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July 30, 2021

Road Trip 2021 - America’s Loneliest Road

In July 1986 LIFE Magazine called Nevada’s Highway 50 as the “Loneliest Road in America”.  The article stated that there were no attractions or points of interest along the 287-mile length of road.  It further stated not to take the risk of driving the road without “significant survival skills”.    

Long before there were numbered roads, the Lincoln Highway connected the nation east (New Jersey) and west (California).  Named for the President who connected the nation north and south.

The original route is marked with the concrete posts with the blue L, the emblem and direction.

Since it’s beginning in 1913, the Lincoln Highway has been realigned and numbered by the states it passes through.  In California it is Historic Route 40, in Wyoming US30, but in Nevada it’s known as ‘The Loneliest Road in America”, US50.

I ordered our Survival Guide online HERE.  It certainly helps in laying out the journey.


We picked up our first passport stamp at the Carson Museum before meeting the family at Lake Tahoe.

After our time in Nevada City and Grass Valley we returned to Carson City to begin the cross-state journey.


Originally called China Town, the name was changed after the first discovery of gold in Nevada was made here and the town boomed. 

We have stayed at the Dayton RV Park in the past with only a couple other units.  But this time it was full and they do pack them in.  Our last time was in 2014, when a detour on 395 led this way.

We’d stay there again for the location, great internet, clean free showers.  And they provide a passport stamp.

There are quite a few original buildings along what's left of their section of the Lincoln Highway, now named Pike Street.


There is no stamp for Silver Springs, but it is worth a mention, as it is on the way.  With 395 closed due to fires, a lot of traffic is being routed through Silver Springs.

The traffic circle entering town has fun pioneer sculptures.



Fallon is the largest town on the route and home to the Fallon Naval Air Station, where the Top Gun training takes place.  In Fallon we received our third passport stamp at the very awesome Churchill County Museum.

There is a voluntary donation box for entry.  For $5 we found this to be an excellent value.

In addition to the expected early history,

shoes are displayed from the original Shoe Tree.


A detailed description and photos of the Lincoln Highway is also on display.



The rock art at Grimes Point indicate native Americans were established in this area for 3000 years.

It was a short but hot walk, Fran decided to bring her own shade with her.


The retreating glaciers left crushed quartz behind.  The Walker River distributed the sand, which the winds carried, a grain at a time, to form Sand Mountain. 

As the picture shows we are still in the smoke from the Tamarack and Dixie fires.  Sand Mountain is the large lighter colored hill at the end of the road.  If the wind is blowing the sand sings.  But there was no wind on this hot/smoke filled day.


From first appearances Middlegate Station looks like it is about to collapse. 

But inside is a functioning bar and restaurant, and home to the Monster Burger.

No, we did not try to even split that massive burger! but enjoyed a cold soda and the thousands of $1 bills pinned to the ceiling.


The original Shoe Tree was a victim of vandalism, but a new location 2 mile east of Middle Gate Station provides the current fun.

You can bring a pair of shoes to add, or simply pick up a pair from the ground as we did.


Cold Springs Station was stop on the Pony Express route.  The ruins of the old station can be found at the end of a 1.5 mile hike.  Too hot to even consider!

Just past the historic site is a ‘new’ Cold Springs Station Resort with an RV park.  In hindsight I'd consider staying here vice in Austin.


Although born in Nevada City CA, Emma (Wixom) Nevada grew up in Austin NV.  I had my heart set on finding the Opera House where she would have sung.  No luck, on her return from Europe she sang in her childhood church, Austin has no opera house … a world class singer, but nothing to really honor her.

The Austin Museum and their Visitor Center were both closed, but we did collect another passport stamp at the courthouse. 


Austin is 110 miles from Fallon in the center of the Nevada on the Loneliest Highway.  Impossible to miss, the only road through town is the Lincoln Highway, Austin’s Main Street.

US50 is more heavily traveled than we expected.  But it is still a lonely road.  Heavy smoke continued in the morning as we moved on.


Eureka Nevada prides itself as “The Friendliest Town on the Loneliest Road” … and it has an opera house!

but it was closed during our visit …  a large number of historic buildings are located along US50.  It also has by far the best walking tour! 

Hands down.

A colorful map with descriptions can be obtained from most any merchant in town.  The points of interest are numbered.  This old caboose is #36.

The white stones are locally quarried tuft.

The original Lincoln Highway through Eureka is well marked.


We obtained our fifth passport stamp at the courthouse.


Ely is a copper mining town and the tailings we saw coming in from the west are massive indications of the strip mining taking place.

We knew the town was noted for its murals.  The murals are numbered, which can be entered into an interactive audio recording. 


Pretty well done; call the phone number; enter the mural number and get all the info.

The White Pine County Museum is noted for its Short Faced Cave Bear.

Not much else there…

Ely had very good WiFi, cell and antenna TV.  We were finally able to watch some of the Olympics!


Finally some break in the smoke!  A brief overnight thunderstorm helped clear the air making the drive to Baker very pleasant.

We collected our seventh and final passport stamp at Baker Border Inn, before leaving Nevada.

Want to make the drive?  Order the survival guide, the passport stamps provide proof of completion, and are fun to collect.  Also download the audio tour, it’s divided into sections that provide information on the sites along the way.  Research the options at each town and the sites along the way.  Go in the late spring when the fields are green and there is the snow in the mountains.  Although the road is a ‘Defense Highway’ and plowed during the winter,  there are numerous passes where chains might be required in winter.


The biggest surprise – Eureka.
So welcoming to visitors, with a well done walking tour and ample parking.  But it’s not a tourist trap, the century old buildings are the real thing and still in use today.

Most disappointing – Austin.      
like Bodie the entire town of Austin appears to be in arrested decay.

For us this is likely a One-and-Done trip.

Rufus, the RV, will claim the Certificate of Completion.  Fran and I will have to be satisfied with T-Shirts.

We wanted to continue on US50 until Salina, UT where we could pickup I-70 east.

But short of Salina we were detoured by a flash flood.


We are now in Arches National Park for a couple days.  Then we will continue our eastward journey.  

Next stop is Palisade CO for western slope peaches and to replenish our wine :)


July 26, 2021

Road Trip 2021 - Nevada City and Grass Valley

West of Truckee California is Nevada City and Grass Valley.  San Diego’s Armchair Hiker lived in this area for 30 years.  I used his blog on Donner Pass as a list of suggestions for our time in the area.  Jeff loaded us up with lots of reasons this was a great place to grow up.  He's hiked much of the Donner and Emigrant Trails, search his blog for hikes and ideas when visiting this area.  One thing he did not mention is how difficult it would be to find RV parking on the steep streets of Nevada City.  With the help of the local sheriff we were directed to a back lot, just big enough for our little rig.

But I need to start with our travel here and what we missed, due to road construction on Donner Pass Road. From Jeff's Donner Pass blog we missed:
No petroglyphs
No China Wall
No Tunnels (altho we could see them from I-80)
No [Bixbie] bridge (altho we could see it as well).

However CA-20 is a beautiful 2-lane drive through the forests.  The Omega Diggings Overlook offers a rest stop with a short nature trail to the viewpoint.


The Chamber of Commerce was closed during our visit.  A walking tour guide would have been helpful, but we did fine wandering the Historic District on our own, with the help of the kiosk and a crappy pdf map I had downloaded.

Mark Twain said of the 10 Stamp Mill:


In addition to the mill, the city park also displays the water fittings and cannons used to erode the gold ore from the hills.


This Pelton Water Wheel was also spun with water pressure and generated electricity for Nevada City until 1987.

Yes Pacific Gas and Electric got their start in Nevada City, their first office was in the National Hotel.  Back then California had water ... 

The Nevada Theater, California's Oldest Existing Theatre, opened in September 1865.

Mark Twain, Jack London, Emma Nevada and many others performed here.  The theater is still in use today, but not open on our visit.

There was a large Chinese labor population in Nevada City.


Which inspired us to have a very good and inexpensive Chinese lunch.  I noticed my camera battery was flashing it's about to die warning at lunch.

With my camera battery low, I switched to the cell phone to take pictures after lunch.  I did not realize the lens was scratched until reviewing the pictures.  So no more photos of Nevada City.

But before heading south to Grass Valley we learned that Nevada City was the inspiration for the movie Paint Your Wagon!  Altho not filmed there.
Bull and Bear Fight - yup
Tunnels under the town -yup
Woman with two husbands - yup
Bars, brothels, no churches - yup
All part of the history of Nevada City.  At the end of the movie Lee Marvin leaves for Red Dog – yup it’s just up the hill.
And Herbert Hoover worked in the gold mines there long before becoming president.

Nevada City is the county seat for Nevada County, but the county fairgrounds are south in Grass Valley.  We spent the night at the Nevada County Fairgrounds RV Park with full hookups and long free hot showers.

We spent some time touring the Empire Mine Historic Park.  Founded by Bourne many of the structures and gardens remain in very good condition.


There are a pair of fountains above the reflecting pool.

Large manicured lawns surround the cottage.

Yes that is the cottage!

Miners worked at depths of nearly a mile below ground to extract 5.8 million ounces of gold before the mine was closed in 1956.  Geologists estimate that up to 80% of the gold remains underground.

Nope not a job I would want!

And if rusty stuff is your thing, there is more than enough to satisfy!

Glad I keep my tetanus shot up to date!

We are now heading further east on the ‘Loneliest Road in America’.  Once we complete that journey I'll post the details.