With a name like "The Loneliest Road in America," it's hard not be a little curious about Highway 50 -- but it needn't be so solitary. Stretching the width of Nevada from the border of Utah near the Great Basin National Park and curving its way west through Reno to the California border, Highway 50 actually covers 3,073 miles beginning in Ocean City, Maryland and ending in Sacramento, California. Nevada's portion affords an excellent sampling of this cross-country stretch for those with a romantic notion of the Great American Road Trip, and it runs parallel to the famous Pony Express route.
Start your journey at the Great Basin National Park and wind your way through the old copper-mining town of Ely, where you can check out the Nevada Northern Railway Museum, 1100 Avenue A (tel. 775/289-2085; www.nevadanorthernrailway.net), or better yet, take a ride on the Ghost Train, a 1905 Northern Railway steam locomotive that still chugs through town. Eureka is by far Nevada's best preserved mining town, and worth the stop if only to check out the beautiful 1880 Opera House (tel. 775/237-6006), which was lovingly restored to its former glory in 1994. A former mining camp, the town of Austin (www.austinnevada.com) holds historic sites on the Pony Express route, as well as spots for some great mountain biking. West of that sits Fallon (www.fallontourism.com), where you'll find the Grimes Point Hidden Cave (tel. 775/885-6000), an archaeological site packed with petroglyphs (rock carvings) made by prehistoric Native Americans; Sand Mountain, which, at 2 miles high, is one the biggest sand boxes you'll ever find; and the bizarre Old Shoe Tree, a cottonwood whose branches are covered with hanging shoes. In between the sites of interest are just miles of open road -- about as romantic as a lonely stretch of highway can get.
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