“The loneliest highway in America” it is called. Route 50 crosses Nevada East to West and has very few ‘towns’ along the way. Yes, you feel very alone especially when you travel it at night, like I did. Very few trucks or cars and the temperature at night; even in the summer; is near freezing. Desert living. The day Temp can hit way over 100 Degrees Fahrenheit.
I left Tahoe with a perfect temp of 64 degrees and hit Reno at 94 degrees. I said ‘hit’ because it feels like a heat wave hits you when you climb down the mountains. Finding Rt 50 is easy enough and after Reno, which is busy, you get to be alone. My goal for the day was the town of “ Middlegate.” The map showed it as a small dot and I almost missed it because it turned out to be not a town but just a Country Store, Bar, Filling Station. Historically it must have been a stop on the Pony Express and seems romantic but now it’s butt ugly. Dirty, Filthy! There is nothing around this place for 50 miles in either direction. Only desert greets you; which means heat, shrubs and no water. It is better to be dirty than to be thirsty. Since I did not sleep well last night I called it quits for the day at about 4.30 pm and asked the lady behind the bar for a tent site, thinking to myself, never mind ‘ugly’. She just pointed to the back of the house and said;” anyplace out back is fine” and took my money. I filled up ‘Emil’ with gas and drove around back and saw …a dump! Wow, hard to believe people can live like that. An old guy in a woolen red plaid shirt, broken but taped together glasses, yes wearing a necktie, too was playing a chess game with himself. I asked him if it would be ok to set up my tent under the few and sparse cottonwood trees and he turned out to be very verbal and polite. Something is wrong with him, however.
I set up my tent next to a 3-man construction crew working on putting in big fence posts into the ground. I made sure to be under a tree so that I get some shade. The workers did not mind. In fact they totally disregarded me as if I did not exist. All of the workers wore huge hats, jeans and boots, showing off their big belt buckles. Good old boys of the American West and the way they work showed they knew how to put in fences. I asked the old guy if they would work all night long when they started cutting limps off the trees using chain saws. At one time they were that close to my tent that I actually moved it so falling branches would not hit it. The racket of noise was unbelievable. He calmly replied: “only until it gets dark, then they will quit.” “Is this a peaceful afternoon in the desert” I thought to myself. How bad can it get? The noise level is tremendous. I believe the chain saw is without any kind of muffler and the way the guys handled the saw showed they had no clue on how to cut tree limps. A butcher would have done better. Why cut perfectly good tree limps of trees? Especially here in the desert; where shade is of prime importance. I asked this out loud and the old man asked me calmly if I would want to play a game of chess. He just sat there and was calm as anything, looking at me thru his broken/fixed glasses that sat crooked on his nose. I felt sorry for him and agreed to just one game. To make it more interesting I asked him if we could play for a glass of cold water or a can of soda for the winner. He reluctantly agreed. It has been years since I played chess and I just knew he played all the time, either against himself or with whomever he could play with. I tried my best and of course, lost the game. The noise level of the crew did not help with my concentration. Imagine sitting under a tree playing chess when 3 guys around you are trimming branches and you hear falling timber all around you. Ok, maybe that is an excuse and maybe this old man was better in chess. He sure was better in being calm and collected. We moved into the Bar/Restaurant out front and I ordered a Burger for each of us. Big as wagon wheels with French Fries and a cold drink made for a good start and we talked, this old man and I. He was from Upstate NY and his car broke down right here in the backyard of the only place within 50 miles. I was careful not to ask questions since I sensed he would clam up. His shirt was torn; he was dirty and needed a bath real bad; I could smell him across the table. He was 75 years old his mind was sharp and his outlook on life was quit different than mine. He liked Hitler and thought he was a good man but things went wrong for him. He liked many of Hitler’s ideas but of course did not like the things Hitler is known for. Look at the world with your eyes he said to me, forget what the media feeds you. Think for yourself. Take a look at issues in the press with open eyes. Live in the desert and think. Don’t let little things bother you. Believe in your self, in your own judgments. You know what is right instinctively and you know what feels wrong. Listen to yourself.
I found he had a good memory, very sharp and could remember Numbers especially well.
He could not finish his burger and packed it up in his napkins and took it with him to his car. He slept in his car. The car was full of ‘stuff’ much of which looked like junk.
The chain saw had ceased and it was now near 9 pm. Tired from the day I crawled into my tent and noticed immediately that when I moved the tent, I moved it next to the outhouse. The smell intensified somehow at night and to top it off, the bar now had the generator running.
The lights were on and the generator must have kicked in and of course ran without stop. Outhouse smell and Diesel noise, Great !
Don’t let little things bother you…. kept ringing in my ear.
I tried and actually slept for a few hours but then at 3 am I had had it.
I packed in the pitch dark of a moonless night and in temperatures of 43 degrees and rode out of ‘town.’ At night Rt 50 is really ‘lonely’. Just a very few trucks are on the road and the temperature dropped to 39 degrees. With the driving speed of 70 miles an hour the temperature is even colder. Heated grips, heated seats or not, it is cold. Pitch dark and eerie. Make one mistake while riding and you are history.
The next town, Austin, is 50 miles away and at 4.30 am nothing is open. No coffee shop, nothing. The town is not big so on I go to Eureka and here I find, at an unholy early hour an open coffee shop.
While resting up, warming up and tanking up the gas tank, too I am thinking back to this old man, now still sleeping in his car, I guess.
Think for yourself, live your own life. Disregard what others tell you to do. Stay calm. Listen to yourself. Believe in yourself. All that is still chiming in my ears and mind.I am going east, towards Utah.