Eureka to Austin, NV

Austin, seen from half way down the west side of Austin Pass
A unique Nevada Mountain town

I had a good ride to Austin today, despite the 10 - 20 mph south winds that made crossing the last big valley just about as hard as climbing the two passes ;-{. Although Austin is even more limited than Eureka is services, it is good to be back here. It is also good to be past the last hard climbing - Austin Summit - in Nevada. Tomorrow I'll ride to Middlegate, which should be an easier ride than todays 70 miles with 2500 feet of climbing and 20 miles of riding in bad head or cross winds. It is the only part of my route in Nevada that I haven't already ridden in the other direction. In 2004, I rode the old US 50 route from Middlegate to Austin. Tomorrow I'll I ride the newer, lower, route that replaced the old route in the 1950s because they couldn't keep the old route open in the winter.

Leaving Eureka on a stormy morning

I left Eureka at about 6:40 this morning after spending a good, but expensive, rest day there. Tonight, in Austin, I indulged myself with a, relatively, fancy dinner with wine, but my cost for the day will still be about half what it was for yesterday. Most of the cost of touring, when staying at motels in the US, is lodging and my lodging cost here is well less than half of my lodging cost in Eureka. On the other hand, I very much enjoyed, and made good use of, my rest day at the nicest motel in Eureka - there are three motels there- one nice, one OK, and one below my cutoff - and it accomplished its purpose, getting me rested so that I could enjoy the rest of my tour.

Leaving Eureka heading west is much easier than leaving Eureka heading east. This morning, I rode out of town with a good tail wind and, because that wind lasted for quite a while and there is little or no climbing involved in getting from Eureka to the big valley where I rode about 40 of today's 70 miles, averaged 15 mph for the first two and a half hours of my ride.

Unfortunately, but not unexpectedly, the wind shifted before I reached the end of that valley and I spent the next 20 mile fighting head or side winds of 10 to 20 mph. Then I benefitted from the wind as I climbed about 2000 feet in the last 12 miles of today's ride. By that time it was hot - 90+ F - but the climbing was tolerable because I usually had enough tail wind to provide some cooling.

The big valley where US 50 skirts the ridges

Looking at today's route on Google Earth, I could see US 50, after leaving the valley where Eureka is located, skirting several big ridges that stick out into that valley. Today, while riding, I experienced the ends of those ridges as short climbs which were were followed by long flat sections. Easy riding with a gentle tail wind allowed me to cruise at 16 to 20 mph on the flat, while slowing to 10 mph or so on the short climbs. That lasted for about 30 miles.

Nearing the end of the big valley forty miles later
The petroglyphs are straight ahead and the first pass, Hickison Summit is in those hills to the left

About 9 AM, as I left Eureka County, the wind shifted around to the south. I had been cruising at 16 mph, and, now I was cruising at 11 mph. So it goes ;-}. The remaining riding, before the climbs up to the summits before Austin, was dominated by the effects of the wind.

A petroglyph at the Hickison Site

As I approached Hickison Summit, about 25 miles east of Austin, I saw the sign for a Petroglyph site half a mile from US 50. Since I had plenty of time to reach Austin and the bad winds had already started, I rode over - on a bumpy and often corrugated dirt road - and spent half an hour of so at the site. It was very peaceful there, and there were good setups for camping and picnicking and good toilet facilities and short trails that visited the petroglyphs. The brochures that were supposed to provide a guide to the glyphs were all gone, so I don't know the provenance of the glyphs, but one web source implied they were created by Ute deer hunters.

Climbing Hickison summit was no big deal, and, once over the summit, there is a very long downhill into the next big valley. I remembered that downhill well from my previous ride up it. I didn't realized I was climbing, but I was getting tired rather quickly. Finally, fairly far up the hill, I saw that I had climbed 1000 feet or so and had good reason to feel tired. This time the long hill allowed me to pedal downhill into the wind almost as if I was on flat land with no wind.

The big valley east of Austin Summit

It was hard getting across the big valley. The cross wind was strong and gusty, so I was only able to do 6 to 8 mph. I stopped in the middle of the valley for a food/rest break, sitting with my back to the road, and the wind. When a large truck came by on the other side of the road, The wind blast blew my gloves off my bike. Riding this section was like riding west across western Kansas in the summer - really bad when a truck came by. Fortunately, there are very few big trucks out here. The wind today was so bad that I felt air blasts from motorcycles. I don't think I've ever felt those before.

After my break, a highway patrol car came by, driving on the wrong side of the highway with lights flashing. Then I noticed the few cars ahead coming the other way were pulling off the road. Then another patrol car came by and the officer in it warned me about an oversized load that was coming up behind me. I looked in my mirror and saw a truck carrying a large metal object that was as wide as the highway. When it got close, I got completely off the road and braced my bike while it passed. The loneliest road is a good route for hauling really oversized objects.

At the other side of the second big valley

When I reached the other side of the valley, I saw a sign saying 12 miles to Austin. It was noon and I, correctly, figured it would take me about two more hours to reach Austin. The initial climb, roughly 1700 feet up from the valley floor, is to Bob Scott Summit. It is a moderate climb. Then there is a steep downhill of about 600 feet vertical followed by a steep climb of about 800 feet to the Austin Summit. Then there is a steep, 1000 ft vertical, downhill into Austin.

Bob Scott Summit, the biggest climb of the day

The biggest problem on the long climb was heat. It could have been much worse since, most of the time, there was enough tail wind to provide some cooling. I still had to slow down because of the heat and stop several times to let the gentle tailwind cool me down. It was hot enough climbing that I switched to my 'European' mode - I think of it that way because I started doing it during the 2003 heat-wave in Western Europe - taking off my helmet and gloves for the climb. That really helps!

Part of the descent after Bob Scott Summit - real 8%

I, after putting my helmet and gloves back on, hit 45 mph descending the other side of Bob Scott Summit. It is steep and the tail wind helped. I think that is the fastest I've gone on this tour.

Climbing to Austin Summit, the hardest climb of the day

The climb up to the Austin Summit was steeper than the climb up to Bob Scott Summit. About half way up, there was a picnic table, well shaded by trees and with a nice view of another valley, so I stopped to rest, snack and, take some pictures.

Austin Summit, almost 7500 feet, 2000 feet above the second big valley

I rode to the summit, stopped to put my helmet and gloves back on, and whooshed down into Austin. The descent was noticeably slowed by the wind - I never needed to use my brakes on this steep, curvy, road - but still very nice. The views of the big valley west of Austin were stunning, and, when I got far enough down to see Austin, the town, set above that valley, I enjoyed that view as well.

As soon as I got into town, I stopped to eat at the Toiyabe Cafe, which is named for the mountain range I had just crossed. I ordered a hamburger and fries and iced tea. Damn that was good! Then I rode on down - everything in Austin is up or down since the main drag - US 50 - is going down hill through town - to the Lincoln Motel where I stayed the last time I was here. Nothing fancy - there is nothing fancy in Austin - but a good place to get a good nights sleep.

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