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U.S. Route 50: The Loneliest Road In America

It was described by Life magazine as “totally empty” but things eventually turned around for the better after officials did something about it.

Mark Andrew

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  • Nevada’s section of the U.S. Route 50 has been dubbed as “The Loneliest Road in America.”
  • The moniker was first given by a Life magazine writer.
  • The state eventually decided to use the tagline to their advantage.

U.S. Route 50 is a transcontinental highway that connects Ocean City Maryland and Sacramento, California. This route stretches 3,000 miles and includes a section in Nevada popularly known as “America’s Loneliest Road.”

Why exactly was it given that moniker and how did it begin? Well a closer look into the route’s history tells us that it all started back in 1986.

During that year, Life magazine’s July issue dubbed the 287-mile stretch in Nevada as “The Loneliest Road in America.” According to the author, the route was lifeless and only drivers with “survival skills” should dare travel it.

“It’s totally empty,” said the AAA counselor. “There are no points of interest. We do not recommend it.”

Instead of being offended, however, officials agreed to adopt the moniker and use it as a way to attract more people to the area. Eventually, the Nevada Department of Transportation started placing Highway 50 markers with the catchy tagline.

An official Nevada Highway 50 Survival Guide – a clear reference to the Life magazine feature – has also been made and used in promotions where travelers can collect stamps in certain areas during their travel. Those who complete the stamps get awarded a survival certificate signed by the governor.

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So yes, the loneliest road isn’t so lonely anymore as more and more travelers are driving through it nowadays.

As a National Geographic article described the route:

“It crosses several communities, a handful of mountain ranges, a national park, and one reservoir, where bobcats, foxes, and wild horses roam free. There’s life, yes, but not a familiar way of life for many. It’s a place where the lines between John Wayne Westerns and everyday life blur, where ghost towns bleed into living ones.”

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