Highway 50 2017

Day 08

June 23

  Today I'm out early and it's just me and Mr. Sun. I figure it will be hotter than blazes as I streak across Utah and Nevada on my way to Ely so I'm gonna enjoy as much of the cool of the morning as I can.  
  As I leave Grand Junction I see a beautiful red mesa off in the distance.  
Highway 50 stretches out straight and flat before me in the early morning sunlight.  
  Though the sign says 'Entering Colorado' I'm actually leaving in search of a town in Utah called Thistle.  
  I am hoping to ride the original route but this sign tells me I have no choice but to jump back on the 'designated' Highway 50 route which hooks up with I70.  
  Soon I see the 'Welcome To Utah' sign and notice that they've changed them since the last time I was through here. After all those times of capturing state line signs, it's funny how I notice stuff like that.  
  As I mosey along, it's me and my shadow which is just fine.  
  When I look around, it is so rugged and barren that I have to wonder how in the world early settlers to this area figured out where to homestead.  
  This has to be pretty curious as to how this place got its name. Was there really a yellow cat there at one time? Was a yellow cat the mayor or something?  
  The mountains are barren and arid and the flatlands don't have much except old scrub brush.  

Finally I get to my 'get off' place where I will be following the historic Highway 50. Before Interstate 70 was built in 1976, Highway 50 ran with Highway 6 up toward Spanish Forks, Utah and terminated at Thistle. Since I've ridden the I70 version, I want to follow this route. A bit of the history -

The final numbering plan, approved in November 1926, left a gap in US 50 between Ely, Nevada and Thistle, Utah. Finally, rather than ending US 50 at Wadsworth, where the Lincoln and Victory Highways merged, it was sent over the Lincoln Highway's Pioneer Branch, past the south side of Lake Tahoe, to Sacramento, California. The gap in Utah was soon bypassed by taking US 50 to the north, crossing the Great Salt Lake Desert with U.S. Route 40 to Salt Lake City, and using long portions of U.S. Route 93 in Nevada and U.S. Route 89 in Utah. U.S. Route 6 was marked along the direct, but still partially unimproved, route in 1937; it was finally paved in 1952, and US 50 was moved to it within a few years.

Highway 50 and Highway 6 still run together in some areas.

  Along the way I see an Amtrak Passenger Train and what is interesting ...  
  is the difference in its length versus a freight train that I see later. The freight trains out here seem to stretch on for miles with usually four engines up front and four engines at the end.  
  Soon my gaze is shifted back to more rugged beauty of the area.  
  As I move up in elevation, I am pleasantly greeted by some nice twisties.  
  As best I can tell, Thistle lies along Highway 89 just off Highway 6/50.  

A little ways after the turn off, I think that I have found it. There's another rider coming up Highway 89 that has stopped, not knowing what it is. I tell him -

"If this is the right place, this is the remnants of the town of Thistle. There was a massive landslide that dammed up a river and completed flooded and destroyed the town."

  It seems strange that I can't see a river anywhere close so I begin to wonder if I'm at the right place. (When I get back I do verify that this is the remains of Thistle by matching my pictures with historical pictures.)  

There's no signs, no markers - just a few old flooded buildings. This is the short version of the story -

Thistle is a ghost town in Utah County, Utah, United States, about 65 miles (105 km) southeast of Salt Lake City. The town was established in 1883. During the era of steam locomotives, the town's primary industry was servicing trains for the Denver and Rio Grande Western Railroad (often shortened to D&RG, D&RGW, or Rio Grande). The fortunes of the town were closely linked with those of the railroad until the changeover to diesel locomotives, when the town started to decline.

In April 1983, a massive landslide (specifically a complex earthflow) dammed the Spanish Fork River. The residents were evacuated as nearly 65,000 acre feet (80,000,000 m3) of water backed up, flooding the town. Roofs became rafts, and can still be seen strewn about the area. Only a few structures remain and most can be seen from the road, including a red schoolhouse, a church on a hill, and a house half sunken into a bog. Federal and state government agencies have said this was the most costly landslide in United States history, the economic consequences of which affected the entire region. The landslide resulted in the first presidentially declared disaster area in Utah.


  I wish the other rider a pleasant journey after I snap a picture for him on his camera. As I get back on the road, once again see more of those 'strange' whirling mushrooms peeking over the mountain top.  
  But the temps are up, Frost needs fuel and so do I. There's not any options for breakfast, so I just grab a muffin and some water and chill a bit.  

As I am standing there, I feel a gentle tap on my back. A young freckled face boy tells me -

"My Momma wanted me to give this flag sticker cause you were flying the flag."

I tell him -

"Son, thank you a bunch. That's very kind of you."

And right then and there I put it on my helmet, so he can see me do it. It was quite popular when the 911 tragedy struck to fly flags from vehicles. Now, you seldom see one as if it's no longer politically correct. It's nice to know that someone noticed my flag. I put one on all of my ST1100s after 911 as I am proud of the Flag and what it stands for. And I will continue to fly one as long as I have the good sense to do it.

  I follow Highway 6 up to Spanish Fork then turn southward. Leaving the town, I catch a glimpse of a snow covered mountain peaking over the ridge.  
  Off to my right, I see something a little unusual. It is Krishna's Lotus Temple, a place of worship for Utah's Krishna pioneers. It is 50 feet tall with 13 domes, based on a devotional palace in India.  
  Highway 6 is just as 'lonely' as Highway 50 in most places.  
  But that's fine with me, especially when I see this kind of sign.  
  They turn out to be quite nice, but more sweepers than 'sharp curves' as indicated by the sign.  
  Eureka, the original financial center for the Tintic Mining District was an important producer of silver, gold and base metals during the late 19th and early 20th centuries. On the main street is the colorful Holiday House, a historical meeting house built in 1904 and now undergoing more restoration.  

And on down the street is another 'fixer upper'. What catches my eye is that there are several 'No Trespassing' signs attached to the building and I think -

"And just who would want to even get close to this wreck much less trespass?"

  Further along is a really interesting structure so I stop to take a look.  
  It is called a 'Headframe' and was part of the Bullion Beck and Champion Mining Company operation. Constructed in about 1890 these gallows were housed under a frame structure that measured 40 x 119 feet and approximately 70 feet in height. It served to transport men, mules, supplies, and ore in and out of the underground workings.  
  As I head on down the road, I am a bit surprised how in this area you see lush green pastures ...  
  right next to arid brown scrub. I guess it all has to do with how much water you use to make the green grass grow.  
  Soon Highway 6 merges back with Highway 50 near Delta and they will continue together until Ely, Nevada my resting spot for the evening.  
  I remember that there is not much between Delta and Ely, so it's a good time for gas and food.  

Pickings are slim for edibles, so I grab a sandwich and some chips. The bottom piece of bread is stale enough to knock somebody in the head with but it is what it is. There's a little shelter on the side that provides some relief from the heat, so I head for it. There's another feller sitting there so I ask him -

"Mind if I share the shade?"

"Well" he says "that will be fine. I'm just waiting on my therapist. I don't like to meet him in the office."

I figure as long as I don't have to fight him over my sandwich such as it is, we'll be fine. I do get my daily dose of second hand smoke while I'm sitting there. I finish my grub up, wish him well and get out of Dodge as quick as I can.

  My last stop is Ely so I am glad to see I'm headed in the right direction.  
  But there's sure not much out here to look at.  
  Off to the left is a massive dry lake bed that reminds me a lot of the salt flats at Bonneville.  
  Further along, I come to a long wait at a construction stop.  
  It's hot enough but as I move past the paving, the heat from the fresh asphalt is unbelievable. I really wonder how those folks putting it down deal with that heat on a daily basis.  
  Being from Tennessee and all the hills and curves, it is hard to imagine a road that is this straight as far as the eye can see.  
  As I cross into Nevada, I get a shot of the first 'Loneliest Highway' sign, this one commemorating 30 years of that designation.  
  Soon I'm back into ascending passes in the 7,000+ feet range again.  
  On the way down, I have to stop and take a look at this. It's an entrance arch completely covered with deer antlers. I can't even begin to figure out just how many sets that took.  
  When I see this scene, I can't help but think about that 1971 movie call Vanishing Point.  
  I reckon out here where there is nobody is a good place for these mechanical 'mushrooms'. They at least give you a visual break from the scrub brush.  
  Soon it's up and over another 7,000+ foot pass as I leave the mushrooms behind.  
  After the heat of the day, I'm mighty relieved to be at my place for the night.  
  The main reason I picked this place to stay is the Silver State Restaurant right across the street. It was excellent back on my trip in 2004 and I am hoping for the same results now.  
  They haven't changed much based on the signs ...  
  that they still have hanging.  
  But I think this one is my favorite of the whole bunch.  

As I look over the menu, the chicken fried steak special catches my eye. When I place my order, the sweet young lady waiting on me says -

"You may want to order the small portion."

"Really? Just how big is the regular portion?" I ask.

Once she describes it for me, I defer to her judgment. And boy am I glad I did as the 'small' portion is far more that I need. And it is as good as it looks.

  But I'm the man for job and I declare a decisive victory in the end.  

A little dab of sweetening comes along, so as I wait I strike up a conversation with another server. I tell her about my website and give her the address -

"The main reason for my website is to encourage folks to take that trip they always talk about but never do. If you wait until you do your bucket list, your bucket may have a hole in it by then. My momma's daddy was going to retire at 65 and travel. He was dead at 64 1/2 from a heart attack. My mom and dad were going to Hawaii for their 50th anniversary. He never made it. I still work a full time job, but I manage to squeeze in a lot of traveling. You can too - you just need to come up with a plan and go for it."

"Yes, my husband and I have been talking about going to Disneyland for a long time" she adds.

"Well, just figure out what it will cost and start saving. Sooner or later time and money will line up. It took me 5 years to make it to New Zealand to ride, but I had a goal and finally pulled it off."

My lovely sundae comes so I attack it with great relish.

  And once again I retire from the field of battle with stunning victory.  
With the business at hand completed, I waddle back across the street to the cool of my room. At least I have breakfast sorted for tomorrow since they open at 6 AM so I easily drift off into blissful oblivion.