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Day 73 – Woodfords to Plymouth CA

It never ceases to amaze me how much the scenery can change in a day, and this day had more changes than just about any of them on the trip so far. I went from the West side of the Sierra, past Aspen meadows and the meandering Carson River, by huge pines twisted by the wind, up and over Carson pass, down again through pine forests, into the foothills, and stopped in the golden hills of the foothill wine country. All the while, the scenery getting more and more familiar, more like home.

Today’s ride started with serious climbing right off the bat. I found myself in my “grandpa gear” as soon as I got out of the parking lot. But I was in no hurry and it was great to just spin and drink in the scenery and the fresh mountain air.

Climbing for the last time up to Carson Pass.  View from the handlebars.

Turns out I’m still on and off of the Pony Express Trail. It went right through Woodfords, as did the Emigrant Trail explored by Kit Carson, who was a scout for Fremont exploration of the northwest. So there’s a lot of history on this route. As I look out over all these steep granite slopes, I can’t even imagine crossing this country in a horse-drawn wagon. Those folks were tough.

In the first 5 miles I pedaled by an old favorite of Megan’s and mine, Sorensens. It’s been our base camp for seeing the October Aspen colors more than once and the nearby Hope Valley is about as ideal a Sierra Mountain meadow as you could imagine.

The West Fork of the Carson River as it tumbles down out of Hope Valley.
Same river, and me reconsidering my decision to leave the fly rod at home (again).

I didn’t move fast at all today. I found myself lingering in beautiful spots as long as I could while still leaving time make my destination tonight. But when it was time to move on, I had a new salve for the pain of letting go of a beautiful spot – “it’s OK, I can come back here next week if I want.” Literally, I’m about a 4 hour drive from home, and only a 2 day bike trip.

A lot of folks are up here now specifically for the wildflowers. Such a wet year has produced a bumper crop.
I’m fascinated by the trees near the summit of the pass. Not hard to tell which way Mariah blows up here.

The Sierra are distinctly different from the mountains of Utah and Nevada. All of this granite! It’ shines bright in the daytime and the big round shapes are such a great contrast with the straight trunks and twisted limbs of the trees at high altitude. I found myself trying to photograph them and get it right and suddenly realized that I was trying to retake an Angel Adams photo I’d seen before – which is a pretty high bar to set. I was tempted to through in the towel on that note.

Take 2
Take 3
The pass is just around that corner at the top. I can coast home from there, right?

It took awhile to get over the pass but it really wan’t too bad – just takes patience and that’s easy when there’s so much to look at. When I reached the pass I pulled over at the visitor’s station at the top, I met “Rabbit and Squid” (their “trail names”) who are hiking the full 2,650 miles of the Pacific Crest Trail.

Last pass (tear)
Rabbit and Squid (l to r). We talked mostly about food and how you can’t get enough of it. I’ll miss that. And Mark in the back who helped me with water at the summit (free for hikers and x-country cyclists only!). I feel so welcome.

I never thought of having a “tour name.” I kind of like that idea – let’s you maintain some privacy and assume a different identty of your own making.

They were having a great trip and felt they timed it pretty well. I think that’s been tough this year because we got so much snow many folks were too early and got bogged down by snow still on the trail.

After cresting the pass it was down, down, down. Well there’s the Carson spur that is up, then down some more. Down past Caples, Silver and Bear Lakes, past the vista over the American River Canyon, down into the the deep pine forests.

Caples Lake, west of the pass.
High country wildflowers.
Anyone who’s driven this route will remember this view. It looks out over one of the branches of the American River (I think the Silver Fork?). I’ll be following the American for awhile tomorrow, right through our capital city. ZOOM IN – it’s really a pano pic in disguise.

I stopped to have lunch in Cooks crossing and got there at 2:10 when they close at 2:00. But they were still full and let me in. Whew, I was counting on those calories. The women who worked there warned me that my next road, Shake Ridge Road, was closed due to a landslide. But they heard that other cyclists had made it through. That was good enough for me.

Hmmm, it doesn’t look closed, only sort of, wounded.
I didn’t go too fast through here, ready for the road to be gone at any time. But most of the cleanup was done. There’s still a pretty good gash out of the road, and what’s left is still covered in mud and debri, but I’ve had worse, in the dark, and wetter.

Following this road downhill, the country got drier, hotter and more like the foothills instead of the mountains. When I hit the manzanita I really started to feel close to home.

A little farther and we’re in the “golden hills” of CA, where the landscapes dominated by live oak. I’d forgotten what an odd combination of lush and dry they are. It rains a lot here in the winter, but in the summer it’s bone dry.

Our golden state.

And a little farther down and I’m in California wine country, Plymouth. Most people know about Napa and Sonoma, but there are growing wine areas in the foothills, and down state too. The owners of the place I’m staying tonight said that when they moved here 11 years ago, there were 12 wineries nearby. Now there are 45.

Where there’s water there’s wine from here to the coast.
Main Street in Plymouth. Cute town, lots of old buildings and a great vibe. This place is on the way to turning into another Healdsburg or Volcano. Buy now.

Day 72 – Rest Day in Woodfords CA

As I near the end of the ride my emotions well up. Today has been lovely to spend my time, doing as I please, preparing for a final push home and trying to soak up the essence of this trip, trying to breathe it in and appreciate this final leg of the journey to its fullest.

The West Fork of the Carson about 50m from my lovely cheap hotel in Woodfords CA. I’ve fished the East Fork a stones throw from here and the two join together not far from here.

I’m resisting the urge to wrap up the trip in some kind of narrative closure. That would be artificial to me. In some ways I see this trip as a simple compilation of a lot of things that happened as a result of putting myself in an unusual situation. But it would also be artificial to pretend that this trip hasn’t been profoundly changing for me. It has, though perhaps in ways that are hard to communicate properly. I can describe what has changed for me, what I’ve seen, what I’ve taken out of those experiences. But in a way it’s frustrating to communicate, partly because of the experiential way that one learns, or probably I should say that I learn. I can read advice, or about the experiences of others and try to learn from it. But it’s not the same as experiencing something yourself, directly. I’m kind of thick that way, and I wish that I could learn from the experience of others as I can from my own experiences. But I can’t. Perhaps at least it sets you up for being open to ideas or perspectives you’ve read or heard about. Maybe that’s the best to hope for.

The road to Grover Hot Springs. The trees here are so tall – bigger than any that I’ve seen since Colorado, or ever on this trip?

So as I say, I’m trying to resist tying this into a neat bundle, but I’ve also come away from this experience with some perspectives that are pretty defined for me. Perhaps there are themes that have arisen from my thoughts over these 70+ days that are clear and apparent to me, and, frankly I have no idea whether they’ve come through in my daily posts or not (I’ve not reread any of them yet, partly to keep my perspective as is). And I’m under no delusion that what I’ve learned is anything new under the sun. Only that a few things are (perhaps finally) sinking in for me and I want to get them down in the hopes of holding on to them as I re-enter “normal” life. Actually I hope that normal life is a bit less normal going forward, but I digress.

So, thus qualified and prefaced, here’s a crude summary of the ideas, thoughts, and musings that feel like recurring themes to me (in no particular order other than the order I recalled them). I want to hold on to these ideas that spring from nothing but experience.

  • There are an extraordinary number of generous people out there, and their generosity bears no relationship to their economic situation. They’re simply giving people. Be more like them.
  • Optimism will serve you well. Not worrying about potential bad outcomes frees your mind for better experiences. I’ve travelled the country coast to coast with all my current worldly possessions unlocked outside a variety of convenience stores, grocery stores, restaurants, etc and no one ever touched a thing. More importantly, I didn’t worry about it and enjoyed life more because of it.
  • Focus on the moment you’re in. That’s all we’ve got. Really. Be here now as much as you can. Listen when people talk. Remember their names. Find out what’s most interesting about them (there’s something unique there but sometimes you have to dig). Enjoy the beauty that surrounds us all.
  • Money is less important than you think, after the point of basic security. I’ve learned a lot from people that have a lot less money than me, are more content with their situation, and enjoy the moments of the day much more.
  • Advocating for Climate Change needs a new way of thinking. The average person has more pressing and personal concerns on their mind. As long as we present climate change action as a bitter pill to swallow we can expect people to have the same reaction as a kid forced to swallow cod liver oil. We need to reframe the whole discussion as a desire to increase happiness, well being and public health.  Focusing on happiness for us all seems like a no-brainer. Let’s run on the happiness ticket.
  • It’s important to take time to wander, wonder, and ponder. We spend so much time running from one urgent duty to the next, we hardly have time to contemplate possible futures that are out of bounds vis-a-vis our daily lives.
  • Practice. It’s not enough to read, see, and watch. You get good at what you do, repeatedly and with effort. The daily practice of cycling, for example has not just bade me a better cyclist, it’s caused me to put myself in new, real situations everyday. Writing this blog has given me practice and confidence as a writer.
  • It helps (me anyway) to make a commitment to others. Writing this blog has made me accountable to you, and driven me to get more out of every day. Knowing that I would write about every day has been a constant urge to do something meaningful; to jump in the lake, to sleep on the porch, to share my own thoughts, impressions. To put myself “out there”.
  • Seek experiences that give you pure joy. A joyful mind is one that is open to new experiences, willing to meet and help others, in the moment, and happy. What better position to prepare yourself for what’s next? I’ve been lucky enough to experience many such moments on the this trip. Just today I experienced what I’d call pure joy riding downhill, through the pines, smelling the trees, the fresh air, standing on my bike, no hands, arms outstretched like wings. Such wonderful play! Why don’t we do such things more?
  • Posture matters. You yogis out there surely already know this. Stealing a page from Suzuki Roshi here and Sensei Coach Matt. Your mind and your body are not disconnected. To be more clear – your mind and body are connected. Suzuki Roshi and others talk about one thing – body-mind. The posture you take to do something affects how you approach that thing, how others see and respond to you, and how your body reacts. A straight spine as you sit helps you think clearly, gives you confidence, and asserts your agency. When you ride, keep a flat back – use your legs and core, lift your body, don’t lock your elbows and toil. Slumping makes you appear weak, weakens your body, sets you up for failure and pain. Move like you intend to, walk like a dancer.
  • Vote with your time. If something is important to you, emphasis on important, that’s what you should spend your time on. Don’t get caught up in “obligations” that don’t serve your own priorities, make the world a better place, help your friends and family be more healthy and happy.
  • The people in your life are paramount. Remember this every day. You’re happiest when helping others to be happy, fulfilled and healthy. If it takes selfish motivation then fine. If you’re happier helping others then, damnit, do it.
  • The garden of eden is more literal than allegory. We have been given a paradise to enjoy but somehow we forget to appreciate it. There is beauty all around us that will boggle the mind. Take the time to see and appreciate it. It’s not gone. It’s not lost. It’s there for you to enjoy right now.

Ok enough. Probably a great list of things that I’m just now catching up with the rest of the adult world on. But those are the things I’m going to remind myself of, after this is done.

Thanks for listening and I look forward to any thoughts that you have in response.

Meanwhile, other pretty pictures from today.

I’m crazy attached to this bike. It has helped me beyond measure to get where I want, safely, without fail. It’s like a good friend at this point – not just a machine or piece of metal.
The meadow near Grover’s Hot Springs. I went there to soak in the warm water, and rest my bones.
The pine forests around the hot springs and Markleeville are just beautiful. Visit here and I challenge you to hang on to your stress and worry.u
I’m just slack-jawed in awe.
The trees here are so huge, steady, majestic sounds corny but true. [This is linked to a pano pic, those don’t play well with wordpress for some reason.]
The road from the hot springs to Markleeville is lovely.
Oh my god. How beautiful the world is. Go look!
I rode back to the hotel at dusk. Such beautiful colors in the sky.



Day 71 – Silver Springs NV to Woodfords CA

Big news – I’m back in California already! How the heck did that happen? In some ways it seems like it’s gone so fast. On the other hand, sometimes it seems like I’ve been traveling by bike my whole life. I’m definitely looking forward to getting home next weekend and reconnecting with Megan and Jonah. We’ve talked frequently but it’s not the same and I feel like my time away is starting to push the limits of what I’m willing to endure for this adventure. It’s time to go home.

I had an extra adventure after posting last night. I only had 4 miles to go to find the campground where I intended to stay. After checking with Eliot, I realized we were 35 miles apart across the same Lahonton reservoir. Whoops. Guess I’m on my own. Well I made the mistake of taking Google Maps bike directions, again, but hey they warned me “Beta*”.   (*Google Bike Maps are Beta; Don’t use these directions for actually getting somewhere without checking other sources.) Anyway it sent me down unpaved roads to keep me off the busy highway but since I’m in the middle of the desert, and we had a monsoon downpour while I was inhaling a pizza, the road had turned to some combination of clay, sand and water. Mostly it was OK, aside from getting splattered with sticky clay/sand. But have you tried to ride a bike across sand? If its hard and compacted, all is well. Then in a split second it gets too deep and you can’t steer and it’s easy to slip and fall. I managed to stay upright but those 4 miles took about an hour, plus an extra 15 min to find the unmarked campground in the dark. Adventure starts when stuff goes wrong, right? Well stuff was going wrong at a happy pace. Lots of adventure.

When I finally found the campground I was greatly rewarded for my efforts:

The beach was well lit with the full moon. The fish were feeding on the surface too – I could hear them and occasionally see the rings of waves they make as they nip bugs off the surface of the water.

And they had warm showers! 50 cents for 5 minutes!

My sentiments exactly (sign on the shower door, customized a little)..

It was past 10:00  so instead of trying to set up camp, I just snagged the little porch on the back of the restroom building. Everyone nearby was in RVs so I seemed to be the only person using them.

Taken this morning. I just put my ground cover, air mattress and sleeping quilt on the sidewalk behind my bike. That’s probably against the rules but I didn’t think it bothered anyone, it gave me handy access to electricity (well in the fortunately unlocked maintenance room), showers, restroom and a nice view of the lake.

There’s actually a word I’ve heard a lot this summer for things like this – “stealth camping” – which, as I understand it, means camping in unusual spots, quasi-legally, and ideally unnoticed/undetected.

The lake was very still this morning as the sun came up. No sleeping in for me – the sun shone directly in my eyes at first light.
Kind of hard to get motivated to leave. I think it took me an hour and 45 mins to make breakfast and through my stuff on my bike.
There’s something just odd about a huge lake in the desert.

Once I made it on the road the miles went fast, with Mariah again showing me great kindness with breezes at my back. Then I saw this on the lot of “Big Dawg Auto Sales.”

Hey, what’s THAT doing HERE?

Folks from the Bay Area will recognize this as one of the only 8 remaining heads from the now-defunct Doggie Diner chain. At one time there were 30 of them and there was a big effort to preserve the last remaining one in use.

How the hell did they get beat out by McD’s?  Of course if they had, we’d all be sick of these damn dog heads and instead there’d be a charming picture of some old Golden Arches here.
While on the lot, I got to talking with a guy who does restoration for the dealership. This is his current project, the first Covette off the line in 1981. Two years later, Chevy “updated” the design and totally blew it. This design was supposed to be based on a shark, complete with gills on the side.
I passed through Dayton which is a cute old town. It was the site of Nevada’s first gold strike in 1849. There seem to be a lot of people moving into the area.
This one’s for Jonah though now he says he’s all done with El Caminos (and presumably Rancheros). This is actually way cooler than the El Camino anyway, although if I’m to stay true to my climate change goals, we should be keeping these in museums.

I passed through Carson City today which seems nice enough. I didn’t stay long but ran a bunch of errands you can only do in a big city. Important things like finding Starbucks instant coffee (the only instant IMHO), Claritin, and Chamois Buttr for my sore  tuckus.

I kept thinking that I needed a photo of a one-armed bandit from a Casino somewhere but I managed to cross Nevada without ever going into one.
It would have been easy to get a pic of a pallet flag in every state. I never saw one before leaving on this trip.
Kind of can’t believe this is the first one of these I’ve seen.

Near here a woman flagged me down to stop by her driveway. She gave me a bottle of cold water and said that she passed me on the road and said she thought I must be hot. So she waited for me to come by and give me one (actually she offered 2). How kind and considerate is that?

After a slight detour through Genoa (another really cute town worth exploring for a few hours) I crossed into California. Wow, it’s feeling like I might actually get home soon; next Saturday to be exact.

They said that Californy is the place you oughta be, so we loaded up the truck and we moved to Beverly. Well not exactly, but East Bay didn’t rhyme.
Nearing Woodfords. Those are Sierras back there.

Ever since about about 9:00 this morning I’ve been getting glimpses of snow-topped Sierra peaks. After a day of pedaling, I’m close enough to summit my final pass, Carson Pass, in a day.

I’m dead tired tonight. I didn’t sleep much last night and it’s been awhile since I’ve taken a rest day. So tomorrow I’m taking it easy. One thing on the agenda is to visit Grover Hot Springs where you can swim in a warm pool including a pretty hot sauna room if I remember correctly. And then there’s ghost beads to look for, pretty pictures to search for, and Markleeville to swing by. Now if I can only find someone to lend me a fly rod for a day, the West Fork of the Carson River runs right outside my door…


Day 70 – Middlegate to Silver Springs NV

Middlegate is just a one of a kind place – probably the single most out of the way place I’ve stayed on this whole trip, and for exactly that reason, I fell into one of the oddest coincidences.

Last night I had dinner at the restaurant/bar/convenience store/gas station that is “Middlegate Station.” I wrapped up my blog and was catching up on correspondence and generally just hanging out having a beer and taking in the scene. Seems that people come from miles around because, well it’s the only place for 40 miles in any direction. After a while I struck up a conversation with a guy at the bar. He had said something that I thought was genuinely funny and we got to talking. He’s moving up to Tahoe to refurbish a house and rent it out and was hauling all his things in a Penske truck. He’s also done a cross country tour, maybe 10 years or so ago with some friends so we had lots to talk about that. After awhile he asked what I did when I’m not cycling and I told him that I’m an energy engineer. He said “That’s interesting, I used to develop software for energy engineers.” Then it struck me who he was – Colin from kiloWatthours – who I’d met several years ago. Folks at kW had even worked with him a bit to give feedback on how to make the software fit our needs. Then he realized who I was. So neither of us recognized each other, even though we’d had multiple conversations on the phone and a couple in person. We were so out of context, neither of us connected the dots until we were struck over the head with it.

We both really enjoyed the coincidence and had a great conversation, catching up on what we were doing, what’s coming up, etc. “What are the odds?” became the mantra for the night. The other odd part is that the whole reason that Colin chose to come this route (from Boston to Tahoe) was that he had stopped at the same bar/restaurant/gas station when he had come through on a bike many years before. It had struck him as a unique place and he deliberately came via route 50 to stop here. Makes me think it’s not my last beer in Middlegate.

Middlegate has a few wagons but, oddly, no manure spreaders. 🙁

The next morning I left early as is my practice these days. In about an hour Colin pulls up in his big Penske truck. He said “thought you might like some shitty lukewarm coffee” which was true and we chatted for a bit more over coffee.

Colin’s on his way to check out his new house in Tahoe. Bought sight unseen. That’s gutsy.

Then we each had to hit the road.

See ya Colin
I know it must seem like I stop at ever shrine but I don’t. Maybe I stop at half. I want to know the story behind each one.
Maybe it’s all the sage and brown that gets me so interested in the vivid colors of the artificial flowers.
Much of my last few days has been along the original Pony Express route. Did you know that it only ran for 18 months before it was replaced by telegraph? Riders were paid $25 a week (a lot) but were warned that they would risk death every day.
This shrine was for two parents, one a police officer from South Lake Tahoe, and a family friend. Their four children, also in the car, survived.

I was able to find out what happened in this case. Here’s the story if you’re interested. Knowing the back story makes these shrines just that much more solemn and meaningful.

Shortly after passing the shrine, I came upon another family stuck in the desert. This time they were “high centered” on a little road that ran parallel to 50.

Oh dear. How did you get there?

They mentioned something about investigating a mine. They had tried to turn around and got the middle of the van over a rock. The front-wheel drive had nothing to catch on and their efforts to get out had dug deep holes around the tires. I didn’t see any way to get out without a tow or some other vehicle to pull them out. We tried calling their insurance roadside service but they said they wouldn’t come out. Huh? Isn’t this what their for? The owner of the van, I thought, gave up on that pretty quickly. Again, no jack in the car, and no working phone (but 6 dogs who were no help at all). Also, the owner really said she couldn’t afford a tow. So Nevada HP to the rescue again. Their going to start blocking my number if I keep treating them like AAA.

So we called NHP and they once again said they’d send someone out. With that I took off, having spent the better part of an hour with them. I was starting to worry about the rising sun, the rising temps, the tendency of the breeze to kick up in the afternoon, etc so I took my leave. I wasn’t sure but thought I saw an HP SUV come by after 15 minutes or so. Then, in another half hour, here comes the white van down the road who honked in celebration as they came by, but didn’t stop. What the eff? I wanted to know how the hell they got out? They didn’t even slow down to shout howdy. My faith in others took a little setback. I suppose they were so happy to be unstuck, they were high-tailing it for home.

Today’s route went through the Salt Wells Basin and Four Mile Flat.
Just when you thought it couldn’t get more desolate, you find a new level of barren infinity. There’s a huge dune down-breeze from here called “Sand Mountain” that is pretty much the whole story there.

I went through Fallon around noon and had lunch there. The funny thing about Fallon to me is that I remember an engineering firm I used to work for did a long project there. Everyone thought Fallon was the end of the earth – tiny little town with nothing in it but the Naval Air Station. It’s actually the home to the “Top Gun” crew and I saw and heard jets screaming around the valley as I went through. But when i got to Fallon it seemed like this huge metropolis. Safeway with rows and rows of fresh produce! CVS for contact lens solution! All things things we take for granted seem pretty cool when you go without for a few days.

Old downtown Fallon has a “Maine” Street instead of a Main Street.
Loving the textures in old buildings. There were a few old casinos downtown, and an old theater that’s still running new movies.
I brake for hoopties. But you know that by now.

Mariah was again at my back all day which made progress quick – when I was on my bike, and not always in the right direction. Damnit I took another wrong turn today – or rather I didn’t turn when I should. I was supposed to stay on 50 but the road I was on became “Alt 50” and I missed the turnoff to stay on old 50. So I make great progress to Fernley. Only problem is I wasn’t intending to go to Fernley.

Old market in Hazen. I might have realized at this point I was on the wrong road, but I was making such good progress! … in the wrong direction.
At least the added miles were pretty and Mariah had my back so they went fast. The hills around here are starting to look like California.

Well I made the course correction, which shows up clearly in my Strava route below. By the time I got to Silver Springs I was so hungry I practically inhaled a 10″ pizza myself. No leftovers. I’m going to miss being able to do that. Colin said after he finished his tour he put on 15 lbs because he had a hard time adjusting his diet.

Sounds like Eliot and company may have caught up with me. Looking forward to hanging out again and meeting his buddies.

Day 69 – Austin to Middlegate NV

Last night I stayed at the local Baptist Church, which is the first church I’ve seen that actually runs an RV park adjacent to the chapel. I kind of tangled with the caretaker a little when we met. They have a self registration set up so I took a shower, plugged in my electronics (ever since my onboard USB charger went out, I plug in whenever I can) and got ready to set up in the grassy area by the chapel. Anyway he came along and didn’t like where I’d plugged in and dropped my phone when he unplugged it (ahem – that’s pretty frickin important to me these days) and then he informed me that church would start at 10:00 AM tomorrow morning so I’d “Better think about that.” Hmm. Was that an invitation to the service? No it was more like – get your frickin tent off the lawn before the congregation gets here. Not exactly the charitable welcome I’d gotten at other churches.

So I was polite, did as I was told and went to work on my blog. Then in about an hour the gusts really got gusty and he dropped back by. Turns out he’s a sweetheart after all and tells me that I can sleep in the hall by the chapel if I like because it’s likely going to storm tonight. Well, knock me over – I’m welcome after all. I was out in the morning before he was awake and I swept the entryway too just to leave a good impression for future cyclist travelers.

My bedroom last night. Pretty comfy really and the bathrooms were nice. Clean showers, a place to sleep and good wifi is about all I need and at least I had 2 out of 3. Had to find the highest hill in town just to get reception good enough to post my blog.

I really enjoyed Austin last night and I was a little sad to leave. I took my time getting out, had a big country breakfast at the local diner, and took pictures of a few buildings that caught my eye.

Remnants of more bustling times. There were a couple of storefronts that were even casinos at one point but no more.
Turquoise is still mined in the area and the local merchants kind of riff on that.
I don’t know exactly why, maybe it was finding all those fake flowers out behind the cemetary in New York, or all the shrines I’ve seen along countless highways, but I’ve been taken with them.

If Nevada Hwy 50 is the “Loniest Highway in America” I don’t know what to call NV 722, the route that I was on most of today. What’s lonelier than loneliest? Maybe the highway of the exiled? Or hermit’s highway? My entire time on the road I probably saw about 7 or 8 cars or trucks.

Lonelier than loneliest.
In long stretches like this, little things start to bug you. For about 10 miles the road had cracks across the road that jarred the handlebars and made this constant “kerthump kerthump kerthump” on the road. The jarring slows you down as much as a breeze, it makes your butt sore and puts more stress on your bike. I was glad when I hit new pavement.

After I turned on to 722 all was good until I crossed over the first small pass and into the valley below. Then it kind of hit me that I was really in the middle of nowhere – no cell, no cars, no water but what I came with. Looking out over this vast expanse, with the highway disappearing into a dot at infinity (again), I could see an honest-to-goodness salt flat at the basin bottom just to make it look completely desolate. For a second I even had this paranoid thought – I decided to take this route based on the strong recommendation of a guy I met in Austin last night. He was setting up to play the sax in the town plaza and we got to talking and he said that Hwy 722 was, hands down, much better than following 50. It would involve some climbing but would be worth it because 722 goes over Carroll Summit and the canyon on the way up is beautiful, filled with hoodoos and such. So I told him – OK I’m sold, I’ll happily put in a little more effort for the added beauty. Then I left for the night.

So now that I’m out in this desolate valley, my mind starts to figure out new ways to torture me. “Psst, Jim. Who told you to come here?The sax guy. Who knows where you are? The sax guy.  Where is everyone else?  No one’s around. Who knew it would be completely devoid of people, or should I say, witnesses?  THE SAX GUY.”

The first basin actually had a couple of little neighborhoods in it. Also there’s a B&B there that someone built to look like a castle (tiny box, far right horizon).
Mailbox composition, Take #2.

OK I know it’s ridiculous and probably I’ve watched too many Columbos as a child but it’s funny where you’re mind can go in an instant, especially when you’re in a situation that probably held for me a little bit of (entirely rational) fear.

The Reese River. The first silver discovery in the area was in 1862, near this river. The boom was known as the “Rush to Reese” at the time.
I had a nice chat with Shorty Brown who was herding his cattle down the road to keep them out of the green Alfalfa (“It’ll make ’em bloat”). He’s lived here all his life on this farm as did his “daddy and his daddy before him.”  He was happy to talk as long as I wanted and had a very positive attitude about the area – thinks its beautiful and really likes Austin and Eureka. Shorty’ a nice guy but I wanted to tell him to ditch the diminutive nickname.
Prickly poppies aka Thistle poppies.
As I rose up into the canyon there were several hawks soaring above. The currents were just barely enough to keep them aloft and one circled past me several times. Next time I bring a zoom lens. I also saw antelope this morning but the picture is even worse than this one.
On the back side of the pass a forest fire had burned most of the trees. It must have been last year – it looked like fresh grass had grown since but few trees. The floor of the canyon was covered with prickly poppies everywhere. I loved the contrast between them and the burned trees and searched and searched for the picture I wanted but didn’t find it. This one will have to do.

In several places today the smell of sage (or multiple varieties of sage) was really powerful. As I pulled into my destination for the evening, and descended to a lower basin, I even collected some to bring back. The air was so thick with sage it was intoxicating.

I must have skirted Ione today because this was the third turn off to Ione I saw, and by far the best sign. Multiple caliber of shots fired at this one caused a really nice fracturing of the paint. Not that I encourage gun violence of any kind, including against signs. The blue/green is particularly fitting – Ione was a green sea-nymph in Greek mythology.
Approaching tonight’s digs in Middlegate. Even the sign on the restaurant says we’re in the middle of nowhere.
Not the first, second, or third ceiling I’ve seen covered in ones.
I love the wall of patches.
The folks here are nice and it has a lot of character and good food. They let cyclists camp for free out back and showers are $3. Oh, and the wifi rips. My kind of spot. I’m blogging from that porch right now.


As the sun goes down, the monsoon rains bring a rainbow and warm light to the hills.