We decided on Nevada Route 361, cutting across the state to U.S.50 which is billed for advertising purposes as “The Loneliest Road,” although there are numerous Nevada highways with no more traffic than 50. However, Route 50 ultimately links Salt Lake City and Reno rather than some two junctions or farming communities; that makes it a more important less-travelled road.
Nevada 361, from Luning to the historical sign at the intersection of Nevada 361 and U.S. 50, stretches 63 miles with the town of Gabbs in the middle. We expected Gabbs would be, like Luning, a semi-deserted place seemingly inhabited by aging hippies and -worn-out luckless miners. Surprise! Yes, the town included deserted (or barely fit for habitation) shacks, but more well-kept and pleasant-appearing, homes, a large school which probably serves the countryside for a radius of 30-plus miles, and even a hospital. What we didn’t see was a full-size grocery store, nor did we see any inhabitants except one man standing by a pickup and talking to another man on the steps of what looked like an old barn-cum-convenience store. This was Saturday. We assume most of the Gabbs population drives approximately 90 miles north or 90 miles south on Saturday to shop in either Hawthorne or Fallon, the closest full-service communities.
The reason for Gabbs current rather than completely past existence, we found as we drove out of town and returned to Highway 361, is the magnesium mine, and the town itself is not and was never an actual ghost town. It was founded in 1941 when magnesium became a critical element during WWII. The mine itself had been in operation for years, but magnesium weights less than aluminum in airplane construction. Production has had its ups and downs since then, but holds reserves good for many years. This is the oldest mine in continuous operation in Nevada.