The Loneliest Highway in America
This past summer we drove out to San Diego to visit our daughter and her family. On our return from San Diego to Texas we took a different route back to see a different part of the country. We have done this many times over the years of traveling to see our daughter. It has allowed us to see much of the western United States… but we still have more to see.
On this trip we drove a portion of US Highway 50. We picked up Highway 50 at the tip of Lake Tahoe in California and drove east through Nevada and Utah.
It all started when Janet picked up a brochure titled “The Loneliest Highway In America”. In July of 1986, Life Magazine ran a negative article about the Nevada State Highway 50 titled “The Loneliest Road.” AAA described Nevada State Highway 50 route through Nevada this way: “It’s totally empty” and advised traveling a different route unless you are confident of your survival skills. Nevada officials, wisely, seized on the phrase “The Loneliest Road” as a marketing slogan. US 50 covers large desolate areas, with signs of civilization few and far between. This sounded like something Janet and I would like… so we drove it.
US 50 crosses several large scenic desert valleys separated by several mountain ranges. It has many little-known and unique places of interest, and most of these places are free to see. Also US 50 roughly follows the path of the Pony Express riders. The route included Baker, Ely, Eureka, Austin, Fallon, Silver Springs and on to Sacramento.
Virginia City, Nevada
Our first stop was Virginia City. Virginia City is just 7 miles off of US 50.
Virginia City sprang up as a mining town sitting atop the Comstock Lode. The Comstock Lode was the first major silver deposit, discovered in the United States in 1859. At its peak, Virginia City had over 15,000 residents. Today, the population of Virginia City is about 855. There is some mining activity in the area still but today Virginia City’s main industry seems to be tourism.
Man with his pet owl in Virginia City, NV
Virginia City has several buildings from the time it was a boom town. The most notable artifact is the Suicide Table. It’s an old Faro Bank Table dating from the 1860s, claimed to be responsible for the deaths of three of its owners. Loses at the table caused the losers to depart this world at their own hands. The Bucket of Blood Saloon, the Old Globe, the Silver Queen and The Red Dog Saloon are some of the more colorful buildings.
Virginia City has been a Historical District since being declared a National Historic Landmark in 1961.
Janet and I spent the afternoon leisurely walking the main street visiting all the shops, taking lots of pictures, learning bits of history here and there and visiting with the many friendly local folks about town.
There are many other things in town and in the area. Our time was limited so we will need to return at a later date to see more.
Grimes Point Petroglyphs
Grimes Point Petroglyphs are about 10 miles east of Fallon, Nevada, just off US 50 to the left. Look close or you might miss the turn.
Grimes Point Petroglyphs
Janet and I enjoy learning about Native American history. This was a good site and a nice little hike in the early morning. I found myself as always imagining what life was like back then. If rocks could talk… or better yet… If we could only read what the rocks were telling us. Archaeologists believe the petroglyphs here are not a form of writing. They may depict constellations, hunting areas, or markers of some kind.
Grimes Point was first visited by Native Americans about 8,000 years ago. You can view petroglyphs along a short, self-guided interpretive trail. We picked up a brochure at the parking area. Some of the petroglyphs are very faint and hard to see in the early morning sun light. Look closely or you will miss some of them.
This is a must stop if you have the time…
The Shoe Tree
The Shoe Tree
The story goes something like this… There are several versions… A newlywed couple driving to California pulled over to rest under this large Cottonwood tree. They soon got into an argument. The bride threw a pair of the groom’s shoes into the large Cottonwood tree. In revenge, he grabbed a pair of her shoes and tossed them into the tree… Who knows what really happened except, now everyone stops to see the shoes in the tree and some add to the shoes already in the tree. If you head that way, it is a good place to rid yourself of some old shoes and add to the stories and speculation…
Stokes Castle, located just outside Austin, Nevada , is a three-story stone tower built by Anson Phelps Stokes. Stokes was a miner, banker and railroad magnate. Stokes began building the Castle as a summer home in 1896 and completed it in 1897.
Stokes Castle outside of Austin, Nevada
The castle was patterned after a tower in the Roman Campagna in Italy. The kitchen and dining room were located on the first floor, the second floor contained the living room with a balcony and on the third floor were two bedrooms with balconies.
The Stokes family lived in the Stokes Castle only for a short time. In the summer of 1898, they sold their mine, the milling equipment, and the castle.
Mining equipment at Stokes Castle
This is a must see when traveling through Austin. The Castle sits atop a hill overlooking the town and countryside. Quite a view and I could see why Mr. Stokes picked this spot for his home. It is in near ruin now and fenced off and can only be seen through the fence. We could only imagine what it was like in its hey-day. There are remains of some of the mining equipment near the home and what appears to be mining tailings just down the hill.
Grocery store in Eureka, Nevada
Eureka Opera House
There are several small towns along the route (Baker, Ely, Eureka, Austin, Fallon, Silver Springs). We love small towns and stop every chance we get. We enjoy learning the history and visiting with real ‘down to earth’ people who live there. We stopped in Eureka, Nevada at the Owl Club Bar & Steakhouse for lunch. The good food and friendly staff made it a great choice. After lunch we took a stroll to checkout more of Eureka. The small grocery took me back to my childhood. The grocery reminded me of the small grocery we shopped at growing up in rural Texas. The store was small physically but they managed to get a lot into the small space. The shelves were wooden made just for the store. Every inch of space was use to display a variety of goods just like the store from my childhood. Old memories are always good no matter how they are triggered.
Double Rainbow on the Loneliest Highway in America
Loneliest Highway in America
The Great Basin
The highway passes through several large desert valleys between many mountain ranges that tower over the valleys, in what is known as the Basin and Range province of the Great Basin. It’s hard to describe the beauty we experienced traveling this highway. We saw beautiful valleys, majestic vistas and native animals along the way. I saw some the most beautiful rainbows I have ever seen. One rainbow was a complete double rainbow. Just an incredible sight to behold…
Loneliest Highway in America
We are glad we chose this route. My only regret is we were traveling by car instead of motorcycle. Needless to say I have added “The Loneliest Highway in America” to my “Ride Bucket List”. Stay tuned for that ride.
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