Go Take A Road Trip To The Actual Middle Of Nowhere

Illustration for article titled Go Take A Road Trip To The Actual Middle Of Nowhere
Photo: Bradley Brownell

Last weekend my spouse and I climbed into a Tesla Model Y Dual Motor and set our sights on finding one of the most secluded spots in northern Nevada. This year has been, shall we say, stressful? As a result, we wanted to take a day to do nothing in particular and find a nice way to relax. Being a desert dweller, I’m obsessed with the idea of natural hot springs. Let’s go find one of those!

Taking a purely modern electric motion machine, like this Tesla Y that a friend let me borrow for the month, to go visit something that feels purely old-world and prehistoric like a natural hot spring, feels somehow fitting. California and Nevada produce about 90 percent of the country’s geothermal power, and there is so much potential for even more. At a depth of about 3.5 miles, most of Nevada experiences subterranean temperatures averaging near 400 degrees F.

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Any water found that deep in the earth is going to boil, expand and try to find its way to the surface. Where natural cracks and deep recesses exist, hot springs form. There are hundreds of them across Nevada, and some of them have been turned into getaway spots for locals and tourists alike to visit. They’re usually pretty quiet because they’re out in the middle of literal nowhere, but the reward is well worth the journey.

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Photo: Bradley Brownell

Because we were in an electric car, we had to plan our route carefully. This Model Y Dual Motor has an estimated range of 316 miles, but the owner of the car requested that we kindly not let the charge fall below 20 percent to prevent long-term battery degradation. No problem — with Tesla’s available charging infrastructure, we could have made it to most of the hot springs in Nevada, though getting back home would have been difficult. So we chose a spring that was just a short 41 miles from Interstate 80, and crucially, less than 70 miles from the nearest Tesla Supercharger in Lovelock, Nevada.

We headed east out of Reno with a full charge, topped off in Lovelock, and then tried our damnedest to get lost in the middle of the godforsaken desert.

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Illustration for article titled Go Take A Road Trip To The Actual Middle Of Nowhere
Screenshot: Google Maps

Based on the maps, there was a short way and a long way. Given that we were driving an EV, I wanted to take the shorter path, even knowing that it would mean many more miles off the pavement. If we’d taken the highway up and over the Star Peak range, it would have added an extra 35 miles each way. It’s on the maps, how bad can it be?

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Once we turned off the interstate, we swiftly found ourselves riding on some fairly narrow hardpacked dirt roads, largely used for a local mining operation. As the elevation climbed, the road turned white with a sheet of day-old snow. The skies were blue and the sun was shining, but air temps were hovering in the high 20s.

The Tesla’s regenerative braking kept punching the back end out, a sideways kick when I let off the throttle, so I negotiated with the computer interface for less regen and less throttle. The whole thing behaved much nicer from then on. Having grown up in rural Michigan, I’m no stranger to heavy snow, and having all wheel drive certainly helped, but still, it was an unfamiliar mountain road in a largely unfamiliarborrowed — car. What’s that about discretion being the better part of valor?

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In total, it was about 35 miles of dirt road, only slightly better than two-track. Of that, about 10 miles were actual nerve-wracking, sheer-dropoff, no-guardrail mountain-road shit. Once we were down out of the mountain range, we hit perfectly level valley floor, and the snow disappeared to make way for more sagebrush than I’ve ever seen in my life. We had a moment of hope when we hit a paved road again, but we were only on it for about 10 seconds before spearing off into the desert again for another 10 miles.

But when we arrived: Man, how cool! This was, without a doubt, the quietest place I’ve ever been this side of an anechoic chamber. The world, for a few hours, was perfectly still.

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Photo: Bradley Brownell

Over 100 years ago, the Kyle Hot Springs was a popular resort in central Nevada. There are some remains of the former nearby buildings, and a soaking tub of unknown age still stands full of water today. The source spring is extremely hot to the touch, and has been given a concrete surround and fencing to keep the ranging cattle out of it.

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Photo: Bradley Brownell

Downhill from the source is a recently “installed” set of soaking tubs with PVC pipe running to each. The water is way too hot to just sit in — you’d boil yourself from the inside out, even if you could withstand the temperature on your skin. It’s at least 130 degrees, if I had to wager. Standing in the full-hot water of a hot spring water is manageable for about three seconds. You’re supposed to fill the tub halfway, let it cool to ambient temperature over the course of an hour or so, then continue filling the tub with more hot water to get a comfortable 110 degrees or so. My hot tub at home runs 104, and that’s plenty warm.

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Photo: Bradley Brownell

Once we’d had our fill of gorgeous mountain views, the silence of escaping humanity and the powerful warmth provided by Mother Earth herself, we dried off, emptied our tubs and filled them halfway for the next visitors. Hopping into the Tesla, we silently scooted back to civilization. This time, we chose to take the paved road north back to the regroup with the highway. Despite being more than 30 extra miles of route, it took about the same amount of time thanks to the higher average speeds.

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We again topped off in Lovelock before heading back to Reno. It was a proper all-day affair, but what an incredible way to waste a day. The natural wonder of Nevada makes me so glad to live here every day. It’s such a cool state.

Jalopnik contributor with a love for everything sketchy and eclectic.

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DISCUSSION

Being a lifelong Michigander myself, there is something about the open desert that I’m strangely drawn to. We road tripped to California in the summer of 2019 for three weeks with the journey there being a good portion of the destination. Finding a place in the desert, just to shut off the car and shut the fuck up for five minutes, was all I needed. The quiet isolation that is maybe taken for granted by those of you that live out there is overwhelming, intimidating, and welcoming all at the same time.

It’s my dream to move to the desert somewhere outside of Palm Springs.