We took the loneliest highway in America all the way to Sacramento Pass BLM area. Sweet free campground to pull into right around sunset and only a few miles away from Great Basin National park. We setup camp, Bailey made her always delicious chili, I made a little fire for heat, and we enjoyed ourselves for awhile before heading to bed.
So there we were, driving the old 1985 van in the heat of the desert toward Spencer Hot Springs, when I looked down and noticed the temperature gauge reading hot. I continued to drive for another few miles before I pulled over and let ‘er rest in the only bit of shade I could find amongst some old decrepit buildings that were covered in graffiti at a weird intersection out in the middle of nowhere. The artwork wasn’t bad though…
First, It was right about this time when I began to question myself on this whole idea. Why had we bought a 30 year old vehicle? What made us think that driving around the country in a vehicle older than me was a good idea? We were barely into the trip before we were getting hot on the highway. I had checked fluids and everything. I didn’t know what to do and I was really starting to get worried.
Driving to Spencer Hot Springs
After a little while of exploring the abandoned buildings and letting the van cool down, we hopped back in and continued on our way. We made it to Tonopah, NV where we pulled into the gas station to reload on fuel. This is where I noticed coolant bubbling out of the overflow and I had a mini breakdown.
Should we continue the trip? What could happen in all of these miles if we are already overheating in the first leg? Should we make it back to Hwy 50 and turn around back towards California? Bailey and I discussed life and talked options. We talked about how hard we had worked to get this far with the van. We decided to head to a local park to cook some dinner and, as a bonus, I was able to throw 9 holes of disc golf that was in the same park!
While at the park, we decided we would continue on with our mission of road tripping while only driving at night time so the temps would be cooler for the van. What an idea… we waited at the park a bit longer for sunset before heading out on the last 100 miles or so to make it to Spencer Hot Springs. We drove all the way to the hot springs that evening with no problems at all. Well, except for the headlights flashing randomly here and there. That definitely shouldn’t have been happening. Still gotta get that figured out. At any rate, the van was running cooler and my nerves were calming.
Finally getting to Spencer Hot Springs
We parked in the first decent spot we saw that night when we pulled in because we had never been there. We made a little tiny fire and then passed out. I set out in the morning exploring to find all of the different tubs. Turns out there are about 4 different tubs at Spencer Hot Springs, all ranging in temperature. I found an awesome tub that was almost bathwater temp, with a big school of goldfish in the overflow pond. Yes, goldfish in the desert folks. This particular tub was nice because it was hot as hell here in the desert during the day, and it cooled us off.
We found a better camping spot and reparked the van there. We stayed here for about 4 days exploring the area and enjoying the tubs. Desert area with loads of sagebrush. Pretty much zero trees for shade. Amazing deep sunsets. We were able to hike to the top of a nearby hill to see the most amazing sunset. While waiting for the sunset we observed multiple packs of burrows, the desert donkey, grunting and groaning and drinking from the small goldfish-filled pond. I was also able to ride my mountain bike down this hill as a bonus to all of this. On top of all of that, we got to hit the hot tub again before tucking into bed for the night.
So we basically hung out here for 4 days playing in hot tubs, riding bikes, exploring mine shafts, and playing checkers. It was hot and dry. We did good on our water here. We did not run out the whole time.
After our stint in Spencer Hot Springs, we decided we were having too much fun to call the trip. We would push on with the van. The two of us had worked to hard to get this far to turn around now. We camped in Austin, NV right up the road from the springs while waiting for a national park pass from my great buddy Dan Deemer. Big shouts out to him for riding his bicycle across the USA. Read his whole adventure with pictures included here. Bob Scott campground was the name of the place, We did have to pay $10 for the 2 nights we were there but we were able to use their toilets and refill our water jugs.
It was a great time hanging out in the desert, but it was hot and we were ready for some new scenery and for our first National Park of the trip. Finally, Great Basin National Park, the only national park in Nevada, is where we were headed. We packed everything back in the van exactly where it belongs, hit the local gas station to fuel up, and hit the highway!