Apparently bicycling across Nevada on US Highway 50, which was dubbed The Loneliest Road in America some 29 years ago, (July 1986) in Life Magazine, gives the bicyclist a grand notch on their bicycling pants belt. Right next to the notch that marks the accomplishment of completing a trip of biking some “over the rainbow road.” Or getting a bronze badge in the shape of a 1950 Schwinn, for crossing the great divide on a bike.
I am not without awe at these road warriors. Just how do you get the gumption to look at a map and decide that sometime during the summer you will climb aboard a bicycle, with a tiny, tiny seat and very skinny tires, that in most cases is usually only used to get from your house to your friend’s house because you are too young to drive, and then ride that bike some 250 to 350 or more miles. Over very tall and steep mountain passes and across very long and wide valleys.
It is so foreign to me. Like if someone were to tell me that I would really enjoy beating myself up with a large stick and I would run crazily to the nearest fallen log pull off a wayward stick and begin beating myself about the head and shoulders. No, I’m pretty sure I wouldn’t do that—or bike the loneliest road either. But again, I am in awe of those hardy souls that take on that task. But—yes, there’s a but coming…
Okay, picture this—we were driving from Eureka to Reno on a wonderful early September day and ran onto a lovely group of bicyclists doing the loneliest road gallivant. A string of the peddlers that strung out for over 100 miles. One or two at a time peddling up a rise with determination or coasting down a grade with a hardy smile pasted on their weary faces. Along with those bikers exercising their legs we also passed the supporting staff and their vehicles. Now this is where the “but” comes in and it gets interesting—honest.
When you pass a support car, (which you can identify by their slow movement, decorated with hand painted slow moving vehicle signs and all matter of bicycling gear attached on top and back usually teamed with an older, been there, done that group or people) it is comforting to know that the cyclists are being cared for. If the support cars are stopped you can read the signs and you also see the resting cyclists getting shade, nutrition, water and hardy a, “Atta boy,” is surely being give out along the roadside. It really is quite an amazing and well-orchestrated attraction.
The major summit on Nevada’s Highway 50 Loneliest Road is Austin Summit. A very long, steep climb no matter how you look at it. Going East or West Austin Summit is about the half way point from Fallon to Ely. Here is where the interesting part of this story occurred. As you climb the mountain you can see the crest coming up ahead. There we noticed a support vehicle, a pickup, was perpendicular to the road. Pulled off the road with the back opened, very close to the edge of the road and a brightly colored canvas shade erected alongside of the truck. As we approached there was a pile of something brownish and unmoving laying alongside of this vehicle. While we couldn’t see any stopped bicyclist, or support staff waiting in anticipation, we could see this lumpy mass. Being well traveled Nevadans we thought someone had maybe hit a deer and the poor thing was still there in a heap. We were traveling at the hill topping, bicycling surveillance speed of about 40 mph, and as we got closer, the brown lump was just lying there.
But—ah finally—then things took a more interesting shape. A girlish shape. A very, uh, tanned and nearly unclothed shape. This happens, mind you over about a 10 to 15 second window of time. We crest the summit, see the truck sticking out nearly into the road, and then whoosh—we determined that the brown lump was a shapely, teeny tiny thong/string bikini clad, been in the sun all summer long, not a care in the world gal laying on a blanket alongside of The Loneliest Road in America.
A zillion things could happen at this juncture. Several quips could be quipped. Facts and fiction could abound from this passing. There were just the two of us in our car. A woman and a man. A ying and a yang so to speak. A Mars and a Venus. Or in other words, one of us saw the bikini and the other just saw the brown. It surely was the butt of jokes for the rest of the trip…
I wonder what Nevada nuggets would have been uttered in your car along that lonely road.
Trina lives in Eureka. Her book ITY BITS can be found on Kindle. Share your thoughts and opinions with her at firstname.lastname@example.org.