Eureka! The Loneliest Road In America

Finally we came to HW50

HW 50
Middle of nowhere

U.S. Route 50 (US 50) is a transcontinental highway in the United States, stretching from Sacramento, California in the west to Ocean City, Maryland on the east coast. The Nevada portion crosses the center of state and was named The Loneliest Road in America by Life magazine in July 1986. The name was intended as a pejorative, but Nevada officials seized on it as a marketing slogan. The name originates from large desolate areas traversed by the route, with few or no signs of civilization. The highway crosses several large desert valleys separated by numerous mountain ranges towering over the valley floors, in what is known as the Basin and Range province of the Great Basin.

The route was constructed over a historic corridor, first used for the Pony Express and Central Overland Route and later for the Lincoln Highway.

In 1991, Stephen King drove along US 50 as part of a cross-country trip. He stopped at Ruth, a ghost town near Ely. Studying the abandoned city, King fantasized about the fate of the last residents. King then heard a local legend about how the ghosts of Chinese miners, who died while trapped in a cave-in, can be seen crossing Highway 50 to haunt the city of Ruth. King merged these details into his own story, including references to The Loneliest Road in America, which became the novel Desperation.

The Nevada Commission on Tourism sponsors a promotion where visitors can stop at several designated locations along the route and have the passport section of a state issued “survival guide” marked with a stamp representing that location. Visitors can mail-in the completed passport and receive a certificate, signed by the Governor, certifying they “survived” The Loneliest Road in America. The word “survived” is a tongue-in-cheek reference to the Life article, which quoted an American Automobile Association spokesperson as saying, “We warn all motorists not to drive there unless they’re confident of their survival skills.

HW 50 – Survival Guide


There were two towns we spent a few days in on HW50.

The first was EUREKA.

Silver was discovered in Eureka in 1864, making this America’s first important lead-silver discovery. Eureka did not boom until 1869 when smelters which could successfully separate silver from lead were developed.

In its heyday, Eureka supported one hundred saloons, several dozen gambling houses, theaters, an opera house, numerous churches, fine hotels, and five fire companies. The Eureka Daily Sentinel began publication in 1870 and continues today as a weekly newspaper. The town’s first school was built in 1872 with an enrollment of 58 students.

With the possible exception of Virginia City, no other Nevada community has retained its historic character like Eureka.

The Courthouse, Eureka
The Opera House, Eureka

Eureka Opera House
This impressive building was built on the foundations of the Odd Fellows Hall in late 1880 after the original structure had been destroyed in the August 1880 fire. The building was started in 1879 as a union labor hall. the union, going on strike, ran out of funds and sold the uncompleted building. An early account of the new facility stated that “The new opera house was thoroughly fire-proof, with two foot thick masonry walls, a brick and iron front, and a slate roof.” The floor was built to be shock absorbing, so that you could dance all night. Eureka was on the main tour circuit for opera and theater performances and many famous personalities performed here during the hey-day of Eureka. The opera house served as a community auditorium showing anything of interest including boxing, speeches, plays, graduations, and dances. The Nob Hill Fire Company sponsored masquerade balls held here every New Year’s Eve. Silent movies were brought to Eureka in 1913 and the name of the opera house changed to the Eureka Theater. “Talkies” were shown here in later years with the last movie being shown in 1958. In December 1923, a fire that was caused by a misplaced lantern destroyed the curtain that was originally hand-painted in Italy. The curtain was then replaced with a new one painted in Minneapolis in 1924. This building stood idle for many years until Eureka County acquired it and restored it in 1991. After being reopened on October 5, 1993, the Eureka Opera House received the 1994 National Preservation Honor Award. Once again the Eureka Opera House can boast of famous entertainers performing here. It is also used as a cultural and arts center, a community auditorium and a full service convention center.

Inside the opera house

The sense of welcome in this town was second to none. The chamber of commerce gave me a map and an audio guide and a DVD with photos and a commentary on the story of all the towns on HW50. They opened up the opera house to let me wonder around freely. When I asked if they minded my taking photos, I was told – Hey, take `em, put them on a website, blog. Do ANYTHING you like with them; just advertise our little town and tell the world what a great place this is!

The Jacskon House Hotel

Jackson House
This brick building was built in 1877 as the famous Jackson House. The building was gutted in the 1880 fire, but was rebuilt and operated until the 1890s. It was advertised as the only fire-proof hotel in Nevada. In 1907 it became the Brown Hotel and operated under that name for many years. In 1981 it was restored as a historical building and once again called the Jackson House. It operates as a bar, restaurant and hotel when open.

To discover just how many wonderful, historic buildings there are in this great town, take a look here

Just three more photos – so representative of the whole of this area….

Gold Street, Eureka, Nevada
Abandoned Buildings, Eureka, Nevada
Eureka resident – a Forty-Niner?

The second town, Ely, deserves a page of it´s own. Never have I seen so much graffiti in one town – well not as inspirational and artistic as in Ely. Graffiti that pays honour to the town´s history. So check out my next post.

Meanwhile, my boot needed a little surgery.

I´ve had these Zamberlan boots for THIRTY YEARS. At £80 in 1980, they were really expensive – but they have served me well through the Lake District, the Peak District, Snowdonia, Cornwall, hikes in the West Indies, the Canary Islands, Italy and thousands of miles on American soil. So it was a bit sad that they finally gave up the game…… or did they?

My boot doesn´t get The Survival Badge though!
Lost My Soul In Eureka, Nevada

A spot of silicone sealer, put them under the bike wheel for the night and, EUREKA! they were resuscitated – and are still sticking together another 2 years later 🙂

Prior to setting off on this trip, I had sent off to the Nevada Tourism office to request the `Survival Guide´ And, sure enough, on our return to Ohio, our badges and certificate were waiting to welcome us back 🙂

I Rode Mine

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