A Far Cry from Vegas

Highway 50 through Nevada is called "The Loneliest Road in America," 380 miles from Carson City, at the western end, to the Utah state line at the east. Across this expanse sit four towns - only four - and the space between is long, open, without sign of human existence save for the pavement you're driving on.

The landscape is termed 'basin-and-range,' for there are a number of mountain ranges that run north/south, perpendicular to the road, with wide valley basins dividing them. It is a surprising terrain; the nature of the road changes drastically as one travels from basin to range and back again.

The basins are immensities of romantic desolation, long and wide and flat, and the road peals out in a straight scream to the horizon. Then, approaching a range, the air becomes cooler, and the road winds and curves in switchbacks that traverse the mountains, and junipers appear, and the straight flatness of the basins become a memory.


The Winding Way

If Day One was defined by unexpected horror, Day Two was one of unexpected bliss. I set out from Sacramento to cross the Sierras, headed for the tiny valley town of Gardnerville, Nevada. The Sierras had been my one looming worry before starting the trip, and after my experience with the Diablo Range, I did not have great expectations for this day.

I set out early and left the city streets of Sacramento in the early dawn. By midmorning, I arrived at the foothills of the Sierras and hopped on Highway 50, a beautiful, loping divided highway with sweeping curves through forests of cedar leading up the mountains. It was completely devoid of cars - my own private racetrack; the perfect road to practice riding curves and getting comfortable with speeds above 50 mph.

I left Hwy 50 and jogged over to a small, obscure road called Old Emigrant Trail. The Old Emigrant Trail is a dream - an old two-laner so densely lined with evergreens I could have reached out and touched bough after bough after bough as I rode along... I needed that hand for the throttle though. It was so quiet. Cars and trucks approached from behind but I got competent at looking ahead for pullouts so I could ease over and let them pass me, rather than being panicked by the presence of someone on my tail. Always, they would pass with a wave, especially the giant truckers. There was an easy sense of friendship and camaraderie and peacefulness between all of us on this hidden, secret road.