America’s Loneliest Road

August 8, 2014
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America's loneliest road - U.S 50

America’s loneliest road – U.S 50

Running from Ocean City, Maryland on the U.S. east coast all the way to Sacramento in California, U.S. Route 50 cuts an impressive swathe through alpine forests, desert valleys, ghost towns and petroglyphs.

It’s the bit that crosses a 287-mile stretch of Nevada, from Ely to Fernley, that prompted the author of a 1986 Life magazine article to call it “The Loneliest Road in America”, quoting an unnamed Automobile Association representative as saying “It’s totally empty. There are no points of interest. We don’t recommend it. We warn all motorists not to drive there unless they’re confident of their survival skills.”

In true “when life hands you lemons, make lemonade” style, the local tourist office decided to turn the publicity from the article into an opportunity to attract visitors, marking the route with “America’s Loneliest Road” signage and selling “I survived Highway 50” map kits and t-shirts. The state soon followed suit and made the signs official.

Among the notable towns on the route is Eureka, which claims to have more cemeteries than any other town in America. In keeping with that penchant for digging, the town sits precariously atop a network of tunnels dug by Chinese miners from days of yore and used for gambling and opium dens before Prohibition era bootleggers made use of them. Further along the road, the ghost town of Ruth inspired author Stephen King’s novel Desperation, with its stories of the ghosts of trapped Chinese miners crossing US 50 to get to the town. Both town and road made it into the novel.  It’s an ill wind…

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