Monday, September 30, 2013

Good Job Nova!

Identical twins from behind

 This week my parents, aunt and grandfather were all in town.  They didn't stay at the house, but they visited  lot and we had a few meals here.  I was a little bit worried to start with that it would be a lot to have this many people over for Nova.  Well I am happy to report that it went amazingly well.  Nova did not bark or growl at any of the guests ever.  She was a little skiddish, as normal, and she did not allow anyone to move towards her, but on her terms she let everyone pet her.  A few people pet her under the chin, a few on the back and a few even got to rub her chest a little bit.  I was beyond amazed at how well she did.

In other good news it is starting to be a comfortable temperature out at a reasonable hour of the day.  For oh so many reasons that is a good thing, but in particular it is going to give me the opportunity to work with Nova outside a little bit.  She has been reluctantly following me and Kerri down the block as long as nothing crazy happens along the way, but is no lover of the world outside my house and backyard.  My goal for this month is to make her like the outside a little more.  Since her highest value activity is clicker tricks I have decided every day we are going to go out on the leash, but only to the concrete step by the door.  There we will do our regular clicker training session then go inside.  I am hoping that this will make the outside a little more fun for her.  
Our first session was a success by Nova standards.  She walked out the door because I had the clicker and a bag of treats.  She was very overwhelmed by the idea of listening to me outside but did "touch" for a click and a treat twice.  Then the neighbor opened their garage door and it was a bit of a disaster.  I had about 5 bits of treats left in my hand so I just said her name and she got a click for looking at me.  I only got brief glances but by treat number five she was excited about the click and not just concerned about being outside so we called it a day and went back in.  The whole session was less than two minutes.  Slow and steady is going to win this race.

Monday, September 9, 2013

A Guide to The Extraterrestrial Highway

+1 To anyone who knows what landmark Kerri is sitting on there.  If you don't know you should watch one of my favorite movies of all time, Paul, or click here for a wikipedia article on the subject.

(If anyone looking to do this drive comes by the page through good ole search engines I did try to make this post more like a visitors guide, you will find some good info and lots of links to get your research started even if you are going without a dog)

This weekend Ben took a day off and we planned to go camping at Mt. Charleston with our chihuahuas favorite people and an old friend who moved to town just last week!  We ended up not camping, but that will be covered in tomorrows blog post titled "Why We Make Smart Decisions About Turning Back and Don't Die in the Wilderness."  Instead of camping we took a LONG day trip along the Extraterrestrial Highway!  This drive is something we have been wanting to do for a while (being the sci fi geeks we are) and this was the perfect opportunity.  From Las Vegas it takes about 8 hours, you make a complete circle around Area 51, the Atomic Test Site and Nellis Airforce Base.  The main attraction is The Extraterrestrial Highway (Nevada SR375) at the top of the loop, but there are a lot of other cool things to see on the way.  This is not to say that the drive is filled with stuff.  There is a 150 mile stretch of highway with no restrooms or gas and the vast majority of it looks like this-

 Or if you are really lucky this-

The drive started with us taking 15 North out of the city.  We brought Kerri on this trip because she loves car rides and seeing new places.  Copley is OK with traveling but really would rather just get to a destination, a car ride like this would be do-able but not at all fun so he stayed home with Nova.    Kerri seemed to like the trip- she was excited to sniff around at all of our stops and just slept in her crate during the ride.

Pretty soon after leaving the valley you take 93 towards Alamo, NV.  This is where we hit our first historical marker!

Kerri investigates the state seal.

This marks the southern border of the state of Nevada from 1861 to 1867.  Worth a stop?  Eh.

Then of course Ben had to touch a few plants before we got back in the car.

Next up is the Pahranagat valley, home to Pahranagat National Wildlife Refuge and the town of Alamo, NV.  We didn't stop on this trip- but if you have not been here you should!  There is a wetland that has great camping (seasonally) and we have been there a few times.  Even if you just pull off and take a stroll around the shore it is worth it.  We just stopped at the historical marker-

Here are a few shots of another trip we took out there, pretty right?  Also unexpected to see a wetland in the middle of a scrub desert.

From Alamo we take 93 to The Extraterrestrial Highway (or NV375)!!!

Right after the highway sign we see another historical marker-

This one marks this tiny town (ghost town?  Collection of empty houses?) of Crystal Springs.  I guess it had a lot of historical significance in the creation of Lincoln County.

Now we were headed down the highway towards famous Rachel Nevada!  This is the point of our whole trip so we got pretty excited.  I expected to see a LOT of touristy alien stuff- but really I saw a lot of middle of nowhere.  I guess it makes sense- all the land to the right of us for the entire 8 hour drive (the stuff in the loop) is owned by the government, fenced in and if you go far enough down any road in that direction you will hit what is probably one of the best guarded fences in the the world.  On the other side you have open grazing land, scrub desert and a whole lot of nothing that is central Nevada.  For something that is so famous- it is strange to me how undeveloped it is.  Just goes to show how incredibly inhospitable most of this state is.

Right off the highway we saw this building, and then this sign was the last bit of civilization we saw before hitting the Black Mailbox.

Area 51 and the Test Site are right over that mountain range.

Now we get to The Black Mailbox.  We decided it was not cute enough so we made it cuter!

Not far past the mailbox is the adorable Little A'Le'Inn in Rachel NV.  I have to say Rachel is not much of a town, and although there were a fair number of tourists there (6 or so) it was not some Vegas-esque spectacular sight.  In fact it was small, adorable and there was not even a slot machene in the place!

Here is a picture of the entire town of Rachel, NV.

We had a great meal at the A'Le'Inn, I recommend the Flying Saucer Burger, it was very good.  I wish I took a picture of the inside of the place, full of alien pictures on the walls and alien stuff at the gift shop.  It was quaint, rural and also very worldly and geeky- a strange place.  We were able to sit on benches outside because we had Kerri, they were very nice about that and it was actually pretty fun to look around.  Outside there is a time capsule that was placed by Twentieth Century Fox as a publicity thing for the movie Independence Day.  Here is Kerri checking it out-

The first thing you see coming into Rachel is the "environmental monitoring station."  They are pretty wordy in their explanations of it, and it takes a lot of weather data, but from what I gathered it mostly exists to make sure the nuclear radiation coming off the test site is not irradiating the locals.  Don't get too excited about the town of Rachel though, they are all over the southwest.  Here is a map.

Kerri is checking the weather and level of radiation in the air.

Right next to the station is the sign for the Little A'Le'Inn and a broken down spaceship.

Sometimes I see pictures like this and I can't believe how small my dogs are!

Once you get past Rachel you take the Extraterrestrial Highway a little bit longer until you hit US6 and take it west.  At the Junction of 6 there is a cool little ghost town.  We didn't get out and look around because the place was all barb wired in and we were not in a breaking and entering kind of mood.  It seemed like really a ghost town within a ghost town because there were these old, old abandoned buildings-

Then there are these newer abandoned buildings

Next we head down route 6 to a bunch more of nothingness and scrub desert approaching the town of Tonopah.  At the time we did not know we would be driving by the Tonopah Test Range.  The Test Range is one of the few things the government admits exists on the inside circle of this drive.  You should check out the link to read more about it- if things like that interest you.  They have stored a lot of cool planes there and it still remains an active airport shuttling employees from McCarran Airport to the test site and whatever else is in that chunk of land.  I don't know why we didn't stop and take a picture of the sign at the range- it was really cool- but I guess we were in a driving mood.

We also saw a herd of wild mustangs on our way past the test range.

(I promise there is a herd of mustangs in that picture, look really close, and they appear more as little black blobs than as horses really)

The rest of the drive is just lots of scrub desert and the occasional town.  In Tonopah you meet up with US95 which you take south all the way back to Las Vegas.  I didn't take any pictures in Tonopah, but it is where we lost Ben's keys, a frightening thought due to the cost of automatic car door openers keys that can only be bought from Hyundai.

Here are some pictures of the rest of the drive.  We didn't really stop any more except to buy some cheese stuffed olives I saw on the side of the road and to get gas once. Kerri made friends with a few truckers being the socalite that she is.

The town of Goldfield Nevada.  I am sure there is a lot of history there, but we were more focused on the UFO and Government Conspiracy aspect of the trip than the history of Nevada.  Maybe next time.

Beatty, NV.  Probably the busiest of the little towns, it is close to Death Valley and also very pretty, carved into the rocks.

Our only UFO sighting!  Or the sun behind a cloud- you decide.

These are some sand dunes about an hour outside of Las Vegas.  We plan to borrow a friends 4x4 and check them out sometime.  Another interesting fact that may or may not be true- according to the random information in my spouses head the prison right past these dunes is the one that houses OJ Simpson.

Thanks for reading everybody!  I know this was not too dog related but it was a fun trip and Kerri sure enjoyed herself.  Plus we got some ADORABLE pictures.  Anyone who likes car rides should for sure do this one, its a long haul, but lots of cool stuff on the way.