May
12
2011

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Nevada's Loneliest Road

by Going Slowly

The Nevada portion of [US-50], dubbed "The Loneliest Road in America" by travel writers and tourist boards, is one of the most compelling long-distance drives in the country—provided you find miles and miles of little more than mountains, sagebrush, and blue sky compelling.

Road Trip USA

Tyler:

A few hours into our road trip home, we've wound our way out of the mountains of eastern California, into Nevada. The sky is bigger here, and the land stretches out before us in vast green fields. The lushness doesn't last long, however, as the landscape soon gives way to a more typical picture of Nevada: salt flats, scrubby bushes, and parched earth.

Welcome to Nevada Nevada Trees & Fields

We're following a route Lian recommended, one that bisects Nevada horizontally, called the "Loneliest Road in America", or US Highway 50. Sure enough, after we pass through a few dusty little towns, the scenery clears out, and there's not another settlement for miles. It's a fantastic feeling, to be here, just the two of us, listening to music with the windows down, wind blowing in our faces.

Driving the Loneliest Road, Nevada Road Trip  Music Mix

If it weren't for this straight ribbon of pavement carving across the countryside, this highway could be mistaken for Mongolia! The sweeping views, the snowcapped peaks in the distance, and the vast, invigorating, overwhelming, awe-inspiring emptiness, remind us strongly of the steppe.

Tara in Nevada Crusty Dry Dirt Along Loneliest Road, Nevada Loneliest Road, Nevada

For hours we drive, enraptured by the emptiness. There's nobody out here, not another town for a hundred miles, and we haven't seen another car for hours.

Nevada's Loneliest Road Nevada's Loneliest Road Nevada's Loneliest Road

We've pulled over for the golden hour, stopping to admire the views. The world is swathed in the orange light of approaching dusk; the roadsides are bathed in greens and blues, with occasional black and white accents of hungry cows, munching happily away on the vegetation.

Barbed Wire Fence Nevada Field & Mountain View Tara Tyler

Eventually the skies grow darker, and the temperature drops swiftly with a refreshing chill as the sun sinks towards the horizon behind us. The quietness of these lands is palpable, and the emptiness, comforting.

Nevada's Loneliest Road at Dusk Tara in the Driver's Seat on Nevada's Loneliest Road at Dusk Nevada Road Trip Sunset Nevada's Loneliest Road

All the way across the country, US-50 passes through literally hundreds of timeworn small towns, the great majority of which have survived despite the modern onslaught of Wal-Marts and fast-food franchises.

Road Trip USA

Tara:

Night has fallen—I'm driving through darkness now, as Tyler sleeps next to me. Out of the barren nothingness, I spot a few pricks of light, beacons flickering in the distance. The glow grows brighter, eventually welcoming me to Austin, Nevada, a tiny little outpost on the Loneliest Road in America.

Lincoln Motel Vacancy

I pull up at the International Cafe, and awaken Tyler so we can go in for some grub. As we walk past the bar to get to the restaurant, my eyes briefly meet those of a crusty, grizzly man, one of two playing pool in a haze of smoke. I feel like they're actors on a movie set, decked out in fake mustaches and stage makeup. They can't possibly be for real.

International Cafe

I open the door to the cafe, clanging a bell, which alerts the two women who work there, cleaning up for the night. They're closing up, and the kitchen has long been abandoned. They haven't counted the till yet, though, so Tyler and I pick out a few cookies and order a couple styrofoam cups of murky, lukewarm coffee.

Cookies For Sale

Then, back in the car we go. Tyler falls quickly back asleep, and I drive on and on through the night, until, a few hours later, I enter the twilight zone once again. This time, the surreal outpost is Ely, Nevada, errily still and quiet, save for a few drunken men stumbling across the block, and the flashing lights of casinos, here, in the middle of nowhere.

Nightclubs in a Tiny Town on the Loneliest Road in Nevada Nevada Club

Before the men on the other side of the block make it to where I am, snapping photos in the middle of the street, I hurry back to the car, to a deeply sleeping Tyler.


Now it's getting late, very late, and I'm growing tired. Every now and again I spot the white tufts of elk butts, bright against the headlights. The animals are much larger than the roadside deer I'm familiar with. On either side of the road, the animals are feeding, some loping by, and I've slowed my pace to a crawl, fearful one of the lumbering creatures will walk out in front of me.

It's time to call it a night. So, I pull off the road, recline my seat, and fall asleep almost instantly. Tyler, who has been dozing for hours, awakens to set the alarm on our phone, stumbles out to take a photo of the dark Nevada landscape, and then crawls back inside. I really wish we had our tent, but thankfully I won't have to wish that for much longer—it is waiting for us in Illinois.

Black Horse Nevada, Sleeping in the Car
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4 comments

*Love* the photos in this post! Especially "Nevada's lonliest road at dusk" --- it almost has a hint of HDR

How will you guys every decide which photos to put up on your walls???
Posted by Jackie on July 13th, 2011 at 11:43 AM
Hi Jackie, thank you! The scenery was pretty incredible out west. As for the photos... it will be awhile before we have our own walls to decorate. We'll have to cross that bridge when we get to it! ;-)
Posted by Tara on July 16th, 2011 at 11:30 AM
Ely...the town a million miles from anything...in any direction! I was there once, checking out the town for a job, but decided that there was no way I wanted to live there. There was a really nice park/campground outside of town a few miles though.

As I recall, the road east to Utah was the longest and most barren drive of my life. All we saw was a dead zebra (yes, really!) and a dead sheep laying alongside the road. Outside of that, not a car, not a snake, nothing...
Posted by Gia Scott on February 22nd, 2012 at 8:45 PM
Hwy 50 across NV is called the loneliest road in America for some unknown reason. It's not. Not even close. Hwy 6 between Tonopah and Ely has 168 miles without any services of any kind. Alaska has the Dalton Highway, with one stretch 240 miles between services of any kind, and no cell reception either. In Canada the Trans Labrador Highway is 440 miles, but has supplies available in the middle -- at a steep price. Even the U.S. interstate highway system has a runner up -- Hwy 70 across eastern Utah between Salida and Green River goes 120 miles with no services (however the scenery is incredible and there are frequent rest areas to absorb the views).
Posted by dave54 on December 26th, 2015 at 1:37 PM
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