Traffic jam in nowhere-ville

As more people discover there’s more to Nevada than slot machines, bomb tests and rampant venereal disease, more people are prone to mess up neat stuff that we may have once dared to think was untouchable and invulnerable. At least, this is the impression I had when I traveled recently across the state on Highway 50, for years billed as The Loneliest Road in America. Things have changed.

It was back in the ’80s that the state recognized the stark, raving coolness of that then almost empty streak of asphalt that runs from Fallon to the border of Utah; a 330-mile run of two-lane blacktop purity that was interrupted by only three towns and rarely bothered by an actual vehicle. The State Commission on Tourism pounced, devising a public relations campaign for Highway 50 that worked so damned dastardly well it now appears to have been the road’s ultimate undoing. It branded H-50 “The Loneliest Road in America” and then belched out an onslaught of T-shirts, coffee mugs and bumper stickers to drive the point home. Then came all the “I Survived the Loneliest Road” crap, sold and even handed out to the occasional nomads from California and Kentucky who were adventurous enough to seek an alternative to Interstate 80.

Finally, there were those Loneliest Road press kits mailed out to newspapers around America. Soon, dozens of Daily Chronicles and Tribunes and Blabs, desperate for filler to run in their bloated Sunday Travel sections, started spreading the word about the semi-weird and scenic road in Nevada that claimed to be the loneliest of all found in the lower 48. Those stories landed on many eyeballs, and it’s now obvious that a frightening percentage of those eyeballs were connected to brains that longed to experience the sweet sensation of freestyle driving on an open road that wasn’t hemmed in by trees or clogged by lamebrains and nincompoops.

Well, after my recent journey, I must report that Highway 50 appears to now be completely and irrevocably compromised. All those stories in the Sunday papers, all those “I survived 50” coffee mugs, have finally, alas and dadgummit, taken their toll. On my way in from Ely, there must have been an average of one vehicle per mile! Occasionally, there were two! Hell, a couple of times, there were three vehicles within a mile of each other! “Zounds,” I exclaimed with each ramblin’ 18-wheeler. “Gadzooks,” I swore with each lumbering SUK. “Yeaagghh,” I muttered, as old people breezed by in their Buicks. It’s true! Buicks driven by joy-riding geezers on Highway 50! These were not hallucinations caused by the reckless guzzling of espresso and Red Bull! I mean, I could get no reading done whatsoever, so often did I have to look up to make sure I wasn’t about to smear oncoming bikers.

The Loneliest Road is dead! Long live the Loneliest Road! (Highway 375—so totally gones-ville, the cops probably blow it off.)