Getting to Moab - Page 2 of 3

[Map of road trip to Moab, Utah.]   [Pyramid Lake, in Nevada.]
This is how we got from California to Moab, Utah. Click on the map for a bigger version (38 kb); use your browser's "back" command to return here.   Pyramid Lake, located on an Indian reservation about 25 miles north of Reno, Nevada.

Driving to Moab

I'm a firm believer that part of any adventure is the "getting there". Sure, paddling the Green River will be great, but so is driving across the wide-open spaces of the West (especially for an Easterner like me). We planned to take the scenic route and spend a few days getting to Moab. From California, we started out on Interstate 80 so we could cross the Sierras at Donner Pass. Since it was early spring, the Sierras still had lots of snow and other passes might be difficult to traverse or even closed. As it was, the snow was several feet deep at Donner, although the roads were completely clear.

When we got to Reno, Nevada, we took a planned detour north to Pyramid Lake (using NV-445, NV-446, and NV-447). John is an avid fisherman, and he wanted to scout the lake and maybe try his luck with a few casts. When we got there, we were surprised to see how huge the lake was. It was a vast wide-open space, and it was hard to figure where to start. In the end, John decided to save fishing for a future trip, and after browsing through the interesting visitor center, we continued on our road trip.

U.S. Route 50 – "The Loneliest Road In America"

We now started crossing Nevada on U.S. Route 50, an old highway from the pre-interstate era. In Nevada, Route 50 is called "The Loneliest Road In America", since modern interstates have siphoned off most of the traffic. The highway was so empty we could drive for 10 to 20 minutes without seeing another vehicle. There were stretches of more than 100 miles without any services. Talk about lonely! Despite the isolation and lack of use, the road was in great shape and was an excellent drive.

Through most of Nevada, the highway crossed the Basin and Range terrain, where tall rocky mountain ranges alternate with flat desert basins. The scenery was quite spectacular, especially winding up and down the ranges. In several places, we saw localized snow showers spreading a dusting of white across the desert. Sometimes in the warmer and drier basins, the snow looked like it was evaporating before it reached the ground. Most of the mountains were covered with a few inches of relatively recent snow, which made for a beautiful scene with snow dusting the pines and rocks. One old town up in the mountains had just received about four inches of snow from a slow-moving snow shower. The people were outside shoveling the sidewalks and the road had been freshly plowed and sanded.

[U.S. Route 50 in Nevada.]   [Snow showers over a desert basin.]
U.S. Route 50 – "The Loneliest Road In America" – heads across the high Nevada desert.   A snow shower dusts the high desert of the Basin and Range terrain, along U.S. Route 50 in Nevada.

Strange Things In The Desert

[Payphone in the desert.]  
The Loneliest Phone on The Loneliest Road In America, along Route 50 in Nevada.  

At one point in Nevada, we encountered a roadside payphone that was prominently labeled as "The Loneliest Phone on the Loneliest Road In America". The phone was many miles from the nearest electricity or telephone exchange. Not to worry – it was powered by an array of solar cells and had a microwave radio link to the telephone exchange. We stopped to marvel at the oddity of a high-tech phone sitting all alone in the middle of a stark desert. I picked up the handset and actually got a dial tone, but I didn't call anyone. The placards listing the rates had been stripped off, so I didn't know if they charged a high rate. I wonder what would happen if you tried to order a pizza for delivery?

Here's another strange thing we saw along Route 50 in Nevada. I'm sure you've heard of a shoe tree – it's used to store shoes in your closet, right? Well, here's a larger-than-life Wild West example of a shoe tree. In the left-hand picture (below), you can see a large tree strewn with hundreds of pairs of shoes. The right-hand picture gives a closer view of some shoes. Most of them were good-quality shoes and boots. Nobody driving Route 50 expects to find such a strange depository for shoes, so you don't know in advance to bring a worn-out pair. Consumed by the heat of the moment, it looks like people fling their good shoes up into the tree. People sure do crazy things – I wouldn't be surprised if some people walked away barefoot. As an aside, while preparing a list of internet links for my site, I discovered that this tree is famous – it even has its own web site! If you search on Google for ["shoe tree" nevada 50], you'll find dozens of hits.

["Shoe tree" off U.S. Route 50.]   [Closer view of shoes.]

The road trip continues on the next page, as we finish our drive from California to Moab, Utah.

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