An Interesting Thanksgiving Trip

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This is just a story I wanted to share with everyone. I’m still trying to find my first nugget, but in the meantime I had an adventure that needs telling.

I was looking forward to the Thanksgiving holiday for many reasons, and the food was the last favorite item on my list. The first being a trip I’d been planning for weeks. I was going to leave right after the delicious meal my mom and wife were planning. My stepdad and I were going to leave early in the afternoon to meet up with my uncle near Winnemucca for a metal detecting outing that would last a good, solid 3 days. I don’t usually have many days to spend detecting, so having this many days to devote to my hobby was a treat for me. We were going to leave with our bellies full of Thanksgiving turkey and plenty of leftovers to boot. What more can a man ask for? A nice nugget ☺

So off we went on our trip, leaving Reno around 5:00pm and making good time on the road as everyone was at home still scarfing down the turkey and trimmings. Our destination was the Northern part of the Eugene Mountains. A few weeks earlier I found a shortcut that lead from Jungo road to Mill City. I was planning on taking that same route back up. After a few hours in the Jeep we stopped in Mill City to top off our fuel. I was eager to take the shortcut and make good time trying to reach my uncle who had already arrived at our destination a day earlier. He had mentioned there was about 1 to 2 inches of snow so I wasn’t too worried about the back road. Things started to get a little questionable when we passed the Tungsten Mine where the snow started getting deeper than we had expected. Because of the snow we made a wrong turn and ended up at the Lunker Hill Gold Mine. So I stopped in front of the gate and took out the GPS. During my last trip I had tracked my route so I had a clear indicator on the GPS of where we were and where we needed to go. Turning around and getting back on track seemed like the simplest thing to do, but the evil snow had other plans for us.

Coming out of the foothills the snow started to get deeper. The 1 to 2 inches my uncle mentioned turned out to be a foot and a half!! With the Rubicon in 4-wheel drive and the front and rear axels locked I still found myself having trouble maneuvering in the snow. One thing I didn’t realize was the road we were on had a half-pipe shape. The sides were rounded and it made it hard to tell when we were drifting off the main road. There must have been a fire sometime earlier in the area because there weren’t any signs of sagebrush or plants nearby to keep the road from filling in with the snowdrift.

Driving the Jeep through the snow became treacherous and I found myself pushing the little 3.8 L to its limit. From what I could see the snow was much more shallow on the sides so I decided I would try driving outside of the bowl-shaped road. What I didn’t realize was the snow had hidden the edge of the road and the Jeep ricocheted off the side wall. The force of the jolt caused all of our gear to go flying all over the back of the Jeep. Luckily my stepdad and I were both wearing our seatbelts or we would have become human rockets. Even though we were shaken from the force of the impact I was able to keep my foot on the pedal and continue driving through the snow. We had reached a spot where the snow wasn’t too deep and I wanted to get out and inspect the Jeep for any damage. I noticed a change in the steering, but thought it was on account of the deep snow. After examining the front end we noticed the link on the sway bar was bent. Little did I know that was just the tip of the iceberg. Even though we were so close to our destination I knew I’d have to turn around and head back to Mill City to have the Jeep towed.

On the way to Mill City, which was about 12 miles away and driving at 20 miles an hour, I called my wife to let her know what happened. She and the baby had gone to bed early. I asked her if she’d gotten the best towing package from AAA and thank goodness she did. We finally reached our destination and called AAA. I was told we’d have a 40-minute wait. But after that time had passed we got a call from the tow company saying we’d have to wait another 2 hours because the driver had to take another stranded traveler to Lovelock. So we decided to wait at the truck stop bar. We started talking to a few local guys and they spoke of a guy named Dick Bailey, nicknamed 2-pound Dick. From what they said he found a 2 lb gold nugget somewhere in the Eugenes. We all got a good laugh from his nickname. Around midnight we got a call from the tow company saying the truck had arrived. We proceeded to go out and load up our poor Rubi and make the long, sad trip back to Reno with our SKUNK tails tucked between our legs.

We finally arrived in Reno around 3am and crashed into bed, exhausted beyond belief. My wife let me sleep in until 9:30 the next morning. We needed to get the Jeep towed to our dealer for repairs and assess the damages. Remember the “tip of the iceberg” I’d mentioned earlier? Well it reared its ugly head when we were able to see the underside of the Jeep with the help of daylight. The sway bar was bent alright, but that wasn’t the worst part. As I was backing the Jeep out of the garage the front tires were moving in opposite directions. I hopped out to get a closer look at the front tires and realized to my horror that the front axle housing was snapped in half. What was even more difficult to believe was we had driven 12 miles on a snapped axle housing.

My stepdad and I are very thankful we were able to get back home safely. The temperature out there was near the single digits and it could have turned into an unbearably long and frigid wait in the middle of nowhere. By some miracle our Rubi was able to get us back to safety and the comfort of our nice, warm home.


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Many years ago I went out over a Thanksgiving weekend to prospect in the Iowa Hill area. Weather was fine when we went in, but an unexpected snowstorm brewed up by the end of the 4 day weekend. Got stuck trying to return up the steep but now snow covered dirt road we went in on. Big adventure, but in the end we were lucky to get out unharmed.

Moral of both stories - safety first.

Gold is fun but never do anything you are not prepared for and when conditions change, you need to be willing to turn back.

Gold is not worth suffering major property damage or injury for.

Use your head and think safety especially when you are out in hostile conditions.


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