Day Ten: Tonopah, Nevada to Near Mile Marker 95 Along US-6 - "Vibes" - CycleBlaze

From "Vibes"

By Jeff Lee

June 24, 2024

Day Ten: Tonopah, Nevada to Near Mile Marker 95 Along US-6

I was slow getting ready this morning. Today, and the next day, would be on the emptiest paved road I'd ever ridden: US-6 from Tonopah to Ely has no services of any kind for something like 16o or 170 hilly miles. And although I was carrying a water filter, there were apparently few if any sources of water to filter.

Looking at Google Maps of this road from the comfort of my home back in the winter when I was recovering from back surgery, this stretch of very empty desert road seemed like an exciting challenge. Now, though, the reality of riding it in the very hot temperatures, and with the lingering affects of a head cold, made it feel extremely daunting.

I put more water on the bike than ever before, and headed up the slight  hill through Tonopah, taking a few photos.

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Mark BinghamJeff, it's WORLD FAMOUS.
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3 weeks ago
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I turned onto US-6.

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A signed warned of "Fresh Oil" for the next 24 miles, but it proved to be no problem - it was already dry. I was bothered a little by the lack of painted lines, but traffic was so minimal that it wasn't a problem. The road stretched ahead as far as I could see like a skinny black ribbon:

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I did the first of several climbs of the day, to McKinney Tanks Summit.

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I stopped at the first of the two extremely minimal "rest areas" of the day. It was pretty bleak. I spent about  ten minutes eating snacks and looking around, but didn't use the gross pit toilet.

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Back on the road, I did another slow climb, this time to Saulsberry Summit. The pattern for the day would be to slowly ride to these summits at 6,000+ feet, and descend 1,500 or 2,000 feet, then do it again.

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Toni Romp-FriesenHow do you spell "desolate"?
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2 weeks ago
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It was hot and very, very dry. I was trying to conserve my water.

A car slowed beside me. The driver, a large, shirtless older man, looked over and asked "Would  you like something cold to drink?"

We each pulled over onto the shoulder, and the man, who was traveling with his grandson, produced an ice cold 32 oz. lemon lime Gatorade, which I chugged as quickly as I could. I don't think a Gatorade has ever tasted so delicious. After handing me a cold bottle of water, they wished me luck and drove away.

The grandson of the man who gave me the Gatorade and water. The man did not want his picture taken. "I'm in the witness protection program", he joked.
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Mark BinghamI just noticed he's wearing an Iowa Hawkeyes baseball cap.
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3 weeks ago

It was hotter in the middle part of the day. I climbed up to Warm Springs Summit, then down to Warm Springs, which years before had a bar and café, long since closed, like everything else along US-6.

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Just past that is what is apparently a minor tourist attraction: A highway sign labeled "Extraterrestrial Highway", an alternate name for Nevada State Route 375, which intersects with US-6 here.  This stretch of 375 is supposedly the location of many UFO sightings. I dutifully took a picture of the sign. A couple on a motorcycle, and some Asian tourists in a car stopped and did the same.

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Back on on the road. The desert and mountain scenery was often stunning, but I'd become a little jaded  by it at this point. It was very, very hot, but I had a good tailwind.

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After about 56 miles, I reached the Blue Jay Rest Area. Amenities of the rest were the following: A tree, and a couple of picnic tables. No toilet.

I'd been craving shade, no matter how minimal, for hours. One of the picnic tables was in the shade of the small tree. I lay on the table for 40 minutes, resting. I contemplated stopping here for the day, but I felt like I needed to move farther down the road. And I didn't want to squander the tail wind. It was so hot that the peanut M&Ms in my handlebar bag had started melting through the package. I forced myself to eat some of them, but I wasn't hungry at all. I had inadvertently purchased the wrong kind of cheese-crackers yesterday; I'd bough some "Ritz" brand crackers, and they were a bitter disappointment. I could barely force them into my so very dry mouth.

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Back on the bike, I felt a little rested after my time on the picnic table, and made good progress with the help of the tailwind.

I was feeling pretty good, and decided I'd ride as far as I could, and when the sun began to go down, I'd just find a place near the side of the ride to camp. I liked the idea of getting as many miles knocked off the first day of US-6 as possible.

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A truck pulling a camper was stopped on the shoulder. I pulled off and said hello. It was a young couple from southern Indiana, returning from a vacation to Yosemite National Park. One of the wheels on the trailer had some sort of bearing problem, and they were trying, unsuccessfully so far, to fix it. They still had the use of their truck, of course, so they were not in immediate danger out here in the desert. They gave me some cold water, and then  we had a brief discussion wherein I learned that they were alums of the university where my wife teaches, and lived not far from where we live. They told me they'd seen me about 70 miles ago on the road, when they first started experiencing problems with the wheel, and said to each other "It could be worse - at least we're not that guy!"

Hey:  It's my vacation.

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Toni Romp-FriesenThis looks like a sign you would see on the big island!
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3 weeks ago
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The  miles ticked by. 80, 90. I was feeling good, but ready stop for the day when I found the right place.

I glanced down and saw something odd on the side of the road: A jar of pickles. I felt it was worth stopping briefly in order to document this strange find:

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Kelly Iniguezelectrolytes!
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3 weeks ago
Jeff LeeTo Kelly IniguezHaha. I detest pickles, while my wife loves them. It's one of our jokey "feuds" in fact. I said something mean to her one time, and my punishment was that I had to drink pickle juice while she watched and laughed at my disgusted expression.

She must not have read this journal page yet, because we talked 20 minutes ago, and she didn't mention the photo.
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3 weeks ago
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I reached the Blackrock Summit, the last climb of the day.

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As I coasted down, I saw a group of trees in the distance. Surprisingly, it wasn't a ranch, but some sort of seemingly abandoned Nevada Wildlife Management operation. I looked it over thoroughly. It  had obviously been abandoned years before. I set up the tent behind the main structure, which, upon further inspection, was more dilapidated than it originally appeared. My tent was not visible from the road, and there was almost no traffic anyway, so I felt as safe "stealth" camping here as I could anywhere.

Before taking my nightly swig of Nyquil, I walked around a little. Was that water burbling, or some sort of audio mirage?!

There was, in fact, small spring. I wasn't certain of the safety of filtering the water, though - it wasn't very cold, and I still had a lot of water in the two-liter bottles I was carrying anyway. I'd recently become paranoid about contracting a disease from bad water, even when filtered.

I went to bed without putting the rainfly on the tent, and was asleep in a few minutes.

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Today's ride: 96 miles (154 km)
Total: 641 miles (1,032 km)

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Kelly IniguezYou are probably already in Ely, soaking up all of the amenities of town. My mother owned the movie theatre there until she passed. It's a former opera house. When she bought it, the place was still heated with coal! Mother upgraded to coal oil, the most modern choice available in Ely. No gas service for heaters available. That place was a money pit. There was always something to fix or upgrade. But, it's sure a beautiful building.
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3 weeks ago
Jeff LeeTo Kelly IniguezI walked around Ely looking for the theater, but then it started to pour down rain, and I had to hurry back to my room.

Ely seemed like a lively place.
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3 weeks ago
Kelly IniguezTo Jeff LeeI was chatting with one of the bank tellers. It came up that they lived in Ely for a number of years. Her husband worked at the mine. She said they liked it there, but moved when the kids got old enough to ask about the brothel buildings. She said there were more brothels in Ely than churches. This conversation was decades ago. Perhaps there are now more churches, although I did just ask google about brothels in Ely, and there are a few listed.
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3 weeks ago