Then it was down into Dayton to try to locate the old Sutro Tunnel portal, a holy grail fore history buffs and mine explorers. Back in 1860, German immigrant Adolph Sutro came up with the idea to tunnel into the lower levels of many of the large Comstock area mines to help with drainage of water--a major problem in these mines--and to improve ventilation. The mine companies loved the idea until they realized that his tunnel might also be used to haul rock out of the mines and that he stood to get paid nicely if that happened. They tried to stop him over the years but to no avail. He finally broke through into the workings in 1878 after tunneling over six miles through solid rock, but by this time the mines had gone deeper so the drainage benefit never really came off. Sutro sold his tunnel--now used for haulage--and moved to San Fransico where he became mayor. This tunnel connected to several of the largest mines though and I'd loved to have used it for exploration but for two problems: first, a cave-in blocked it a ways in, and second, it is privately owned by the Comstock Foundation and they have a rather unfriendly caretaker living on site, a one-armed fat guy with a serious bad attitude who lived up to the description given to me by everyone I'd talked to yesterday. He's locally infamous for his rudeness and hostility towards visitors.
Now I could kind of understand not wanting to have everyone and their dog showing up at all hours and just poking around without so much as a by-your-leave, so I did the courteous thing and dove up slowly, right to his little shack, then walked up and knocked on the door to politely ask permission to take a few pics of the portal. I migh has we'll have saved us both the trouble--the guy was the biggest asshole I've met in some time, and right out of the gate with no provocation. "No you can't see it! The property is closed and you need to get off it right now!" Now we were less than a hundred yards from the famously historic portal and I could just see it from where we stood. I really tried to placate him by explaining that yes, I understood that it was closed to tours, but that I'd come to see him out of respect to ask the small courtesy of just a few pictures. "You need to just get the fuck out of here," he snarled.
"Not a problem," I told him. "I'll go, but that's a pretty poor way to talk to someone who isn't being disrespectful to you in the slightest."
"This property is owned by the Comstock Foundation. If you want to see it, find out when they do tours. They aren't doing them now though."
"Ok, that's great. I'd love to check with them. Can I get their contact info from you?"
"You can go look it up on the Internet. From someplace else. Now get out of here,"
"Fine. Have a nice day." I turned to walk back to my Jeep and saw that he was following me back to it, a glower on his face. I also noticed that he didn't appear to have a weapon, yet here he is being totally disrespectful to someone he doesn't know. Not that he was in any danger from me--and I was armed--but not everyone who happens along is like me. Push enough people with unnecessary disrespect and bluster and eventually you're likely to meet someone equally nasty who will push back. Law of averages. And especially stupid to do it where you live because you've now got to be on defense 24/7. A little courtesy is always smart when you're all by yourself out in the middle of nowhere, especially if you're obviously in poor shape and only have one arm. Yeah, I think I'd be nice to people if I was I his shoes, but that's just me. And from what I heard from everyone yesterday, he's always like this. Here's hoping that it doesn't come back to bite him on the ass one day.
Even in my case, I was tempted to come back after dark and take a look inside that portal just to spite him. From what I could see, would have been child's play and in years past I'd have done it just because. But I'm older now, and I have a security clearance to safeguard, so I'll take the high road and go find other sights to see.
Still: Murphy's rule #17: "Don't be a dick to people strange to you until it's time to be a dick, and even then don't let your mouth write checks that your body can't cash."
Off to see more sites.