In Silver City, Saturday August 20th was a hot and happy summer’s day as townspeople, former residents, grandparents, friends from out of town, aunts, uncles, nieces, nephews and cousins by the dozens gathered at the park in the early afternoon. They brought bowls and platters, dishes, jugs, baskets and bottles to spread a lavish feast along a 20-foot table on the porch outside the Schoolhouse. Silver City, its friends and families had come to celebrate the new performance stage, and their connections with one another.
The soft broad sweep of lawn was splashed with color as children romped and dogs frisked among the crowd, and the grownups settled down facing the stage. The atmosphere at the park rose from benevolent to blissful. Lonesome Wayne sang. Bob Elston sang. Tom Zachry sang. Craig Young sang. Trevor Thomas sang. Cindi Godwin sang. Even the audience sang! And after everyone sang, Red Rose and The American Phlats played for dancing.
This is the community the Lyon County Commissioners have given permission to destroy by abruptly changing the County Master Plan to allow pit mining within the town limits.
The malaise that has settled on Eureka has some of the elements of a dystopian Grand Opera. A mining slowdown has combined with AT&T’s proposed abandonment of telephone and internet service to the town and the departure of the hallowed Raine’s Market to a new location to put the community in turmoil. The market a few doors down the street from the Owl Club on the east side of Main Street has been an attraction for visitors — for its astonishing display of taxidermy, if not for a bag of Cheetos and a soda pop — as well as the local grocery store, for two generations. Now the new Raine’s Supermarket-cum-hardware store-and-bank has opened for business just over the hill and out of sight from town on westward-bound US 50.
Last year proprietor Scott Raine first revealed his decision to move the store to a new building with plenty of parking and modern amenities. He said then that new legislation had recently imposed new requirements for on-premisis food-handling — specifically meat-cutting and game processing — that his old building, with its limitations of size, access and design, simply could not be modified to meet.
Scott gave credit to the state Health Department for working with the family business to adapt to the new reality, but said he hadn’t been able to find a suitable in-town location for a modern store, and the away-from-town location was the best alternative possible.
Art Sale in Gold Hill
50 paintings by Darlene Grace Novy-Zuelke (1931-2011 will be exhibited for sale at Maynard Station in Gold Hill.
The opening will be Friday, October 7 (4-8 pm), with refreshments and a no host bar, and continues Saturday (12-6pm) and Sunday (2-6 pm). The paintings are mostly landscapes with a few floral subjects and abstracts. A second sale will be held later in the fall.
The Nevada State Bank is also moving to the new Raine’s because the historic structure it has occupied needs “a couple of million dollars'” work to put in good condition. And there is also a new Ace Hardware store to compete with the Tru-Value in town. Everything is brand new and spic-and-span, in contrast to the high-ceilinged old structure downtown with its oiled wood floors.
For their part, the proprietors of the Chevron station have stocked a modest grocery section in its small store with “some of the basics” as a convenience to senior citizens without transportation. And the Pony Express Deli farther up Main Street and somewhat distant from the strife has added a meat counter offering a variety of house-smoked meats as Raine’s announces a deli section coming to the new store.
It’s not the Clantons and the Earps, but the town is unsettled as its uncertain future arrives. In the meantime the old store is locked, with the moose heads staring at one another from the walls above the shelves in the dark.
In Tonopah the approving eye of the public and the press has focussed on the happy presence of the SolarReserve power generation project a few miles north of the old city, and the restored and revived Mizpah Hotel at its heart, along with its ancillary enterprises, the Mizpah Club across the parking lot and the Tonopah Brewing Company up the hill a couple of blocks. But not all the news from Tonopah is so wonderful.
The Central Nevada Museum is threatened with closure. The annual budget from Nye County is now down to about $40,000 a year (which will continue to decrease each year I am told) and it takes twice that just to run it now. There was talk among the Commissioners to cut the budget to zero, but community pushback was immediate and they have relented. Nevertheless, without a new source to fund the missing $40,000 a year, the museum seems destined to close.
Nye’s Commissioners aren’t the only ones standing aloof from the needs of their cultural resources, but given Tonopah’s standing in the mining history of the American West, this is especially painful to see.
What is it about Winnemucca?
Well, for one thing, it’s the food. And then there’s the night life. Okay, I’m kidding about the night life, although there are bars aplenty and several small casinos that seem to be prospering.
Three of everybody’s favorite Nevada restaurants are in Winnemucca, and you can make any day dreamy by having breakfast at The Griddle, lunch at The Martin and dinner at Ormachea’s. Hat trick, as they say in hockey; three for three — with an asterisk. Ormachea’s has new owners, so it’s time to give it a new try-out.
You can fill the time between breakfast and lunch with a visit to the Humboldt County Museum just north of the river. Between lunch and dinner you can make the 45-minute drive to Paradise Valley for a pleasant stroll around town and a refreshment at the saloon, and after dinner a nightcap at the Winners Inn.
And for most people that’s enough, but in fact there’s much more, which we’ll ask our Winnemucca correspondent to cover as soon as one shows up.
Five Years Ago in the NevadaGram
The Perfect Nevada Tourist
It’s not often you meet such a fine specimen as Dominic Marti. He is Swiss, an architect, and he fell under Nevada’s spell as a young man working in San Francisco many years ago. He has explored the state thoroughly and now he is sharing it with his friends at home.
Here is what he wrote after his return to Bern:
Yes, I am back in switzerland since 3 weeks, running to building sites, filing building petitions, organizing the Swedish colleagues’ visit to Switzerland etc. but always reflecting on the days in Nevada.
It was absolutely unique: 1,800 miles from Las Vegas to Reno [just like Richard Bangs!], and I had no problem although I had prepared myself to change tires, to fight desert lions or rattlesnakes, but all of them were nice to me.
Some long stretches are not good for someone who is in Nevada the first time. I had no problem driving from Belmont to Pioche, but for newcomers, first time in Nevada, it may be exhausting.
The scale is different: entering a tiny place like Baker means getting back to civilization, the view of a tree or to meet a car becomes a unique event. By the end of a day of driving it is just great to meet people, like I did when arriving at the Belmont Inn and Bertie and Henry Berg and all characters of the neighborhood coming to the bar with food.
When thinking back to Nevada I see patches of light blue clear skies, snow, mountains, sand and sagebrush — this is the main picture, followed by details such as “The Last Supper” sculpture at Goldwell Open Air Museum, my dinner at the Pioneer Garden B&B in Unionville with David Jones telling me he wished to go to Bern, to see the new Paul Klee Museum.
How does he know about this new museum? It’s just down the road from me!
Comstock Mining Update —
We have a few disparate items to report, the most important of which is the scheduled oral arguments before the Nevada Supreme Court at the Judicial College on the UNR campus at 10 am September 14th. Thirty minutes will be allowed to each side on the issue of undue influence as exerted by Comstock Mining Company on the Lyon County Commissioners who abruptly overturned basic provisions of the Lyon County Master Plan after a series of ‘under the radar’ meetings with CMI executives and their minions.
Also, the gray house across Main Street from the Gold Hill Hotel that was reported as sold by CMI to its tunneling contractor for $225,000 is back on the market, represented by a real estate firm with one of its principals being Vida Keller. She was among the county officers accused of rejecting precedent by gutting the Silver City zoning protections against open pit mines, high-density residential development and other inappropriate uses of the land. She was defeated for reelection as County Commissioner, but apparently remains close to the mining company.
Is current Storey County Commissioner Lance Gilman even closer? His real estate company is the agent for selling its Daney properties west of Dayton. CMI’s activities have not been much on the Commissioners’ public agenda lately; will Lance recuse himself when they do?
Great news! Late on the afternoon of Day 4 of his roundabout drive, Richard Bangs finally completes the last leg of his journey to Reno.
After John’s blueberry pancakes, with sides of local fresh ranch eggs and toast with local honey, we head out from Kingston Canyon, tooling north, past a billboard that proclaims, “What Happens in Austin….You Brag About.” We are approaching the geographical center of the state. At its peak 10,000 people based in Austin, and the roaring silver camp produced some $50,000,000 in ore. But, with the mines spent, people left as enthusiastically as they came. Now, the population sits at around 300 folks.
After a stop at the Toiyabe Café (killer hand-made milkshakes), and a gem-buying spree at the Little Bluebird Turquoise Shop (where I also buy what appears to be the authentic Aladdin’s magic lamp, and get my Loneliest Road passport stamped), we coil up a hill southwest of town to Austin’s most famous attraction, Stokes Castle.
It’s not really a castle, but a crumbling three-story granite tower built in the late 19th century as a summer residence for a mining baron. Modeled after a family painting of a villa outside Rome, it is now a ghost of a remnant of a vestige of a trace of an era lost to time. In the early 1950’s a promoter tried to buy it with intent of moving it to the Las Vegas strip. But, a cousin to the original owner grabbed it instead, preserving its place, but letting it dissolve into disrepair. Only the view remains intact, overlooking the meandering Reese River Valley. From here, it feels like we could fly.
Under a lowering sky we stop by something in the middle of nothing, a stately cottonwood blooming with polymer beauty. It’s a shoe tree, draped with hundreds of pairs of Nikes, adidas, pumps, boots, ballet slippers, even stilettos from nearby brothels, all spinning in the breeze like clinquant finery.
Rumor is the first pair was thrown during a wedding night argument by a young couple in the 1980s; later, their children’s shoes were added to the bough; then other relatives, and friends, and passersby, and a tradition was borne. It became, in short order, the world’s largest shoe tree. But what we are witnessing is not the original, which was chain sawed down by vandals on New Year’s Eve, 2010. Hundreds cried with the news. Now, a sister sapling, a few yards away, has become the replacement shrine, and something of a cause, and it seems to have sucked up all the discarded footwear in Nevada.
Just a hop and a skip away we pull into Old Middlegate Station, the actual “Middle of Nowhere,” population 17, home of the Monster Burger. Fredda Stevenson, owner with husband Russ, tells how she created the triple-decker pounder, which has assumed the status of legend, and draws burger slayers from around the world. She recalls that when a regular client complained her patties were too small, she decided to go all out and create something that would more that sate the hungry man.
Ten Years Ago in the NevadaGram
In this NevadaGram I listed the ten books that should be on your bookshelf at home:
1. The Thompson & West History of Nevada. 680 pages of generally reliable biography and history up to 1880.
2. Roughing It, by Mark Twain. A classic of the American West, and should be on everyone’s bookshelf, not just yours and mine.
3. Nevada Ghost Towns & Mining Camps, by Stanley Paher. This encyclopedic work (more than 700 photographs) was an undisputed classic the moment is appeared.
4. Martha & the Doctor by Marvin A. Lewis. The harrowing depiction of family life in the desert wilderness, and of the courage and devotion required simply to endure.
5. Nevada, The Great Rotten Borough, by Gilman M. Ostrander. A carefully researched political history of our beloved and imperfect state.
6. Any book by Walter Van Tilburg Clark. My own preference is for his Collected Stories, but Clark was one of the first Western American novelists to achieve national recognition.
7. I Want to Quit Winners, by Harold Smith. This is the Harold for whom Reno’s famous casino was named, and it is rare that anyone writes so frank and thoughtful an autobiography.
8. Fear & Loathing in Las Vegas, by Hunter S. Thompson. The birth of Gonzo Journalism stems from a faraway time (1971) before what happened in Vegas stayed in Vegas.
9. Complete Nevada Traveler, by my humble self. Perhaps modesty should forbid including this book on the list . . . but it doesn’t.
10. Your Choice at the bookstore. This is the one you pick out for yourself. Follow your interests and you may end up with a dozen books or more on your Nevada shelf.
“What happened to the customer?” I ask.
“Died of a heart attack,” she says.
She has rules for consuming the Monster Burger, which earns a t-shirt (“I Ate the Monster”) if a challenger can finish it within her rules (you can’t leave table once you sit down, and you have to eat the mound of fries and fixings). I accept the dare, and, she sets down a jacked stack of beef as big as my head…it’s the LaRon Landry of burgers.
After an hour, I’m shaking in defeat. Fredda struts over to my table and plants a white flag in my remaining meat. “Richard, you’re not the first guy I made a wus out of. The monster got ya!”
This next stretch of highway delights the eye, and the soul. Graceful sand dunes undulate with waves of pale, beige sand; high mountains rise, frozen like giant whitewater waves. I can hear my blood pulsing in awe.
Our final stop is the Frey Ranch, 8 ½ miles south of Fallon, ground zero for Nevada’s craft liquor movement. In the last tail feathers of the day, we roll down a painterly lane, past barns, silos, vineyards, a line of old John Deere tractors, a gazebo, and a Prairie-style homestead built in 1944. Here we meet Colby Frey, who is making high-end, high-tech spirits at Nevada’s first legal commercial distillery.
Colby is a fifth generation farm boy… his ancestors owned some of the first deeded property in Nevada. Now, he’s using the 1200-acre family plot for 21st century liquid innovation. He’s crafting vodka, gin, brandy, grappa, bourbon, absinthe and single malt whiskeys, all from grains and ingredients grown on the farm; all mashed, fermented, distilled, filtered, barreled and bottled just feet from where they were harvested. Even Whole Foods can’t claim such an integrated, micro-localized, grain-to-glass operation.
In the understated, wood-trimmed tasting room, we sample some of the signature spirits. Colby pours a glass of gin, made, he says, from sagebrush, coriander, Angelia root, cardamom pod, lemon peel, orange peel, and, of course, juniper berries. He asks me to whiff the bouquet before a sip. “Smells like a rainy day in Nevada,” he says. I can’t vouch for that, but am impressed enough with its creamy texture and taste to depart with a bottle of Frey Ranch gin in my bag, ready to take home and mix with tonic as my regular anti-malarial.
Towed by the sunset, we arrive in Reno. It’s raining. Smells like gin. An earned week after we began this road trip we check into the Whitney Peak Hotel, right on Virginia Street, right next to the famous Reno Arch sign, and a living temple to the evolution of consciousness in Nevada. This was once Fitzgeralds Casino-Hotel, and the location is prime, but it is now a luxury boutique non-smoking, non-gambling full service hotel, themed around a giant climbing wall, tallest in world. In a way it is an urban tribute to the mountains, lakes, and wild steppes we just traversed, trying to bring Nevada’s epic Outside in.
Fifteen Years Ago in the NevadaGram
We drove to Paradise.
Paradise Valley is about 45 minutes north of Winnemucca via US-95 and Nevada 290. It’s a quiet and supremely photogenic community dating from the 1860s when it was a supply point for the mines in the nearby mountains and called Paradise City. It’s almost purely agricultural now, except for an occasional tourist lured by the name. Wander the quiet streets of the serene little village for half an hour as we did, and the name seems to fit perfectly.
As tourists we gravitated naturally to the Paradise Valley Mercantile & Saloon. It had been closed since February, but now re-opened under the management of Mike Paradis & Co. Mike was ordered by the Health Department to remove the hundreds of dollar bills and other paper money tacked to the ceiling under the previous management, so they offered their customers $100 for the closest guess at the total in American money. It came to $1,853, plus a small fortune in foreign currency and three shop-vacs full of dust. They plan to have a small store and deli open about the time you see this, and then life will be quite heavenly again in Paradise Valley.
It has always been heavenly at the Stonehouse Country Inn where we paused for a few minutes with proprietor Steve Lucas. It’s a magnificent 3-story ranch house with a broad apron of rich green lawn and a shady canopy of magnificent cottonwoods.
You have to get over the color green to appreciate back-country Nevada; you have to give up on the commonplace, conventional jobs, standardized architecture, fences and routine. Even the idea of average doesn’t fly here. This is the geography of hope, a puzzle of empty spaces and outsized personalities, of waterless river beds and spates of rich-soil stories. For someone like me, the pull is inexplicable, but irresistible, and in the end, the only thing to do is capitulate… to embrace the characters steeped in defiant vitality and wit; to the carousel of spirits in this stark matrix of mountains and basins; and to the singularity that with a journey like this beautifully draws the soul into itself.
On this trip through the backlands of Nevada I may not have gone where I intended to go, but I think I ended up where I was intended to be.
I’m glad I wasn’t in the car with Richard on this day. He got some things wrong here, some of them consequential and some not. At the time he said he was approaching the geographical center of Nevada, he was actually leaving it behind. It’s at the junction of the Monitor Valley Road with the Wallace Canyon road out of the Monitor Range. And who the hay is LaRon Landry?
Also, if he’d started in talking about the Shoe Tree the way he wrote about it here, I’d have asked to get out and walk. He says the first Shoe Tree was cut down by vandals. I say the vandals were the people who festooned it with their personal trash, and cutting it down was a mercy killing. The remaining tree in that spot is now being prepared for its demise by the well-meaning (really?) boobs who throw their shoes and other junk up into it.
He completely missed one of the most unusual, interesting and occasionally delightful aspects of this stretch of Lonely Road: the messages left by passersby, written with black pebbles on the white surface of the great Salt Flat for all to read. Most of them are tributes to romantic love and family affection, but there is whimsy and commercial advertising there too. I have to think he snoozed through that stretch of road.
He got the gin part right though, and he did get to Reno after providing us with his dancing-to-bebop descriptions of four days of exciting and interesting travels through the state. His next-to-last words on the subject are perfect: “You have to get over the color green to appreciate back-country Nevada; you have to give up on the commonplace, conventional jobs, standardized architecture, fences and routine. Even the idea of average doesn’t fly here.”
Thank you Richard!
Incline Village has a new brewery that has quickly become a hit with the locals. Alibi Ale Works opened in Incline Village in December 2014. Their beers are unique and refreshing. Take their new White IPA for example that is brewed with coconut and a retains a hint of dandelion. It is a surprisingly perfect combination of bitter hops an cool coconut, all the while infused with the Belgium style flavor of a white ale. Click here to a see their location on a map.
Hey, we made the list! of the top 10 least-visited US national parks.
The Nevada Calendar —
First moment from Silver Trails Territory, your guide to Central-Southern Nevada
As hunting season moves closer Eureka begins preparations at the Perdiz Sport Shooting Range, starting with the Eureka Firemen’s Picnic & Shoot on September 10th, then following with a Bird Hunters Challenge on September 24th. . . Off Interstate 80, travel to Winnemucca for the Tri-County Fair & Stampede that is scheduled for September 1st through the 5th. Then on September 30th checkout Winnemucca’s Good Times Drag Strip. . . On the west side of the Silver State head on out to Tonopah Speedway for their season finale, the races last through September. Also in Tonopah don’t miss Music and Magic at the Mizpah on September 13th at 8:00 p.m. Be dazzled by the “Jaw-dropping eye-popping magic by Justin Rivera!” and “Knee-slapping floor-rolling comedy by Jake Daniels!” To reserve your tickets now call 885-337-3030 toll free. . . North of Reno, the Burning Man Festival is in full swing. The playa will be rocking to a full burn through the 5th of September. On the mornings of September 9th through the 11th goto the Great Reno Ballooon Festival. On the same weekend checkout the Reno Gem Faire at Reno-Sparks Livestock Events Center.
On September 14th through the 18th is Reno Air Races, talented pilots show their skills over our heads with a daring display of piloting.
On the same week on September 17th, stretch your limits at Rise Yoga a Healing Arts Festival. Reno’s Street Vibrations Fall Rally is scheduled for September 21st, and this years Oktoberfest will be hosted at The Brewer’s Cabinet on September 24th at 11am to 7pm . On September 25th at 1:30pm goto the Animal Ark on Deerlodge Road in Reno for On the Wind Cheetah Run.
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In south Reno join in the fun at Galena Fest Run & Ride on September 25th galena_fest.jpg. . . Nextdoor in Sparks is the locals favorite, Best in the West Nugget Rib Cook-Off. This event will last through September 5th . All through the month of September on Tuesdays through Saturday you can see the “Show Your Colors” Exhibit at Sparks Museum & Cultural Center . This event is hosted by the Sierra Watercolor Society. . . Up on the Comstock, Virginia City hosts it’s Annual International Camel & Ostrich Races on September 9th through the 11th . Then on September 17th come out to The Way It Was Rodeo. In the evening of the 17th goto the Victorian Steampunk Ball & Parade hosted by High Desert Steam, a local steampunk consortium. Virginia City’s Street Vibrations Fall Rally is scheduled for September 24th . . . Up at the glorious Lake Tahoe come out to North Lake Tahoe’s Autumn Food & Wine Festival on September 9th through the 11th. little farther north at Tahoe-Donner check out the Red Bull Donner Downhill scheduled for September 10th
. Also on September 10th is the Tour De Tahoe – Bike Big Blue, a 72-mile shoreline ride, that is argued to be “America’s Most Beautiful Bike Ride”! Or on September 10th and 11th, get out on the water for the TAHOE CUP Paddle Racing Series. The Trails & Vistas World Concert is scheduled for September 10th and 11th at Spooner Lake and Nevada State Park. Click here for details. . . Downslope in the scenic Carson Valley is the 2016 Genoa/Foothill Home Tour on September 10th. Then the annual Genoa Candy Dance is on September 24th and 25th . Nextdoor in Gardnerville, checkout this great new event the Homebrew Competition on the Hopyard that is scheduled for the 24th . The Eastern Sierra Kite Festival will be on September 17th and 18th. Southward down US highway 395 is the Topaz Lodge’s Cruz’n Sierra Show & Shine on September 8th through the 10th. . . In Carson City on September 9th the Spirit of the West fundraiser to help keep the Virginia Range wild horses free will be held at the Nevada Governor’s Mansion in Carson City from 5pm – 8pm. . . East down US Highway 50 is the Dayton Valley Days and Dayton Valley Railroad Days on September 17th and 18th. Further East down US 50 is the Fallon Hearts O’Gold Cantaloupe Festival & County Fair on September 2nd through the 4th. Fallon will also host it’s annual Tractors and Truffles on September 10th that features the local restaurant Slanted Porch owner and chef, Steve Hernandez, as well as chef and ice sculptor Mark Davis, Chef Director of the International Culinary School at the Art Institute of California. To purchase tickets call (775) 423-4556. Also in Fallon at the end of the month on September 30th through October 2nd will be the World Cowboy Fast Draw Championship. . . East of Reno in Fernley don’t miss The Lantern Fest at Fernley 95A Speedway on September 24th. . . In the center of the state off Highway 50 in Austin is the 25th Annual “OATBRAN – America’s Loneliest Bike Tour.” that is scheduled for September 25 through October 1st. . . On the eastern border in Ely is the Silver State Classic Challenge, that will begin on September 16th and ends on the 18th. You won’t want to miss the Great Basin National Park Astronomy Festival King of the Mountain MX races on September 9th. Then on September 12th checkout the Battle Mountain World Human Powered Speed Challenge. . . Farther east on I-80 will take you to Wells Nevada for their, Race to Angel/Ruby Mountain Relay on September 15th. The run takes you up to Angel >Lake high above Wells in the Ruby Mountains. On the eastern border on I-80 in Wendover checkout the World of Speed races on September 10th through the 13th. . . Down south off Highway 95 goto the Pahrump Fall Festival on September 22th through the 25th. On the opposite side of the state in Mesquite is the Mesquite Fine Arts Invitational that will start on Sept 5th and last through October 1st. . . In the southern reaches of Nevada in Boulder City check out the Fall Classic Custom and Rod Show on September 10th. On September 9th Boulder City’s Wurstfest begins and will last though the 24th. . . In Laughlin on September is Championship Bull Riding event at Laughlin Event Center. Then on September 22nd through the 25th is Laughlin’s Annual Roddin On The River Car Show. . . Over in Henderson come out to the Ho’olaule’a Pacific Islands Festival on September 11th. Henderson’s Super Run Classic Car Show will commence on September 25th. . . Las Vegas will host it’s Harvest Festival Annual Art & Craft Show on September 9th through the 11th. Then on September 13th through the 18th come to be satiated at the 37th Annual San Gennaro Feast . Then on September 16th through the 18th is the 44th Annual Las Vegas Greek Festival. If you’re thirsty then go to Las Vegas’s Fall BeerFest on September 16th through the 17th. Las Vegas will host BikeFest 2016 at the end of the month on September 29th and lasts through Oct 2nd.
Parting Shot —
Zephyr Cove Beach by Brendan Packer