September 16, 2007
  The Loneliest Road In America

U.S. Highway 50, Nevada

(U.S. Highway 50, Nevada, April 2007. Image copyright Hamish Reid. Click on image above for larger version).

U.S. 50 through Nevada, the self-proclaimed "Loneliest Road In America", one of the great American high desert drives. You drive for miles along a flat straight stretch of two-lane blacktop across the desert floor, surrounded by sagebrush and playas, not another vehicle in sight, heading straight towards a sheer 10,000' snow-clad range, wondering how the hell you're going to get through it; the road bends or curves a little, you rise up to six or seven thousand feet as the road twists through the snow and the rocks, and suddenly you're heading downhill again to the next long straight stretch….

Yes, it's yet another desert two-lane blacktop image, but I couldn't resist. It probably wouldn't have worked without the cloud cover and the subdued light that tends to result from that. The first time I drove through here, sometime in the early 1990's, it had the same cloud cover, but there was also a foot of snow over everything, a novel sight for someone so used to the hot high deserts of California. This time there was just snow on the hills and ranges, until a little further down US 50, where it snowed heavily on me from this side of Austin all the way to Ely.

This image was taken from approximately the centre of the Google Maps snippet below, between Fallon and Austin (Google maps — and the topos they're from originally — seems to like putting names like "Middlegate" or "Frenchman" on their maps in remote places like this, but it's not as though there's much of a settlement there in most of these places, let alone a town or village). If you zoom in a few clicks you'll see a long straight track heading south from US 50; this is the Fairview Peak Earthquake Faults "road" whose signpost is a few hundred metres to the left of the highway above, just down the hill from where I was taking the photo. Some fifteen years ago on a bitterly cold still November morning I went down that side road in a 4WD on top of about six inches of fresh trackless snow, with that same low glowering grey sky above me, not always quite sure where the track was, and after what seemed like a long trip further and further into nothingness, just as the track turned and opened up onto another long shallow valley that stretched into the central Nevada greyness, I lost my nerve. I stopped for a while, had a bite to eat, listened to the silence, wandered about the snow a bit, then turned around and headed for the relatively-crowded safety of Highway 50.

Rugged country, for sure.

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Nice photo. I like the gentle curve of the road the the slice of blue in the far background.
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Hamish Reid is a photographer, designer, and software engineer living and working in the Jingletown district of Oakland, California. This is his full profile.

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