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.

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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?”

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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.

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

8 thoughts on “Highway 50 Road Trip with the Griswolds

  1. Thx Cinda! It’s not a screen play I’d ever want to write! But getting the Via mag with that article was so bizarre! I had to wonder about their editor. Had he/she ever googled Baker NV?

  2. My buckaroo roots run deep in that sagebrush country…google the town of Tuscarora, Nevada further north (the sagebrush thickens north of HWY 50). That’s where my grandfather cowboyed and my father went to school in a ghost town. My great aunt & uncle both worked for nearly every ranch between Ely and Eureka. And my husband’s family all comes from that oasis in the desert along HWY 50, Fallon. Your post brought back memories as to why I would never again live there! Made me laugh, too. You nailed the Griswolds.

  3. I bet your great aunt and uncle have some amazing stories to tell! I’ve driven 50 way too many times – I think I’ve stopped every greasy spoon in both Eureka and Austin (a town of about the same size.) I’ve never heard Fallon describes as an oasis but yeah I guess it is!

    • I can’t remember the historic restaurant in Austin, but it had a fish tank. It was before the Hub & I married and we were banging around the hills, rock hunting, hot tubbing in the horse trough in the Smokey Valley, picking gooseberries, and I had one too many Bartles & James. I started tapping on the tank which was in my reach from our table and giggling loudly over the “chicken-shit fish.” Normally my public vocabulary is more formal than that. I got us 86ed from the place. Only time in 28 years of being together that I ever embarrassed my Fallon Boy! I now have your book and look forward to reading Flipka!

  4. We stopped at a cafe in Eureka surrounded by Harley’s and boy did they give our Prius the look that translated “hippy-dippy global-warming nut cases.” It turned out okay but I’m sure if we’d commented on the -ahem – cuisine, we’d have had ourselves an escort into the desert. Thanks so much for getting Flipka – I hope you enjoy it!

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