Frontage roads to Battle Mountain
My Winnemucca hosts provided me with a hearty breakfast of bacon, eggs, and freshly picked spinach from the garden. Henry and his family had been excellent hosts and made me feel extremely welcome in their home. They were a great introduction to WarmShowers.
After breakfast, Henry accompanied me on the start of the frontage roads to ensure I kept close to the railroad and therefore as close to Stevens' route as I could. In fact I was as close as I could be to the railroad without being on it. Every so often an endlessly long freight train would slowly pass by blasting its horn. I'd wave at the drivers and a few would wave back. I wondered if any of the drivers did the same route and would start to recognise me over the weeks.
Around the edge of a mountain range, the route took a swing to the south-east and, after ending up in some kind of rest area, the frontage road seemed to die out so I back-tracked and joined the freeway. I followed it to the next exit at Golconda and could see the interstate rising to cross a range a few miles ahead. Instead, given there seemed to be an alternative, I joined the Old Highway 40 and then took the intriguingly named Midas Road. This seemed to be a road for access to mines and, given the name, it suggested gold even though Nevada's motto was "The Silver State". Just before Midas Road crossed the Humboldt River I took a dirt track off to the right that followed the river and railroad around the range that the freeway had been going over. I was now out of sight of the freeway and paved roads. This felt more remote than anywhere I'd been so far as I'd previously had a freeway or state road in view even if they weren't close.
Around the edge of the range the view widened out and the road got worse. It would be generous to describe it as a farm track. The landscape was hot and the sand was dry and cracked. Despite the dryness, the desert was filled with sage brush. Occasionally there would be a shock of red due to some kind of hardy flower. In contrast to the desert, the mountains to the south were topped in snow.
A gravel road appeared that took a turn away from the railroad and towards the freeway miles away in the distance. With it looking more substantial, I took it. It gave me my first experience of "washboarding"; ripples in the road caused by the treads of big vehicles. Despite their looks, the ripples were solid and their spacing meant my bike and its occupant were shaken so violently that I worried my bike might fall to pieces.
Reaching the interstate I checked Google Maps which claimed there was a frontage road. I followed this deteriorating road for three and a half miles before it disappeared and hit a fence. I stopped. On the other side of the fence I saw an antelope or deer. It saw me and looked at me with what I imagine was a confused and nervous expression. It didn't know what to make of me. It may not have seen a person on a bicycle and certainly wasn't expecting one out here. I told it not to worry as it was on the other side of the fence. I turned around an cycled the three and a half miles back to the freeway exit I'd been at earlier, then cycled back along the freeway. A totally pointless extra seven miles.
I stopped at the next services for food to get my energy up. I was the only customer so, after serving me, the lady in the gas station shop left her post to feed the row of one-armed bandits. Nevada likes to give you opportunities to gamble even whilst at work.
I headed on to the brilliantly named Battle Mountain where I found a motel to stay the night. Outside the rooms I got talking to a friendly couple of truckers who said they'd passed me earlier and were wondering where I was headed. One of the truckers, Rex, told me not to worry about the Rockies as I was already "half way up them" and that once I got over them it was "downhill all the way to Boston". I'm sure it feels that way if you are in a truck! I told them how impressed I'd been with the truck drivers through the mountains and desert. Rex was so taken by my trip that he gave me his email address and insisted that I send him updates as I made my way across the country.
The motel room had a large bath unlike all the shallow ones I've experienced in California. I made good use of it and washed my clothes in it after I'd washed myself.