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David Freeze: A change of plans nets unique lodging

Sometimes my eyes are bigger than they should be.

I went to sleep Tuesday night with potential plans to take on at least 110 miles Wednesday over four mountain passes and summits. I didn’t think that accommodations were available along the way from Fallon to Austin, Nevada.

The going was slow in the morning once the climbing began, and my progress wasn’t as good as I hoped. Some days, I just need to be OK with a change of plans, and this was one of them.

The Budget Inn in Fallon was my home Tuesday night, and all was well. Except that Walmart only carries goofy wide-brimmed hats, so I didn’t buy one. I found my multitool, so I didn’t buy one of those either.

What I did buy were slices of watermelon and pineapple and plenty of yogurt, along with some oatmeal raisin cookies. I spent a portion of the evening working on my cyclometer, which has malfunctioned once again. My cellphone has had no signal for 24 hours, and I expect that to continue.

Fallon is a very interesting town. It is the home of Fallon Naval Air Station, which is in turn the home of the “Top Gun” weapons training for Navy fighter jets. I did not see a statue of Tom Cruise but saw one jet do a simulated bombing run on a mountain nearby. The sound of jets was a constant all morning, and two of them just buzzed me as I was writing this update.

Fallon is also the home to the Hearts of Gold cantaloupe; I was amazed that the desert can grow them so well. Fort Churchill is close by, having been opened to protect the settlers moving west in 1861.

As I headed east, I saw Sand Mountain, a 600-foot-high and 2.5-mile sand dune, on the left. Sand Mountain occurred naturally and occasionally shifts slightly. At one time, it covered the remains of the Sand Springs Pony Express station.

The Sand Springs Pass and Drumm Summit were the first two of 13 passes and summits that I will cross while continuing east through Nevada. The first two were the smallest and had me sweating pretty well. At that point, I knew that I had little chance to make it 64 more miles Wednesday to Austin and submit my story and photos in time.

With that realization, I stopped at Middlegate Station, itself a previous Pony Express and Overland Stagecoach station. Not sure of what was here, I explored it a little and found a bar, restaurant, motel, RV parking and much more.

After some prompting during a nice conversation with Al Franz and Johnetta Porter, I decided to make a strategic move and go after the next two bigger climbs and finish in Austin tonight.

Austin to Eureka will open a series of longer daily rides from town to town with no supply points in between. Certainly, U.S. 50 will earn its designation of the “Loneliest road in America.”

In 1986, Life Magazine said, “There are no attractions along the 287-mile stretch of road and we recommend that drivers have ‘survival skills’ to travel the route.”

Middlegate was named in 1859 by James Simpson, who journeyed across the desert in 1859. The station also sits on the original Lincoln Highway, a 3,143-mile gravel highway that once stretched from San Francisco to New York City bisecting the heart of America.

A piece of that original highway is preserved in front of the station, and it was being worked on Wednesday.

My motel room was really cool. Very small, but big enough for the me and the bike. This might be one of the coolest places that I have ever spent the night.

Middlegate Station is quirky but well placed nearly midway between the two bigger towns and was rated to have the second-best burger in Nevada. My panoramic view from the motel was one of the best yet.

A telegraph station and at least one more well-preserved Pony Express station are coming up today. The roads are well paved but are done with a rough gravel. There is no bike lane or shoulder but traffic is very light and will decrease even more.

It is warm but not expected to get really hot until I reach Utah in a few days. Meanwhile, there is much more to see in Nevada.
See you again tomorrow.

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