stretch of U.S. Highway 50 is referred to as
"The Loneliest Road in America."
had just crossed the state line into Nevada and crested a
hill when I saw them — dozens of red blinking lights —
off in the distance. Without another car in sight, I
thought, this was the perfect opportunity for aliens to
snatch my family and me into the dark night sky.
were, after all, traveling on the stretch of U.S. 50
dubbed "The Loneliest Road in America."
two-lane road stretches for almost 400 miles across
Nevada, up and down elevation, through the Shoshone
Mountains and White Pine Range and then across miles of
white salt flats. Only a handful of towns dot the road,
some more than a 100 miles apart.
highway got its name when Life magazine published a 1986
article about the desolation of the road and quoted a AAA
employee saying there were no points of interest along the
road and there was no reason to drive it.
Thanksgiving-break destination was Pollock Pines, Calif.,
and our family of four — my husband and me, along with
our daughter, age 14, and son, age 11 — chose to take
"The Loneliest Road" because it was the easiest
way to get there.
as I drove closer to the flashing lights, I thought about
all the close encounters you see in the movies, until I
realized it was just a giant wind farm.
the road wouldn’t seem so lonely in the daylight.
the "Loneliest Road" designation doesn’t start
until Nevada on U.S. 50, the distinction should start in
a day hiking in Arches National Park in Utah, when it was
my turn to take over the driving at 8 p.m. in Delta, I
counted only 15 cars passing me in the opposite direction
and only two cars traveling in the same direction for the
next 21/2 hours.
the sun rose the next morning, we left the Prospector
Hotel & Gambling Hall in Ely, Nev., and hit the road
again. It was a good thing we had topped off our gas tank
at a service station when we left Ely because as soon as
we passed the last building on the outskirts of town, we
saw a sign: "No services for 77 miles."
then it was up and down mountain ranges through the
Humboldt-Toiyabe National Forest and across the flat lands
in between. Much of the route intertwines with the old
Pony Express route, and it’s easy to imagine a single
rider with the mail, galloping among the hills.
small towns of Eureka and Austin were five-minute speed
bumps along the road. It isn’t until you reach the
outskirts of Fallon, Nev., home to a naval air station and
the Navy’s Top Gun program, that you feel as if you’ve
returned to civilization.
outside the car window at breathtaking mountain scenery
and the occasional deer or cow is entertaining for about
15 minutes. Then you have to figure out what to do the
rest of the six-hour drive across Nevada.
turning on your radio to sing along with your favorite
songs. We tried that at one point, and all we heard was FM
fuzz. The AM stations tended to be very soft, and about
half of them were Spanish-language stations.
posting pictures of the lonely road to Instagram or
Facebook was also out of the question, as cell service cut
in and out for most of the drive. That meant the online
games my teenage daughter likes to play on her iPhone
weren’t working either.
we had packed enough entertainment into our Toyota Camry
to keep our kids occupied while my husband and I tried to
stave off highway hypnosis.
portable DVD player was plugged into a charger we had
attached to our car’s cigarette lighter socket, so our
son could watch all of the "Avengers" movie
without worrying the battery would run out. Our daughter’s
iPhone was also plugged in, so she could listen to her
boy-band favorites with her headphones on for hours on
also had the adult coloring books, which — lucky for us
— are popular right now, along with a stack of colored
pencils and a word-find puzzle book to make the miles seem
counted cars, which were more plentiful during the daytime
than during the evening drive. (We passed at least 30
during the first two hours of the drive.) And, as my
husband and I continued driving down "The Loneliest
Highway," we talked about what we thought it would
have been like to travel the same road in a covered wagon
during the 1800s.
agreed it was a journey neither of us would have been
adventurous enough to take.
through the windy curves of the mountain ranges, we
encountered a lot of summits. Robinson Summit (7,588
feet). Little Antelope Summit (7,438 feet). New Pass
Summit (6,340 feet).
there was my favorite: Pancake Summit (6,521 feet). There
was no syrup on the hillside, and I’m not really sure
why it was given the name Pancake. But because it was
about 8:30 a.m. when we passed it, I probably had
breakfast on my mind.
road takes travelers through high-desert flats in between
the ranges, and we wondered what the names of the
mountains in the distance were. Some of the peaks are more
than 10,000 feet high (including Summit Mountain) and,
because we couldn’t access Google Maps, my kids learned
how to read a road atlas to figure out if we were looking
at the Toquima Range or the Shoshone Mountains.
four hours into our daytime drive, we were finally out of
the mountains and it looked like a dusting of snow had
fallen on the flat land ahead of us, about 50 miles out of
wasn’t snow. It was salt.
miles, all we could see were crusty salt flats. My son
thought we should pull over to the side of the road so he
could taste it. But when we saw the sign for the Naval
Electronic Warfare Range Centroid Facility that led to a
dirt road with a gate, I told my son that we would not be
stopping the car.
we didn’t — not until we got to Fallon for a late
lunch, thereby ending our adventure on "The Loneliest
Road in America."