9 Oct 2012
I revised today’s route by incorporating more of Hwy 50 as recommended by my good friend, Bill. To reach Hwy 50, I first rode straight north through the massive and unending Big Smokey Valley. The highway runs the length of the valley with long stretches of roadway that are precisely straight. It’s mostly flat but there are ridges to crest now and then and you are presented with a fresh view. Even so, the road just keeps going, straight, as far as you can see, with nary a turn or bend or intersection. Finally you are gifted a few sweeping turns, and then a small town, and then, mercifully, the road climbs from the bottom of the valley up a little higher—just below the foothills of the mountains lining the valley. From this higher perspective you can appreciate the size and scope of the valley. It is long and wide. The bordering mountains—home to both defunct and active mines—are impressive in their own right, with a few peaks over 11,000 feet.
The roadside is kept up nicely due to cheap prison labor being situated at a small Department of Corrections Conservation Camp right there in the valley. I rode past the prison crew performing maintenance on both sides of the road, slowing considerably so as to pass them safely. The flagman and I exchanged friendly waves. I wondered what his life is like.
At the far end of the valley I climbed out of it and crossed the summit into Austin, Nevada. There a restaurant served me the first decent food I’ve had in several days—homemade beef stew and cornbread. Up three steps from the restaurant, and through a connecting door, is a bar. Inside were three gents discussing Medicare. The pack leader seemed properly informed and espoused a well-thought out position. Between his two friends, one spoke sparingly and the other remained completely silent.
Tonight I am lodged in Virginia City—again thanks to Bill’s recommendation. This is the land of Ben, Adam, Hoss and Little Joe Cartwright. It’s a very pleasant mountain town with many original buildings and storefronts. More impressive even are the boardwalks that run for blocks on both sides of the main street. Old boardwalks are just cool.
Tomorrow I will ride Hwy 50 again, around the south end of Lake Tahoe, through the Sierra and into Sacramento. There I will turn onto a very squiggly road that takes me to Yountville. I have various dinner reservations but am only on the waiting list where I really want to eat. It’s unlikely I can charm my way in but I’ll try. I was optimistic enough to pack a required sport coat. It’s silk and rolled up and perhaps not too wrinkled.