Two hundred and eighty one miles -- roughly one tank of gas in my Volkswagen Syncro -- separate Eureka, Utah and Eureka, Nevada. Dan, my college roommate, and I followed Route 50 south and east through the Basin and Range Province. Remnants of small mining towns break up the seemingly endless two lane highway into 80-mile sections. Small blue signs with messages like, "No Service(gas) for 83 miles," keep drivers like myself honest and a bit nervous.
First used by riders of the Pony Express, the highway has evolved into a destination for motorists interested in traveling through one of the least populated places in the lower 48. The area around Eureka, Nevada has a population density of one person per three square miles. Manhattan, for reference, has a density 73,000 people per square mile, making it 243,000 times more densely populated.
Taking our time, we split the trip into three days. At night, we camped off dirt roads leading into Bureau of Land Management controlled wilderness. By day, we explored ridge lines and stopped in small towns to poke around antique stores and thrift shops. Characters who looked like Sam Elliot in The Big Lebowski perched at the diners and bars.
In the age of Twitter and Lady Gaga, Route 50 still feels like the Wild West.