“It’s totally empty. There are no points of interest. We don’t recommend it. The 287-mile stretch of U.S. 50 running from Ely to Fernley, Nev., passes nine towns, two abandoned mining camps, a few gas pumps and the occasional coyote. We warn all motorists not to drive there, unless they’re confident of their survival skills.”
A little harsh to be sure. What’s more, we’d heard about the Loneliest Road in America an how the Nevada Commission on Tourism was promoting it as an adventurous alternative to Interstate 80 from Reno to Utah. We jumped in with both feet, and I’m glad we did.
In Fernley, NV or on the Utah boarder, Neveda offers a passport, “The Official Highway 50 Survival Guide” with instructions to collect stamps in every little town on the highway. Once completed, you return the back page to the Nevada Commission on Tourism for an official certificate of “survival” and a souvenir. The idea of a game to cross the Nevada desert sounded fun. We pointed our bikes to the next stop on the road less traveled and headed for Austin, NV.
After gassing up, we decided to stop in the highly-recommended Toiyabe Cafe for lunch. We’re not talking Ruth’s Chris, but it was a great diner. My cheeseburger and chocolate shake really hit the spot. I’d stop there again.
Austin and most of the towns along the highway started out as mining camps. But the bust of veins playing out took the economy of those communities with them. Our waitress said, “Highway 50 is our economy now.” So the few dollars we spent as we passed through town were really helping all the folks along the Loneliest Road in America. However, to be fair, we saw a lot of motorcycles and other vehicles willing to take the challenge and thumb their noses at Time Magazine.
Eureka boasts being the Friendliest Town along the Loneliest Highway. The small store we stopped at for a soda and a leisurely visit on the covered porch didn’t prove the claim wrong. Probably the best preserved old mining town along the route, there were a number of interesting buildings. They also had what looked like a very nice hotel (maybe next time).
There were a few pretty exposed sections of the road that reminded you that you were definitely out in the middle of nowhere. I would certainly make sure you have plenty of gas in the tank before you leave any of the towns along the road. I couldn’t help but think of the 1971 movie Vanishing Point a few times as the desert highway seemed to vanish over the horizon. Nevertheless, the thoughts of stopping in the next town urged me onward and were a lot of fun.
Lest you get out in the middle of the desert and think that caution should be thrown to the wind and you decide to open up that big V-Twin to see what she’ll do, you should be aware that the local constabulary are out watching for those who want to fly on two wheels. One of our party, who shall remain nameless, trying to catch up with me outside of Eureka, had a nice chat with a friendly officer who invited him to leave a few more dollars in the Friendliest Town Along the Loneliest Highway. Even local law enforcement along the highway gets into the act.
Ely is probably the most prosperous town along the route (they are still pulling ore out of the ground). We decided to stay in what appeared to be a brand new hotel. “Park your bikes under the breezeway,” said the desk clerk. “Someone is here all night and we’ll keep an eye on them for you.” It was nice to know that our motorcycles were safe, attended and under cover for the night as we enjoyed a quiet night before the push home in the morning. With only one more stop to go, our passports were almost complete—and so was the ride. Would I take the Loneliest Road in America again? I sure would.
I also wrote about the Loneliest Road in an article for Forbes that was published on Sept. 12, 2012. I think this is a very cool program that helps Main Street business along the Highway. Most of these businesses would likely have to close up shop and the towns would wither away. At least for me, I can say we likely wouldn’t have stopped in any of these little towns had the passport not been promoted. Not only was it fun, we shared a few dollars at every stop (even the border stop as we left Nevada). I can’t help but believe this is one inexpensive government initiative that actually makes a difference (but that’s the topic a different blog).