Get your kicks

The road home from Coachella Valley last week was complicated by cold messiness. The most direct route from Reno, high scenic 395, was plagued with snow and ice on its three 8,000-foot summits. Since I no longer bother with snow tires (one of the upsides of global warming), I was unprepared and unwilling to tackle that highway. It just seemed like a crummy day to end up upended in a frozen ditch on the side of the road, waiting for a tow truck out of Bridgeport.

But, as a flexible desert traveler, I had a Plan B. As it turned out, it was a pleasant, stress-free B, a time-honored strategy that has allowed drivers to avoid winter road hassles for decades. At Bishop, you bail on 395, hang a right on U.S. 6, and head east, which will get you to 95, a road that's often delightfully dry.

Leaving at 10 a.m. on U.S. 6, I quickly encounter what might be the coolest mileage sign in the entire state of Nevada. It reads “Province-town, Massachusetts—3205 miles.” An elegantly brief reminder that one is on a road that spans the country, the longest contiguous highway in the USA. (These days, Bishop is indeed its western terminus, Provincetown its eastern finish.)

Thirty miles up the road, one enters the sleepy town of Benton, where you can pick up not much more than a six pack of little chocolate donuts. Stale, old and cold, these LCDs were somehow perf on thas frosty gray morning. Moving east, the next point of interest is the border, where one gets a great look, in fact the best look, at Nevada's highest mountain, Boundary Peak. From its roadside viewpoint, BP actually has a looming presence, at 13,140 feet, even if it's eternally overshadowed by its slightly taller big brother, Mt. Montgomery, which, due to some slick 19th century survey work, is in California.

Continuing east, the next spot of interest is Montgomery Pass, at 7,167 feet, which is high enough, at its nearly Donner elevation, to provide possible snow/ice hassles. Today, happily, it's a breeze, with completely dry roads, allowing me to streak past the still functioning NDOT maintenance station and the shuttered old brothel Janie's Ranch, a crumbling testament to livelier, tawdrier times on 6 in those Days Before the Interstates.

Then, one takes advantage of NV 360, a terrific short cut which takes a geometrically pleasing northeast angle from 6 to U.S. 95, allowing Reno-bound travelers to trim about 40 miles off the drive. What points of interest are on 360? Pretty much zero, unless you like dreary tiny ghost towns and endless desertscapes of various brushes.

In fact, the only thing you're likely to find on 360 is trucks. Lots of 'em. It's a well known trucker cut-off, and you'll probably pass three to five 18 wheelers as you scream on down this zippy little road to the junction with raucous 95, a few miles south of the bizarroville called Mina.