Tuesday, March 1, 2011

Miles And Miles

Some clever person certainly  had the right idea.  Whoever gave the nickname “The Loneliest Road in America” to a stretch of US Highway 50 extending from Delta, Utah across central Nevada really  knew what he or she was talking about.  And, if you add Highway 93 in eastern Nevada to the route, as I did on the first day of my “Goin’ to California” road trip, you have the complete package.   My father used to call this kind of drive “miles and miles of nothing but miles and miles.”

US Highway 93 north, eastern Nevada

Along the way I decided to test the Loneliest Road theory.  What else did I have to do to amuse myself besides singing along to the warblings of Willie Nelson and Joni Mitchell?  Leaving Panaca NV and heading north on Highway 93 I counted 13 cars/trucks in one hour of 70 mph driving.  Later, heading west on Highway 50 out of Ely NV I counted a whopping 11 vehicles during an hour and a half of my highway experiment.  Lonely, indeed. 

But the scenery was stunning.

I’m thinking this is Wheeler Peak in the southern Snake Range.  It is the highest peak in Great Basin National Park and second highest peak in Nevada.  I don’t often get to see this view, so I had to stop my car for a few minutes and just look.  It's not like I was a traffic hazard and could have parked in the middle of the road.

View from US Highway 93, eastern Nevada

This is definitely Wheeler Peak.  The road side sign at the scenic pull-off said so.

Wheeler Peak from US Highway 93

When you live in southwestern Utah, this is your backyard even though it’s Nevada.

Wheeler Peak

February 28 is not exactly the height of the travel season so I pretty much had the road to myself anyway.  Again, on The Loneliest Road in America it’s hard to tell the difference between high season and low except for the amount of snow on the ground.  It seemed the entire northern half of Nevada was blanketed by recent storms.

Mountain and valley.  Basin and range.  The highway threaded itself across one valley basin, up and over and down a range, across one valley basin, up and over and down a range, over and over again.  I lost track of how many mountains and basins I crossed and how many road cuts I flew by.  It pained me not to stop at every one but I wanted to get to Reno before dark.

US Highway 50, central Nevada

The road became a bit sketchy in one valley and I wondered if I might have to turn back to Ely and find I-80.

US Highway 50 under blowing snow

The wind was blowing pretty steadily and snow had blown across quite a stretch of road.  I had almost driven out of my comfort zone – I didn’t know what lay in the next pass and there was a lot of snow!  My Subaru has all-wheel drive and new tires but I don't own chains.


I noticed a lone car in the distance coming towards me so I flagged it down by rolling down my window and waving my arm.  The driver stopped after assessing me as harmless and told me with a smile that the pass was clear and dry.

I made it to Eureka NV without any problems and gassed up again.


The amount of snow on the ground became less and less as I left Eureka in my rear view mirror.  Awhile later as I approached the Toiyabe Range near Austin I felt as if I were looking up at the Himalayas through a huge cloud of  dust brought up by some unknown reason down-valley.  I did not stop for pictures but tanked up once more and so kept on my way across the next valley and pass, the next basin and range. 

US Highway 50, west through central Nevada

US Highway 50, west through central Nevada

By the time I got to Reno it was 6:00 PM and I had driven 520 miles – 80 miles further than my estimated 440-mile distance from home.  I checked in to the motel, had dinner, and then relaxed in my room on the 12th floor.

Tuesday morning I checked out the view of downtown Reno.  

Reno NV on an early March morning

Now it’s on to California and Point Reyes National Seashore.  Forecast is for rain the next few days.  I’ve got my rain gear!


  1. Nina:

    Thanks for this post and all these great photos. I did this trip in '98 from Tahoe to St. George on my '81 Suzuki GS850 motorcycle. I miss this road and the beautiful scenery. Wheeler Peak looks great. The cirque is gigantic. I actually got to hike up into it.

    Enjoy your trip.

    Thank you.
    Brian Di

  2. Driving the loneliest road in America all by yourself, and you didn't get abducted by aliens???
    Sue F.

  3. It may be lonely highway, but sure provides some Awesome views. I'm rather glad there's no snow so far on the way to S TX.

  4. Brian Di - Thanks for your comments and welcome to my blog! Great Basin is an amazing space, I agree.

    Hey Waterwitcher - Highway 50 isn't the Extraterrestrial Highway. But I think I saw a few aliens, anyway!

    Hi Gaelyn - The snow in that basin valley definitely rattled me for a moment - I was sure glad there wasn't any through the passes that I had to maneuver across!