10.26.2006

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.

2 comments:

Anonymous said...

I was born in Greenwich Village in 1950 and lived there until the late '70s. I remember meeting someone from Wyoming once when I was about 16 who told me you could drive all day and never see another car on the road -- something very difficult to understand when it takes an hour to drive around the block.

G said...

I once traveled Highway 50. I made the mistake of approaching it at dusk. Whereas the more sensible path would have been to stay on I-80, I wanted to take I-70 across and thus Highway 50 was the link.

I left Reno with a full tank of gas in my sprightly 1979 Honda Prelude. But it wasn't enough to get me to I-70. I've no recollection of where it was when I started running out of fuel... the yellow low fuel light burned brightly and I thought I'd end up spending the night in the desert, because each of the small towns I passed through were closed down tight--no gas stations open ANYWHERE.

That is, until I came upon a small town with a Power Test station and a nearby open saloon. Thankfully I learned from a departing patron that the Power Test owner would come down after hours and provide refueling. And he did. I was relieved to get a nice full tank of fuel and be on my way. I prepaid the $15 minimum, finished up at $14.30, and the fellow wouldn't take my $5 tip for his services. He closed his little window and went back upstairs to bed. I'll never forget it.

Anyway, you're so right about how lonely Highway 50 is. I wonder how many people have been through it, especially at night, and felt that deep desolation...

~Gary