2014 Roadtrip: Ely, NV to Benton, CA

We took Highway 6 (otherwise known as the Grand Army of the Republic Highway). At 10:45 a.m. it was 49° (on April 30) and sunny, very clear and very windy. (Too cold and windy for biking so it was really good we left Ely.) As we were driving, the words from the Great Basin brochure rang true: “…we are a long from nowhere.” We were driving in wide valleys with mountain vistas, some of the mountains were snow-capped. There was no traffic. It was flat, flat and more flat, until we started crossing mountain ranges. We climbed to (an about) 7000’ summit and then down and then back up and so on. About 30 miles outside of Tonapah, NV we climbed to 6500’ and in the far distance, like a chimera, we saw what had to be the Eastern Sierra mountains: huge and all snow-capped. We were seeing over 120 miles! Wow, they were gorgeous.

In Tonapah we stopped to see the Mitpah Hotel at 100 Main St. That was the hotel where we wanted to stay but it was full. We are glad that we didn't. It wasn't our kind of kitschy old hotel. We learned that the reason why we couldn't get a reservation in Tonapah at any hotel we called, was because there is a Solar Reserve being built and all of the workers need rooms (no matter how expensive). We had lunch at a picnic table on Main Street and off we went, glad that we weren't staying in Tonapah. We remarked once again that Voltaire was right when he said “Whatever happens is the best in this best of all possible worlds.” 

 We arrived in Benton Hot Springs 3:30 p.m., after 256 miles, in 4 hrs. 45 minutes. We were staying at The Inn at Benton Hot Springs, 55137 Hwy 120, Benton, CA, tel. 866-466-2824, (760)933-2287, www.historicbentonhotsprings.com. Diane and Bill Bramlette keep the area like a green oasis in the desert  (even during a drought). Audre loved seeing the quail running around. Bill and Diane describe the Inn at Benton Hot Springs as “rustic elegance in a tranquil atmosphere.” The structure looks like a motel and all rooms (except ours) share a bathroom. There were 2 other rooms occupied (we think) the night we were there. Bill gave us a tour after we checked in. 

We used the hot springs before dinner and it was lovely. The temperature was good—we stayed in 40 minutes (any hotter and we could not have stayed in that long.) We would never have found the place without the Matlons recommendation. We are very glad we did. Two tubs are cement (one is plastic) and one has a good view of the mountains in the distance

The Inn at Benton Hot Springs is not Termas Geometricas (Camino Conaripe Al Parque Nacional Villarrica km 16, Fundo Cajon Negro, Aojie, Panuilli, X Region, fono (56-2) 241-1214, web: http://www.termasgeometricas.cl/) with it’s beautifully designed natural pools. (See our blog post by clicking here.) 

Audre at the natural pools at Geometricas--we didn't photograph the cement pools at Benton Hot Springs
Our room, #7 the Marquessa Suite (at a cost of $129),was just fine but it was very hot all night—never got below 74° (we carry a thermometer). Even though there was no cell phone reception, we had Internet good enough to check e-mail. The room was large and had 2 windows for pleasant, breezy ventilation. Even with that ventilation the room stayed hot because (we think) the under floor hot water heat was still turned on and kept it hot. There were two queen beds with quilts on them. The walls were papered with red and white bursting peonies. 
Our room at Benton Hot Springs
There was an old armoire and several other pieces of furniture that looked like antiques.
An antique next to the flat screen TV in room #7 at the Inn at Benton Hot Springs
In addition there was a small refrigerator and a flat screen TV (!) The bathroom had a pedestal sink and a bathtub with a handheld shower. In Europe we got adept using a handheld shower in a bathtub. The key for us in Europe was to be able to stay warm by filling the tub with hot water and then getting in and soaping up and washing our hair. After our baths in these tubs in Europe, we’d shower off using the hand held shower. In Room No. 7’s bathtub at the Inn at Benton Hot Springs, we couldn't take a bath because there was no drain-plug. It was an unpleasant experience. It was also difficult to do my ritual teeth brushing routine at the pedestal sink because there was no space for all of my stuff. Oh well.

We observed that the entire place needs maintenance. There is a line between old, quaint, charming and well-cared for and old, quaint and shabby. The Inn at Benton Hot Springs was over the line into shabby and in no way was it elegant.

We had dinner at the gas station café, called Benton Station, 4 miles away in Benton, CA (itself). Ramona was a delight who did everything herself. The café is owned by the Benton Paiute Reservation. We had one Ortega roast beef sandwich with Swiss cheese, onion Ortega chiles and, of course, roast beef. Audre had a salad and beef barley soup ($5.95) and we had one blackberry pie and 2 tiny bottles of Merlot ($4.25). Ramona handled the grocery customers and the café customers with aplomb.

Breakfast was at a large table for 6 people, laid with antique salt and pepper shakers, creamers and cloth place mats and napkins over top of an Indian-inspired tablecloth. The breakfast was made by Diane and started with cut strawberry (1) and a pastry. That was followed by coffee and scrambled eggs with sausage and 2 cheese blitzes garnished with fresh blueberries. The china was pretty and the meal was good but the eggs were over-cooked and the fruit was meager. The other guests were at breakfast and the conversation was lively. One couple came from a rural area in Utah and the other couple came from a suburb of San Francisco.

We asked Diane for a late check out so that we could take out our mountain bikes for a ride along the Yellow Jacket Road that Bill had told us about the day before. She said "no" she had too much to do to delay her cleaning of our room. So we packed up and left with a bad taste in our mouths.