“Nothing? Shit, son, we got plenty of that.”
He winked and I waved goodbye. In the cool morning air of Nevada I began pedaling from Carson City, my wheels pointed east down Route 50 – the Loneliest Road in America.
Lonely it may be, but I was never alone. The sun was there, beating on a shimmering road that seemed somehow alien amid the seas of sagebrush and dusty soil. Tiny lizards cocked their heads and darted from one shore to the next.
The wind found me, too. Whipping against my back, it urged me over the flat lands and a horizon that promised more. I covered 130 kilometres before dinner – mileage that would have taken me two hard days in the mountains of California.
Then there was salt. The road shifted with the gale and I was left to pedal across a great salt bed with a crushing headwind. Sometimes I walked, sometimes I swore. It took me two hours to wobble 15 kilometres to the sheltering walls of a rocky hill.
I wound my way up the pass and remarked how strange it was that Nevada should have a mountain at all. I thought it was flat. I thought it was desert.
Not so. I know now that Nevada is, in fact, the most mountainous state in the Lower 48. The modest summit I was standing upon was the first of 16 that would have to be lumbered over on my way to Utah. Of those, seven rose above 7,000 feet (2,130 meters).
They were my Seven Sisters of Nevada.
If I wasn’t kept by one, I was held between two more. I ate on their winding slopes, slept in their star-covered valleys and strove for their eastern kin every moment of every day. Strange to be comforted by mountains, but I was.
There were challenges out there to be sure. The heat of day was relentless. The nights dropped to near freezing. Water was hard to come by and help harder still. It took me six days of gritty cycling to make it to Utah.
None of it matters. Long after my cracked lips have healed and my stomach has been filled, I will remember Nevada for its mountains and valleys, mountains and valleys.
They gave purpose and beauty and truth. How endlessly they stretched to the horizon. How easily they filled my nothing.