After sleeping surprisingly well (there was a generator that worried us at Middlegate, but we think the noise actually helped) we woke up a bit late for a long day. We had 64 miles to go to Austin and we knew the first day we would probably have to do more than 30 to get out of a valley to a stealth camp site. We try to search in advance on Google, but it’s not always right.
We waited until 7 when they opened the convenience store part of the restaurant, bought some donuts (the Hostess ones), and started into the desert. We passed a windmill and decided to pull off for breakfast at the first pull off we saw. We didn’t realize until we got closer that it was the pull off for the famous shoe tree!
Many years ago the shoe tree was burnt down or cut down by vandals. It was so loved that hundreds of people drove out for a memorial and a new tree was started right next to the old one.
We munched on donuts and clementines (the cuties/halos) and applied our first layer of sunscreen for the day. Breakfast breaks are best taken a few miles into the day so you already feel accomplished! By the time we were ready for our second break we saw Michel biking up behind us and we waved excitedly to her, encouraging her on for the day. She was planning to make it all the way to Austin, a long hilly day for her.
We made it over a few peaks, across a few valleys and closer to our campsite. At about 25 miles Rebecca was getting tired and we could barely see the hill we thought we’d camp on ahead (25 miles seems to be her ideal max). So after some whining and taking an ibuprofen with dinner, we continued on our way.
As the sun started to set an Eclipse pulled up to the sign we were counting our miles to and drove back toward us to see if we needed help. Of course we rejected the assistance, even when Rebecca is complaining she generally still wants to walk somewhere in her mind. He warned us that it was still about 30 miles to Austin and we nodded in acknowledgement, thanking him for his concern. So we pushed on into the mountain, starting to search for the perfect hiding place. We finally settled on a deep road drop off and settled into the sagebrush that surrounded us, knowing we couldn’t be seen from the road. We did leave our strollers closer to the road buried in more sagebrush (that stuff smells amazing!)
The next morning we woke up at the crack of dawn (530 ish) and dragged our strollers out of the bushes to pack up and climb to the peak of the mountain. We stopped in the sun (one of the first times we fully appreciated sun, it was so cold) for the rest of the donuts and a couple oranges. New Pass, the first peak of the day already done!
About half way across the valley and a state trooper stopped to ask if we’re doing ok. It was the same guy that stopped the night before in the Eclipse! This time we remembered to give him our business card though. Just after he left, a Nevada DOT truck slowed down to ask what we were up to. The driver had seen us outside of Fallon earlier and was surprised to see us again. And after they pulled away, a truck with a pop-up trailer stopped, turned around, and pulled off next to us. The man driving had seen us a couple days before and asked us about our trip and asked to take our picture. His friends had biked across the country a few years ago so he was excited to see other people trekking across the country! As he was leaving he asked if we needed anything, and Rebecca (half jokingly) said “Nope, unless you’ve got chocolate in there!”. He jumped into his trailer and gave us two dark chocolate chili bars (Rebecca’s favorite!). That was probably the most active two miles we’ve ever had. Because we had chocolate and it was getting to be first lunch time, we stopped on the side of the road and set up our umbrellas for shade as we enjoyed some tuna on tortillas and (of course) chocolate! Rebecca retaped Tim’s shin (he was starting to get shin splints, so we figured it was better to tape in advance than risk it getting worse) and then we hopped up away from the ants we sat in (they’re everywhere!) and started climbing the next hill. Almost to the top a truck pulled over and asked if we had “enough beverages” as he held up a gallon of water. We almost didn’t need to bring strollers if we’d just flagged some people down and asked for some (Lior, you were right!).
As we got closer to Austin, we could see it tucked into the hillside, but it was still far away! We passed a rock storage facility for NDot and saw the same yellow truck pass us six times in each direction as the driver moved rock to their more central location just outside of Austin. We felt like he was a special friend because we saw him so many times.
We climbed the last hill into town (it was the steepest we’d done so far with the strollers!). On the way up as Rebecca complained about how hard it was to push a heavy stroller up the hill, the NDot worker who had stopped earlier drove by in his personal vehicle to say hello and she faked happiness for a second. The happiness was slightly real as we stopped to pose with the Austin sign, we’d made it! For the day anyway.
We decided to stay in the Pony Canyon Motel. Everything along Highway 50 is Pony Express themed, but the Pony Express only ran on this route for a few months. The motels in Austin were all kinda dumpy, but clean. As we walked toward the office we met a couple of guys riding the highway in motorcycles and staying at the same motel. Tim stopped to chat with them as Rebecca recovered from her grump mood and moved the strollers off the road before joining them. The people on the other section of the motel were sitting outside and overheard part of the conversation so we ended up talking to everyone outside before and after we checked in. Everyone was so excited for our trip. It reminded us that this is a fun adventure, even when it’s hard! Rebecca joked with one of the motel customers that she needed suspenders soon and he shared a suspender poem, and everyone else continued to ask questions about the adventure. Carl, one of the customers, drives about 1000 miles every year in his truck and stops in Austin often, the couple in the room next to him were on a road trip from Seattle with their two dogs, and the suspender poem sharer was on his motorcycle trip for the year. Everyone continued to talk as we limped toward our room. This is where Rebecca started considering that she might have a stress fracture in her foot, but we were miles from anywhere so real concern would have to wait!
At dinner (pizza!) we met a cyclist we’d seen earlier (outside of Middlegate) who worked with his son to take (mostly Italian) tourists on back-country bicycle tours of Nevada. He had biked to Austin to decide the best places to camp and how to take back country roads into town. Most of the trails in Nevada don’t lead to towns, so they have to chart their own routes if they want to make stops in town. And on our way out of the restaurant we met a local (he lived 20 miles out of town, which isn’t local on foot!) who stopped to pick up pizza for his family. He said if we hadn’t already checked in he would have loved to have us stay at his place outside of town (we would have gladly taken him up on that offer!) His wife was from Eureka (our next town!) though, so we picked her brain about where we should eat in town there.
Because we can eat way more than we’re used to, we stopped in the gas station to buy ice cream (Rebecca) and donuts and milk (Tim). We chatted with the county sheriff who had seen us but didn’t stop in the morning, and the locals there. Austin was turning out to be our friendliest town in Nevada so far!
In the motel room Tim shaved the bottom half of his right leg so the shin splint tape would stick better and we fell asleep instantly.
Today(s) we walked through:
Rebecca: 83,192 steps and 67,711 steps
Tim: 77,814 steps and 63,177 steps
495 miles finished