The Loneliest Road

By Eilene Lyon

I asked my iPhone for the shortest route from Georgetown, California, to Durango, Colorado. When it came to Nevada, going across the middle wasn’t presented as an option, even if I said to omit the interstates.

So I specifically told Siri to give me directions from Reno, Nevada, to Great Basin National Park on the east side of the state taking U.S. 50. Again, my Apple map app refused to acknowledge the existence of this route, known as the Loneliest Road in America.

Siri’s options told me it would take more than 11 hours (!!) to cross the state of Nevada. How absurd. The pony express did it in less than that. (Kidding.)

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I’ve driven across the middle of Nevada numerous times. It’s one of the most scenic drives in America, though I know my taste for desert landscapes is not everyone’s cup of tea. Many people aren’t aware that Nevada has more mountain ranges than any state besides Alaska.

Relief_map_of_USA_Nevada_Spring_Mountains
Relief map of Nevada showing all the mountain ranges (Wikimedia Commons)

I summited at least a dozen passes, though none above 8,000 feet. The best part of the scenery is the fact that almost everything you can see is essentially wilderness. This is nature in the rough. Aside from the two lanes of blacktop, signage, and unobtrusive parallel fences on either side, power lines are about the only manmade infrastructure you’ll see. There’s occasional cattle (avert your eyes!).

As for the time it takes, this is a 70-mph road and after leaving Fallon, you’ll not slow down for a town until you reach Austin, 110 miles away. From Reno to Ely takes about 6 hours, assuming you’re the type to obey speed limits. It’s true that you might not see another vehicle for miles at a time.

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Scene from a previous trip across Nevada.

I’m always tempted to stop and take pictures as I traverse this wild state. On this trip, the clouds were dramatic and the weather quite variable. The high peaks were still clad in winter white. Where there was grass, it was as emerald as it ever gets.

The problem is, if I start stopping to take photos, I won’t stop stopping to take photos. Then it really will take me 11 hours to cross – and it won’t be Siri’s fault.

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The weather. Yes, you never know what you’re going to get. I’ll never forget my first time on U. S. 50. I ended up driving in six inches of fresh snow that was coming down hard…on winding mountain passes…in the dark…in May.

Just make sure you have a full tank, and it can’t hurt to have food, water, and a sleeping bag with you if you decide to drive the Loneliest Road. Because Apple intends to make sure it stays that way.

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Fall colors near Austin, Nevada, on an earlier trip.

33 thoughts on “The Loneliest Road

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    1. You won’t be sorry. There is a cool place with giant sand dunes nearer to Fallon. Almost like Great Sand Dunes NP, but smaller. And Great Basin NP is worth a visit, too. It really is a wild, relatively unspoiled piece of America. Someday I need to make point of exploring and not just crossing to get somewhere.

      Liked by 1 person

  1. A beautiful area. Sounded like when we needed to get back to Mountain Home, Idaho, from Salt Lake City. That was a lonely road most of the way. From Mountain Home we visited friends in Elko, Nevada, and saw other lonesome but poignant roads.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. I have traveled the same route, long before the days of Siri and her Google brethren. Good point about the gas. You would be surprised how many people just assume there will be another gas station just around the corner.

    Liked by 1 person

  3. I thought the loneliest road would be from winnemucca to denio Nevada. Right there on the Oregon border my dad grew up. We’d spend summers out there at the mine. There nothin else. Loved it. Nevada is pretty.

    Liked by 1 person

  4. I’m sure I wrote a post on it with a video I took as the train went round a bend in a spectacular steep sided valley. I was hanging out of the window. Second best highlight was the Denver museum, especially the Native American collection.

    Liked by 1 person

  5. Gorgeous photos of the wildness and the open sky. I never see anything even remotely like that around here. It’s easy to forget how huge this country is and how other people in other parts of it live their daily lives, taking the wildness and openness for granted.

    Liked by 1 person

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