The “Extraterrestrial Highway” is trying too hard to be weird. Nevada route 375 gained this nickname due to its proximity to the legendary Area 51, one of the American centers of faddish speculation about alien spacecraft. We were neither impressed nor frightened, considering that from a scenic standpoint the road is remarkably devoid of interest.
But then we saw the two dead cows along the highway! *Cue the Twilight Zone theme* Nancy commented: “that’s weird” … and then we resumed our struggle against scenic boredom for the next 100 miles.
Yes, I was stumped here. ET Highway was a yawner. And that’s rare for my commentary, as I will go eyes-wide-open to see something good. Wyoming high desert, New Jersey Turnpike, and Kansas prairie will all … wait, I take back NJ Turnpike.
You get the idea. I enjoy finding what’s interesting, but Nevada 375 gave us one Alien Café (did not stop) and two dead cows. We kept playing our audio book and drove on.
But there were pleasures before and after this stretch that we did notice: The first rays of the sun hitting the peaks in Zion as we depart, the Virgin River gorge in the corner of AZ, plunging dramatically off the plateau, spilling us into the flat of the desert; the expansive and nearly empty valleys and pines of US6 when it crosses into CA, the forests of CA120 south of Mono, the moonrise over the lake, the crisp views of the Sierras at Bridgeport.
All of these things arrested my heart. There were mountain views both familiar (Mono, Bridgeport) and new (CA120 route from US6 to US395). The overnight in Bridgeport was in a hotel I last visited when I was 9 or 10. And then the familiar heights of Monitor Pass compelled us to stop, in spite of being so close to home.
The eastern Sierra is an area that never disappoints. It brings memories back vividly of our youth when we backpacked and camped there. In all those years we have approached these assertive peaks from US395, from either the north or south, sidling up to them in the Owens Valley. But our approach was nervy this time, full-frontal, from desert two-lanes coming out of Nevada. The range is a row of immense peaks which resolutely say you shall not pass. So we scurry up to their base and then yield, turning sideways north to find where they will allow passage.
We behaved in these last days as if we did not want it to end. We were so anxious to get home, but this was like the last two bites of ice cream in the bowl. The last spoons of dessert might even be more carefully savored. We did not want to cheat what the trip had to deliver, expecting that the last 150 miles could satisfy as much as the first, or as much as the miles from Augusta to Acadia or any other segment.
OK, the last 30 miles or so—those went unnoticed, truly. Those suffer from familiarity, and the non-photogenic “white sky” haze of Sacramento that afternoon. But by then we’ve had it, we are full up, ready just to stop moving for a while.
Did we just do that? Did we really cross the country? I think we did. For now, for a day or so, we will be still, unwind, review pictures, wash and unpack, and spend a little time planted on the couch.
What do we do now? I expect to write some overview commentary, perhaps some tips / tricks for how to put together a satisfying and enjoyable cross-country road trip. Stay tuned for that. As for future travels, we’ll consider that after the recovery period.