Unraveling the mystery of Dooby Avenue
April 19, 2018
Things are different at the Black Rock Desert in Nevada's northwestern corner.
How else to explain the popularity of the annual "Burning Man" celebration of freedom and self-expression, which occurs in early September, or the former Black Rock Self-Invitational Golf Tournament, which involved creatively painted greens on the desert's salt flats?
And it would also apply to an usual folk-art project on the edge of the desert, which is known as Guru Road or Dooby Avenue. The route is essentially a dirt roadway lined with large boulders into which clever, pithy, and thought-provoking proverbs have been carved.
The road also boasts strange visual art made using animal bones, scraps of wood, and assorted trash complement some of the weird sayings.
Guru Road was the work of the late DeWayne "Doobie" Williams, a retired Gerlach resident who spent more than 15 years carving his philosophical musings in stone and assembling whimsical displays.
Williams, who earned his nickname, "Doobie," because his fondness for cannabis, decided to pass the time by carving his observations on rocks. Since the work was hard on his hands, he soon shortened his nickname to "Dooby," to save a letter.
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His inspiration for carving words in stone apparently came after hiking through High Rock Canyon, located north of Gerlach, where many early emigrants carved their initials and the date of their passing.
Williams began placing the carved stones along a road on the eastern side of the Granite Mountains, located a few miles north of Gerlach. His initial efforts honored his relatives and friends with their names and brief messages but soon he began to wax poetic.
"The human race is like a watch, it takes all the parts to make it work," he carved on one, while on another he wrote: "To crush the simple atom all mankind was intent, and now the atom will return the compliment."
Others opined: "The time we enjoy wasting is not wasted time" as well as "Before you kill a snake think hantavirus" and "There will be no work in heaven no one is going to screw it up."
Williams' large, folk-art sculptures are what usually catch the attention of travelers driving on State Route 34, which is parallel to the dirt Guru Road.
For example, he erected a wedding chapel (which has been used for several wedding ceremonies), a stump-and-bone tree (with the saying: "Tree planted by Dooby, please don't pick the fruit") and a tribute to Elvis Presley. He built a small structure that has old television screens for windows and named it the "Desert Broadcasting System."
Other exhibits address weightier issues such as nuclear weapons and the Vietnam War.
Following Williams' death in January of 1995, the Bureau of Land Management granted the Williams family a permanent right-of-way to ensure the continued existence of Guru Road.
Friends, admirers and family maintain the signs and sculptures to help ensure the continued existence of Williams' special brand of wisdom.
A few years ago, the Black Rock Press imprint of the University of Nevada, Reno, published a limited-edition book about the road, which includes photos and text by poet Gary Snyder, who discovered Williams' rock garden in the late 1980s.
Guru Road is open to the public and easy to find. Drive four miles north of Gerlach on State Route 34, until you spot an official-looking green and white street sign on your left, which says "Guru Road." Turn onto the dirt road and start reading the rocks.