Sunday, August 15, 2010

Day 6 - Wendover to South Lake Tahoe

Day 6 was going to be an epic day, this was the day we would ride across Nevada on Highway 50, aka the Loneliest Road in America.  We knew it was going to be hot and long but little did we know how beautiful and exciting the ride was going to be.  We found places and people that surprised us and the road lived up to being the "Loneliest Road in America" with stretches of road that ran for miles and miles disappearing into the horizon.

I got up early, before 5:30, so I could see the sunrise and get a few photos.  I left the room and walked about 300 yards as the motel was located right next to a little rocky mountain and I couldn't see the horizon eastwards towards Salt Lake City. The radiant sun came up with a beautiful red sky above it, sun rays shooting in all directions as if to distribute the heat across the land, a precursor to how hot the day was going to be.

I returned to the room, woke my brother up and started packing my stuff, there was no time to loose, we needed to get on the road really early to have time to enjoy the scenery and still make it to South Lake Tahoe before nightfall.  We had to cover around 480 miles through mostly desert roads.  We had a continental breakfast in the motel and were on the road going south out of Wendover soon thereafter.  Wendover is a small town, we made a right out of the motel and immediately crossed over to West Wendover in Nevada where we picked up Route 93 South.  Leaving West Wendover behind us we immediately came upon beautiful and striking terrain with dark brown colored hills that offered a stark contrast to the light colored desert and the bluest of skies.  We stopped  for pictures, I had to convince my brother it would be safe to stop the bikes in the middle of the road, we could see ahead and behind of us for miles and there were no automobiles in sight, and to show how desolate the area was I stood in the middle of the road for the picture.  It was still early but the temperature was already high 80's.

We would ride to Ely on route 93 Alt South and then pickup Highway 50 West.  Ely is exactly 120 miles away from Wendover and in the first 60 miles we encounter absolutely no signs of civilization when all of a sudden in the middle of nowhere we find the Stage Stop Bar Cafe Motel & RV Park.  We pull in for a coup of coffee and a quick rest and encounter a friendly old couple running the place.  The entire place was decorated with pictures from past hunting trips, a few old Winchesters hanging on the ceiling and trophy deer heads on the walls.  We chit-chat for a while, the old lady shows me the hunting pictures of her family, she was really proud of her son and grandson.  We ask what kind of business is there in the area, turns out there are a few alfalfa farms nearby and farmers need a place for coffee and supplies.  The Stage Stop also happens to be at the junction of Route 93 Alt South and Route 93.  We take the obligatory pictures and then move outside to admire the scenery and the beauty of the desolate area.  We try to get near their dog but he looked at us with suspicious eyes, wouldn't let us get near him and then retreated to the top of the table where he could see his owners.  We saddle up and continue south.

The next 60 miles to Ely turned out to be much the same as the first.  We travel another 20 miles and run into another bar cafe, this time it's The Pony Express at Schellbourne Station, Nevada then nothing for the next 40 miles.  We take a picture and move on.  As we get near Ely we pass the sign for the historic Hotel Nevada and Gambling Hall.  A little history, when the 6-story Hotel Nevada opened in 1929, it was the tallest building in the state and its first fire-proof building.  Rooms rented for $1.50 and up, "All with private toilet; 85% with private bath."  Prohibition was still in effect when the hotel opened, and from the beginning bootlegged refreshment and gambling were available 24 hours a day. "Bathtub Gin" made from raw alcohol, water, and flavorings and "White Lightening" was conveniently supplied by local individuals.

It was now almost three hours since we had left Wendover, we enter Ely and look for a place to have breakfast again, I had the urge for a local pancake.  We spot two fellow riders at a small restaurant and immediately pull in.  They were on the way out, we chat for a while and then move inside.  A fellow rider arrives and I invite him to join us for breakfast, turns out he is going East to Denver to join his wife. We exchange ride stories while I have my pancake and coffee and then take a few pictures on the way out.  The place was beautifully decorated with antique furniture.  We leave Ely and enter Highway 50 West.

Just outside of Ely we encounter the sign announcing Highway 50, "The Loneliest Road in America."  We proceed into what turns out to be an even more deserted road until we come upon Eureka, the town is 77 miles from Ely in the East and 71 miles away from Austin in the West, smack in the middle of the Nevada desert.  Eureka has a population of about 1100 and attractions include the Eureka Opera House (built in 1880 and restored in 1993) and the Jackson House Hotel (built 1877).  The temperature had soared past 95 degrees and we stop for some cold water and to stroll around the little town.  The center of town was under heavy construction and I later find out why after I visited the information center located in an old caboose. The world's third-largest and highest grade molybdenum-porphyry deposit has been found just outside Eureka.  A proposed open pit molybdenum mine will be in operation for an estimated 45 to 55 years, produce 40 million pounds of molybdenum per year in the first five years of production, and generate nearly 8% of world molybdenum production annually.  I chat with the lady in the caboose and then meet my brother at the old Opera House.

We leave Eureka and 133 miles later came upon Midlegate, population 18 until recently, now 17 according the the sign posted at the door.  Arriving at the local bar, gas station and restaurant of Middlegate is like traveling back in time.  I could just picture the cowboys tying their horses to the front of the bar and walking in through the swinging doors.  The old folks tending the bar are a friendly couple with a beautiful and very suspicious blue eyed dog for a companion.  We go inside to get away from the heat, which was now above 100 and find the entire ceiling covered with dollar bills stapled by visitors and a few guns on the ceiling beams.  Rus Stevenson, the owner sees me admiring the guns and pulls down an old colt 45 and suggests I take a picture with it, I promptly comply and then proceed to add a dollar bill with my name to the ceiling.  It was hard to find a place to staple the bill, Rus tells me the oldest is from the 1930's.  We chat for a while, he had lots of amazing stories to tell, but we still had a long way to go.  We step outside and tried to get near the blue eye dog to no avail but a puppy shows up, we play with him and after a while hit the road leaving Middlegate behind us.

We ride about 21 miles west when we encounter the Sand Springs Pony Express Station and an amazing sight is upon us in the shape of huge white sand dunes in the middle of the mountains.  It's like someone dropped a mountain of pure beach sand in the middle of the mountains to create huge sand dunes.  The dunes are open to all sorts of recreational vehicles.  We take pictures from far but decide not to go all the way in.  We check the temperature and it's 109 degrees but the funny thing is we are not perspiring at all due to the lack of humidity, it's a strange feeling for us coming from New Jersey as anything above 80 will make you perspire because of the high humidity.  We don't even remove our riding jackets for the short time we were stopped.  We get back on the bikes and continue.

We travel the next 27 miles to Fallon and then stop to fill up with gas, I venture into the store where I find a large collection of cigars on display.  After buying a few cigars for my dad and myself, I get a liter bottle of water and quickly guzzle the entire bottle, the searing temperature having taken its toll on my body.  We rest for a while and then continue west towards Carson City, 62 miles away, on Highway 50 now known as the Californian Emigrant Trail.

We pass Carson City, the sun low in the horizon, GPS now leading us towards Zephyr Cove-Round Hill Village and enter a very twisty and panoramic piece of Highway 50 in the Eldorado National Forest.  We soon see Lake Tahoe, as the road continues high up along the edge of the lake, a deep blue lake nested in between the mountains.  Lake Tahoe is a large freshwater lake in the Sierra Nevada mountains. At a surface elevation of 6,225 ft (1,897 m), it is located along the border between California and Nevada, west of Carson City.  Lake Tahoe is the largest alpine lake in North America, its depth is 1,645 feet (501 metres) making it America's second-deepest. The lake was formed about 2 million years ago and is a part of the Lake Tahoe Basin with the modern lake being shaped during the ice ages. It is known for the clarity of its water and the panorama of surrounding mountains on all sides.  We continue past Zephyr Cove-Round Hill Village and only stop when we reach the Nevada/California state line.  We find a motel and since it was dinner time we quickly unpack the bikes and head off to Lake Tahoe Boulevard looking for a place to feed our hunger.  We stop at the corner of Lake Tahoe Boulevard and State Line Avenue which runs along the state line, our side is California and across the street is the Harrah's Casino in Nevada. We continue along  Lake Tahoe Boulevard admiring the Marriott Timber Lodge, a beautiful hotel with some very upper scale stores running along its length on the outside.  When we see a barbecue place across the street we both look at each other and immediately head towards it, it's the Womack's Texas Style Bar-B-Q, the sign proclaiming it as being voted the best barbecue place in Lake Tahoe. I downed my barbecued meal with a nice cold beer and a very tasteful dessert to top it.  We later stroll along the boulevard before retiring back to the motel.

We covered 465 miles through the most deserted and hottest roads so far on this trip and we had made it to California, another two days and we will be on the Pacific coast but before hitting the coast we will visit Lake Mono and Yosemite National Park, two of the most beautiful locations in my route.


  1. Oh California!!! How I miss you so! Again, great shots. I love those little towns. And those dunes...beautiful.

  2. George, Thanks for the comment on my blog. In August of 2010, my friend and I took a motorcycle road trip out west. We also took Hwy 50. I have some pictures that I didn't post that are almost the same as some of yours. I'm going to bookmark your blog and read more. I really like what I've read so far. I like the line in your "about me" section, about living on your memories, not your dreams. Very true. Erik.

  3. Erik: Thanks for visiting, I have also started following yours. I see you had different blogs, one per year but the 2010 you are continuing with it, I will be following your future adventures ;-)
    By the way, Hwy 50 was amazing, that was one of the highlights of my cross country trip.