Western Mining Alliance

Coast to Coast

Part 1 - The Trip

Hitting the road in search of the dream

Interstate 80 stretched out before me to the horizon. A grey Wyoming horizon ten miles distant. The interstate ahead of me dipped down into a long valley and then back up again to a ridge dotted with wind turbines and from the edge of the decline A grey sky and a headwind buffeted the trailer as my six cylinder slogged its way up another hill. "Wyoming", I thought, "Uphill both ways and against the wind." Or at least that's how Wyoming feels. I'm sure there's a physics textbook somewhere which says it can't be uphill both ways, but I'll take experience over a textbook, and its definitely uphill both ways.

I should know, I've done this trip for the past 25 years. From the Atlantic to the Pacific. East coast to west coast in search of gold. 6,500 miles round trip. That's a long commute to work. I, however, am a person who enjoys my commute. My trip ends at the portal to a mine.

truck stop

After 3,200 miles - mining camp

If you live east of the Mississippi and have thought about heading west to do some gold prospecting I can tell you it's not just doable - it's fun. In this age of viruses and society gone crazy, driving 3,000 miles is relaxing as you watch the miles go by. I've tried different routes from east to west, but I always come back to I-80.

I-70 can be a real busy interstate. You have to pass through St. Louis, Kansas City and Denver. St. Louis is the worst. My main reason for avoiding I-70 is the Eisenhower tunnel. At 11,100 feet I-70 is a helluva climb coming out of Denver. The highest point on the I-80 route is the Lincoln pass at 8,600 feet, but it's a pretty gentle climb out of Cheyenne.

I-10, well, is I-10. About a straight of a shot as you can make from Florida to California, but boring as hell, and I'm not a real fan of ending up in the Mojave desert. I-10 and I-40 are just too damned hot in late summer, so I've settled on I-80. One year I plotted my return route using Waze and it routed me through Las Vegas. Out in the desert the temperature hit 108 degrees and my dashboard looked like a Christmas tree with all the warning lights. That was the last time I routed through Las Vegas.

The first time I pulled a trailer out west I booked KOA campgrounds every night, picturing myself pulling in early, putting a chair up, maybe grilling some hamburgers, having a beer with other RVers. My first stop on I-80 was around Grand Island, Nebraska, a KOA. The starter went out in Iowa, then the rain started. I pulled into the KOA at 1 a.m. No cookout in the rain.

I had ambitously booked all the KOAs prior to leaving, so my next stop was out in western Wyoming. Head winds and uphill in Wyoming and I made no time. Got in about midnight again. Didn't even use the hookups, just pulled in, crawled in bed and right to sleep. The next morning was below freezing as I headed out again.


Start of the Great Platte River Road

My third night I had booked a KOA in Reno, near the California border figuring it would be a nice jumping off point to get me to my mine the next day. I pulled into the KOA to discover it was essentially nothing but a giant, paved, parking lot and to make matters worse the discharge pit for the waste tank was actually higher than my outlet (it's a small trailer), so I couldn't even dump the tanks. The next day I discovered it was a real challenge hauling my trailer up I-80 to Donner Pass. That was the last year I went I-80 over the mountains of California.

Every year is different. If it can go wrong, it will go wrong when you're pulling a trailer. Take a toolbox. Other than the starter, I've overheated near Nashville on I-24. The fuel gauge quit working in central Nebraska and I ran out of gas 2 miles from the exit. Blew a radiator hose one time. Overheated the transmission climbing the Sierras, even with a transmission cooler and had three flat tires.

This past September I hit a winter storm in the mountains of Wyoming and drove all night to avoid getting stuck on a closed interstate. Hurricane winds were threatening to knock my trailer over and the rain changed to snow just past Rawlings. About 2 a.m. I passed the Lincoln pass with rain and snow blowing sideways. In Cheyenne I stopped for gas and the truck was completely covered in a sheet of ice. As I neared Nebraska the temperature warmed up to 33, but the wind kept screaming all night. I pulled into the Wal-Mart in Sydney with a lot full of trucks and caught a few hours of sleep, then vowed not to stop again until the temperature got above 50. That was St. Louis at 3 in the morning. I stopped somewhere in Southern Illinois at what was a quiet spot at 4 a.m. but ended up being a very busy highway at 6 a.m. After 2 hours of sleep I moved to a state park and caught a few more hours of sleep before hitting the road again.

Over the years I've kept a notebook of good stops, camping places and all the gas stations along the route. If you're thinking of doing the trip and want information I'm more than happy to pass it along.

Heading to the mine each June is something I look forward to. When I pull the trailer out of the drive onto the pavement, the mining season has started. If you're dreaming of doing the same thing I've been doing the past 25 years my single piece of advice is to get your own mining claim. Have a place you're heading to, a place you can park your trailer for the summer and use as a base to prospect or mine. Out in Nevada there are plenty of free BLM campgrounds you can use as you prospect the area around them.

It's the end of another season. I'm already repacking for next year and changing out gear. It's never too early to start preparing for the next mining season.


Back at work after a long commute