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Posts Tagged ‘Sage Brush Ocean’

U.S. Route 50 — NV Hwy 50 — “The Loneliest Road in America”

I’m referring to U.S. Route 50, a black ribbon that stretches more than 3,000 miles across the country, from Ocean City, Maryland, to West Sacramento, California.

It’s called “The Loneliest Road in America” for a reason and when you enter Nevada at the Utah state line it travels across 500 miles of Great Basin Desert.

This was our early summer road trip along the historic Pony Express Trail en route to the Road Glide National Rally (aka: “Sharkweek“).

Pony Express Trail

The RoadGlide.org is a community dedicated to all Harley-Davidson Road Glide owners and enthusiasts.  It’s an awesome group of people that like to discuss performance, builds, accessories, mods, specs, troubleshooting, maintenance, and much more.

The like minded gather every year in a different location to experience the roads of the local area and celebrate the ‘Glider’ camaraderie. I was granted grandfather rights to the club having previously owned a Road Glide (aka: Brownshark), but they are a most welcoming group to any rider. Besides, that tradition of featuring a bonfire of anything other than Road Glides stacked, burned and melted together amid cheering crowds is long gone!

It had been eight years since I last attended a Sharkweek event. My first was in 2013 at St. George, Utah for number III, but this was number XI and on the west coast near beautiful Lake Tahoe in Minden, Nev.  The host hotel was the Carson Valley Inn & Casino.

Hotel Nevada – Ely, NV

But, I’ve gotten ahead of myself.

We departed a day prior of the now infamous June 26th heat dome that enveloped the Pacific Northwest, driving temperatures to extreme levels — in Salem, Ore., about half-hour southwest of Portland, it reached 117 degrees.  We’re unaccustomed to that type of oppressive summer heat, but the group headed east for Boise, Idaho anyway where temperatures were a bit cooler and only slightly above 100 degrees.  We headed to The Reef for dinner where the patio is great, the food is tasty, dual bars so the lines are short and there is always a good band playing. Stop in there if you ever have an opportunity.

The next day we rode out early en route to Twin Falls and were passed by just about everyone scooting along I-84 well in excess of the posted 80 MPH speed limit except for an occasional semi. We continued south on US-93 into Nevada where the temperatures continued their relentless rise, but when we finally stopped at Hotel Nevada in Ely, Nev., we were met with cooler weather.  Go figure!

Established in 1929, the Hotel Nevada became Ely’s premiere dining and lodging destination. It is an historic property with a lot of charm down to stars in the sidewalk to celebrate those who had stayed there from Jimmy Stewart to President Lyndon Johnson. We were worn down a bit from the heat so the fact that the room was small and the bathroom even smaller didn’t matter when ready to sleep.  The lobby is a casino which other than the clouds of cigarette smoke was not a big deal and we enjoyed the free breakfast in the lobby at the Denny’s restaurant before departing on the Gold Rush–era highway that is part of the West’s last frontier.

Nevada Highway 50 — America’s Loneliest Road

America’s Loneliest Highway — crosses by or through several communities, a handful of mountain ranges, a national park, and one reservoir, where wild horses roam free. There’s life, yes, but not something familiar for many. It’s a place where the lines between an ‘ol John Wayne Western movie and everyday life blur, and where ghost towns bleed into semi-living ones.

We had our official “survival guide” passport book and proceeded to collect stamps from the various businesses and which the governor of Nevada will supposedly sign if at least five businesses stamped our passports. The 287 mile-stretch of U.S. 50, running from Ely to Fernley, Nev., passes nine towns, two abandoned mining camps, a gas pump and the occasional coyote.

Sage Brush Ocean — Nevada Hwy 50

We passed a number of “Loneliest Road” signs along this black ribbon where the occasional business on the Route displayed a “I Survived Route 50” sign in a window covered with layers of dirt and grime. We rode through more than a dozen mountain ranges as we traversed the state, climbing up into the red rock heights, then dipping down into the patchy desert of the hot valley floor.

So this was it. I wondered, when first reading about Route 50, why a AAA official was so concerned about anyone traveling it and why Time Magazine wouldn’t recommend it. The journey does require a specific skill set: sitting for a very long time on a hot motorcycle saddle, knowing where the next gas station is amid the desert’s FM fuzz and more importantly, knowing how to be alone inside your head. Way inside being the operative word there in a vast “sagebrush ocean”.

The posse was adventurous, had too many Gatorade drinks and survived the Route 50 experience.  Not just tourists, but rugged participants that rode away with stamps and bragging rights of our achievement along with the real-deal memories.

We finally came to rest at base-camp in Minden, Nev., at the Carson Valley Inn & Casino and picked up our registration packet and incredibly nice bag of swag for the multi-day Road Glide National Rally (“Sharkweek XI”).

Next up is our rides in the area at Yosemite National Park via Tioga Road (Highway 120) and around Lake Tahoe before returning home through Lassen National Park.

Photos taken by the author.

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