Today marks day nine of the trip, and I’m spending a few hours in small-town Eureka, Nevada. For the past four days, I’ve been riding on what Life Magazine once dubbed ‘the loneliest road in America’. But while Nevada’s highway 50 bisects a vast, barren, and unpopulated landscape, this stretch of the trip has been my favorite yet, and I’m feeling far from lonely. Instead, I’m really enjoying the peace and solitude. I think bustling city streets are far more desolate and lonely and indifferent than this road, where you’ll sometimes ride for hours without seeing a soul, but when a truck does pass, you at least get a friendly wave – if not a cold drink or fresh fruit or cheerful words of encouragement – out of the encounter.
That’s not to say this stretch has been easy. The patterned mountain ranges of Nevada trend north-south, which means that the rhythm of biking east across this region consists of climbing steep summits and then pedaling across seemingly infinite desert expanses. Again, and again, and again. Horizons tantalize but never get closer, the pavement radiates a savage heat, and ferocious winds whip through the valleys starting mid-morning.
To battle the elements, I’ve been waking up at 4am in order to hit the road at 5am, when the winds are hushed and the temperature tolerable. Freezing my fingers and face off is a fate far preferable to melting, and there’s something magical about the desert’s morning hours – the slant of light, the hint of sage in the air, the silence that fills you with wonder. This pre-dawn riding strategy usually has me arriving in one of the sporadic oasis towns along route at lunchtime, just when the winds are having a tantrum and the heat becomes blistering. Then I’ll hang out in town, nap, eat, refill water bags, and hit the road again in the early evening to find a desert campsite.
Any romantic notions I harbored about a cross-country bike trip were abolished the first time I was buffeted off the road by explosive winds, or the first dinner where locusts swarmed my campsite as I was eating soggy, overcooked noodles. But where the romance ends, the real adventure begins, and that’s why I hit the road in the first place. More updates to come, and may your own trails – wherever you are – be ‘crooked, winding, lonesome, dangerous, and leading to the most amazing view’ (Ed Abbey).