The Longest Day

Monday was a long day. In fact, it was the longest day of the year: the summer solstice. For us, it was also a long day. Diana arrived in Salt Lake City at noon, and after re-packing, we set off for Ely, Nevada. Passing the Great Salt Lake and into Wendover, Utah, the ambient air temperature gauge on the bike showed as high as 106 degrees. We were both already tired, and the heat was taking a toll, so we didn’t bother to stop at Bonneville Salt Flats for photos, although in hindsight of course (now that we’ve cooled off), we wish we had. We also stopped at a rest area in the middle of nowhere, about 30 miles or so before Ely, that had a historical marker discussing the Pony Express, which passed near here. Again, no photos (mistake), but we learned some interesting history, such as:

  • The Pony Express only operated for 18 months in 1860-1861, before the war with the Paiute Indians paused delivery, and the Trans Continental Telegraph made it virtually obsolete.
  • The riders could only carry about ten pounds of mail in their “mochillas”, special pouches that quickly slipped over the rider’s saddle and saddle horn for fast horse changes.
  • The cost to send a half-ounce of mail was five dollars, the equivalent of about $160 today. And we complain about the cost of postage!

Outside of Ely, we found a fantastic campground. Ward Mountain Campground is at 7,400 feet elevation, so even though it was nearly 100 degrees in Ely, it was around 82 at our campsite, and in the low 60s in the morning. This was also the best bargain for an established campground at $8 a night.

Crossing Nevada can be a lonely affair. We saw very little traffic along the way.

This is the view for much of the way across Nevada. No complaints.

We had planned to head for Bishop, California on Tuesday, as the county fairgrounds there has showers and we can camp on a large grass field for $15, but the heat once again had me thinking. We made a detour for Mammoth Lakes, crossing through Tonopah, Nevada and a great road called the Benton Crossing over to Highway 395 and into Mammoth.

Benton Crossing Road, approaching the Sierra Nevadas and Mammoth Lakes. Not another vehicle the entire length of this road, and nice scenery.

At just under 8,000′ elevation, it was 77 degrees when we pulled into Mammoth mid-day. While Mammoth is a ski area in winter, it’s also incredibly busy in the summer, and it took us a while to find a place to camp. Eventually we ended up at a National Park Service campground in town, just across from Starbucks, which allows us to walk to wi-fi and charge all our devices.

We’ll stay here another night, then head south to meet up with a friend for a ride toward the coast.

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