Day 9: The Shoe Tree and a Mountain Pass in the Desert on Old Hwy 50

The day began with Mr. Stevenson, the owner of the Old Middlegate Station, proudly showing us around the building that he has been preserving for over 25 years. His warmth and hospitality made me want to stay longer. He gave us great directions, the inside scoop on The Shoe Tree, and a big country western breakfast.

60 Miles on Old Hwy 50

Thanks to Mr. Stevenson we took Old Hwy 50, aka Route 722, and it was fabulous for biking (in spite of being a lonely road). Only 1 car passed me for most of the day, and the scenery finally got a little interesting. It changed from desert basin to a 3,000-foot climb over a mountain pass (elevation: 7,500 feet) and into another valley of desert basin sprinkled with a cattle ranch every 10 miles. All the while snow-capped mountains towered in the foreground. It was beautiful.

The Shoe Tree

In addition to the wall of rock graffiti and the ceiling of graffiti-ed dollar bills (see Day 8 blog), people have created a “Shoe Tree” along Hwy 50 – another opportunity to leave their mark in the desert. For over 10 years, a 70-foot tree stood just East of the Middlegate Station, and people threw their shoes into it. Last December, according to Mr. Stevenson, a disgruntled husband cut down the tree when he found out his wife (who loved the Shoe Tree) had cheated and was divorcing him. A neighboring 50-foot tree has since taken its place and people have already begun decorating it with shoes. But next to it is a sad a pile of shoes from the now-deceased, original Shoe Tree (see another picture below).

I’m Starting to Skip up Mountains

I must be getting stronger as the days pass because after 67 miles and a total of 4,400 feet of climbing today, my muscles feel great and my knees don’t hurt like they did over Carson Pass. Today I felt like I was skipping up the mountain. I even brought out Clare’s pink helmet to add some much-needed color to this brown desert!

Juana, the Flagger

For a short stretch on Old Hwy 50, a trucking company was performing computer testing. When we were forced to stop and wait for the trucks to clear, we decided to interview Juana, the Flagger. She has been with A&K Earthmovers for 8 years, but Juana proudly added that she has been flagging for 16 years. Juana said what she loves about her job is meeting interesting and colorful people. She then shared that her managers influence her success by giving her an extra push and providing her with more responsibilities, like mentoring new flaggers. Juana was delighted to receive a copy of the LifeMoxie book!

Interesting Sightings:

  • Many road signs that were clearly used as target practice
  • 4 antelope and a lizard
  • Austin, population 370 (Historical Note: At the height of the silver mining in the 1860s, it boasted a population of 10,000!)
  • A sandstorm in the valley
  • A pew in the bathroom at the Austin Baptist Church RV Park where the doors are marked “Adam” and “Eve” and the walls are lined with the 10 commandments

Day 9 Stats

Miles: 67.64 miles

Total mileage: 538.58

Elevation: 6,700 feet

Total ascent: 4,462 feet

Total interviews: 13

Road kill count: 62 (1 was a coyote and 1 was a cow!)

Destination for Day 10: Eureka, NV (population 650!)


About moxieride

I'm the Founder of LifeMoxie and I'm riding my bicycle across the country this summer to celebrate people who love their jobs and to celebrate the moxie managers who help us make work matter.
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3 Responses to Day 9: The Shoe Tree and a Mountain Pass in the Desert on Old Hwy 50

  1. Cousin Steve says:

    Way to go Cousin Ann! Isn’t it amazing how big NV is and how long it takes to get through it?

    I just realized that I was reading these posts through the email update and missing all of the great pictures on the blog. They don’t come through on the email update, so I’ll be hitting the blog from now on.

  2. Chris Wark says:

    Ann, This is too cool! I’m following your progress every day.
    I am very impressed with how you hopped over the Sierras so quickly.
    I once took US50 across NV on the way to CO with some friends heading for a backpacking trip. The entire length of NV was one gradual, hot, lonely ridge after another – the only way you knew you weren’t going downhill is because you had started going uphill, again – so I feel your monotony. Glad you found a side road.
    Good luck with the Rockies and onward!

  3. Julie says:

    i’ve traveled many times by that shoe tree and was sad one day when i heard it had been chopped down, but i had come in the middle of the story and never knew why! hilarious. Glad a new one is starting! You ROCK Ann! Thanks for sharing your experience with those of us who are perfectly happy to keep our butts planted on a couch! Cheers! jp

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