No Name Tour: Day 47 – A Capital Day

After a late motel breakfast I was back on US 50 heading west. Where have I heard that before?

From Fallon to Carson City the road has increasing traffic. For the first third of the day it had paved shoulders that were entirely consumed by rather deep rumble strips. I’d me riding along and hear or see in my mirror a large vehicle about to turn me into road kill. I’d bail onto the rumble strips hoping not to dislodge and dental work. I suppose if you had kidney stones this kind of road sledding could be useful but for me it was literally a headache.

During this portion of the ride the headwind gods were still asleep. And the road trended slightly downhill. I missed a blatantly obvious turn and had to backtrack a mile. But I didn’t care.

I had emptied my two water bladders so The Mule was just cruising along. It was noticeably easier to handle too.

Another wonderful feature of the day was the existence of gas station convenience stores and restaurants along the way. I stopped at 28 miles for Gatorade and a Klondike bar. And to use the rest room. Gas station convenience stores make America great.

Sadly, my late morning snack must have woken the headwind gods and the rest of day featured an invisible hand on my chest.

A few more miles after the break I met Anna, an eastbound rider bound for Virginia. She’s from New Zealand. She’s going about 40 miles per day and didn’t seem the least bit fazed by the first tenth of her journey. We agreed on one thing: Nevada has mastered the mushroom cheeseburger.

I had to climb three hills, all gradual and well under 5,000 feet. No worries.

A casino had a deal on a cheeseburger basket. This made for a convenient lunch stop, my first lunch not on the shoulder of the road in ages. Be thankful for the little things, people!

Into busy Carson City, the state capital. Excitement! Thrills! Not! Just more commercial sprawl.

Anna told me where to find a bike shop. The Bike Smith folks replaced my brake pads and only charged me for parts. It’s their way of supporting bike tourists. Sadly the brake pads cost $95 per pair.

Just kidding.

Now that my bike can stop like a champ, I went to the grocery store where I didn’t hit a single parked car or shopping cart. I did manage to buy food for tomorrow and wine for my Warmshowers hosts tonight.

I am staying with Joan and Greg in their guest cottage. Their house and cottage are cute beyond compare. They love hosting bike tourists.

I am off to help with dinner. Help meaning I drink some wine while Joan cooks.

Tomorrow I climb over a rather intimidating 7,000 foot mountain to South Lake Tahoe. How far I go depends on my legs and the availability of camping. It’s also my last day in Nevada.

And before I forget, there’s big news. Last night I decided not to continue to Portland. I am climbed out. Instead I will go over Carson Pass to Sacramento and finish this crazy tour in San Francisco. Many thanks to Jessie and Mike for offering to put me up in The City and to Marie who suggested flying home out of Oakland next week.

Miles today: 66.5

Tour miles: 2,714.5

Top speed: 25.1 mph

No Name Tour: Day 46 – Out of Desolation

My decision to stay in Cold Springs yesterday turned out to be a good one. Had I continued I might have ridden over 100 miles. It would have been the end of me.

I ate dinner at the store/bar/restaurant in Cold Springs last night. They make one serious mushroom and Swiss burger. I hung out and talked with the regulars. Despite from our political differences, we got along like old pals. The conversation was much better than watching TV in my room.

The restaurant didn’t re-open until 8 a.m., which is too late for bike tourists trying to make miles before the winds picked up. So I had two tortillas for an in-room “meal”. One with peanut butter, the other with bean dip. This would hold me until real breakfast 14 miles away at Middlegate Station.

It was a good decision. The road slopes downward and a light breeze helped me along. I made Middlegate in well under an hour. Along the way I passed the sites of telegraph, stage coach, and Pony Express stations as well as ghost mining towns. No ruins were evident just signs telling the story of what once was.

Middlegate Station itself is an old Pony Express and stage coach outpost. It looks it. It’s a bunch of run down buildings and cabins surrounded by RVs. As I said, I’m glad I stayed in Cold Springs.

The main building had a bar/restaurant and the cook made a decent breakfast. Coffee was self service. My only problem was that it took an hour. When I went back outside, the wind had changed direction and picked up. For the next 45 miles I’d be dealing with 10 mph head and cross winds.

After Middlegate came two 4,000+ foot summits which confirmed that the two 7,000+ footers near Austin were the last of the big ranges in my ride across the Great Basin.

The valleys between the ridges were much sandier and saltier than anything I’d seen so far.

After the second summit I rode past Sand Mountain. It was created by the wind blowing sand across the valley. I could hear motors revving in the distance; it’s a very popular place for ATV riders.

About 45 miles into the day I became very tired and bored. Even with the salt flats and the humongous sand dune I’d had enough of these wide, windy valleys. I had no appetite. I didn’t stop to eat which is a big mistake.

I felt like I was in a stationary bike just grinding away and going nowhere. When the road turned toward the north I caught a tailwind. Seeing double digits in my speedometer lifted my mood for a few minutes but all I could think of was the convenience store five miles from Fallon, my destination for today.

The closer I got to Fallon the more traffic there was. And it included drivers who didn’t much care how close they were when they passed me. At one point, an oncoming car passed the car in front of it at about 80 miles per hour. My head was down from all the grinding away. When the passer went by me it scared the crap out of me.

Time to get off this road! I pushed my speed up to 15 mph and looked for the convenience store five miles before Fallon.

When I dismounted I realized it was quite hot outside. Inside there was Gatorade and a Klondike bar. As soon as I downed them I felt much better.

In the last five miles I saw creeks and irrigation ditches and small farms and green that wasn’t sagebrush. When I saw a CVS store I knew I was back in civilization.

It’s been weeks since I’ve seen fast food and pharmacies and, would you believe, a Safeway.

I took a brief tour of historic Fallon. Sadly it looked like it’s better days are passed. The biggest building in town is a Nugget casino.

I checked into a Super 8. The lobby is a casino. But bed and breakfast for under $70 suits me just fine. (I learned from the desk clerk that I can go online and get at least one free night now.)

I checked in and showered. I could see in the bathroom mirror that my time crossing Utah and Nevada had stripped at least ten pounds off my frame. I had dinner at Subway and hit a gas station convenience store for junk food.

Tomorrow is another 63 mile day with minimal climbing as I ride to Carson City, the state capital. I will be staying with a Warmshowers host. I also need to visit a bike shop to get some new brake pads.

On Tuesday I need to decide where I’m going. Do I push on for 2 1/2 weeks through the Sierras and Cascades to Portland or do I head west over the Sierras and finish this adventure in San Francisco?

Either way getting home is a logistical puzzle because of a lack of nonstop flights. (I actually looked into taking a train back to Pittsburgh and riding home from there but it’s crazy expensive and would take 2 1/2 days!)

Total miles: 63.5

Tour miles: 2,648

Top speed: 25.7 mph

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