Back from ‘The Loneliest Road’
By Dave Buchanan
This big sign greets you on the curve coming into Eureka, Nev.
A break from the newspaper and blogging found me heading west to see family and friends in Utah and Nevada, driving through the delicious solitude of the basin-and-range portions of those states bisected by U.S. Highway 50, also known as "The Loneliest Road in America."
In years' past I've spent an hour or more in those stretches without seeing another vehicle, 'cept maybe for the fleets of abandoned military wagons, trucks and armored vehicles scattered across the desert the Navy uses as targets for bombing and strafing practice for the jet fighters out of Fallon Navy Base.
Otherwise, the road's empty as an ex-lover's promises.
The long distances are broken only by the rise and drop of the steep mountain ranges and a few mining towns, all located on the west side of the ranges due to the mineral belt geology of the area.
Ely, Eureka, Austin — these small towns (Ely's the biggest and it isn't real big) are the only settlements you pass through between Delta, Utah and Fallon, Nev., a distance of more than 430 miles.
This year the highway was a bit busier, which was a surprise given the cost of gas and the general drop-off of tourism. So at Austin, I dodged southwest along Nevada Route 722, which is even more deserted than Highway 50.
In two hours on Route 722 I encountered one pickup, and the driver waved to me like I was the only other person on the planet, which given the circumstances might have been true.
*The loneliest phone on the loneliest road.
No blogging or cell phone calls here, please. This part of the country is one of the very (blessed) few where cell phone service and the Internet are rare at best and mostly nonexistent. Imagine two weeks when the phone didn't ring and e-mail was something you thought about once and then forgot...
Dust storms greeted me in northern Nevada, some of which brought traffic (such as it was) to a standstill. Nothing makes the hair on your neck stand up more than sitting idly on a road, unable to see past the front end of the car, and hoping no one is barreling through the storm behind you.
The storms stopped traffic but not the dancing. It was a lovely vacation.