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.
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.
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!
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!
- 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
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!)