On the way to Elko you just want to get there so Interstate 80 is the obvious choice from northern California. Coming home we choose the roads less travelled. We head west on I80 for about 35 miles and then turned left at Carlin and start the 88 mile climb up Hwy 278 to reach Hwy 50 and Eureka (elevation 6,500 feet) nestled at the southern end of Diamond Valley in the Diamond Mountains. It is the largest settlement in Eureka County. The population for the town and surrounding areas is about 1,100. The nearest centers to the west are Austin (71 miles) and Ely (77 miles) so when you make your shopping list here, you really do check it twice!
Storefront Fixer Upper
It's around noon when we get to Eureka so we decide to stop for lunch. The streets are quiet except for the Owl Club Cafe, so that's our option. We walk up to the front door just as it opens. The man standing in the doorway and I do a double take and then suddenly realize we sat next to each other at Baxter Black's show. His sister was in Baxter's HS graduating class. I'm no stranger to these types of serendipitous moments, but they never cease to amaze me.
In July 1986, Life magazine published an article that gave US 50 in Nevada the name "The Loneliest Road in America". The article portrayed the highway, and rural Nevada, as a place devoid of civilization. Officials decided to make the best of the publicity and convinced state authorities to do the same. Jointly, they began to use the article as a platform to market the area for visitors interested in desert scenery, history, and solitude. It is rich on all accounts.
The highway roughly parallels the Pony Express Trail, remnants of which are still visible for much of the way. Many ghost towns and historical cemeteries dot the area. There are other unusual sites such as the Charcoal Ovens State Park or Hickison Summit Petroglyphs to visit. Fishing abounds at Iliapah Reservoir, Cave Lake State Park, and Comins Lake. There is truly something for everyone.
The desert is a place of wonder: light and dark, soft and hard, a fickle mistress who can be a lover or a spiteful vixen. You take your chances here, and you love it or leave it. This amazing road travels through snow-mantled mountains reaching 11,000 feet, across 17 mountain passes and miles of high desert. The crest of each pass reveals yet another breathtaking vista.