The problem with no services is that sometimes you need services. We woke up today at 6:30 to get breakfast. Jonathan, still recovering from his monumental catch up session, groggily rose from bed. After a filling meal of deep fried french toast, blueberry pancakes and other Nevada breakfast staples we returned to the room to ready ourselves for departure.
Learning too late that our discount motel had free laundry, we threw our still damp sink washed clothing onto our rear racks and filled up water bottles / bladders. With a fast stop at the convenience store for snacks, we were on our way up out of Ely. Today was a 78 mile stretch with no services between Ely and Eureka along the Loneliest Highway.
A short pseudo pass carried us nearly 18 miles to the first big climb. One down, three to go. At the summit sign we spotted a solo cycling tourist coming the opposite direction. We exchanged pleasantries and swapped plans. Jacob was headed through to St George and had done a significant amount of touring prior to our encounter. We advised him of our discount motel stay in Ely and places we ate and said goodbye. Quick cruising down the backside of the first pass put us in yet another expansive alpine valley. Behind us, one of the largest open mine copper pits spanned for miles. Ahead the road ran straight across the valley into the heart of the next range.
A difficult factor in Nevada is the viewing distance is so great sometimes that your objective is within sight more than 20 miles away. We pedaled for some time before reaching the foot of the mountains. Overhead, the cool shade of a cloud accompanied our travel. Jonathan proclaimed himself the shepherd of aerial condensation and we laughed enjoying the mild temperatures and blocked sun. Across the valley we started our climb into the hills. Several miles in, the sound of distant thunder rumbled through the notch. Unnerved but not undeterred, we shared stories of close-calls with lightning and stories of strikes.
As we continued to bike, the skies behind us grew increasingly dark, and we caught our first glimpse of a strike about 12 miles away. We rounded a bend and reached a high valley near a reservoir where we were particularly exposed. Several more strikes flashed across the sky with increasing proximity and we started discussing the option of abandoning our day’s ride for safety’s sake. The prospect of holding onto a large steel frame in a thunderstorm seemed ill-advised. We decided descending away from the storm back in the direction we came would be the safest while we determined an exit strategy. As we coasted back down all the hill we had climbed, the storm continued to close in. The option of tossing the bikes in a ditch so that we could pile in a car together crossed our minds until a passing truck wound its way around the corner. Flagging it down we asked if the driver would give us a ride. He expressed apology but said the truck was a postal vehicle and he wasn’t permitted by law to let us inside. We said we understood and thanked him anyway. We elected to continue biking as fast as we could down the hillside to the farm at the base of the mountain.
In the rearview we spotted another white pickup and stopped to flag it down. He pulled in and we asked for a ride to the bottom of the hill. Instantly he and his friend jumped out of the truck and helped us load our bikes into the bed. I climbed into the bed and started pulling the bikes up and getting them situated as the closest strike so far flashed and instantly cracked the air behind us. Our decision to seek shelter had been correct. In the safety of the cab we thanked them for their kindness and told them where we were headed from. They were archaeological surveyors on their way from Reno headed to Caliente and could take us back to Ely. Grateful to be out of the storm, we exchanged stories as we rode down the hill to the farm. When we reached the farm Jonathan recommended I look for an occupant before unloading the bikes. Unable to find anyone on the ranch, we decided it would be best for us to return to Ely and spend the night there attempting to start earlier tomorrow. We were unhappy with the delay but we knew that we could make up the lost time, and it was better than being struck by lightning.
As we drove back, rain pelted the car and lightning continued to strike behind and in front. It would have been a bad storm to be caught out on a bike. While the odds of a strike are low, the risk is not worthwhile.
Back in Ely we met Jacob at the Four Sevens and caught an early dinner at La Fiesta. Afterwards, we tried our luck again at the blackjack table, where we all walked away ahead and figured that was a good sign. Tomorrow we will wake early and attempt to hitch a ride back to our high point from today.
PS. I forgot to turn the Garmin off during our hitch back to Ely, the time traveling back was significantly shorter than the time traveling there!