Read more Mad Dog
on the Road!
Fear of Loafing Outside of Las Vegas
by Mad Dog
Pony Express, you might remember, was the precursor to our Postal Service, except they had
a good excuse for the mail being late and they didnt carry guns to work nearly as
often as mail carriers do now.
|| If you look at a
map you might get the impression that outside of Las Vegas and Reno, Nevada is one huge
wasteland. Well, it is. When you compare it to say, San Francisco, where finding a vacant
apartment is cause for sacrificing a case of Rice-a-Roni to the Gods of house hunting,
driving through a state where the people to desert ratio is 1 part per billion starts to
look like theres a lot of wasted space.
Certainly Nevada has a lot going for it, like the slot machines which are in every
convenience store, gas station, beauty parlor, and mortuary. (Remember the state motto:
"You can never be too poor or too dead to play the slots.") And of course there
are the euphemistically named rancheslike the Mustang Ranch, the Bunny Ranch, and
the Well Do Anything For Money Ranchwhich offer up sex like another order of
chicken fried steak in gravy, the state dish. But thats pretty much it.
Before all of the 20,000 legal Nevada
residentsand the 2 billion head of cattleget their cowboy hats in an uproar,
lets not forget who it is that advertises Highway 50 as "The Loneliest Road in
America." No, it isnt Maytag, its the Nevada Department of Tourism. And
it is lonely. At times it goes a good 90 miles between towns, and even then were
stretching the definition of the word town farther than last weeks laundry money at
a nickel video poker machine.
Highway 50 is an east-west road that pretty
much parallels the original Pony Express route. The Pony Express, you might remember, was
the precursor to our Postal Service, except they had a good excuse for the mail being late
and they didnt carry guns to work nearly as often as mail carriers do now.
One thing you have plenty of while driving down the Loneliest Road in America is time to
think. Like about why the U.S. Navy Centroid Facility is sitting in the middle of the
desert, 600 miles from the nearest ocean. Not to mention what a Centroid could
|| Actually, there
are a lot of unique things to see along this road. For one, theres the Nugget casino
in Fallon, which may be the only casino this side of Manila with a Filipino restaurant.
And a good one, at that.
also the home of the Naval Fighters Weapons School, or TOPGUN, where young fliers train
hard and learn to imitate Tom Cruise. Hopefully the one from Top Gun, not Cocktail. The
good thing about having them there is you get your own private air show as youre
leaving town, which keeps you occupied for the 20-mile drive to Sand Mountain, the karaoke
of natural wonders.
Sand Mountain is a big dune thats
advertised as one of the few "singing mountains" in the country. This is because
the shifting sands and wind can cause it to audibly moan, much like the audience at a
Brendan Frasier movie. It really is amazing! While I was there the dune was singing a very
credible version of the Flight of the Bumblebees, though that might have been the barrage
of dune buggies zipping up and down it that I was hearing. (Remember the U.S. Bureau of
Land Managements motto: "Never let a natural wonder get in the way of wasting
One thing you have plenty of while driving
down the Loneliest Road in America is time to think. Time to think about who put the
fencing up along every road in America when theres nothing living or breathing
within a hundred miles. Time to ponder why the U.S. Navy Centroid Facility is sitting in
the middle of the desert, 600 miles from the nearest ocean, not to mention what a Centroid
could possibly be. And time to think about the self-proclaimed "Worlds Largest
Shoe Tree" which sits in the middle of absolutely nowhere and has hundreds of pairs
of shoes tied at the laces and flung over its branches. Or for that matter, why they
havent gotten an endorsement so they can put up billboards along the side of the
road screaming: 50 Miles to Nikes Air Jordan Shoe Tree!
The mountains have a way of interfering with radio reception, which brings up an
interesting Rule of the Road: If youre in a remote part of the country and can only
get one radio station, it will always be broadcasting Rush Limbaugh.
|| Theres no
question that Nevada is The West. Everyone has a pickup truck. The metal grates you run
over in the road are designed to keep the cattle from crossing it, not to wake you up
before a toll booth. And then there are the signs along the road that say "Report
Poachers"and you know they werent put there by the Fried Egg Council of
The tumbleweeds are a tip
off, too. And there are plenty of them. Tumbleweeds are the homeless of the plant world.
They wander around, amble across the street, and have no roots. On the other hand,
tumbleweeds dont accost you for money, hold up signs that say "Will tumble for
food", or sleep in doorways, but thats only because there arent many
doorways along this road.
One thing you do have plenty of time to do
on Highway 50 is listen to the radio. Well, when you can. The mountains have a way of
interfering with radio reception, which brings up an interesting Rule of the Road: If
youre in a remote part of the country and can only get one radio station, it will
always be broadcasting Rush Limbaugh.
Finally, dont let it be said that
Nevadans dont have a sense of humor. Outside of Austin (not related to Texas,
Minnesota, or Jane) is an expanse of unbroken land as far as the eye can see. Not a road,
house, building, or anything to be found. Yet sitting on the side of the road is a real
estate sign advertisingget this!a 10-acre parcel of land. They better watch
it. If they keep selling off land like this, the Loneliest Road in America may not be so
lonely much longer.
©1998 Mad Dog Productions, Inc. All
These columns appear in better newspapers across the country. Maybe
even one in Nevada..