But Nevada state officials and the towns along Route 50 didn't view that as an insult; instead, they've turned it into a marketing asset.
You can buy Loneliest Highway t-shirts and other souvenirs, and order the free Route 50 Survival Kit about the attractions along this loneliest of roads as it runs from the Utah/Nevada state line (see photo on left) to Carson City (see photo below right).
Traveling on U.S. 50 with my wife (Lila) I couldn't say I truly felt lonely. But I can say that the repeating sequence of mountain range followed by broad valley was impressive. And other than some small towns, and a dramatic National Park, you won't find too many people -- other than what appears to be a diminishing number of ranchers.
To give you at least a flavor for Route 50 as it barrels through Nevada, here are some photos taken as we drove from east to west. As a reminder, you can click on any photo to view a larger version.
photos from the remarkable Lehmann Caves at Great Basin National Park:
The Hotel Nevada and casino in the center of Ely; an announcement for what may well be the longest Walmart bus excursion in the U.S. (now that's lonely when you have to travel three hours to get to a Walmart!):
A view along Route 50 in the Newark Valley, between Ely and the nearby -- 70 miles west -- town of Eureka:
The restored Eureka Opera House:
A view of Route 50 through our windshield, 15 miles west of Eureka:
Dust devils in the Smoky Valley before reaching Austin, Nevada (strong winds gusted over the roadway):
Sand Mountain, a natural sand dunes east of Fallon, Nevada:
p.s., the New York Times ran a good short article last year on the loss of ranchland in northern Nevada (available for a fee) -- in part due to the expanding water needs of the Las Vegas area. And we've published an article, Emerging Water Shortages Are No Mirage, by western planner Dave Stauffer -- available to download for a small fee.