Highway 50 Road Trip with the Griswolds

In a truly bizarre twist of fate, Via, AAA’s travel magazine, just published an article touting Highway 50 from tiny Baker Nevada to the teeming metropolis of Ely Nevada, as a “Great Drive” and no, I did not pay them to do so.  You see, this drive takes you past Steptoe Valley, the spot where Fi Butters, the reluctant heroine of FLIPKA, stops for Cheetos, Pepsi and directions from a cigarette puffing cat taxidermist.


One of the highlights of the Baker – Ely drive is this photo op!

Imagine Clark Griswold, the hero of the National Lampoon Vacation series, reading this article and then announcing to his family. “This is it! The next great Griswold family road trip!”

Griswold Family

Audrey, Ellen, Clark and Rusty Griswold

As they huddle on the couch groaning Ellen, Clark’s sensible wife, opens her lap top and googles Baker Nevada. “Oh Lord, Clark. It’s out in the middle of nowhere!  Four hours from Salt Lake City!”  She takes another look at the directions and gasps, “Oh my God.  Look at this route! There’s nothing between Delta Utah and Baker.  Nothing but dry lake beds – not one town. Where would we stop to…you know?”


Highway 50 east heading towards Delta from Ely. No plant big enough to squat behind for 100 miles.

Clark ignores her as he googles sites of interest in Delta Utah.  “Hum,” he points out, “we could visit the Gunnison Memorial. That’d be fun.”

“What’s great about that?”  Rusty whines.

“Well, son, It’s the site of an Indian ambush quite possibly orchestrated by Brigham Young, himself.  You know the…”

“Big deal.”

Clark rubs his chin. “I guess you’re right, Rusty my man.  It looks like just a plaque by the site of the road. No museum, no nothing. Hey, how about this one?  The Topaz War Relocation Camp?”

“A concentration camp?” Audrey gasps.”Where the government put all those poor people in WWII just cause they were Japanese!  Eww.”

Clark realizes a mutiny is afoot. “We could drive to Baker from Vegas.  You like Vegas, right kids?”

“Couldn’t we just stay in Vegas?”  Rusty pleads.

“At the Excalibur,” Audrey chimes in.

“No!  Treasure Island!”  Rusty counters, punching his sister in the arm.

“Where’s your sense of adventure, kids? Highway 50 is the loneliest highway in the world!  We could rent an RV and stay at this place. Major’s Station Bar and RV Park!”

Bar and RV Park, Major's Station Nevada

Bar and RV Park, Major’s Station Nevada

Groans all around.

Ellen goggles the route from Vegas.  “Clark,” she sighs in exasperation.  “That route’s not any better.  It’s four and a half hours from Vegas to Baker and the only places to stop are two itty-bitty towns: Caliente and Pioche.  Read what it says about Pioche, “… one of the roughest towns in the old West!”

“Let’s go to Desperation Nevada!” Rusty blurts out, looking up from his Stephen King novel.  “That would be sick!”

“Desperation?” * Clark asks, examining the map.

“Yeah, could we, Dad?  Please!”

*Stephen King wrote Desperation after a harrowing trip through Nevada. There really is no such town.


The Griswolds on their way to Desperation Nevada in a rented silver Airstream.

Sigmus Freudicon at your service


Sigmus Freudicon at your service!

Note from Twissel’s caretaker:  JT (Jan) is blog lame today.  Actually the condition began during the final editing of FLIPKA and reached its peak after the release of the manuscript for publication.  She’s frozen in the fetal position, screaming through the bars at me:  “Sigmus Freudicon – at least release the first five pages to my legions of followers.”  Delusion is another one of her sad afflictions.  She has only four followers and three of them are her alternate personalities.  The fourth is her mother.”  But in an effort to pacify her, here are the first couple of pages of her book.

FLIPKA (available now in Kindle Version on Amazon)


Cover art for FLIPKA, design by Melody Paris and Kaira Paris-McDade

He held a yellowed phone in one hand and a lit cigarette posed about four inches from his mouth in the other. “Yup, that’s right,” he coughed, pent up cigarette smoke escaping through every orifice north of his neck, “You got it. Ok, well then. Ok. If that’s all you want, I got a customer, capeesh?” He slammed the receiver down. “Damn government.”


His was as strange a place as I’d ever walked into in rural Nevada, and that’s saying a bunch. There were only a few rows of wooden shelves, half full of packaged, canned, and bottled food — nothing fresh. In the corner several cats, frozen in various states of ire by a taxidermist, posed under a dead Christmas tree hung upside down from the rafters. The cats were clearly marked “not for sale” lest any of the many travelers drawn to his place way out in the middle of nowhere had a hankering for a stuffed cat.


The cats rise and exact their revenge, forming legions of giant, orange zombie cats. Image stole from Pinterest.

Luckily there was at least one refrigerated unit behind the cash register. It had been a long ride up from Vegas and I knew that where I was going the food would be institutional, unseasoned, and probably powdered—the only drinks apple juice and weak coffee sweetened with saccharin. I needed a junk-food infusion to keep me going for what I hoped would only be a few days of culinary hell.


The food of the Gods.

“I’m sorry, Ma’am,” he coughed. “What’ll it be?”

“I’ll take a cold Pepsi and these Cheetos.” I informed him, plopping a large bag of Cheetos on the Formica counter.

He gave me a once-over and pulled a can of Diet Pepsi from the refrigerated unit.

“I want the regular Pepsi! I might need to lose a few pounds but that diet stuff’s full of chemicals!”

He looked at me as if to say your funeral, lady, and grabbed a regular Pepsi, “You come in that Nova?” he asked.

I squelched the urge to point out that mine was the only car in front of his store. “Yup. Say, where am I?”

“Pile of junk those Novas.”

“It’s a rental. I didn’t have much of a choice.”

“Wouldn’t catch me in one of them piles of junk.”

“Oh yeah. Well I wasn’t thinking of offering you a ride, so don’t worry. Now, could you kindly tell me where am I?”

“This here’d be the turn off to Steptoe,” he replied. “Steptoe, Nevada, Planet Earth. You know we get a lot of Martians out here. You wouldn’t be one of them, would you?”

I chuckled, mostly out of politeness. It was an old and very tired joke in that part of the world. “I’m looking for the turnoff to Fort Palmer. It’s supposed to be around here somewhere. You wouldn’t happen to . . .”

“Visiting somebody?”

“Yeah, you could say that.”


Onward to Fort Palmer.  Let’s hope she gets there before the sun sets.


The other day I was sitting in a women’s clinic waiting for my annual pap smear and mammogram when I looked up and saw a sign on the wall that read: Tweet your Kaiser experience

thReally?  Around me sat women of all ages, some with male companions, some alone.  None of them looked particularly happy.  Let’s face it.  Unless you’re at a woman’s clinic for pre-natal care, the purpose of your visit is not something you’d write home about let alone tweet to twenty thousand strangers. Does the hospital really want to get the following tweets? What do you think?


Filling out the same old paperwork yet again.  Don’t u have computers? #getaclue #kaiser

Question: Date of last period. I write: Sometime in the last century. #CheckTheDateOfBirthSilly #kaiser

“Get on the scale,” nurse orders. Me: “But I’ve worn the same pants for 15 yrs.” #PatheticButTrue #kaiser

Nurse: “Don’t you want to know what you weigh?” #AreNursesInsane? #kaiser

LNP: “You’re the fourth Jan I’ve seen today and only one of them was under 55.”  #AllJansAreOld? #kaiser

During exam LNP says “Irregular moles.” Me: “In my…?”   LNP: “Yes.”  #OfAllPlaces! #kaiser

Dermatologist happens to be nearby.  I ask “What happens if the moles are…” “We’ll freeze, cut or burn.”  #OMG!

Dermatologist: “False alarm.” LNP: “You look pale.”  #duh #kaiserhospital


You look pale. We’d better take some blood!

Down to the lab for blood work (cuz I look pale) w/mid-day’s assortment of fasting & cranky older people waiting to bleed, pee or…   #cattlecall

A starving, blurry-eyed man who can’t quite keep his pants up sits next to me. #HospitalFashionDisasters


Aside from tweeting, here are other ways to entertain yourself in a hospital waiting room.   http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=P5SJHVC3dNw

A great post on waiting in the hospital: http://www.kaarinadillabough.com/i-learned-from-hours-hospital-waiting-room

By the way, I love Kaiser Hospital.  I really do but not when I’m in the stirrups.

Images from Bing.com