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Saturday, July 16, 2011

I-80, Nevada - Crossing The Desert

I seemed to get off to a slow start this morning and by the time the bike was “neatly packaged” I had already worked up a sweat in the Salt Flats heat so decided to leave West Wendover with minimal layers. Of course I wasn’t far out when I found it necessary to stop and put the layers back on. It seems the weather fairies have been on my side. While most of the rest of the US is in the midst of a heat wave the route I’m following has remained comfortably cool and dry and appears may stay that way for the next few days at least.

I wanted to see new things on this tour; I just don’t think I was prepared for how much of the something new I was going to see. The desert seems to go on forever, the road following nature’s route, twisting and turning through natural canyons and mountain passes. It’s bleak, dry and barren. The only trees are made by man – telephone poles and hydro lines stretching across the desert. Again today, the railroad paralleled my path most of the way. The brown countryside became monotonous with only a few shanty towns and the odd ranch or mining site. I watched many a dust whirlwind dance beside the highway. Who are the people who live in this rugged wilderness? I now understand why the cowboy I chatted with in Nebraska said nothing, just raised an eyebrow when I said I was going to follow 80 west.

An Oasis frozen in time
I-80 from West Wendover to Reno seemed a long ride on a modern steel horse I cannot imagine the journey in the 1840s by horse and wagon … or even in the 1920s by motorcar. I stopped at the Oasis exit to photograph a memory of those days gone by - A truck stop that was abandoned on a stretch of pavement now overgrown. It was frozen in time, the people having just walked away. Its sign was still boasting ice cream and groceries, the last vehicle to visit was still parked in front.

In contrast to the desert, Reno is a vibrant, color-filled and bubbling place; my oasis here, Whole Foods Market – a travelers dream. It has everything imaginable including delicious foods of all kinds to go, just 7.99 a pound. I’m close to a car wash - tomorrow the dirty girl gets a bath but tonight she and I are California dreaming!

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