We inhabit an age when technology is constantly evolving. Cel phones, computers, televisions, and other devices are seemingly obsolete within months of purchase. How can we manage to keep up? The settlers of 1860s Nevada must have felt equally overwhelmed. The Pony Express, the Stagecoach, and the Overland Telegraph all came and went during the decade, victims of competition with each other and the new kid on the block.
All of these paralleled the modern route of U.S. 50 where I now walk. A choice clearly favored by the surveyors, but not it turns out, by history. With the completion of the Transcontinental Railroad and an associated telegraph line in 1869 the Overland and the Stagecoach were driven out of business, no longer efficient enough to compete in the new market place. The Pony Express had already perished.
U.S. 50, also known as the Lincoln Highway, had also originally been the fastest passage through Nevada. The construction of I-80 did not eliminate 50, but did herald the era of "the loneliest road" as drivers abandoned the slower and the older, much as we do with computers and cel phones today.
Some of the 19th century towns, though wounded, had survived as well. Cold Springs was one example and Middlegate is another.
Middlegate was run-down, a former stagecoach stop turned oasis for the tired traveler of 50. The town is possessed of a quiet dignity and charm despite and maybe because of the decaying Model T's and old carriages littering the grounds. The relics established staying power, the age of these vehicles had come and gone, but Middlegate remained.
I stopped to fill my water bottles and moved on - I would be back, but on a day filled with links of the past to the present, I had a rendezvous with my own recent history.
Ron and Kathy Fowler (see "Meet the Fowlers") had hosted me way back in May, at their home in Johnson Lake, Nebraska. They were returning from a family trip to Lake Tahoe and wanted to see how some of their past charges were getting along. Lunch with Boston and Cubby was followed by a meeting with this guy right here.
The Fowler found me five miles beyond Middlegate, which they returned me to post haste. We met Dad and enjoyed a beer and conversation before they zoomed on to Ely, where they planned to stay the night. For those of you who have spent the last months on the edge of your seats, Ron's sixty nine year old brother Rich was indeed able to complete his 200 mile, one day bike ride. I hope to meet Rich in Sacramento and hear his story in person in the coming weeks.
After the Fowlers departed Dad and I crossed the motel lot to the Middlegate bar for supper. A few moments of perusing the menu led me to choose an American past time, excessive gluttony. The Monster burger weighs in at one pound of beef and there was a T-shirt and glory to be gained if my stomach were up to the task.
I had once slain a burger of the same size and an order of chili cheese fries at Fuddrucker's during my Fat Ass Pig years (1995-2010) so I had belief on my side. My cockiness lasted about ten minutes, until the Monster was first sighted. I was psychologically beaten at that moment. The buns looked more like hubcaps and the toppings of lettuce, tomato, onion, and pickle were piled high enough to form a junkyard of other miscellaneous car parts. Idaho had donated half the state's potato supply to furnish the fries. Two olives and onion rings stood atop the Monster, forming its eyes, which stared me into submission.
I later learned the Monster is finished by only one of ten who challenge the beast. I was at least able to enjoy the taste of defeat. The Middlegate bar is listed by "Nevada Magazine" as having the best burger in the entire state.
19 miles/3650 total miles