It is May 2014 and I just got a job offer of a life time. Before starting in a new position, we decided to make a little road trip since who knows when the next vacation is going to be at. The plan is to drive from California thru Nevada, all the way to Utah and back, see some national parks and visit relatives. The road thru Nevada is the most boring one I have ever seen, since there is only desert along the road. We see couple of dead towns and few lonely prisons among some tumbleweed. So we decide to take another road on our way back home - The Loneliest Road in America. At least there should be some excitement.
In 1986, Life Magazine supposedly published an article about Highway 50 through Nevada. It was not a very positive article at all, and they described the road as totally empty, which no one should use unless they can be sure of their survival skills. Many years later, Travel Nevada decided to act on this publicity, and make this road a tourist destination. They named it as The Loneliest Road in America. When I heard this story, I pictured this empty and abandoned road without any traffic or services. I started wondering if driving thrugh it would be such a good idea after all. But we had already made our decision, so we packed plenty of snacks and water into our car, and filled the gas tank. I didn't want to end up being one of those road warriors who is found dead years later after getting lost on some remote road. Unfortunately, these stories are not very rare.
We started our drive to home from Great Basin National Park, from the border of Utah and Nevada. Right in the beginning of the route, we made a mistake of turning to Osceola, a ghost town that was marked into our map. The road got smaller and smaller, and started to get worried about getting stuck somewhere in the middle of nowhere with no cell service. Quick 7 miles suddenly started to feel long, when we had to drive very slowly. And there was no sightings of any kind of ghost towns. These abandoned old towns are not that rare here in the Us, and they are often turned into a tourist attractions. But this one obviously was not since when we finally found it, we realized that we could only see one building of it. Behind of it was someone's house with big "private" -signs in front of it. Really? This is why we drove all the way, and now we would have to drive back. One sad looking building and a sign. And this was listed as sights to see on Nevada Tourism Broad map.
Finally, we found our way back to Highway 50 and drove well over half way. Initially, I thought we would probably stay the night in a town of Eureka. But instead, we drove all the way to Austin, unless we decided that it was time for some rest. Austin is a very small town which has the whole downtown basically on Highway 50. I quickly counted maybe about 5 restaurants (which of two were closed), 4 motels and 3 churches. So now, since last night we were snobbing and changed our hotel after seeing it, we were forced to stay at a motel. Pretty funny. We stopped in three different places to ask prices and ended up in a tiny room but it was clean, so I was happy. The owner had decorated the whole building with plastic flowers and colourful lights, and had painted the window blanks ? blue which reminded me of Greece. Too bad I forgot to snatch a picture of this place.
Later we asked the owner if she would have recommendations for a dinner restaurant, and she recommended one from all the way from the other end of the town. It was not far, but we had already spotted a rustic looking International Cafe on the other side of the road, that looked attempting. Even though we were told various reasons why not to go there, we decided to test our luck. After coming back from the dinner, the motel owner was very curious about our experience. She told us to be very careful, and that the staff was unpredictable. In the morning, we had breakfast at International Cafe as well, and met all these questionnable people. We quite happy about the service and food, it was what you can expect in a tiny town like this. So we left the small town drama behind us and continued our trip.
During our drive we saw a lot of desert (which I thought we would see throughout the drive) but also mountains, lakes, salt flats, rock formations, a bizarre sand dune and some small towns. One thing that we enjoyed seeing was the Pony Express Trail. This is where those horseback riders were riding across the country to deliver mail in 1860 and 1861. The trail crossed the road in a few places and then goes along the road for a while. You can find some wooden signs here and there that tell you about the history of the Pony Express. We stopped at two of the Pony Express stations. The other one was a ruin of an old station with a memorial, and the other one an actual building that we were able to enter. The Buckland Station is a little ways from Highway 50, right after Fort Churchill State Park. Fort Churchill Park actually has the remains of an army fort, so you should do a quick stop there as well. In Buckland Station we were guided by a tour guide who also showed us a video of the Pony Express. That was a nice little history lesson and we also got a little break from driving.
A little later we arrived at a small, historic town called Dayton. Right by the highway, next to the buildings, we saw a pretty palomino horse walking by as though there was nothing strange in that. I knew, that we were in an area where wild horses lived, but I could not believe that some would be so close to the human settlement. This horse also looked very nice, well nourished and shiny. Horses usually stay in a herd, not walking alone. We stopped in Dayton to get a stamp for my Survival passport which was located in the history museum. Over at the museum, we were told that the horse is indeed a wild horse, and they sometimes cause accidents on the roads. The herd usually pastures along the road from Dayton to Virginia City and up to Reno. And since it would actually get us to the freeway, and home faster, we decided to take that road.
Now you are all wondering what is the Survival passport I am talking about. Before the trip, I got a guide which tells us about the Loneliest Road in America, and the program that was developed to increase tourism in the area. Along the road, you can get a stamp from the participating businesses for your passport, and once you have 5 stamps you can mail it in to the Nevada Commission on Tourism and get a certificate. We also got a pin and a sticker for our car saying "I survived the Loneliest Road in America". If you are interested in this program, order you Survival Guide here.