Wednesday, August 12

Memories from Middlegate, NV

There's this little place in Nevada called Middlegate. At the time, I was riding with Kevin (Indianapolis), Mike, Jordan, and Jeremy (the three from San Diego) and had left Austin, NV that morning. 60 miles later, before coming into Middlegate, we found a tree with TONS of shoes thrown up into its branches. Below the tree was the remnants of a rather large creek that had dug into the dirt, carving out its deep path before drying up. There too in the path of the creek were thousands of shoes - some matching, others by their lonesome.
Several cars had pulled over as well, their drivers walking about the piles, trying to make sense of the phenomenon. In the small crowd were two girls who had just started a trip back to the midwest from San Francisco. They were rummaging through the assortment of footwear, looking for "shit kickers," as they described it. Listing off a dozen places they had lived briefly before, we learned that having grown up in Missouri, they moved to New Orleans after Katrina had come through. They contemptuously explained that because "we don't have a liberal arts degree," they don't live in a specific district, but instead battle being shot at while walking home from work - apparently trying to make a value statement about their lifestyle and the lifestyle of former liberal arts students. A little unsure of what to make of the experience and after snapping a few pictures of the shoe laden tree, we pedaled on towards Middlegate.
Once in Middlegate, we settled at a place called Bar. It's not that we had much choice in the matter, Bar was the only establishment there in Middlegate serving as the local bar, grocery, restaurant, and gas station while also offering several cabins for rent and RV hookups for guests who bring their home. Once inside and at the bar, we learned of the local special: The Monster Burger - a 1lb beef patty on a hoagie-bun, loaded with all the goodies, and a heavy side of fries. By car, Middlegate isn't far from the Navy base further west in Fallon and over the years has become a popular place for many of the soldiers. Bar built the Monster Burger as the local eat-it-all-and-get-a-reward to entice hungry soldiers to come out for a drink and challenge. The server said 1 in 3 finish the plate, "usually Navy boys," upon which one receives a free T-shirt. The burger is $16 so finishing it all means an $8 burger and an $8 shirt. Enticed by the challenge and with hungry stomachs, Jordan and I tried it out.
Notice the monster face?
17-minutes later.
Sweet rags, no?
Middlegate, like most of US 50 through Nevada, is situated along the Pony Express Trail. This was a mail route from St. Joseph, MO to Sacramento, CA that ran from 1860 to 1861, before the telegraph was invented. It was an elaborate system of mail stations, horses, and riders in which Atlantic mail could make it to the Pacific in just ten days. Individual riders would ride for 75 to 100 miles each, switching horses every 10 miles (apparently the distance a horse can gallup all out before needing rest), carrying mail from the east to the west despite the dangers of weather, wildlife, Native Americans, and thieves. Their logo was adopted by Wells Fargo, though the system did not involve carriages when it ran. I remember reading a note about the ideal Pony Express rider on the back of my Adventure Cycling map (histories of the areas I was riding were usually on the backside of the maps). It said something about because of the inherent dangers, orphans under 150 lbs were preferred with a promising $25/week as pay. I'll get the word for word description when my maps return from the mail.

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