Tuesday, August 3, 2010

Loneliest Hours on the Loneliest Highway

We left Ely, NV, at 1:00 AM, as has become our custom during this week of crossing the hot, dry, sparsely populated area. The first hours of climbing were about what I had expected, but something switched on inside me as I rode down the seven and a half miles of six percent downgrade. I hit the bottom spinning at full leg speed in my highest gear, stretched across my aero bars for minimum air drag. Pulling to the front of the pack I kept that spin going for eight miles across Spring Valley from Major's Junction, watching the silhouettes of the eastern mountains slowly grow against the first light of dawn.

The road gradually climbed toward the towering mountains until I could see the details of their upthrust granite faces in the dim light directly in front of me. Then highway 50 turned northeasterly into a short descent too steep to spin through and slowly climbed out, so I could continue my spin by down-shifting one gear every quarter mile. It went through a series of swells, each taller than the last. I stopped on a downturn to remove insulating over-clothes and felt the slight tailwind.

Now the crags on my left were closer than those on the right, where a dozen modest homes were tucked into the hillside, about half of them behind an archway built entirely of cast off elk antlers. As the morning sun made a western peak glow, the coyotes burst into song and I struggled to keep my spin up in my climbing gear, pulling five miles up at six percent grade. As the hills on both sides mellowed toward the pass, the scrub pines took over the landscape from the sagebrush.

I took a nice long break at the top of the pass. Though it was the first I'd seen of the sun, it had fully risen on the valley to the east. From here it was a pleasant downhill all the way to Baker, where I write this while waiting out the heat of the day. Tonight we'll face one of the most challenging rides so far - 84 miles without services. We're ready.

No comments: