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.

15 thoughts on “Day 69 – Austin to Middlegate NV”

  1. Kinda like West Texas but the few signs of human habitation in the Great Basin are more interesting.

    1. Yeah, I’ve enjoyed NV much more than I expected. I see why the folks that live out here love it.

      Sounds like I should check out West Texas. I think I only crossed through once and I was on a “get from A to B” kind of mission.

  2. Well, that was quite the adventure, with a nice diversity of pics. I found Austin, but not Middlegate on my map. You’re on the home stretch, thank goodness. I know you’ve enjoyed your biking, but know that Megan, Jonah & others are anxious to see your smiling (bearded?) face. What route will you take from Reno (I’m assuming)?

    1. Yes, Middlegate is pretty tiny. At one point there was a Westgate, Middlegate, and Eastgate but Middle is really all that’s left. It’s really just the one establishment that’s a catch all for your high desert needs; food, bar, gas, camping, hotel.

      I don’t go through Reno but instead I take Carson Pass, then get off of 88 and descend through some back roads to Plymouth (near Volcano), El Dorado Hills, Folsom, Sac, Davis, Fairfield… Then I need to pick a Bridge (Vallejo or Benicia) and improvise home.

      If you’re interested, I’m following the Wester Express (pink line) here; https://www.adventurecycling.org/routes-and-maps/adventure-cycling-route-network/interactive-network-map/

      1. One more thing; when I posted my route originally I had planned to detour from the Western Express through Yosemite but I’ll save that for another day.

  3. I second the comment about the photos! You are an engineer with the eye of an artist. I love the mailbox photos. In fact, the photos you’ve posted at the top of the daily blog make a nice series of their own. The Ione sign is fabulous.
    I also liked the cloud photo from Day 68. It looked like a giant question mark.

    1. Thanks, Bill – I really appreciate it and I’m glad that you’ve enjoyed them.

      I meant to tell you that since getting farther west the Starbucks Double Espresso cans have started showing up in convenience stores (I guess they don’t go over so big in Kansas). I carry one with me now at all times and sometimes that’s the kick I need for that last 20 miles.

  4. Pure desert paranoia, Jim! Must have been the salt fumes. Sax guys are usually insightful, optimistic, and definitely honest. Now, if he played trumpet I would say to stay on 50. So glad you found a welcoming rest for the night. You blogged while rocking on the horse? Maybe to play it safe, stop listening to musicians for tips. Good luck!

  5. Pure desert paranoia, Jim! Must have been the salt fumes. Sax guys are usually insightful, optimistic, and definitely honest. Now, if he played trumpet I would say to stay on 50. So glad you found a welcoming rest for the night. You blogged while rocking on the horse? Maybe to play it safe, stop listening to musicians for tips. Just tip the musicians and listen.

  6. Take 3: Maybe to play it safe, stop listening to musicians for tips. Just safely tip the musicians and listen to them play.

    1. Got it. Tip my hat at musicians, ask for a tip, and then ignore it if they play trumpet. If they play sax, share my problems with them and then listen to their advice. I’m pretty sure I have that straight. What a bout Bass players? I find them confusing. 😉

    1. Yeah, eh? Keep your eye out coming up El Toyanal Saturday afternoon. Of all the hills I’ve ridden from coast to coast, none was steeper and I’m still dreading that damn climb.

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