by cheri block
On our way out of California, up Highway 50 out of Sacramento, we stopped at an old lodge that has seen better days. On the way to the counter (bar) for lunch, we passed several things that could be symbolic of this trip we are embarking on.
At the Strawberry Lodge, everything in sight–from the lobby to the dance hall and from the bar to the living room–is worn. Even the chairs, sofa-futon hybrids, have been loved and crushed during long winter fireside conversations.
We drive familiar roads up to the south shore of Lake Tahoe and over the mountain to the Carson Valley.
That night, we visit with friends–the Snows–who prepare an Alaskan salmon dinner that we will long remember. Their home overlooks the Sierra Nevada mountain range from the east; we enjoy some special Napa Valley wines and admire their view.
We head out across what Life Magazine called “The Loneliest Highway in America.”
Nevada’s high desert is made up of scruffy tufts anchoring the dry sandy earth, dappled and mottled by sage brush.
The expanse of this territory silences the voice and the mind.
The earlier desert scruffiness softens and the taller grassy carpet unrolls from the mountains, tacked down to the edge of the highway by cattle fences.
It’s time for lunch.
In Austin, Nevada, a little town whose origins go back to the Pony Express, we stop for an average lunch at the Toiyabe Cafe, a pleasant local dining room and are greeted by a ghoul ready for Halloween.
The highway is vacant now in September. Photo opportunities take on new risks in the middle of the road.
In Eureka, Nevada, home of the Eureka Opera House and also a courthouse built in 1879, we arrive just in time for the Mennonite Farmer’s Market, where I buy 12 oatmeal raisin cookies.
Leaving Eureka on our way to Ely, where we are tonight, the high desert sparseness yields to the strong and affable personalities of tall sagebrush and pinon pines. They animate the Toiyabe National Forest, a stalwart place where granite pushes out of the dappled hillsides in outcroppings of strength and beauty.