The Lonely Road

Posted November 10, 2020 – Narrated by Carmen
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Take it easy, Take it easy

     Don’t let the sound of your own wheels

Drive you crazy

     Lighten up while you still can

Don’t even try to understand

     Just find a place to make your stand

And take it easy

        – The Eagles

We saw it coming for a half-mile or so.

Positioned low, a few inches above the vast saltbush and sage crusted landscape bordering the unfinished asphalt edge of Highway 50 – The Loneliest Road in America – we spotted a sign.

Passing it at 58 mph, the bold 12″ letters clearly read, “Strange Days Indeed.” I noted that the sign was so fresh I could almost smell the paint. Jim – the guy at the wheel with the encyclopedic Beatles Brain – sang a few bars of Nobody Told Me.

Seriously? You think that’s referencing John Lennon’s UFO?

“Look around,” was his response.

Point taken.

This is exactly the kind of place to experience a random sighting that gets you committed to lunacy for a lack of corroborating witnesses.

Then, as if on cue from Stephen King’s keyboard, Jim pointed out some very suspicious clouds. One looked quite familiar.

I shot him a spooky look and vocalized the Twilight Zone intro.

The sign was probably some random act by a bored provocateur – its effect pronounced because we hadn’t seen another vehicle in the last quarter hour.

Clearly, the sign was new. No evidence of fading, warping or tilting.

“I’m sure it’s about the pandemic,” I said, not ready to let it go.

“Or politics,” Jim said.

Could be. The plague is almost a year old, but the polarized politics – embedded in every dot and tittle – are coming to a head. The Doors’ Strange Days came to mind – a creepy song for a strange pandemic and this never-ending hyper-partisanship that just keeps going on and on like this creepy road …

Jim and I like to congratulate ourselves for our endurance, fortitude and ingenuity to find safe locations, but the 50 shifted us into the reality of the situation. Avoiding human contact has taken a toll. It isn’t normal to live like this.

Had we seen these strange days coming five years ago would we have made a different lifestyle choice?

“Like what?” Jim asked.

Again, my troubadour makes a valid point. Someday, when the dust settles, we may find a shady spot to pull off … but until something gives, LIB is a keen, elegant solution for these uncertain times. Mobility is the tactic we need to weave through this blurry, unpredictable landscape.

A car passed. “Thirty miles,” Jim said.

“Good call. You win,” I said.

Yep, we were taking bets. What else is there to do? The eerie isolation released our inner teenagers. We belted out several rounds of Why Don’t We Do It In The Road as Pico howled along. The pilots who patrol this road probably have some really great stories.

As the road continued, the conversation flowed. We got hits from all directions. Everything’s up for grabs on the monotonous, existential landscape of Highway 50 where the road holds a grip on time and space.

Jim even seemed to enjoy my riff on the idealistic and spiritual concepts about traveling in a straight line.

Western origins of the ancient curse, “straight to hell” can be traced to the myth of Satan being deposed to hell at the end of Saint Michael’s straight and mighty sword. The taboo of standing chopsticks upright in a bowl of rice, the curves in garden paths, and the avoidance of perfectly aligned doorways are all mixed into the hoodoo.

Suppressing thoughts of zombie road blocks, we continued as the 50 screwed into our mental underbrush like a coyote flushes out hidden jackrabbits that skitter helter-skelter across the road.

But, eventually, we relaxed into the rhythm of the summits and the valleys – kinda like riding a roller coaster on downers – and recalled the good ol’ days of our youth … favorite teachers, professors, directors … we grieved opportunities missed, celebrated victories achieved, and mused over blessings dropped into our laps out of the blue.

We laughed till our stomachs hurt as we recalled watching Blazing Saddles every night from my terrace at the The Winner’s Circle Lodge next door to the Del Mar Drive-in Theatre when I was San Diego County’s 1974 Fairest of the Fair – consort to Don Diego, played by the dashing Tommy Hernandez.

We’re not just over the hill, we are history.

It’s so wise to travel in partnership on the 50 because even with the Official Survival Guide many travelers go full tilt, drive off the road and throw their shoes up into the trees.

We pulled out of our wonderful Mackinaw campsite on Fish Lake and passed through the small town of Salina which recons with a dark and abnormal history.

Then, we crossed the Nevada state line.

the Loneliest Road in America
In 1986, Life Magazine coined the name, “the Loneliest Road in America.” The article advised avoiding it unless one is confident of one’s survival skills. “There are no points of interest. We don’t recommend it.” – Only In Your State

For several enlightening days of solitude, we traveled across the True West.

In quiet, scenic, pensive reflection we surrendered to the past on this old Pony Express Trail and – considering how it hasn’t changed all that much – grateful to be traveling it in modern luxury.

However, it was not our intention to explore this fascinating historic highway.

If it were, we’d have spent a few more days taking side trips. And dagnabbit, if these were not such strange times we’d have had our trusty Survival Guide stamped by friendly officials at the tourist offices and merchants at Baker, Ely, Eureka, Fallon, Dayton and Fernley.

But, as it happened, 50 was simply the most direct route to our Lake Tahoe destination. So, this drive merely served as our introduction.

Traveling from Carson City to The Great Basin National Park is The Adventure Motorists’ right of passage. We love traveling Route 66, but the 50 is a completely different experience – it is more scenic, authentic and infinitely more lonely.

This long stretch is the perfect environment to encounter wild mustangs, buzzards, coyotes, dust devils, UFO’s and VW sized tumbleweeds. The historic and delightful small towns – located hundreds of miles apart – took us by surprise. With great restaurants and boom town structures and culture still intact, these outposts are oases for travel weariness.

There is almost no commercialization between the small towns on the 50, so fueling up is crucial.

Some of the summits can reach more than 11,000 feet so, bring a coat.

Due to fabulous connectivity along the way – even in the most remote locations – we watched our favorite program, The Great British Baking Show. So in tribute, I would describe the 50 as kind of like a deconstructed German Chocolate layer cake: a generous layer of nice smooth road …

a dollop of mountains …

and a sprinkle of delicious nuts (quirky small town).

Then, repeat …

The excellent free dry-camping is the cherry on top.

This beautiful desert campground on Bureau of Land Management, BLM, property was one of the nicest no cost, BLM campgrounds we have ever had the pleasure to enjoy.

It was hot and dry so we ended the day with a nice cold dinner, and Pico licked the lids.

Then after another long stretch of highway (or two) …

Another mountain pass, or two…

And another small town, or two…

we stopped for a second night at Hickison Petroglyph Recreation Area, another free BLM (Bureau of Land Management) campground.

Light rain accompanied by a soft cool breeze joined us for the cold evening nosh in the wilderness. We hear this location is ideal for stargazing on clear nights.

On our third day we headed for a famous Nevada oasis. Our goal was to grab a quick outside lunch at the historic Middlegate Station near Fallon.

Founded by James Simpson in the 1800s, this saloon and rest stop was named for the gate-like mountains surrounding the stop. With the east being Eastgate, the west being Westgate, this tiny rural Nevada town is called Middlegate.

After lunch and a fuel-up, we departed Middlegate and drove our last stretch of 50. As we crested the last pass we caught a whiff of smoke – and, descending, we saw the smoke and flames in the distance. We bid farewell (for now) to the Loneliest Highway and followed the detours around another wildfire.

But, at long last, the lonely road had come to an end. No, it was not a time warp. It was just an illusion of short-sightedness, a common human affliction, which can result in extraordinary and devastating miscalculations.

Here’s a sign I’d like to post on all of America’s highways.

If you want to see our exact route, click here.

*photos in this post (unless otherwise noted) were taken and copyrighted by Living In Beauty.


61 thoughts on “The Lonely Road

    1. It must be but we never saw a group or even single motorcycle. We hit it during an extremely quiet time. The campgrounds had plenty of open spaces. I’ve heard that there are times when the road is busy. Someday we will research that.

      Thank you for being with us!

      Safe and Happy Travels!

      LIB

  1. Love your posts! A true helping of human interest and wit and beauty. Where will you stay at Tahoe? Dave and I lived in Incline Village for a short stint. Tahoe area is so beautiful. Love you both.

    1. Hey Eva! We often sense your and your Prince’s support. Thank you for being on board.

      We stayed at the William Kent National Park this time in Tahoe. It was very smoky for the first few days, but it finally cleared up.

      Because we hadn’t made reservations, we had to move around the campground a couple of times. Over the weekend, there was no space for us, but fortunately, there is a church – Christ The King Lutheran who allows overnight RV camping in their parking lot in exchange for a donation to their housing for homeless program. We thought that was a fabulous idea. Many churches are simply not equipped or staffed to help the homeless on their property, but if they have a suitable parking lot, they can finance other work by hosting fully equipped RVs. Brilliant. Also, we got to meet some fascinating travelers – we all put on our masks and made a big social distanced circle and celebrated the good work we were doing for the community by staying at the church.

      We have a good friend who lives in Incline! But because of covid, we weren’t able to catch up with him. Incline is a beautiful area of one the most beautiful places in the world. Jim says when it stops snowing in Tahoe we can live there 😀

      You stay safe and well, okay?

      Love you!

      Safe and Happy Travels!

      Carmen & Jim

    1. Thanks Jack,

      We’re trying our best to stay positive and be a part of the solution.

      Everyday we just want to wake up and acknowledge that it is a good world and even though there are trials, life is a blessing. That is our contribution and it is an honor to cheer up your inbox.

      Stay safe out there.

      LIB

  2. I had the great experience of exploring Hwy 50 on an Irvine Valley College Geology Pre-Trip. We were headed to Great Basin and Zion National Park, and a side trip to the Professor’s research area. I’ll never forget the wild Mustangs running parallel to our vehicle, the Cave Tour in Basin NP and miles of straight road. Happy Travels

    1. We saw the mustangs too Kathy! They were running way out there. I just couldn’t get the camera focused on them. We saw a herd of antelope too and I think a pack of donkeys. It was so amazing. It would be a great place to hire a small plane for a sightseeing trip. That was our frustration … if only we were higher up we could see where we are. We WILL do this again RIGHT someday – with the Survival Guide and at least a half day in each town. The camping really is awesome. Most of them were a few thousand feet high, so they were cooler at night than the valley.

      It’s awesome to have such an adventurer traveling along with us. Thank you.

      Stay safe out there.

      LIB

    1. Hey Don!

      We aim to please. There will be more about Hwy 50 – maybe same time next year, before the snow.

      Thank you for being with us.

      Safe and Happy Travels!

      LIB

  3. My former husband, deceased, mapped that entire area for the USGS. We camped at Gabbs and other remote areas. Natural beauty and serenity.

    1. Hey Jackie!

      There is so much I would like to know about this road. If you know of any resources you can pass on, please do.

      The small remote towns were fascinating. They seem to have some mining still going on and, of course, tourism. Evidently, they have a strong economic base of regular visitors who come through – many of them as colorful as the towns. There is a sense of history I would like to better understand.

      Thank you for being with us.

      Safe and Happy Travels, Jackie!

      LIB

  4. Thank you for sharing your adventures across the 50… we had the pleasure of traveling it a few years ago & it is an eerily beautiful time machine that takes you back to the uncharted, wild wild west! Nearing the end (& starting to see signs of modern civilization again), we couldn’t help but having “What a Long, Strange Trip It’s Been” pop into our heads! Although we loved it & plan to do it again with many stops & side trips, we definitely wouldn’t drive it at night & miss the strange beauty of it all (or take the chance of being abducted by the aliens that surely fly above it)! LOL! Safe travels friends & can’t wait for your next adventure post!
    Gina J.
    Henderson, NV.

    1. Hey Gina!

      That strange road got under your skin too, I see. That road has stories and it seems to hold onto the energy. Knowing that it’s a Pony Express trail I couldn’t get that Quentin Tarantino film, The Hateful Eight out of my mind. So, we kept conversation light and upbeat. But, that’s what those cute little towns are for – to shake off the road, cast your eyes on friendly faces, take a walk, have a good meal … but we just couldn’t risk that this time. I hope the little towns recover from the pandemic.

      Absolutely correct. Do not drive this road at night! There are large wild animals roaming out there. Not safe. Maybe that’s why they offer free camping – to ensure folks have a safe place to rest overnight. I’m sure the BLM campgrounds have saved lives.

      Thank you for being with us, Gina. Be well, Stay safe!

      LIB

  5. Just checked out your site and your travels. Amazing. Hoping to do a few years off grid traveling around Europe. Just got to finish restoring this mid 70s airstream first

    1. Hey Paul!

      You’re living our dream! We would love to do this in Europe someday. Are you a member of the Airstream Europe Unit? Blogging? We’d love to follow.

      Our goal is to see the US, Mexico and Canada first – but someday … Europe!

      Safe and Happy Travels!

      LIB

    1. So happy to have you with us Cheryl,

      This fabulous place isn’t everyone’s cup of tea, but we were delighted to be there.

      Safe and Happy Travels!

      LIB

  6. I find Nevada and Pennsylvania to have a basic similarity or two. In both states you seem to hit a town in a valley, climb a hill and down into another valley and another town. It is just in a quite different scale.

    1. Hey Roger!

      That’s an interesting observation. We need to spend more time in Pennsylvania – maybe next Autumn. We love small mountain towns – so much so, we considered retiring in Idylwild, CA – a beautiful place.

      Thank you for joining us on this crazy journey,

      Be safe out there!

      LIB

        1. Yes. We could see ourselves retiring in either of those states – I kinda fell in love with Wickenburg, AZ – also adore just about all of South Texas border country and Nevada around Lake Tahoe. Still not discounting possibilities in South Carolina (Bluffton) Lost coast of Florida (Crystal River) CA (Arcadia) WA (Puget Sound area) and we love so much of Kentucky and Louisiana – all of it, just all of it. Very difficult decision to make … But we will think about that tomorrow.

  7. We did that, too. We followed a lot of the Donner Party’s route and it was amazing! Lots of historical markers along the way explains how they got in such a predicament.

    1. Oh … The Donner Party … that story haunts me. Back in the day I performed in an original three-person play about that tragic expedition. It would be a great plan to follow the historic route. It pained us to ignore all the side trips. Sometimes we are just in too much of a hurry and all we can do is say, “next time” and hope the opportunity comes again.

      Thank you, Rose Ann, for sharing and for being with us.

      Safe and Happy Travels!

      LIB

    1. It really is amazing, Wendy. I do think we were there during a lovely time – not too hot, not too cool, no snow yet, and the very, very low traffic may have been due to covid … I’m not sure. Maybe it was Lady Luck.

      Thank you for being with us!

      Safe and Happy Travels!

      LIB

  8. Hi Carmen & Jim,
    I love reading your LIB blogs. I especially enjoyed all your links of songs, etc. I actually hadn’t hear of that song by The Doors.
    Thanks for all your info on Hwy. 50. Boy, it sure was lonely. Definitely best traveled with a companion.
    Jeanne & Michael

    1. Jeanne and Michael! Hey!!!! So great to hear from you two again! We keep saying that we might meet up, and someday there WILL be an end to this long and lonely Covid road.

      I love The Doors but Jim not so much. Our music choices are kind of polar opposite but the tension makes life more exciting 😄

      Thank you for hanging out with us on the never-ending camping trip.

      Safe and Happy Travels!

      LIB

  9. Been there. Every valley and mountain range looks like the last one. Drive a mile and you see 10 jack rabbits, and I have never seen such large Pronghorn. Envious….

    1. Hey Michael & Marilyn!

      Yes, great description – that’s the way it is: Same thing. Jackrabbits. Same thing. Pronghorn. Same thing. Cowboy town. Same thing. Piney mountains. Same thing …

      Thanks for coming along and Safe and Happy Travels!

      LIB

  10. I may be weird, but roads like that kinda creep me out. Like, if you break down on the side of the road, ya know who’s gonna show up to help you? A serial killer, that’s who. It’s the only way that story ends, I’m telling you…

    🙂

    Anyway, glad you didn’t break down and you made it back to civilization safe and sound.

    Speaking of which, where are you headed this winter? We’re making our way toward sunny San Diego and it’s not a moment too soon. Oregon has suddenly become cold and rainy and snowy and not good for RV living. Time to head for the sunshine. Hope it’s warm where you are!

    1. Hey Laura!

      We hear you on the break down issue. According to my research there are entire rusted out junkyards all along the 50 full of vehicles that have been hauled out of the desert that were just left there to rot – some, decades old.

      Dang. Missed you again. We’re heading for the deep south. Looking for warm white sand beaches. Almost there now.

      FYI: we recently checked out Sweetwater Summit – a San Diego County campground – and think it’s worth a try. Some of the sites (only toward the top of the hill) were quite nice. We’re familiar with or have camped in almost every campground in the county, so feel free to ask if you have a question.

      https://www.sdparks.org/content/sdparks/en/park-pages/SweetwaterSummit.html

      We will check out http://www.chapter3travels for info about Oregon – we need to spend more time up there.

      If you go to The Coronado Brewery. Please say hey to Tim, Tiffany and Lauren for us.

      Safe and Happy and Sunny Travels! Enjoy our beautiful city in the fantastic state of California!

      Carmen & Jim

      1. Hey!

        That is exactly where we’re headed now… Sweetwater. We stayed there a couple years ago and loved it. It offers a nice balance to MB. Sweetwater feels spacious and natural, but is obviously outside the city center. MB is a soulless parking lot, but you can walk to stuff. We like to have a bit of both, so we’re visiting each one this year. 🙂

        We still haven’t checked out the other San Diego county parks, but I’m glad to hear we seem to have found a good one!

        Enjoy those white sand beaches. They are gorgeous!

        Safe travels!

        Laura

  11. You two rock! We too are “streamers” and live 6 months a year in it. We love your easy style of finding campsites particularly the church parking lot. Those are memories! Safe travels you two.

    1. Hey Dave & Carol!

      It’s great to hear from you. Yes, it’s all about the memories. That’s why we blog. This is the record of our travels and it will give us so much joy someday to look back on this record and remember all the friends who shared it with us.

      Thank you for your wishes for safe travel. We truly believe there’s power in that.

      You know, finding campsites is easy for me because I let Jim do that work However, Jim is uniquely gifted in that regard. Honestly, I don’t know how he does it. I’ve asked him many times to write a blog about how he targets locations and finds areas to park. He says there are too many details and that the blog entry would have to be the size of a book. So, maybe if enough people ask him he will write the “the book.”

      Now you two be Safe out there and have Happy Travels!

      LIB

  12. Hi Carmen and Jim,
    great write up. I love all the connections you make to music, film, literature. We drove little part of your route last year from Middlegate to Carson City and loved it. We came from Berlin ichthyosaur state park (a clear recommendation) which is very beautiful and remote aswell.
    Save travels
    Claudia

    1. Claudia! Thank you for that recommendation. We are pinning it on our map.

      We always love hearing from you. Be safe out there and have a great time!

      xoxo,

      LIB

  13. Made that drive twice between ‘92-‘95 while living in Las Vegas.

    Drove it in the dark both times due to schedules. Thanks for showing me what I missed.

    Second trip was for work-Reno Trade show.
    First was more memorable.

    Left Vegas after work Wednesday night with my new bride in our van, bound for Thanksgiving and some skiing in Tahoe.

    Drove all night until I couldn’t. Remember getting tailed by an officer from one end of a small town to the other, crossing my fingers I didn’t get pulled over.

    Eventually pulled over on a roadside turnout near Tahoe because our rented condo wouldn’t be available until morning and I had met my limit-younger days.

    It was pitch black and foggy so we couldn’t see a thing. We caught a few chilly hours of sleep.

    When he sun came up, we had our first view of Lake Tahoe from that pull-out.
    Beautiful and well worth the trip!

    1. Hey Dean!

      That view of Tahoe from that pull out – pretty sure we know it. I really can’t think of a more delightful site than that gorgeous turquoise alpine lake from above.

      Thank you for the story. For me, with my night blindness, it’s chilling to imagine driving that road at night. So relieved your experience ended without incident.

      I hope you are able to drive the 50 in the sunshine someday.

      Safe and Happy Travels, Dean!

      LIB

    1. Hey Michelle!

      Thank you for hopping on the Beauty wagon – so happy to have you with us. It is a beautiful country!

      Safe and Happy Travels!

      LIB

    1. Hey Gayle! Thanks for being with us.

      We should consult with you. Next time, we’d like to drive the 50 we’d like to only drive 20-40 miles between stops and spend at least 2 days in each location – take our time and really soak in the lonely.

      LIB

  14. Love this — that road looked like west Texas — long, straight and small hills. But beautiful and eerie. Thanks for sharing — always wonderful to follow your travels.

    1. Thank you Jan! We are so grateful for your friendship and the guidance you give us for our healthcare needs.

      Love,

      Carmen & Jim

  15. I’m familiar with Highway 50 – we’ve done long stretches of it in the past – but not with your songs or TV shows… Blame my roots (Belgium) and lack of TV time. 🙂 Your windshield is much cleaner than ours, I notice. Great boondocking sites and scrumptious meals! Enjoy Lake Tahoe, if you’re still there… might have gotten too cold by now?

    1. Hey Liesbet!

      The TV watching is kind of new to us and, yes, it is a time drain sometimes. Decades ago, when our son arrived, we gave up television – threw the contraptions out – and have been quite happy without it. This return to watching series and programs on Netflix is more experimental now than habitual – though the pandemic has opened us more to watching reality shows which can be addictive. But, there is research in it. I would like to write a series for television – a sweeping historic drama about the evolution of religion in America. I know it sounds ambitious for a person who lives on the road, but in the near future I’d like to be enrolled in an online film and television writing course.

      We both love Lake Tahoe – every time we’re there we wonder why we don’t spend the entire summer season there. But now we are now in Tennessee – at my sister’s beautiful home in The Smoky Mountains. It is raining and windy outside. The creeks and rivers are flowing with fallen leaves and the trees look like phantoms against the misty mountains, but the weather is still warm enough. We are heading toward Alabama beaches, hoping for warm, white sand, beach walks and kayaking.

      We must meet up sometime. It would be wonderful to meet you and Mark. Hugs to Maya.

      Safe and Happy Travels!

      – Carmen at LIB

      1. Hi Carmen!

        Writing a TV series… that’s a lofty goal. But, I’m sure if you put your mind to it, you can – and will – do it!! I once said “I’ll write a book one day!” As many people do, probably. 🙂 But, guess what? It is done and “Plunge “will be available by the end of the month!!!

        A coupe of weeks ago, we were in the Great Smoky Mountains ourselves, in North Carolina. It was extremely busy with rarely anyone wearing a mask within feet of each other! We had to leave prematurely. Here, in Texas, it’s even worse… Inside stores (namely Walmart) less than 50% of the people wear a mask. Insane….

        Enjoy those beaches and, yes, we ought to meet one day. I’m sure we have many stories – and aspirations – to share!!!

  16. We did this road on the way home from Utah late September. Google said going through Vegas was faster but we’ve done that Mojave route so many times we wanted a change. Glad we did. Unfortunately wildfire smoke was so bad near Great Basin NP we pressed on but found clear skies and amazing boondocking further on.

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