After a long work week and needing to get off my computer that I had spent dozens of hours on reading and writing, my brain was fried and the only thing that could get me back to normal was a long ride on my Harley. I gave my machine a quick bath and then set off on Highway 50, The Loneliest Highway in America, westbound to Eureka.
I rode down Ely’s main drag, Aultman Street, which doubles as the highway, cruising at 25 mph or slower, enjoying the downtown sites, few and familiar as they are, looking good on my bike, before finally hitting the open road into the hills, following the railroad tracks as they switched from the right side of the road to the left
It was around 12:30 in the afternoon when I left, with temperatures around 84 degrees; a beautiful sunny day in central Nevada. The sign on the side of the road said 77 miles to Eureka, a trip just far enough there and back to give my head a break but not too far to make it a challenging ride. That’s probably the best thing about taking the highway to Eureka; while it has its share of twists and turns and signs screaming at you to watch out for deer, elk and cattle, it’s an easy ride on a bike. In fact, if you’re a beginner biker, this might be the perfect road to learn how to ride a bike after you’ve had some initial lessons.
About five miles out of Ely the ride takes you past Ruth and the blank mountain walls of dirt that define it, hills that were long ago stripped of their metals and now sit void of any vegetation. While I’m as anti-government as they come, and while I’m glad that these hills are providing jobs for a lot of people, I’m also glad that the majority of the hills and mountains along this highway are protected from looking as barren as these. Once you’re past Ruth though, the highway opens up with a series of mountain peaks and passes and vast valleys that stretch far off into the distance, touching the sky on the far edge of the horizon.
While I’m not an expert of any kind of plants, trees and vegetation, there’s plenty of green alongside the roadway and up on the hillsides. There was even a stretch where the mountainside dirt was a deep red color, blending in with the green trees and shrubs.
The first summit I climbed, Robinson Pass, was about 7,500 feet, and so was the second pass, Little Antelope.
Pancake Summit topped out at 6,500 feet and Pinto Summit landed just under 7,500 feet. As beautiful as the mountains are, the valleys may be even more stunning. The roads are smooth and while the speed limit is mostly 70, I found myself cruising at 55 at some points, just so I could soak in the scenery, and opening up my throttle on some valley floors just because it was what my Harley needed. Understand, living in Ely, sometimes I get so busy, it may be a couple or three days before I can ride faster than 35 mph, as that’s the fastest speed limit in town.
It took about an hour and a half to get to Eureka, which, like Ely, is mostly centered around Highway 50. I had brought a brochure I picked up at the White Pine Chamber of Commerce that showed about 50 hot places to check out in the little town, but I never pulled it out as I hadn’t brought a jacket and I didn’t want to chance it getting cold on the way home.
Instead I rode to the end of town, got some gas, headed back to the other end of town and stopped at a bar, Malarkey’s, to get a beer.
The place was old time, with a really neat wooden bar and wooden fridge behind the bar. I had a downtown brown ale that was on tap and made in Eureka, Calif., and it helped to quench my thirst some before the ride home, which seemed to go even faster.
On the way back I saw an antelope, a first for me, but despite all the warnings of animal life, the countryside was pretty quiet, probably cause dinner time was still a few hours away.
If you’re looking for a really cool trip and you’re short on time, I would suggest the ride to Eureka is a good one. While there are many cities beyond Eureka that I still need to check out, I’ll save those for a weekend when I have time to stay out that way.
Marty Bachman is editor of the Ely Times and an avid biker. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or 760-550-3943.