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The Loneliest Road

September 22, 2013

Nevada – Tuesday, September 10

Back in the mid-80s, Life Magazine was doing a travel review, and called Highway 50 through central Nevada “the loneliest road in America.” The few towns along the route didn’t much care for the description, so they decided to do something about it. In an effort to promote the towns along the route, a Loneliest Road passport was created and if visitors got a stamp from each of the 5 towns along the central Nevada part of Highway 50, the detachable postcard could be mailed in to receive a certificate and a couple other goodies. The drive across Nevada can be desolate, but pretty – it crosses desert territory and a couple dry mountain ranges. But there’s good stuff to see along the way…

From west to east, the first town to get a passport stamp in is Fernley. I was supposed to be able to get the passport book at the Chamber of Commerce, but they were closed. So Tula and I set out for a walk, and after we finished the office was open, so I got the book and the first stamp. We moved on to the next town with was Fallon, and I got the passport stamped at the little local museum. I did another mile of walking in Fallon while Tula waited in the car – it was a pretty hot day out. Just east of Fallon I came to the Grimes Point Archeological Area, and walked on the desert trails to see some ancient petroglyphs.

And a little farther on I came to Sand Mountain, which is a huge, constantly changing sand dune and the last time we were here, Taryn and I climbed all the way up to the top. It gets really steep at the top and requires crawling up on hands and knees, and even with that, we kept slipping backwards. I didn’t plan to climb all the way up again today, partly because of the heat, although the sand didn’t feel as hot as I expected it to. I climbed up to the point I had to start using hands and knees, and then settled on a smaller sand dune instead. The wind is constantly blowing the sand around, and the tops of the dunes have a knife-edge crease to them, which is kind of fun to walk across. These dunes are known as the “singing dunes” because if the conditions are right, one can sometimes hear a humming sort of sound while running down the dunes – Taryn and I heard it last time; I may not have been high enough this time because I didn’t hear anything. When I was finished on the sand dune and heading back out to the highway, I passed a turnoff to see the remains of an old pony express station. Tula and I followed a roundabout path to the crumbling brick structure, and the different rooms of the old station were still visible. It wasn’t a very comfortable place for the pony express riders to relax, but it served its purpose with a couple corrals for the horses attached to stone building, which also had a blacksmith room, a kitchen and small living quarters. This station was used for the pony express riders, and then later it was used to store batteries for the telegraph lines up until 1900. After the telegraph people stopped using the station, it was abandoned and the sands covered up the whole station, and it was forgotten until 1976, when it was uncovered once again.

I didn’t make a donation today since I had doubled up yesterday, and I knew what I’d be doing in the morning for another donation.

I had spent quite a bit of time on the sand dunes in and at the pony express station, and the sun was beginning to go down, but I still needed to cover some miles. I’ve driven this road before and it was mostly desert anyway, and there wasn’t much traffic. I stopped in the town of Austin to get the passport stamped at a gas station, and then drove on through Eureka, where I got another stamp. It was pretty late by the time I got to Ely, which was my stopping point for the night, but I was glad to have made it all the way back across Nevada.

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