There are also some significant altitudes; some of these passes are 7,000-8,000 feet. It's so dry that everything has been preserved so perfectly. I saw a sign that said "No Gas, No Water, 100 miles." People are constantly amazed that the Pony Express stations are in pretty good shape considering no one has maintained them in 150 years.

Does anyone live out there?

You can drive a long way before you see another soul. There are "Open Range" signs along the road, and you see a lot of wild game — coyotes and antelope. People live on ranches that are sometimes hours from the main road, and even further to anything resembling civilization. They're quite taciturn, if you know what I mean. But I find it all very charming.

And then there's a town called Fallon, closer to Reno. I stopped there one afternoon and watched a mom-and-pop rodeo. I like a rodeo if it's not commercial, just a lot of calves and kids racing around having a good time.

Any interesting memories?

I was driving down the road and noticed a town up ahead. I could see some buildings that were about 30 miles out and I thought it might be a good place to have a cool drink. When we got there, it was all boarded up, had been for many years, and there was no one around. There are a lot of ghost towns like that out there. It's so remote, there's no one around to vandalize these places. Another good place to stop about halfway across the state is Austin, Nev., an old gold-boom town. The buildings are like an old Charles Addams [of Addams Family fame] drawing with spooky-looking 19th-century mansions. I like to eat at The International; just bar food or breakfast.

Where do you stay?

I like odd spots. There's a great hotel near the Utah state line in Ely called The Hotel Nevada. It's a little seedy, and has things like an exhibition of stuffed rattlesnakes in the lobby, and brands of all the local cattleman's associations on the wall. In the restaurant you can have a chicken-fried steak. In Eureka I stay at the Jackson House hotel. A couple of doors down is the Keyhole Bar, a real Western bar without trying to be one.

So who would enjoy this type of trip?

There's not a lot of people who are going to jump in the car to do this. You've got to want to see something that's genuine.

What is the one item you will not travel without?

My DeLorme. It's a handheld GPS that delivers apertures of grid maps combined with satellite communications.

Can you describe your favorite travel bag?

I have an old LL Bean canvas tote with a leather bottom; it's older than my 25-year-old daughter. It's been everywhere with me: down the Green River in Utah, to Labrador in Canada.

What do you like to read?

Wallace Stegner's essays; he's done some lovely writing about the American West. There's also a lot of hilarious British travel writing from the 19th century.

What's next on your travel bucket list?

I'd like to get back to Oaxaca in the south of Mexico. It's high-desert country there, too, and an old colonial city. I'm practicing my Spanish a lot.