Western US 2015: day 6

Highway 50. The Not-So-Lonely Road

Lonely Road my foot. I love this road. If you want lonely, go to Alaska.

Heading out this AM was nice at about 9:30. Very quickly we were out of town and on the real road. I had wondered why Fallon was such  large place but then a couple of F16’s ripped overhead still in take off mode. Around the corner was a sign pointing to the Naval Flight Centre. Ah Ha! Military base. That would explain the large town.

Pretty quickly we were travelling through a salt flat or some other whitish mineral. We traveled about 30 klicks to cross it. Along the way were a few of the usual road side memorials but one appeared to be an actual grave. Most were a few yards off the highway (obviously folks probably fell asleep at the wheel on this straight road) but this one was a hundred yards or more with a little picket fence, too small to keep critters out. We both talked later and agreed it was a grave site. Perhaps native in this area???

The road is in awesome condition so we were able to pin the throttle at 100K. It’s a 70 mph road but we found it’s often too rough in open country with the wind (in general, not just here). Back to it being anything but lonely. For one thing there are tons of old places to catch your eye and curiosity. Above all, the vistas are fabulous. Multiple mountain ranges stepping back in shades of blue like a Toni Onli (sic) watercolour and the colours on the ground just out of this world. The yarrow along the side of the road is a bright mustard that fades back into the endless pastel green and yellow of the sage – as far as the eye can see. I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again, “When you’re in the desert or other flat land and you find it boring you’re either not looking close enough or not far enough away”. If you find these vistas boring you aren’t trying at all to get out of the confinement that mountains and lakes are the only things that are pretty to look at.

We pondered, “Why would anyone stop here to make a home?” when seeing an old homestead (we wonder that a lot) or the remains of a tiny town. The only thing that I can figure is – number one – water and – number two – ranching. We saw cattle grazing amongst the sage. Since there was little of anything else for them to eat I couldn’t help think that those steaks wold taste a lot like a Christmas turkey after eating all that sage. 🙂 Anyway, pondering such things is yet another thing that entertains us on these high mountain plains with arrow-straight roads.

I’ve learned that there are things to enjoy about curvy roads. Don’t we all know that? More recently in the last fifteen years – mainly since we have been doing long-distance tours – I’ve learned that long views and long straight roads have their attractions as well. I’ve absolutely fallen in love with these plains, their views, their opportunities for self-reflection and above all inspiration. Everywhere I look I see shapes, moods, colour combinations and textures. When I’m not busy seeing what’s what, I have come up with ideas for forms in my turning as well as titles for pieces that I have stumped me. Eureka! I thought of a title today. “Turn the Page” (Don’t ask. It’s a secret). If I write it down I won’t forget it. Don’t even ask me to explain the path that I took to get that.

Speaking of Eureka, that was our second stop today. Our first stop was Austin. We’ve been here before on our way to Winnemucca and recalled the deadly steep and winding road down into  the town from the east. Today we climbed west so that was good. We wanted to break for lunch with some grub we saved from last night. It was pretty hot in the sun so I asked the gal at the service station if there was some shade nearby. She shared a knowing glance with another patron and then they both broke out into gales of laughter. Apparently that’s like asking us if there is somewhere where it’s not raining. When they stopped wiping their tears the gal said there was a little park up the road. We found a table under a roof with a tree beside. So ya, there was shade. So there. 🙂

The road wound it’s way up and over several passes throughout the day, probably 8 or 10. Not big climbs, just enough to make us shift gears mentally and even literally a couple of times. The area ranges from under 6000 feet to over 6000 feet.

When we neared Eureka I noticed a couple of pickups with flags on long whip antennas. That’s a dead give away for an open pit mine nearby. The high flags are to keep the trucks from being run over by the giant haul packs (dump trucks). Eureka has a history of gold mining (duh) but when we rolled into town there was a large outcrop of  black mineralized rock beside the road. In town there was an office with “Federal Moly” on the sign. So they mine molybdenum. I know that form when I was a kid prospecting with my dad looking for “Moly”. High grade moly oxidizes black instantly when subjected to air. Little blast from the past.

Eureka is a cool old town obviously active in the mid to late 1800’s so plenty of old buildings with tons of character.

The days so far have been downright cold around 8 and we have been getting on the road about 9:30 or so (lazy asses). By then it’s only cool so haven’t even turned on the electric jackets. In an hour or so it’s nice enough to gear down to open vents and half gloves. That lasts the rest of the day. At the end of each day it’s getting pretty toasty and we’re glad to get off the road. Today was no exception and to add to our longing for happy hour we were in a road block waiting for some rock scaling just out of Ely where we are staying for the night.

We’ve been here enough that we didn’t even use the GPS to find the hotel. We’ve been here before. Biker-friendly place with casino and awesome burgers.

We briefly planned to head to Page, AZ to surprise Arlene’s cousin on their tour but between no solid info from them and motel prices in Page running in the $250+ range we canned the idea. It’s Salina, Utah or bust tomorrow. Staying on 50 probably into Colorado. Love this road. Our route is unfolding as we go. Love following the front wheel.


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