Roadrunners Reunion, Rachel, Powerlines Overlook, October 6-7, 2007
by Joe Buchman

Went to Las Vegas for the Roadrunner's Reunion. (Felt like I was in a room with the Mercury 7 astronauts. Those guys went higher and faster earlier and without any public recognition of their heroism; just an amazing experience to hear their stories.) Shopped at the CIA store that was set up there. After a visit to the world's largest collection of Boy and Girl Scouting memorabilia (see, I headed toward Rachel. Stopped in Alamo and bought a few things, including a set of audio CDs of the NASA Mercury, Gemini and Apollo programs titled "In their own words." Shepard, Glenn, Kennedy, Armstrong, Lovell -- mostly audio from live NASA feeds at the time.) The perfect thing to listen to while heading up the ET highway.

The ET Highway sign at the southern end of Hwy 375 was missing. Two poles are still there, but no sign.

Coming over Hancock summit, GLR was clearly visible with, thanks to a strong northerly wind, huge dust plumes from at least three vehicles on the road. One of them turned out to be the white bus.

Stopped at the campsite off of 375 between GLR and the mailbox and met a couple from Vancouver WA who had been camped there for a few days in a small trailer. Said they had seen jets fly low over their campsite and wag their wings at them, they thought, because they have a flag painted on top of their camper.

Got to the A Le Inn just in time for a birthday party for Jay. Pat offered me some cake and brownies she had made (just excellent) and ice cream to go with the baked chicken dinner I ordered. The vegetable beef soup was, I think, the best I've ever had. Pat said the veges were all grown in gardens right there in Rachel. Tracy was working and there were another 8 or so guests whose names I don't remember. Everyone was talking about how cold it was going to get. The weather station at the Inn showed it was 37 -- Tracy had heard it was supposed to "drop another 20 degrees" which would not have been good for the water in my small RV (A RoadTrek van). But I don't think it got much below freezing Friday night (the NWS website showed a low of 33).

Also met two guys in the parking lot who were getting ready to go coyote hunting. They were certain the low was only going to be "around 30."

Decided not to try to drain the water system and to spend the night in the former gravel site just off 375 about 2 1/2 miles north of GLR. Lots more traffic than I had seen on 375 before -- maybe 15 cars and trucks in the first hour and very distracting for trying to look to the west. Not much traffic after midnight. Saw several brief falling stars toward the west. A smile shaped crescent moon rose in the east around 3am. I dozed on and off looking out the window in the back of the RV toward the base from time to time.

Saturday morning I decided to drive some of the dirt roads north of Hancock Summit, past the Horny's rest area and see how far I could get in my RV (a 19-foot Dodge Van conversion). The following is NOT recommended for anything other than 4WD. (I also was doing it with about 40 gallons of water, a week's worth of food, tools, spare tire, plenty of winter and summer clothing, first aide materials, several flashlights, a genset, furnace, stove, and some significant experience with my RoadTrek on other dirt roads; the weather forecast was favorable, and I'm willing and able to take some risks -- like realizing I might need to spend an extra week in the area to get my van out of there if, for example, the transmission were to fall off. I also made phone calls to let my wife know where I was, where I was planning to go, when to get worried, and who to call if she didn't hear from me by a specific time.)

What I did not have with me were the directions from here on how to get to the power lines overlook. At frist I didn't even realize that's where I was headed. My intention was just to check out the dirt road, turn around when I couldn't go further, and just poke around the desert.

I wound up on a ridge at N37 26.5580 by W115 23.9005 at 5561 feet elevation, not far from some sort of rainwater collection system -- metal roofing with a rain gutter.

Turned around but rather than head back, kept to the north and got to the power lines. I realized I must be near the overlook and decided to, somewhat foolhardily, see if I could get there. Stopped twice to walk portions of the road before driving them, but made it up to the powerline overlook without incident.

Now I wish I had spent Saturday night up there. Great view. Managed to get a phone call out on my cell (Sprint) and give our daughter my GPS coordinates and intended route back to Alamo. Wasn't 100 percent certain I could get the van back down from there without getting stuck in some loose gravel or sliding off the road. After making the phone call and taking a few photos, I headed back down with no problems at all. I might even risk driving the van up there again, but only in ideal weather conditions, and, ideally with someone else in a 4WD vehicle leading the way.

On the way back I decided to follow the road that runs along side the power lines rather than go back to Horney's. Seemed to me to be a better road. After a couple of miles I turned to the south following a smaller road -- tracks in the desert -- that intersected with 375 at N37 29.165' W11520.351'.


Took about 25 minutes to get there from the overlook. Although several moments of that were white knuckle, Disney E-ticket ride, type stuff. Quite a few things in the RT got bounced around, but no damage to anything other than my wits as far as I can tell.

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