Many people commute back and forth between Carson City and Las Vegas on Highway 95 each week. Tourists that relish the thought of visiting several old ghost towns and historic mining communities also tour Highway 95. The drive from Las Vegas to Carson City on U.S. Highway 95 takes about one full day, which can be done in one long stretch when in a hurry, but for most folks this is pushing it too far. For this reason, it is best to turn this long drive into a two day event and there are a couple of old historic towns that are a nice choice for a midpoint overnight stay.
The most popular midway Highway 95 stopover between Las Vegas and Carson City has always been the historic town of Tonopah. Tonopah has its historic old west roots in the mining industry. This town also was built to cater to the needs of travelers on this long stretch of road way back in the early days of automobile travel. Tonopah offers casino resorts, historic hotels and a variety of Route 66 era motor inns. Tonopah is also is the home of two of the biggest mining museums in the entire west. As can be imagined, plenty of travelers want to stay in Tonopah because of the great attractions and amenities, so it is not uncommon to see the “No Vacancy” sign posted on a majority of the motels in Tonopah during a busy holiday weekend. As a consequence, visiting the scenic sights and dining in Tonopah can be done as a day trip venture, but staying over in this busy tourist destination may not be possible without making reservations ahead of time.
As an alternative to Tonopah being a midway point stopover on Highway 95, there is a small town about 100 miles north that also offers modern amenities. Hawthorne is a nice stopover choice for the long drive between Las Vegas and the Nevada State Capital and this town offers unique attractions of its own. Hawthorne has a few nice restaurants, motels and a small casino that caters to the locals and travelers of this long road. Hawthorne hosts a few interesting cultural exhibits and a couple of museums too. This town is also located next to Walker Lake, which is the largest natural body of water in the Great Basin Desert.
U.S. Highway 95 is also called the Veterans Memorial Highway. At no place else along the Veterans Memorial Highway can more patriotic colors be seen than in Hawthorne, Nevada! The reason being is that Hawthorne is surrounded by several military base installations and patriotism flies high in these parts.
A word of warning should be shared with those who plan to travel through this part of central Nevada. There are several marked and unmarked military installations in this region and some are top secret bases. During times of war or terrorism, photographing or video taping the military instillations or secret bases is strictly taboo, even if no warning signs are posted. The military police do have the right to pull over suspicious vehicles and demand that any sensitive video recordings or photos be erased.
Oddly enough, I was pulled over by the military police shortly after visiting Hawthorne, so sharing the experience is well within order! The MP’s simply requested that the sensitive photos be erased, before moving on. I was happy to oblige and we ended up chatting for a bit. I mentioned that I came through Hawthorne a few years before and the use of cameras was not limited back then. The MP responded by saying that because of recent terrorist threats, security had to be stepped up and taking pictures was once again deemed as taboo.
Soon the conversation led to the Dodge Hemi motor in my muscle car and we had a few good laughs. Having to surrender a few photos to the MP’s actually turned out to be an entertaining experience, but the incident was an unplanned delay none the less. As a result, I do highly suggest that visitors of Hawthorne be sure to only point their cameras at tourism related points of interest, in order to avoid being stopped for questioning by the Military Police!
Driving on the Veterans Memorial Highway through the town of Hawthorne does inspire patriotic feelings, especially when traveling on Memorial Day Weekend, Labor Day or Independence Day. Everything from the laundromats to casinos sport the red, white and blue color theme in this town. Most of the local businesses cater to retired veterans and military personnel that are stationed in this region, so this town certainly rolls out the welcome mat for anybody that has served this country in the past or present!
There are a couple of museums in Hawthorne that are well worth checking out when passing through. The Mineral County Museum focuses on local pioneers, native history, the railroad and Nevada mining. Mineral County did not get its name for no reason at all and the exhibits will keep the interest of rock hounds for many hours. Also on display are a complete collection of Spanish mission bells that were mysteriously buried in the ground near Hawthorne, which is an interesting subject in itself.
After sightseeing around town for a little while, it becomes obvious that Hawthorne makes no pretense about being all about heavy duty military ordinance. When that patriotic feeling arises while touring this old town, there is no better place to go than the Hawthorne Ordinance Museum! This little museum in Hawthorne is great entertainment for weapons experts and military enthusiasts of all ages. Hawthorne has been an official U.S. Navy Ammunition Depot since the 1930s, so this little town has practically seen the entire history of heavy ordinance through the years. Many famous ordinance items of the past have been stored in this area and now they are in display at the Hawthorne Ordinance Museum.
The Hawthorne Ordinance Museum truly is amazing! There are hundreds upon hundreds of historic bombs, torpedoes, mines and missiles on display at this small outdoor museum. Every bomb is disarmed, so there is no worry about becoming a casualty in this cool place! The Hawthorne Ordinance Museum is a hands on experience and visitors can feel free to touch the items on display. Visitors can even climb up a ramp to take a closer look at a real M-47 Patton Tank! The Hawthorne Ordinance Museum offers great photo opportunities and there is a gift shop that offers mementos to take home. Best of all, the price of admission amounts to a kindly donation, so this patriotic travel destination will not put a big dent in the family vacation budget!
There sure is plenty to see and do when traveling on the lengthy Veterans Highway between Las Vegas and Carson City. Doing an overnighter along the way is the healthiest approach for this long drive and this is why the patriotic town of Hawthorne is good to keep in mind. Besides, the Hawthorne Ordinance Museum tour experience definitely is da bomb!
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