June 16, 1999, Day 11 - Gabbs to Austin, Nevada

(98.7 miles, other data lost)
Roadkill - approx. 15

My route took me north on 361 out of Gabbs (past the airport) to Rte. 50, the route of the Pony Express. I was then going to go east on 50 to Austin, but I allowed myself to be talked into taking an alternative "scenic" route (722) that would cut about three miles off the total. Mistake. The road was very rough on my bike; I had to concentrate on the road at all times. The grades were really bad; this was the original Rte. 50, the new one is graded much easier. And I can't believe I fell for this one; the locals told me that there was a clear stream I could drink from all the way up the mountain. When I said I was told NEVER to drink from ANY stream, they all guffawed like I was some, well, city slicker. I saw their stream and I saw the cow flop all over the road all along that stream all the way to the top of the pass, meaning there was cow "supplement" all through that stream. I'm glad they drink from it and haven't gotten sick, but not for me.
One sound that was with me all day was that of the fighter jets flying overhead from the Top Gun Naval Training Center to the west in Fallon. Several times I heard the sound barrier break; very cool. No matter how hard I looked, I could only spot the jets a couple of times.
In my breakfast conversation with Hazel Dummar, she told me that Gabbs relied on the mining of ??? (can't remember), which is strongly connected to the production of steel. When the EPA came down hard on the steel industry in the 70's, driving steel production out of the U.S., that had a direct impact on the mines outside of Gabbs; most of them shut down, and the population of Gabbs nosedived (nosedove?). Life in the global economy.
I was sloppy this morning. I have been drinking all the water my stomach can hold; this morning I forgot to do that before leaving.

Mineral County
Mineral County
Welcome to Mineral County. That's a cattle guard in the background. If you don't know what that is, well, you just haven't traveled in the West. Cattle guards prevent cattle from going across from one rancher's property onto another's, or from fenced land to unfenced land (called open range). Cattle guards also cause flat tires on bicycles with skinny tires. One got me later on.

Churchill County
Churchill County
Hey Marissa, I did hit your county after all. That's an open range signpost in the background.

Middlegate Station
Middlegate Station
Middlegate is located at the junction of Rtes. 361 and 50. It is built on the foundation of a Pony Express Station. After 30 miles its welcoming shade was great and allowed me a place to fix my flat tire out of the hot sun. The waitress makes a mean sub sandwich, but her advice on which road to take was all wrong for me.

Anyway, this is where I picked up Rte. 50, "The Loneliest Road in America" (see our Trails page for a good link). I could see for several miles as I approached it, though, that it was far from a lonely road. It had more traffic on it that any of the roads I had been on yet in Nevada. That "loneliest road" thing is a gimmick to attract tourists from L.A. To them, of course, this road seems desperately lonely, and if you travel far enough, you find SUV's pulled over to side of the road containing entire families of Californians having committed suicide. Sad.

Bill Murdock
Bill Murdock
Bill is my Good Samaritan of the day. Within a mile after having turned onto the TRULY lonely Rte. 722, he stopped his Harley and we had a nice chat. He let me drink a bottle of Sunny Delight and about half a quart of ice cold water (THANKS!!!!!!), and fill my water bottles up with most of the rest of his water. I had a 70 mile desolate stretch coming up ahead with no amenities of any kind. He had just come across it and he understood.
One of Bill's other motorcycles is covered with sheepskin and has longhorns mounted on the front of the handlebars. You'll notice his helmet sitting on the seat there is covered with cowhide and has a tail on it. He said one day he had just gotten off the cycle in Jackson Hole, Wyoming and a guy passing by said, "Nice hat". He realized it was Harrison Ford.
Bill is a stockbroker (not a cattle broker) from Costa Mesa, California.

Dry Lake
Dry Lake
Somewhere in here I entered Lander County. This scenery is typical of the area. That brown lake out there is a dry lakebed. Eerily beautiful, totally quiet. No life.
To give you some idea of just how isolated this road was, I decided to change my clothes around 5:00 p.m. (that would be rush hour at home). This was as much a mental need as a physical one. And so I did, right in the middle of the road, top to bottom, socks, riding shorts and shirt. No problem whatsoever. (no pictures available) I love the West.

Don't worry, it's only a Rodent of Unusual Size
Would you believe this thing was over six feet long? It took all my energy to bring 'er down, but there was no getting through the Fire Swamp otherwise.
Actually, I'm pretty sure this is a late badger (beautiful plumage, eh?) and he wins the prize for "Roadkill of the Trip" (to date). If the teeth show up, you'll have an appreciation for coming across it already deceased.

I arrived in Austin after dark, about 9:30, pedaling straight up a mountainside for the last five miles; very discouraging at the end of my longest day yet.
I went straight to the only cafe in town. The owner was an unpleasant woman. I sweet-talked her into fixing me a meal, but she continued to be so unpleasant I told her to forget it. I think I actually needed a pleasant countenance more than a meal at that point.
I then went to a motel where the proprietor told me his phone cost 25 cents a minute to use. I told him that was ridiculous and left. When I couldn't find another motel in town (one other) I went back to him and decided to eat the cost for one night. He told me I couldn't have the room. Hey, I don't blame him. I had that one coming. So I went phoneless (and thus internet-less) for tonight.
But I slept well, and I wasn't all that hungry.

A closing story of interest: the proprietress of the motel I DID stay at asked me where I had come from that day. I said "Gabbs". She said, "Oh, you stayed at Dummar's place then." I responded with something like, "It's the only place in town."
And then she said, "You know it's Ray's brother, Melvin, that got picked up hitchhiking by Howard Hughes and written into his will." And, by gosh, if the name didn't come back to me: Melvin Dummar. What a strange little story that was. I'm sure you can punch that name into any search engine and read the story for yourself. When Hughes died, Dummar came out of nowhere with this story of how Hughes had promised he would be in his will. No one knew what to believe about it. In his last days, Hughes was certainly capable of doing it. On the other hand, anyone could have made that claim. Probably only Melvin knows for sure.Anyway, the motel lady says he only got about $50,000, and I would bet about $49,000 of that went to lawyer fees, eh?

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