I spent last week in a very small mining town in the Nevada desert. I was out here three years ago, and not much has changed since then. However, it was interesting to see that out here in the middle of nowhere, they have seen fit to put in a bike lane. This is a sign near the north end of the lane, on route 305. just south of the intersection with 304. I found it amusing that it is designated bike lane #1, even though it is the only one in town. The scale is deceptive here. Even though it looks like it is small, it is in fact 4.5 feet wide, and there is plenty of space for parking between the bike lane and the curb.
Once past the bridge, both the bike lane and sidewalk end, and there is a multiple use path on the east side of the road, visible to the left in this picture. From this point, the path extends 1.4 miles and ends at a baseball diamond, and a road that leads to a golf course.
I’d be curious to see how much the path is actually used. I certainly didn’t see much bike traffic the whole week, on or off the path.
Battle Mountain itself seems to be a town that is just hanging on by the skin of its teeth. You’d get the impression from this article in the NY times that it is booming because of the price of gold. The biggest local employer is the gold mine, and the second is a nearby power plant. It also helps that it is the seat of Lander County. However, it reality, although there are new jobs at the mine, the company has chosen to bus in workers from Winnemucca, presumably due to the difficulty of attracting enough people to live more locally.
Battle Mountain has had problems with branding, ever since an infamous 2001 article in the Washington Post that labelled the town “the armpit of America”. There is evidence of failed slogans from past times. About mile 125 westbound on I-80 I saw a billboard for Battle Mountain that advertised it as “halfway to everywhere”. There was also an attempt to use the annual World Human Powered Speed Challenge as a selling point. There were two billboards showing Sam Whittingham’s speedbike along I-80 for a period of time. Early in the week, I saw the faded remnants of one of them just east of town. Oddly enough, it was taken down sometime during the week I was there, leaving just this.
The townspeople were friendly hosts to us the entire week. There is a new Chinese restaurant that joins the Mexican restaurant as places to eat that are better than one might expect in the middle of the desert. I wish them all well, and look forward to my next visit. This might have more to do with the bike event rather than the town, but the setting is an important and positive part of the flavour of the whole experience.