Things change, as you leave Austin and head west, across the loneliest stretch of the Loneliest Road in America. Across the eastern half of the state, US 50 was predictable: the road cut through mountain ranges and across wide, flat basins, one after another. Every ten minutes or so, your surroundings changed, making for an interesting drive. But now, on the longest stretch between towns on Highway 50, the landscape suddenly gets a little less interesting. After passing through the very wide basin west of Austin…
… you do get to pass through one more range of hills, but they aren’t as impressive as the ones from earlier in the day. After that, the road avoids mountains, and instead follows the basins — even when it means heading north or south for a while. It seems there’s always a mountain range on one side of the road or the other, but the scenery doesn’t change much, for miles.
Fortunately, there are several worthwhile stops on the 110 mile stretch between Austin and Fallon, Nevada. The first is at the Cold Springs Pony Express station. The ruins of this stop, where riders would swap out their tired horse for a fresh, well-rested one, are preserved behind a chain-link fence.
It’s a very tall fence, indeed. I had to hold the camera over my head, and aim blindly, in order to get a picture of the ruins without the fence in the shot. It’s too bad you can’t walk through the old corral or into the station itself — however, you will have that opportunity at another Pony Express stop later on.
A whole lot of nothing surrounds the Pony Express station. The ruins are located on the north side of the highway. About a half-mile away, there’s an exhibit and rest area on the south side of the road, but I couldn’t see much point in stopping there, since there were no ruins and, aside from a few interpretive signs, nothing to see.
If you’re desperate for human contact, there is a small community a few miles east of the Pony Express station. It appeared to have some sort of business, but I didn’t need to stop, so I didn’t investigate. If there is a business here, it will be the only one you see between the two towns.
Frenchman Dry Lake Bed
There’s another place you might want to stop, as you cross the desert. Highway 50 slices across a dry lake bed, at the old town site of Frenchman. There’s no official parking area here, but you can easily pull off to the side of the road and walk around on the playa.
It’s a good place to get those pictures of dry, cracked dirt, which is what so many people think the entire desert looks like.