The Loneliest Road

I drove away from my daughter’s house, feeling a bit unsettled, but with relative certainty that I had not forgotten anything essential. About 30 minutes into the drive I got a phone call from Megan. “Bye!” she said. “What?” “You told me to wait inside and you’d be right back to say goodbye…”. So, I had forgotten some quite essential at that.

I am on a road trip of undetermined time and destination. The idea is to take a bit of time to decompress and perhaps even settle back into myself after a long period of upheaval. Until yesterday I wasn’t even sure if I was headed north or south…north won out with no clear call. As I drive toward Sacramento with a mind to take Highway 50 toward Austin, Nevada, I let my mapping program make the first adjustment kicking me on to Interstate 80 to save an hour. This goes against my guiding principle for this trip: take the your time and the lesser traveled road. But I do it anyway, rationalizing that it will give me more time to set up camp.

Driving north toward Lake Tahoe on a Sunday in the summer affords a view of endless cars and trucks driving south, back from a weekend away from the bustle of the Bay Area. As I speed along I feel compassion (having been stuck in that painful mess the weekend before) and also elation that I am headed in the opposite direction. When I do hit Highway 50, locally famous as The Loneliest Road in America, I begin to relax. And remember. I’ve driven this road (on purpose!) a number of times, mostly with one or several of my children in tow. On this road one can literally drive for miles without seeing another car—one time son, Jared, and I stopped the car and just waited. Nothing but the wind as the minutes stretched. It’s an eerie feeling, and along with the dreaded “no service” at the top of my phone, it causes thoughts of “what if”. This day I chose “who cares?”.

Now I’m embarrassed to share that when I did get to locating that campground, I realized that somehow it was not even on 50. How could that be? How did that happen? I was left with the destination of Austin, Nevada and no place to stay. Since it was 100 degrees I opted for a motel. With sincere apologies to the brave and hearty citizens of that lonely place, I must say the pickings are slim but I was grateful even so. The lack of connectivity is a theme in vast sections of Nevada, and Austin proudly carried on the tradition so I was in the middle of nowhere, with nowhere to go, and no internet or cell. Not a bad way to begin my journey to decompress.

The air conditioning was cool, the bed was clean, the shower was clear, and the coffee was self-serve, waiting for me in the office of the little motel made of strung-together single wides. I took off in the morning with many miles of lonely road ahead, looking forward to my next stop.

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