Life: Nevada, Highway 50 West

There’s not much life along Nevada’s Highway 50. In 1986, Life magazine dubbed this stretch “The Loneliest Road in America.” My buddy Bill highly recommended that I forego the niceties of I-80 and travel along 50 West from Utah to California instead. Why not? I wasn’t in a hurry. I had my VW van for camping (camp set-up pictured at right). And if anything bad happened…well, I didn’t consider it much, as I don’t think I really knew how desolate this portion of asphalt would be. As it turned out, I drove for long stretches without seeing any other vehicles; cell phone coverage didn’t exist for miles (gaspthe horror!), and mechanical assistance was way out of reach for most of this journey, should I have needed it.

Only a few towns even dot this stretch of road. From Fallon, NV to Delta, UT, there are three towns in 409 miles: Austin, Eureka, and Ely. I paid $10 to camp in my van in the parking lot of a Baptist church in Austin, after downing a meatloaf dinner platter (no grocery store to be found).

The lady at the diner told me that I might be able to find some breakfast the next morning at a little outpost down the road: Middlegate Station.

I saw Middlegate Station signposted from the road and then turned left, squinting to see what was really out there. Moments later, I pulled up to the main washed-out wooden structure and walked onto the porch, where this friendly sign greeted me:

I found some breakfast inside: powdered donuts and coffee. The place had a roadhouse-kind-of-feel, with a bar and a sizzling grill just waiting to fry up some eggs and bacon. I took my travel mug of coffee outside to get a better look around.

Middlegate Station is definitely a gas station, in addition to a greasy breakfast joint and a bar. And, as far as I know, that pay phone still works. Behind the pay phone is a stretch of hotel rooms…they go for $30 a night, with special trucker rates.

Middlegate Station was once an overland stage station used by the Pony Express, and it remains along the first highway paved coast-to-coast across the U.S. I can’t think of many reasons why a person would want to drive this stretch of road, but Middlegate Station was one of the most curious places I came across on this journey, and if I hadn’t been so grease-logged from the previous night’s meatloaf dinner, I would have stayed longer and had some eggs and bacon (instead of the donuts? Go figure).

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