There are a lot of great reasons to get out in the middle of nowhere and take a long solitary ride. For me, it’s a way to clear my mind, to reset, to help appreciate everything else in life. Sometimes, I don’t even know that I need it, and then while taking it all in, realize, damn, that was awesome. Timing isn’t really that important, riding is a great stress reliever, whether you’re coping with the reality of say, a pandemic, or perhaps job, family or other stress, riding is the vaccine.
Over the past couple of years, I’ve needed to traverse back and forth from Colorado to California multiple times, and my almost complete and total disdain for Interstate 15 has driven me to seek alternate routes. What I give up in lost transit time is easily recouped by what I gain, feeling totally relaxed, mentally refreshed, and seeing places that are awe inspiring in a weird desolate sort of way.
I’ve taken a few different routes, but the key for me has been to get across Nevada and eastern California, without touching I-15 if possible, especially through Las Vegas. Western Colorado and Utah, are easy on the eyes, and offer little in the way of stress, even on I-70. So here are two of my preferred routes.
This is perhaps my favorite route, that I literally just stumbled upon a few years ago. From western Utah, I like to jump off I-70 at Salina and head up to Scipio, down the dreaded 15 for a few miles and then jump on Highway 50, and then Highway 6-50 into Nevada heading toward Ely. I then jump on Highway 6 heading southwest toward Tonopah, and pick 6-95 back up. Then you’ll hook back onto 6 until Benton, and then the final stretch is on 120 to the 395. This section past Mono Lake is my favorite. From Lee Vining, you can head north or south on 395, or cut through Yosemite National Park on Tioga Pass Road. If LA is your destination, you can take Highway 95 south, to Highway 160 to Pahrump then 178 to Baker. That’s still too much I-15 for me; East Range Road is an option into Barstow. A word of warning, these roads see so little traffic at times, that I’ve come upon livestock literally sleeping in the middle of the highway. Also, dusk and nighttime can be a bit scary, as I’ve seen antelope, deer, cow, coyotes, and numerous other critters jump out of the inky night into my headlights. Be alert.
A more “popular” route is on the Loneliest Road in America (U.S. Route 50). According to Wikipedia: the route was constructed over a historic corridor, initially used for the Pony Express and Central Overland Route and later for the Lincoln Highway. From the Utah border, you’ll head through towns like Ely, Eureka, Austin, Eastgate, and on into Carson City, and eventually into Lake Tahoe. The nickname of this road stems from the fact that the road crosses large swaths of Nevada that are seemingly void of civilization. If that is your thing, then you’ll enjoy this desert abyss. If you’re headed to San Francisco, or central California, this is the route, but it stays a bit too north if SoCal is your destination. Things to see along the way include Great Basin National Park, Area 51 if you want a diversion, Carson City and Lake Tahoe.