Day 68 – Eureka to Austin NV

We had a nice evening in Eureka last night. They make the city park available to cyclists to camp and it was quite nice – better than some campgrounds I’ve paid for frankly. They didn’t have showers but I kind of felt like I got one on the bike yesterday when the hail hit – we were pretty soaked.

A local gent, Randy, was hosting some friends to a Friday night BBQ and he invited us to share the grill if we wanted to pick up something to put on it. Eliot went to the store and got some chicken, veggies and BBQ sauce and we were good to go.

We got to know Randy pretty well after hanging out, having a couple of beers and snacking all evening. He’s an interesting guy who’s a self-described woodsman and obviously has a lot of backcountry experience. He also has a huge family with (if I recall correctly) about 7 of his own kids and 4 adopted ones. How someone who already has 7 kids decides to adopt is beyond me but I would say Randy is generous as could be. I noticed that he made sure everybody got plenty to eat and gave us a steak to share to boot (it was huge – half was a meal). I also noticed he never took one for himself and was so busy making sure everyone was taken care of he never ate. Randy votes “the redneck ticket” which you can imagine where that goes but I really didn’t want to talk politics. He knows where we stand, we know where he does, and right now I guess I think its more important to prove that we have plenty in common before we jump in trying to convert one another.

Randy also believes in Bigfoot. Yup, I met a dyed-in-the-wool Sasquatch seer. Now he didn’t just come right out and say that immediately – he led up to it with a series of stories starting off pretty tame with hearing unexplained noises in the woods, seeing huge prints with toes etc (he had pictures), and ending with him seeing the big guy in his backyard more or less. Sometime about half way through those stories I started to clean up and get ready for bed which he rightly interpreted as disbelief. And Eliot told him as much too – that he didn’t believe him but he believes that Randy believes it. That’s honest. And to Randy’s credit, he didn’t expect us to believe it and said he wouldn’t believe it either, but in this case, he’s a Bigfoot “knower.” Hats off to him for sticking to his convictions in spite of widespread disbelief.

 

Eureka has a lot of old historic buildings
I love that they once had an Opera House

I was up and out early this morning and Eliot was sleeping in so I hit the road on my own again. I missed having the road to myself so it was kind of nice to return to my old routine, letting my thoughts wander, taking my time. I’ve noticed that when I’m traveling with others, I take less time with my photos and I don’t like that. It’s been a long time since I’ve taken photography seriously and one of the things I’ve enjoyed the most on this trip is taking time with it to get it right, or at least the best I can. I still rush people shots (would-be portraits) so those end up looking like snapshots.

The sage were just glowing in the morning light.

It was a pretty easy day really with a lot of flat land to cover and only one big climb to get to Austin summit, just before descending into Austin. Thanks to Eliot for helping me adjust my attitude about this area. I was seeing it as sort of a hurdle between me and home but he was talking about this is about his favorite part of the trip. He really enjoys the space, the gradual climbs, the infrequent traffic. As soon as he said that yesterday I started turning my attitude around and now I agree. The spaces between towns are a little daunting (I’ve had “no services” sections for 65, 78 and 84 miles at a time) but the country is beautiful, the temps have been very moderate, Mariah has been kind during riding hours, and the people out here are of a different breed. When reality shows are done giving everyone in Alaska their own show, they could probably get a few seasons out of Nevada mining towns (or maybe they have already – how would I know?).

Over the shoulder as I leave town and the sun comes up

My ACA maps describe Nevada as “the Great Basin” as it was described by Fremont, one of the first Europeans to map the area. What I didn’t realize was that he called it that because none of the rivers here make it to the sea, they all run out into old lake beds and dry up between the hundreds of mountain ranges here. So actually it’s not a “basin” but many basins in between the north-south running ranges. Those ranges are caused by faults that open as the plates here are pulled apart on the east-west axis, and the lighter ranges of mountains “float” to the top of the more heavy sediments that fill the basins between them. I don’t mean to digress too much into a GEO 101 lesson but I found it pretty interesting and helps explain the repeating pattern of Basin, Fault, Range that you see in this territory over and over.

Heading down that long lonesome highway, hoping things will come out my way.

NOTE: The pic above is linked to a pano photo. I can’t embed them – wordpress barfs when I try.

Power lines ran straight along a north-south line without deviation as far as I could see.
Vast, vast, vast. Now don’t tell me you’re bored of these. Stare at this for about 7 hours before you can say that.
Not quite as catchy slogan. We’ll see after tonight (staying in Austin tonight)

Nevada beauty is all about the small and close up…
… and the macro, huge. Being mostly outdoors for 2 months has left me looking at clouds a lot more.

As I was pedaling across one of those big basins this morning I was trying to think back on this trip to see what I’ve gotten out of it. I don’t know if I’ve said it here before, perhaps it’s between the lines, but I think the biggest gift of this trip is a restoration in my faith in the people of the US. Ever since last November’s election, I’ve taken a pretty dim view of my fellow Americans, and I still can’t get how they voted for someone so obviously unethical, self-serving, reactionary and uninformed (list truncated for brevity). But as I cross the country in a semi-unplugged state re: the news, I’m struck mostly by how generous and kind people have been. Maybe its the cycling tourist bubble that I’ve travelled in – there’s clearly something special there because people have gone out of their way to help, offering food, their homes, water, even money to help me along (and I’m not alone in recognition of this phenomenon). But it’s been wonderful to be on the receiving end of that generosity and something that I will try to take out of the experience – the desire to be more generous and compassionate myself. It’s contagious, right?

Leaving early, and having little climbing got me into Austin pretty early, maybe 1:30 or so. It’s an interesting town – another mining town that was much bigger at one time. In fact when Nevada became a state in 1864 (to supply the Union with lead and other precious metals btw) there was an article in the New York Herald and Austin was one of the 3 or 4 cities shown on the map on the front page. Now Austin is only a couple hundred people. As Simon described it, “it’s more of a place to hide out in than live.”

Outside Austin is “Stokes Castle” that looks out over the next basin (I’ll be crossing that tomorrow). See it on the ridge?
The “Castle” close up. It was built by a wealthy family, elaborately furninshed with balconies on the 2nd and 3rd floors, but only occupied for a few months. It’s modeled on a Roman tower and was known as “the Tower” to the Stokes family.
“The International” which is my only dining option tonight unless you count the Chevron station. I’ve heard it’s a hoot so we’ll see. Typically I don’t choose “make America great again” restaurants but I’m pretty hungry.
Austin’s lined with iconic old mining buildings. Each one is one-of-a-kind.
Well the flowers really make it that much more attractive to a potential buyer, eh?

I’m starting to worry a bit about ending this trip though. I’m a little concerned about withdrawal from all this free time and travel. When I went into the Peace Corp after college I found out that coming back home was much more difficult than going oversees. You expect things to be different when you travel – you aren’t always ready for the changes in yourself and others upon re-entry.

 

Day 67 – Ely to Eureka NV

I knew that I had 4 summits to do today so I was up and out early to “beat the heat.” If I only knew that I would end up cold by 2:30 I might have slept in a bit more. But best to catch the morning light anyway and, hot or cold, I knew I had another 78 mile jump across no-mans land to Eureka so up and at ’em early.

I met the owner of this beauty who told me its only got 56,000 miles on it and once belonged to the Nevada Atty General.
Just out of Ely is a huge copper mine that was inactive since the 70s but started back up a few years ago.

I had an early morning panic about 5 miles outside of Ely. I had pumped my tires at the hotel parking lot before I left and I couldn’t remember packing my pump. I was pretty sure I wouldn’t leave it behind but once that idea got in my head I couldn’t turn loose of it. What if I left my pump and had a flat 35 miles from anywhere? That would set me back 2 days at least. So finally, just to put my mind at ease I had to pull over and check for it. It was right where it’s supposed to be, of course.

Looks like little picket fences but really they’re snow fences.
The big one is done

After the first pass I saw a van pulled over with a bike so I stopped to check it out. It was Graham, Daryl, and Simon from the UK. Graham is riding coast to coast in only 31 days, averaging over 100 miles a day and Daryl and Simon are driving the van, giving him support, and accompanying him on the journey. They are raising money for ovarian cancer and have the twitter handle @Bay2Hudson.

Daryl, Graham, and Simon. That’s some good friends who will SAG you all the way across the US.

They told me I’d be crossing paths with Buddy next, and sure enough on my way up the next pass I did. I think it suprised him a bit when I said “you must be Buddy” – the Western Express grapevine working well today.

Buddy was traveling with his Sis and her Fiance’ but she developed wrist issues and had to take a break.
I was checking out this old house when Buddy pulled up.

Buddy’s from Tulsa and is a forensic scientist who examines vehicle crashes and can tell you what happened. He’s hired by insurance companies and as an expert witness. He’s also got a sonar rig on his bike where he’s collecting data on how close cars pass by his bike. He records the type of car by voice when they pass and then he can sync that with his sonar measurements. I’d love to see his results when he’s done. Speaking with Eliot today (we rode together awhile – more on that) we both agreed that big trucks tend to pull way over to the other lane to give you lots of space, whereas passenger cars don’t seem to find it necessary and end up coming much closer. Not like they’d kill you any less than a truck at 70 mph, death being kind of a digital, on or off kinda thing. Buddy is blogging on: www.crazyguyonabike.com/doc/Heart_Attack.

Pass number two. Not that bad really.
The wildflower selection here has thinned a lot. They seem to only grow my the roadside but I’m not sure why.
Sort of a low summit but I’ll count it.
This shrine was on a completely straight piece of road.

My lunch time shade tree – juniper with huge berries in big bunches

Eliot caught up with me as I was having my noon snack on the road. I found a lovely juniper shade tree to relax under, have some coffee, an apple and a Kind bar. Then I hear this “Hi Jim” which surprises me because I thought no one was around and nobody calls me by name much lately. We decided to ride together into Eureka, over the last pass.

We were having a great conversation, comparing notes on our tours, life, etc and hadn’t ridden for more than 20 minutes when the thunder started to rumble and boom. Pretty soon the big drops started to fall, really far apart, but cold. That was the first thing I noticed – “these drops are really cold!”. So Eliot says “I hope it doesn’t turn to hail, which in about 2 minutes it did exactly that. First the rain started coming in sheets, wave after wave which we were really quite enjoying. I was on my 4th pass at that point and pretty toasty warm so the cool rain felt good. Then it started to hail these little pea-size hail stones which, when dropped from thousands of feet kinda hurt. So we ducked under the first decent tree we found to sit it out. Before long we were soaked, wearing jackets, and getting cold – certainly not the fear I had when I decided to cross Nevada in August.

That’s not snow, that’s hail.
Up the road the hail was so thick you could scoop it up like dippin dots. Half a mile up the road it never even rained.

The hail stopped after 20 minutes or so and we decided to get back on the bikes as the visibility was improving. As soon as our butts hit the seats, the rain stopped, and we were in the sun and clear all the way to the summit. We even had to ditch the jackets in about 10 minutes because it got hot again wearing them. Another day that started cool, got hot, then cold, then hot again.

The last pass today – already wam again. I got a good start on a beard just like Eliot’s. 

We had a fun run down the hill to Eureka which is a cool little town. Another mining town (this time silver) that was 10,000 people in its heyday but is now about 600. But its the county seat and seems to be holding steady there, and has a nice vibe to it. I had some time this afternoon to check out the Eureka Museum which is in the old newspaper building where they still have their old Linotype and press. I could spend hours reading the old newspapers packed in there.

The back room of the newspaper building.
The museum had lots of photos of old Eureka. These girls are recieving their diplomas from Eureka High School.
They had lots of memorabilia from odd old civic clubs.
Lots of old calendars too from local businesses back to the 20’s.
I love this mural. It took a minute to “get it” in person but its obvious in a straight on photo.

Day 66 – Baker to Ely NV

I got off to a bit of a rough start today but it turned out to be a great day. And most great days lately are great because I met interesting, great people. That’s one of the big benefits of moving around with an overloaded bike is that, as my friend Geoff says, the bike is a great conversation starter.

I was up at 5:00 but with the time change that turned out to not be as early as it was yesterday. Sort of forgot that the sun does its thing regardless of what my iPhone says the time is. I won’t go into details on exactly how my morning started but I’ll just say that I wish there was a way to unsee what I saw in the men’s room of the campground this morning.  Eeew. Eeew. Eeeew. Hazards of traveling on the cheap I suppose. Nuff said about that.

Just outside Baker I passed this former restaurant and stopped to investigate the graffiti. They drew me in with the “Stop Extinction” tag. I agree with the sentiment but not sure it helps to spray paint it on a wall.
I did enjoy this critter and was poking around a bit when a couple of loose dogs ran me off. At least they gave me a courtesy warning bark before they started their pursuit for real.

 

Moving out into Nevada, my morning wildlife viewing has kind of thinned out. I see signs warning of deer and elk but don’t see any. I did really enjoy seeing a lot of jackrabbits (aka hares). They are much bigger than the cottontails I saw in Escalate in such great numbers. Where rabbits scamper low to the ground and dive for cover, jackrabbits bound over sage and bushes with great athletic leaps. They are a delight to watch but they make the same mistake bunnies make – often I don’t see them until they flee from me. If they just stayed put, I’d probably blow right by them.

I’ve only seen arches of horns larger than this one in one place – downtown Jackson Hole Wy.
I love the shapes of the horns

It was surprisingly overcast this morning, and the sun never really came out for any length of time until 1:00 or so. This and the higher altitude of the passes I crossed kept the temps pleasantly low, under 90 all day. Since it’s not humid, that’s pretty comfortable for riding and I hope my luck holds up. I won’t dip below 6000 ft for the next few days, until I hit Fallon so I’m hopeful. Fallon will be another story – it’s got a rep for high temps. We’ll cross that bridge when we get there (and maybe early in the morning).

After making it over the first pass today I had a five mile coasting descent into the Spring Valley. The valley was home to Osceola NV, a mining boom town that grew up after gold was discovered there in 1872. The mine was the source of the biggest gold nugget ever discovered in Nevada (24 lbs!) but played out over many years. By 1940 it was completely deserted.

My dad told me once that there is an “Osceola” in all of the 48 lower states in the U.S. I sort of doubt it but there are a lot of them. I suspect that there’s some group of native Americans that were screwed out of multiple homes behind that.

As I descended into the valley I saw a car stopped with a flat tire so I pulled over to see what was up. Turns out it was three young folks with a flat, no spare, no jack and no plan. They were considering walking to Ely (45 miles away at that point). I told them there was no way they were going to walk there and tried to impress upon them that they were in a potentially dangerous situation. You don’t just head off walking across the desert for 45 miles. The driver’s mom had cancelled their AAA so I told them I’d call a tow for them but they said they couldn’t afford that. I was kind of out of options and suggested calling the NV Hwy Patrol, which we did. They were happy to have help on the way and I decided to continue, still having 45 miles to pedal myself before the heat came up. 30 minutes later I saw the patrol car on the way to check them out, then 30 minutes after that it passed me back again, presumably with our travelers in the back.

Then a little while after I had left them, I passed these two, walking along the road. Were they in the same car and decided to walk?

Wait, are those folks walking out here? Are they nuts?

Turns out they were out here intentionally walking across the desert, and the whole US actually.

Danny and Abby are walking across America to raise money for a homeless shelter.

Well we had a nice chat, seeing that we had similar plans. They are super organized about their provisions and get picked up and shuttled back to their ending point when they need to. So they aren’t stuck out in the desert. They said usually they push a cart with camping gear, water, food etc but they have friends in the area that will pick them up so they don’t have to push the cart here. They are each on their 4th pair of shoes since beginning their journey.

We made plans to meet up for dinner or a beer in Ely and I’m looking forward to hearing about their adventure. If you want to know more, they have a blog at walkacrossamerica2017.com or www.facebook.com/walkacrossamerica2017.

I’m still getting over my mom’s fear of snakes but this little guy is beautiful.
I passed a lot of hillside cuts where you could see layers of, I think, slate. At least that lines up with what I heard last night – that one of the only operating mines around here is a slate mine.

 

The second pass had at least 5 miles of climbing at 6% grade. I’m pooped and ready for some downhill. Tomorrow I have 3 passes again. Yikes.

The scenery here is greener than I expected. The trees here don’t grow large, the biggest are maybe 25 feet. They must grow slowly and live on little water. There are pines, juniper, cedar and lots of varieties of sage (some smell lovely).

The forests near the summit are quite beautiful and stretch for miles. There’s not much ground cover and these trees must be very patient about their water intake.
I had a little picnic at the summit to rest, refuel and cool down.
So many pine cones.

After the summit I made quick work of the last 20 miles – it being mostly downhill or flat. I cruised around town checking out the lodging options when I spotted Eliot at this convenience store. When I see someone on a bike like this, I pull over.

My new buddy, Elliot, is riding across the US from Boston to SF with a couple of friends.

Eliot and his friends are riding separately today. They wanted to try night riding to escape the heat and that didn’t really work for him. (Personally I agree, crazy early 4:00 AM riding yes, 11:00 PM no thanks.) We compared route notes and we’ll be on the same path for the next several hundred miles so I bet we see him/them again. They are also fundraising (who isn’t out here?) for world bicycle relief – a charity that makes sturdy bikes for distribution in developing countries. 70% of their bikes go to girls to help them get to school. You can check them out at bike frog USA.

I’ll sign off with a brief thanks to all of you who read and comment, either on the website or emails. You folks keep me going when it gets tough. I’ve been getting a bunch of “thumbs up” from drivers too, with one car giving me applause as I cruised by. I don’t always get to answer all the comments but know that I really appreciate all your encouraging words.

Day 65 – Milford UT to Baker NV

Well I remember asking yesterday for little out of the way places and I got it. Today’s ride went smoothly and I made it to Baker NV relatively early. I left at 6:30 to beat the heat and I’m glad I did. I got in around 1:30 so most of my miles were in comfort and the last 15 or so were mainly downhill so no sweat. Well, don’t take that literally.

After posting yesterday’s entry I met another solo cyclist headed eastbound. Andrew is doing a big loop through Utah, Colorado up to Montana, Oregon, and back down to SF where he started.

Andrew is from York, UK and has a lot of touring experience. He’s got a great setup – very lightweight and aero. I’m definitely moving that way next time. Oops, did I type that out loud? Megan probably doesn’t read captions, right?

We had dinner together, and compared notes on our routes, then ending up talking until late on Renee’s porch. Since Andrew just biked by route, and I his, we had a lot to talk about. And he’s got about the coolest bike and bags setup I’ve seen. Oh and guess how old Andrew is? How about 62? See what cycling does for your fitness?

As I said I hit the road early. Luxury of luxuries, Milford is blessed with a 24 hr diner (Renee said it had something to do with their contract with the railroad, which is a big employer in Milford) so I got to hit the road with a nice breakfast by 6:30.

Leaving Penny’s diner as the sun starts to light the road.
It wasn’t long before it was up for real.
I brought extra water for today’s trip because it was 84 miles with no services. That’s some serious no-man’s land.
I was at the top of the 1st summit by 8:00 or so. Look how perky I am, veins still full of diner coffee.
My first long descent in this area. It’s intimidating to see the road turn into a dot like that. Worth a zoom in for the full effect.

Crossing these valleys feels very strange at first. This is the first time I’ve encountered this but I was warned by folks who’ve taken this route. After climbing a pass you can descend for 10-15 miles or so, then you hit the bottom of the valley and then you climb, largely in a straight line, for another 10-15 miles, then you hit another summit and it starts over again. The weird thing is that the distances are so vast, it’s kind of hard to see that you’re making any progress at all. Here’s the same descent, a mile farther down the hill.

Not the same picture, but looks like we haven’t moved, eh?

You have to kind of take it on faith that you are getting somewhere, and get on with it. I can’t imagine doing this on foot, or in a wagon though. My bike is relatively fast and I could cover 3 passes like this with the water I had on board.

Pass number 2. I think NV DOT is skimping on signage and just reused the same summit sign as the first one. No way they’re exactly the same height.
Perkiness defiantly looks forced by this point.
There were some new roadside wildflowers (aka weeds) to check out.
I stopped in this little town by the border, called Garrison. It looks about 90% of the way to ghost-town status with junk piled everywhere. But this caught my eye – much like my first car. This is a Mercury Bobcat, the Cadillac of Pintos. Mine was a Pinto but had these same “mags” which, try as they might, failed to make the Pinto cool. Can you believe that I bought a Pinto because my mom was scared of me riding a motorcycle (way cooler). Irony of ironies.
Woohoo – Nevada! Just NV and CA left! Oh boy, I’m off to the Baker Casino. What? No casino in Baker? Sheesh, there’s hardly a grocery store.
There are a lot of old log cabins around here. I suppose in this climate they last forever. This one was right behind the campground laundry.
I can’t resist an old boss Chevelle. This one’s a lot like the one my mom drove in the 70’s. She always had badass cars and this one had a 350 V8 in it. No wonder they called her “Butch”.

Day 64 – Cedar City to Milford UT

Today marks another big transition on the trip in a couple of ways. For one, I’ve completed another ACA map, so I retire a map and start in on a new one that will cover from Cedar City to Fallon NV. But more importantly it’s a turn from the the touristed areas to the backroads and quiet spots. Ever since Pueblo CO I’ve been traveling in areas that are popular, gorgeous, and pretty easy to tour in. Tomorrow I head out across the West Utah desert into Eastern Nevada and then on to “the loneliest road in America.”

U.S. 50 in Nevada a preview (not my photo)

I’m actually looking forward to it. One of the things I’ve enjoyed about this trip is having the time and space to let my thoughts wander, my spinning meditations if you will. And there looks to be ample opportunity for that. But also, I have liked getting to know all the little small towns every bit as much as the “big name” attractions that I’ve passed like Niagara Falls, Natural Bridges and Bryce Canyon. I love the little towns that have their own charms and I love to meet the people that call them home.

Today was my first step off the beaten path for awhile, and it was really enjoyable. I rode north out of Cedar City on a state highway that soon became pretty isolated. I only passed through one town, Minersville, on my way to Milford where I’m staying the night.

The road north out of Cedar City. Now we’re going places.
Not at all like Kansas.
I don’t know if these help but people gave me my whole lane all morning.
I was fascinated by this old ranch. There was little around here now, and there was probably less when it was active.
What do you do when your ranch is full of volcanic rocks. Build fences out of them.
How much work do you think is represented here. It went in both directions this way, and included a full rock-fenced corral.

At one point during today’s only climb I was besieged by black flies again. I hadn’t seen them since Eastern Colorado and I was OK with that. They look just like houseflies except once they’ve sat on you for a few seconds they bite. I was especially getting bit on my back where there’s less breeze from my movement. For awhile I looked like one continuous tic, constantly clearing my back and arms from them. Until finally I realized that I have carried insect repellent for over 3000 miles exactly for this purpose. Flies are, in fact, insects. Problem solved in minutes.

Leaving Minerville. Prescient of things to come.
I had several miles of this chip gravel to plow through. They’re repaying and left it in this middle state for the time being. After a few miles of this I was pretty sick of it. It’s hard to pedal through, the dust comes up, and cars and trucks sometimes skip rocks at you as they pass. See how it looks never ending? A trying 45 min or so, but it felt like forever.
I haven’t taken photos of shrines for awhile but I found this one especially compelling. DJ was killed only last March.
Approaching Milford, I saw these strange ornaments on a lot labeled “Milford Archeological Research Institute.” (http://www.mariarchaeology.com)

I’d barely gotten into Milford and I was pulling under a shade tree to figure out where the campground was when I heard, literally, a voice from above. “Hello sir? Are you looking for a warm shower?” Well, yes, now that you mention it. I’d forgotten to even try the warmshowers website but my host, Renee, had found me. I looked up and she was in the balcony above me, sitting on the porch of this big old house. I introduced myself, she invited me in, and now I have a great place to stay tonight. The generosity of of people across the country continues to impress me and as a cycling tourist I’ve enjoyed a lot of help, warm introductions and warm showers.

Renee’s lovely home is the oldest building in Milford, built in 1876. It operated as the William and Lacey Hotel for many years and the layout reflects it. Renee’s husband (now deceased) completely refurbished it in a year starting in 1999.
Renee in the Teddy Bear room. She’s considered opening the house as a Teddy-bear themed B&B where you get to keep a Teddy when you check out. She’s a very natural host and would make a great B&B owner no doubt.

 

"If I had my druthers, I'd ride a bike" Jim's low CO2 trans-am cycling trip