Driving across the desert of northern Nevada from West Wendover on the Utah state line to Reno at the foothills of the Sierras is 500 miles by way of Interstate 80. Of course, with my propensity for taking all the interesting detours I find, I drove at least 100 more miles. I now have 1,527 miles on my trip odometer from Boulder, but without detours Google Maps says that the distance is just over 1,000 miles.
The trip across the Nevada desert isn’t as challenging as it was for the 150,000 “forty-niners” who came this way. Many of them perished on the trail. But it is still hot and dry with temperatures in the shade of about 100 degrees almost all the way. And only rarely did I find shade.
But Interstate 80 is fast and easy. With a speed limit of 75 mph almost all the way and traffic light enough so that I could set the cruise control for 80 mph, I could rest my legs.
Searching all of my guide books and maps for something more interesting than the highway, I found two places.
Last night I stayed in Elko at the Motel 6. At sunset I drove 30 miles southeast to Lamoille Canyon high in the Ruby Mountains, which top out at 11,387 feet. At dusk I got this shot looking up the canyon:
Between Elko and Reno the biggest attraction is the “Forty Mile Desert.” The name originates from the Truckee and Carson routes of the California trail across the Lahontan valley. For 40 miles the emigrants had to do without any water across the alkaline flats, hiking mostly at night to avoid the scorching heat of the day. A sign at the eastern edge of the Forty Mile Desert says that people later counted 1,000 graves there.But beyond the Lahontan Valley I drove north to Pyramid Lake, the largest natural lake completely within Nevada. The Pyramid Lake Indian Reservation surrounds it. Pyramid Lake is a salt lake that has about 10 percent of the area of the Great Salt Lake, but it has about 25 percent more volume.
This isolated lake is just 35 miles north of Reno. And Reno was just as much of a surprise for me today. The city has changed a bit since I last visited it more than half a century ago!
Actually, I like Reno a lot more than I thought I would. Somehow I had imagined it as just a scaled down version of glitzy Las Vegas. Reno fortunately doesn’t even try to compete with the glitz of Vegas. In all the world, only Hong Kong can do that.
About 600,000 people live in Vegas compared with just 200,000 in Reno, which in addition to the casinos found everywhere in Nevada has the University of Nevada and is a major distribution and merchandising center.
I found Reno quite pleasant, particularly after the 100 degree midday temperatures had cooled down this evening when I went out to dinner and ate outside.
My three meals today were perfect examples of my new favorite road food. I started with breakfast in my Elko motel room with the GreensFirst vegetable drink that I praised so highly in “Drink Your Veggies.” Now, if anything I love it even more and also regularly add a scoop or two of protein powder.
For lunch I stopped in Winnemucca and had what most people would consider breakfast — two eggs over easy with four sausage patties. Normally, I eat only egg whites and avoid beef or pork but on the road I allow myself these indulgences.
For dinner I had a salad from the extensive salad bar at Whole Foods in Reno. This Whole Foods is twice as big a store as any of its stores in Boulder and ten times less crowded and more pleasant.
After dinner I went shopping for some last-minute items for my upcoming hike at REI in Reno. Those two stores and the Motel 6 where I am staying make me appreciate the enchainment of America. When I am on the road, I like the familiarity that the chains offer.