This was a short ride with two 7000+ foot passes and a somewhat unusual ending. Unlike the last two days of this ride, it doesn't start with a hard climb. The day ended at Baker, the small town located at the base of the Great Basin National Park. This is a very small town! I was lucky to get a room - one of four at the motel and, later, to get supper, at the only restaurant in town. The waitress didn't show up for work and the cook was trying to do everything with the help of her elderly mother who normally runs the convenience store. It took over an hour to get my supper.
I left my motel in Ely after correcting and uploading yesterdays ride report. That motel didn't offer a continental breakfast, so I made my my own with one of the good bagels I bought at the grocery store across the street lat night and a cup of tea that I brewed in my room. When I had finish my net work <grin>, I reloaded my bike and rode down US 50 to McDonalds for breakfast. It was good and I got two apple pies to take with me on the road.
Us 50 snaking its way to the mountains
US 50 is relatively flat for the first twenty miles or so as it makes its way down the big valley Ely is located in. Since the valley is flat and the air is clear, you can see almost all of those twenty miles of road snaking out ahead of you at the start of the ride. Near the end of todays ride, I left US 50 for the Nevada road that runs through Baker. Baker was five miles away,but looked like it was quite close. I've gotten so used to looking at things twenty miles or more away in these big valleys, that a mere five miles seems like a short distance!
I knew the first pass was near when I saw a sign warning of a curvy road for the next nine miles. The curves weren't much for the first few miles, but, as I approached the pass, it felt like I was in Colorado, not Nevada. Fortunately, the bad rumble strip which had been present before the road started curving, went away. I figure that Nevada doesn't think people will fall asleep driving on the curvy road, like they might on the straight roads. That makes sense to me and makes it easier to bicycle slowly up the passes.
Yesterday I though Robinson Pass was the highest in Utah on US 50. Today I know that Connors Pass, the first pass east of Ely, is over 100 feet higher. I think Robinson climbs more than Connors, and I know that it felt much longer.
Speaking of longer, these passes seem to be competing for long downhills as well as long uphills. The downhills are quite nice. US 50 in Nevada is one of the smoothest roads I've ridden and the engineers seem to have done a good job on most of the grades as well. I coasted down down Connors pass at a nearly constant speed of about 30 mph and I measured the loss of altitude at 1900 feet which is just right for 5 miles at 6%. Of course, climbs with constant grades are more boring than climbs with varying grade, and I must also admit I find most Nevada climbs to be very boring!
This is the valley betweeen the passes - the road really turns at the far side
That is not US 50 going up the other side in the middle of the image!
The valley after the first pass is quite beautiful. It is a green valley, surrounded by tall mountains. When first entering it from the west, it looks like US 50 goes straight across the valley, which it does, and then climbs pretty much straight up the other side. That would be a nasty climb! Fortunately, US 50 turns north at the east side of the valley and the steep road continuing up the other side of the valley is a dirt road going to Osceola.
US 50 does climb steeply out of this valley, but it does so over a lower part of the mountains located a few miles north. As with many sections of US 50 in in these valleys, the roads seems to disappear and you have to ride almost to the point where it disappears before you can see where it goes. There is a sort of Twilight Zone aspect to riding towards the point where the road disappears...
Riding across this valley was fast, despite the wind, because the valley slopes down to the east. After it turns north, it climbs again, but then gives up all the altitude it has gained. When you start the climb up the second pass, you are at less than 6000 feet. The climb is over 1200 feet. I don't know why 1200 feet in Nevada feels like so much more than 1200 feet does in North Carolina, except of course for that extra 60 pounds on the loaded bike(!), but I had a hard time making it up this pass. The wind didn't help, but I really don't think the problem was physical. I think, despite the physical beauty - especially looking back into the valley - that I was very bored by the climb. Perhaps I've had enough of Nevada style hills and valleys? Of course they don't end at the Nevada border, so I'm not done with them yet!
Lower, but a much harder climb than the first pass
That is Great Basin National Park in the background
One of the best parts of this climb was when, near the top, I could see a big mountain peeking out over the ridge. It is a neat effect when something big and beautiful starts to reveal itself in this way. I could tell it was a high mountain by the bare rock faces with icefields on them, and I knew it must be Wheeler peak which is just over 13,000 feet high.
After the summit - hmm, this one is marked as a pass here and as a summit on my Nevada state map - there is a long, gentle downhill. A mile or so down is a rest area with neat picnic table shelters. I saw the same kind of shelters twelve miles south of Ely, but I wasn't interested in stopping then. This time, I needed a rest! There were eight of these sheltered picnic tables arranged around a central area which had bathrooms and trash cans. Each picnic table had its own shelter and charcoal grill. It made a nice place to stop and rest and I didn't see any signs prohibiting camping. Of course I didn't look for them either!
Baker, a small town near the Great Basin National Park
The remaining miles (15?) to Baker were, like yesterdays descent to Ely, pretty fast riding. The most interesting part of that ride was a group of old Porsche convertibles (356s) that passed me heading west. There were four of them, all beautifully restored.
It was good to leave US 50 and head south toward Baker. It wasn't that I had bad feeling towards US 50, but rather than I was tired of the wind and heading south made it a pretty good tail wind! I got into Baker before 4 PM, and got the third of the the four motel rooms in town. The last one was gone before supper. Remember that if you plan to stay in the motel here! Also note that the restaurant doesn't serve breakfast except on Friday and Saturday and that the convenience store closes at 7 and doesn't open till 9 in the morning. It is a long, hard, ride to Milford Utah, and there are, as usual, no services along the way.