls it was named after as both there & back involved going through town in the middle of the night.

After making it into Nevada, the road got quite deserted, but what else should I expect from a highway going through the middle of nowhere? There were a few towns where we had to slow down as we drove through, but other than that, there was a whole lot of nothing. During most of the trip, we couldn’t even see lights from cities or even homesteads, so all we got was stars, the road and what little on either side that was illuminated by the headlights. There was even some wildlife wandering around at night, as we witnessed something with antlers crossing the road and some kind of large bird dive bombed us. (Come on, it was night time! like I’m supposed to be able to classify wildlife in the dark while driving?)

We pulled over at one straight stretch of road to enjoy the stars. With no moon or light pollution, it was beautiful!

Note: There’s a creepy town in the middle of Nevada called Ely. Maybe it was because it was middle-of-the-night deserted, but the place creeped us both out.  The highway becomes the main street so we had to slow down to 25 mph in places. If we didn’t need gas, we would have driven straight through.

After passing through Ely, navigating a mountain range and a couple of highway intersections later, we were in the home stretch. As the sky lightened pre-dawn, we were both exhausted. But we could actually start to make out the features of our surroundings, noticing the mountain ranges on either side. It was quite beautiful, seeing the rosy glow touch on golden & red rock. Sunrise found us at the intersection of Hwy 93 and 375 (the Extraterrestrial Highway). We would have gotten pictures of the sign, but we were exhausted and just wanted to get to Vegas.

This came from another blog (click picture for the link) as we never managed to get one of our own.

This came from another blog (click picture for the link) as we never managed to get one of our own.

After connecting with I-15, we could actually see Vegas in the distance. This was enough to energize me enough to make it there without falling asleep at the wheel. It’s interesting seeing a whole lot of desert and then the edge of a city rising up from the dusty flatness. We arrived at the hotel way too early to check in, so we shambled off for breakfast and some outskirts sight-seeing before they let us know a room was ready.

Our stay in Vegas was fantastic, but this will be covered in the next post.

On the way back, we got to see much of the scenery we missed on the way down. There were even some mountains with snow on them in August! Snow! in August! in Nevada! Honestly! (Pictures will arrive soon-ish) We were very grumpy when we finally arrived home.

See? That's SNOW in Nevada in August! But it was northern Nevada, on a high mountain peak

See? That’s SNOW in Nevada in August!
But it was northern Nevada, on a high mountain peak

Things I learned from our (driving) trip:

Nevada is not (entirely) a desert wasteland! There are (a few) rivers that create (some) lovely green areas, such as the Pahraganat (had to double-check spelling 3 times… it’s a mouthful) National Wildlife Refuge.

The desert is more green than I expected.

Ely is still creepy during the day.

Twin Rivers stinks (literally), at night anyway.

Nevada has some of the cheapest gasoline prices in the country.

Toyota Corolla is a very nice car to drive for long trips. We averaged about 45 miles to the gallon both ways. We missed it when we had to give it back.

Driving for 18 hours, having fun in Vegas and then driving back for another 18 hours is hell on a back. REALLY hell on a back.

Much of Nevada is a cell signal dead zone. Seriously. These are current maps, it was worse 2 years ago! Pray that nothing happens in the middle of the night, because no one will hear you scream, and the body (if there is one) won’t be found until the truck drivers start coming through in the daylight.

Seriously, double-check our route! Much of our time we had no signal!

Seriously, double-check our route! Much of our time we had no signal!

If you return a rental vehicle a day early, they do not refund the extra day. (sadface)


3 responses to “Going down to Vegas (in a car) and back again: Part 1

  1. Wow! That’s a long drive…:-) I just did a round trip from San Jose to Eureka and back. Road Trips are fun!!

  2. […] we’ve talked about my first driving trip to Vegas, how to find a good hotel deal and exploring Vegas on a budget. Now, here’s how we got there […]

  3. It’s nearly impossible to find educated people about this topic,
    but you seem like you know what you’re talking about!

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