Ely hotelNevada

September 22-23, 2008

We drove on Highway 89 from Utah and reached Ely about 9:00. The only sign of life we saw on that three-hour stretch of two-lane was a huge elk stag right next to the road and, very oddly, some runners in shorts and reflector vests, miles from anywhere. Ely seemed like a huge metropolis after that, and we treated ourselves to our first and only motel room of the trip, and a coffee shop dinner.

Ely is a family name (my maternal grandfather), so I wanted to explore the town of Ely a bit. Although I don't believe any of our ancestors made it west of Missouri. (We did have a distant relative, Smith Ely, who was mayor of New York City in 1877.) We walked around downtown and had breakfast at the Hotel Nevada, a restaurant, hotel, and casino of apparent notoriety. We gave ourselves a strict $5 for the slot machines, and Kate came away with $10.

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map of Highway 50We spent the rest of the day driving from Ely to Reno on Highway 50, which AAA dubbed "The Loneliest Highway in America" by AAA in 1986. I don't believe it's changed a bit since then.

There are five small towns on that 287-mile stretch, and only one rest-stop, near the end. You'd better gas up when you can, and you'd better not break down, because there's no cell phone coverage and very few others driving this empty road across the state.

At a drug-store in Ely, Kate picked up a "Hwy 50 Survival Guide" -- a promotional "passport" that you can get stamped in each of the five towns on the route. It was our only diversion for the day. That, and two points of interest. One was a site of petroglyphs, stone grafiti thousands of years old. The other was the only tree standing between the towns of Austin and Fallon. We stopped for a make-your-own rest stop and discovered thousands of shoes hanging from the tree.

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