My Name Is Fritz

Written By Fritz Ifert-Miller

Day 68 - Leaving the Loneliest Highway

Distance: 114.52 mi | Ride Time: about 9 hours | Elevation Gain: 719.5 ft | Avg Heartrate: 134.3 bpm

    Day 68 featured another early morning start to avoid storms and heat. We woke at 4AM to get on our bikes by 5 and started our push towards Fallon. This stretch would be over 110 miles to a Warm Showers host, but there were several intermediate towns where we could restock water and eat some food. The real advantage of the day was the elevation loss. With not much more than 2000’ of climbing and over 4,000’ of descent we were due to coast a fair amount.

Fearing bad weather, we sought to keep a fast pace getting as many miles as possible under our belts before stopping for food. The first natural stopping point was in Cold Springs where we split off from Jonathan who rode ahead to the next town, Middlegate. 

The manager was unbearable; she spent the majority of our time inside the establishment complaining, arguing with vendors and campers, and generally just being a witch. After struggling to get served, and then struggling even more to pay, we were ready to leave but trapped. The manager was busy arguing with an RV camper who complained about the property’s “stray” dog which had urinated on his grand-daughter's bicycle and tongue-slobbered and chewed their cooking equipment. After 15 minutes of listening to the woman fail to pacify her customer, we were becoming increasingly antsy to leave. Finally paid, we got back on our bikes and lamented our stupidity for not going farther ahead with Jonathan.

15 miles of easy coasting took us to Middlegate, where we reached the 65 mile mark for our day. Jonathan was still inside finishing a cheeseburger he said was the best he’d had so far on his trip. We ordered likewise and enjoyed the far superior establishment, food, decor and staff. Back onto our bikes we once again said goodbye to Jonathan--a recurring theme on our trip. With only 45 miles left in the day, we started our last two climbs to get out of the mountains as we watched the clouds to the south condense and grow in height. Eager not to relive our experience hitching, we made the best time we could down into the valley below.

We exited the mountains of Nevada into the long dry salt flat outside of Fallon. Overhead, helicopters and fighter jets buzzed the mountaintops from the nearby naval base. The vast expanse of salted sand was adorned by the roadside with rocks placed to spell out names and phrases. The drop in elevation was accompanied by a rise in the thermometer, and the pavement took on a tacky quality that left much to be desired. In the distance we caught a glimpse of Jonathan about a mile ahead. We were astounded to even see him, having assumed he was miles ahead of us. Owing to the heat we opted to stop and refuel on water rather than trying to chase him at top speed.

The highway continued along the salt flat and the shoulder ebbed and grew arbitrarily, promising safety and then casting us into traffic. In time, though, we cleared the hot desert-like environment and entered the small outlying town of Harmon. Here we bought very much needed ice cold water and chugged to hydrate ourselves with something that wasn’t fit for brewing tea. The clouds behind us did as they have done for the last week, loomed. In fact, every direction along the horizon showed tall dense clouds which threatened to converge on Fallon. We stopped once more to get batteries for my tail light at CVS in Fallon. As I fumbled to open the packaging, Gen said she would prefer to get a move-on owing to the darkening skies and accelerating winds. Taking the batteries from me, she repeated my feeble efforts and ineffectually tore at the packaging. More than 5 minutes passed before two grown adults were able to open a single package of batteries.

We jumped back on the bikes and pedaled quickly to our Warm Showers host down the road. The winds increased in speed as they blew huge quantities of dust over us. Arriving in time to beat the storm, we were greeted by Brad, a taxidermist by trade and avid cyclist.

Inside the house Jonathan was waiting along with 3 cyclists from the UK who had been on a two and a half year bicycle trip touring the globe. Tom and Luke had been to twenty-seven countries and their friend Ollie had come along to join them for the American leg. We exchanged stories and pleasantries until dinner was served by Stacey and Brad. A large pasta bolognese dinner proved to be more food than even six cyclists could finish.

Brad hasn’t been cycling in about a year owing to a tumor in his knee that ate the bone. Luckily however, the doctors were able to catch and remove it and he is due to have a prosthetic knee replacement surgery in the near future. He was kind enough to show us the grisly pictures of the tumor removal and the cavity it left behind, which I found awesome and Gen found… unappetizing.

Tomorrow we head off-route once again to aim for Yosemite National Park and our gateway through the Sierras via Tioga Pass.

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