South Tahoe Food & Wine Festival
See story and photos below
We drove to Gerlach north from Silver Springs, through Fernley, Wadsworth and Nixon — towns most visitors never notice, if they see them at all — and then along the western shore of Winnemucca Lake.
This was once a productive fishery, dry since the 1930s because of heedless development. Timeless and lifeless, empty land taking a long time to traverse at 65 mph.
It’s best toward sundown when the low angle of the light turns the hills to the east of the dead gray lakebed to a soft tawny glow, sharp black shadows carving their shapes.
Rich Moreno included Winnemucca Lake on his list of “Nevada’s Lost Natural Wonders” (#3).
Much of this stretch is within the Pyramid Lake Paiute Reservation, and if you know where to look you can see the location of the oldest known petroglyphs in North America. They were made between 11,300 and 10,500 years ago according to the most likely estimate, but perhaps as early as between 14,800 and 13,200 years ago. The reason there are two competing possibilities is that the rock carvings were submerged by the lake water from about 13,200 to about 11,300 years ago. The site has been carefully studied and the whole story is here.
Gerlach is at the confluence of two large desert valleys familiar to the emigrants who passed through here in wagons in the 1850s: the Black Rock Desert and the Smoke Creek Desert. The town was established in 1909 as a crew change station on the just-completed Western Pacific Railroad’s Feather River Route over the Sierra. The west-bound California Zephyr hurried quietly through town before dawn each morning for 21 years, 1949-1970.
The Governor’s Global Tourism Summit 2016
The Governor’s Global Tourism Summit this year was focussed on China and the International market. It was held at the huge Grand Sierra Resort, which opened as the MGM Grand in 1978 and has been made new again by the current ownership.
Sales and Media Marketplaces allowed the reps for Nevada properties and destinations to ‘speed-date’ with tour operators from around the world in one session and travel writers in the other. Each one-on-one session was ended by a bell, and with each bell all these Nevada reps stood up in unison, moved simultaneously one spot over, and started over again with the sales pitch. The heads were attached to people from North and South America, Europe, the UK, Australia, South Korea and China.
Other sessions were devoted to the International Program and to updating the attendees from around the state about various TravelNevada activities from websites to grants to Nevada Magazine.
Hopefully everyone who climbed to the Summit came away with something as valuable. But in addition to the brilliant use of “Don’t Fence Me In” as our Theme Song there needs to be another slogan shouted to the mountaintops:
“Don’t Fence Me Out!”
In this increasingly blighted and junked up world, an uncluttered landscape is an asset of enormous value. Nevada has this treasure in abundance because the lands are public and closed to helter-skelter development.
All the boring (read: beautiful) distances along our highways get more valuable every day. We must not allow this great treasure to be hijacked and sold to the highest bidder. Privatizing the public lands betrays the public trust.
During the 1980s Dwayne Williams, a Gerlach native, built Doobie Road stone by eloquent stone along the foot of the steeply rising Granite mountains.
It has been rescued from the avalanche of 2005 and restored to something like its original condition, which we had memorialized previously.
Nothing much has happened here that wasn’t railroad connected. Bruno Selmi has run the bar since 1952 and adding the Motel and other properties over the years since. He’s 92 now, and doesn’t stroll around town the way he used to; his grandson Willy runs the business now.
Five Years Ago in the NevadaGram
I had intended to finish out the year with a report from the Governor’s Conference on Tourism, but at the last minute was unable to attend.
I am told it was a success and a fitting beginning for the newly-enlarged agency combining Tourism and Cultural Affairs.
One mainstay of the Governor’s Conference is the awarding of awards. It’s gratifying to recognize the efforts of hard-working people, and since I wasn’t there to see it for myself this year, I got to thinking about the awards I would hand out if it were up to me.
The Nevada Travel Network
There’s a gas station and a couple more bars, the Burning Man office, the Friends of Black Rock information center and the promise of a coffee house opening in November. Not much else to catch the eye except the iconic water tank that filled the boilers of the steam locomotives. Until the diesels took over it was a well-known landmark and gathering point for hobos.
Then Burning Man happened. What had been a bonfire on Ocean Beach in San Francisco moved to the playa on the Black Rock Desert a few miles east of town along with 90 dedicated supporters camping out for a few days building the Man and then setting it on fire. This year’s week-long encampment ending on Labor Day weekend was a ‘temporary city’ of 70,000 that appeared suddenly, flourished madly for a week, and vanished without a trace after the great flaming finale.
That’s 70,000 people who left their inhibitions at home, created an exuberant extravaganza of art, joy and extreme humanity for a week, put a nice spike in the area economy, and went home for another year.
There was never a starker contrast than the one between rich, brilliant and brand new Burning Man and raggedy-ass, rusty old Gerlach. In its dramatic success Burning Man was like the hovering spacecraft in ET, but instead of aliens from another galaxy, these aliens are from another culture: millenials, metrosexuals, visionaries and vagabonds of every shape,size and hue. In Gerlach people wore overalls, these people wore any damned thing or nothing at all. And they spent a ton of money and then they were gone.
Hmmmm — not bad.
Ten Years Ago in the NevadaGram
Last time I reported that the waxen wedding of Brad Pitt and Angelina Jolie, a new tableau prepared for Madame Tussauds in Las Vegas, had been called off after the real life Brad Pitt expressed dissatisfaction with the idea.
Josh, our reporter on the Las Vegas waxworks beat, attended the abbreviated introduction of the Angelina Jolie figure and sent this bulletin: “It was dark in there and even though the wedding was cancelled there were tons of people.”
I can’t help noticing that the waxen cad Brad Pitt had the impertinence to stand looking on while poor Angelina, fresh from cancelling the wax flowers, wax food and wax minister, was introduced all alone to her fans. I swear she showed signs of melting.
And where was the Best Man, the recently-sculpted George Clooney through all this? He was idling in the next room where excited customers were pulling off their clothes and slipping into wedding dresses in eager anticipation of a quick snapshot with him. Is it just me, or does that seem unfeeling?
There are two beautiful places near Gerlach, one you can visit and one you can’t (unless you can wangle a special invitation). Let’s begin with the one you can’t: Fly Geyser.
Shouldn’t Rich Moreno already be at work on a new book with a chapter on Fly Geyser: “Nevada’s Brand-New Natural Wonders” — it bulged up steaming in the 1960s when drilling done for soil testing penetrated too deep and created this spectacular technicolor display of subterranean magnificence, grotesque and beautiful, brilliant and dreadful all at once.
It’s on the Fly Ranch, which the Burning Man organization bought a couple of years ago, and it’s not open to visitors except for carefully attended, invitation-only small events. There are two other geysers nearby: the Wizard, which resembles Merlin from a distance, appeared in 1919 and a new one, not yet named, is steaming and spitting only a few hundred yards away, Burning Man also bought Dog Ranch and another property, where it has located the shops and storage facilities required to erect and deconstruct Black Rock City each year.
The reason you can’t come see Fly Geyser without explicit permission and a minder is implicit in its origin: this is a very sensitive and vulnerable piece of ground. Too much traffic will damage or destroy the very thing people come to see. Burning Man is considering plans that will allow visitors in such a way as to prevent ruination of the geyser and the wetlands.
Two of our party went for a brief splash in the nearby warm pond devoted to recreation. “This water contains silver, gold and lithium”, announced our guide, inviting us to join him for a swim. “It’s warm enough today to air dry, so we won’t need towels.”
The other Beautiful Thing to see is a few miles north on Nevada 447 around the west side of the Granite Range: Planet X, the famed pottery and art oasis of John and Rachel Bogard.
Fifteen Years Ago in the NevadaGram
“I spent a good part of the day near the DPW installation where all the bags of MOOP could be found. It was rather amazing really to see that there were about 6 large 40/gallon bags of MOOP. This was just the loose moop picked up by 40 sets (80 hands total) human hands over the course of 2 weeks. It doesn’t include ash and other large debris.”
Request from Camp GoatRodeo
John came here in 1974, attracted by low rent, isolation and more water than he knows what to do with. Since then Planet X has become a two-man (one of them a woman) factory producing both pottery and paintings for a clientele that has grown steadily over the years.
There are small galleries and various production studios sprinkled around the grounds and under the trees in a kind of open compound.
John’s pictorial representations on the cups, bowls and platters that he makes are unique and resonant, each one a signature. He revealed to us that his inspiration for the ‘desertware’ came from looking out the window. Visitors are welcome to wander as they please, with a few well marked exceptions. There are tables available under the trees if you brought lunch. Keep your dog on a leash, please.
Stopping here is always a pleasure, but especially on Memorial Day weekends that amount to a big 3-day Open House Show & Sale. People buy pottery and art of course, but this weekend in particular attracts friends, friends of friends, and friendly strangers. There’s a ‘Bargain Sale’ on Thanksgiving weekend at Planet X and a show in Reno the first weekend of December. There’s also a vacation rental available at quieter times, (775) 442-1919.
We made it a point to attend the South Tahoe Food & Wine Festival, and in particular the Expo event. This is a floating cocktail party with attractive people pouring tastes of wine and spirits at 32 individual tables, and chefs from each of the restaurants at Harrah’s and Harveys (both owned by Caesar’s Inc.) doling out scrumptious hors d’ouvres at a dozen more. Musicians perform nonstop.
No-one could sample everything here, but we tried. Tastes from the wide-ranging menus of so many different kitchens, accompanied by various wines and cocktails created the impression of a high-end diplomatic reception — quite a rarity in my life and actually quite enjoyable.
I’d worn my Parisian souvenir, a hat produced by mating a baseball cap with a beret (I’ve given up the tricorn on formal occasions and now reserve it for yard work and visits to the cow camp) and was feeling quite intercontinental. And so we passed the morning-into-afternoon, sipping wine and table-hopping, trying everything from sushi to custard -like-Grandma-used-to-make. It was so royal the only thing missing was a visit from the Queen.
Should you decide to come next year, come early. Not that the food and drink will run out — they won’t — but the crowd swells as morning turns into afternoon (11 am – 3:30 pm) and no-one takes pleasure from standing lumpishly in line for a dollop of wine or a dab of sashimi, no matter how exquisite.
What They’re Saying About us: High Country News visits Gold Butte
The November Calendar
Adjacent to the pristine sands of the majestic Lake Tahoe, Harvey’s at Stateline will host The World Series of Poker on November 3rd. On the north end of the Lake check out the UC Davis Tahoe Science Lecture Series
that is also scheduled for November 3rd at the Tahoe Center for Environmental Sciences in Incline Village. On November 5th the 28th Annual Tahoe Chocolate & Wine Festival. Make sure you’re at The Magnificent Valhalla Grand Hall on November 18th through the 20th for the Annual Valhalla Holiday Faire. . . Lake Tahoe’s ski resorts are opening! . . . Down in Reno Celebrate local music and entertainment at Reno’s annual Forte Awards on November 3rd at the Grand Sierra Resort and then go to a posh afterparty at GSR’s premiere night club, The Lex. On the same weekend come on out to the Off Beat Arts & Music Festival in Downtown Reno on November 3rd through the 6th. On November 4th go to the 11th Annual Red Western Classic at the Reno Livestock Event Center. Reno will indulge it’s self in chocolate and wine at Fantasies in Chocolate: Diamonds & Pearls on November 5th at the Grand Sierra Resort. . . Are you into hurling pumpkins?… With catapults?! If so sign up for the Punkin’ Chunkin’ Competition on Nov 5th at Andelin Family Farm in Spanish Springs, where you can hurl or chuck a pumpkin solely by mechanical means using a catapult and trebuchet. Click here for a brochure. Are you interested in growing your own vineyard? If so the University of Nevada Reno hosts a Viticulture Workshop on November 5th and 11th. Learn how it all works from Dr Grant Cramer, professor of Biochemestry and molecular biology at the University of Nevada Reno. Click here for a brochure. On November 11th go to Barrels & Bites 2016 at the Tuscany Ballroom in the Peppermill Reno Resort and Spa. This event benefits the Boys and Girls club of the Truckee Meadows. . . On November 24th head over to Sparks for the Scheels Turkey Trot in Scheels parking lot, Participants “can choose from a 10K (6.2 miles)run (timed) or a a 2-mile walk or run (not timed)”. . . Drive south down 395 to Carson City for it’s Carson Mall Fine Arts Faire on November 3rd through the 5th. . . Right next door in Carson Valley go to the Antique Barn Sale at Jacob’s Family Berry Farm on November 4th and 5th. Jacob’s Family Berry Farm will sell off their remaining inventory of great furniture, home decor, linens, kitchen stuff, books, and more at up to 50% off. On November 18th Carson Valley Arts Council will host it’s annual Concert Series with pianist, Tien Hsieh. . . You won’t want to miss Virginia City’s Veterans Day Parade on November 11th. Ride on the Virginia Truckee Railroad when the V&T’s Candy Cane Express hits the rail on November 25th. . . In central Nevada checkout Winnemucca’s Fall Craft Festival on November 12th and 13th. A short distance down Interstate 80 Battle Mountain plays host to it’s annual Lander County Convention and Tourism-Chukar Tournament that is scheduled for November 5th. Up in north central Nevada checkout Jiggs Turkey Carnival on November 20th. . . In eastern Nevada go to Elko for the Festival of Trees
on November 28th through the 30th. Wells will host a Christmas Bazaar on November 19th. . . On Nevada’s eastern border take a ride on Ely’s Polar Express Train Ride on 19th, 25th and 26th. Then on November 25th come out to Ely’s Sights, Sounds and Smells of Christmas and a fashion show on Nov 26. Ely’s own Festival of Trees is scheduled for November 28th through December 1st. Next door in Baker come see the “The Winchester Heard Round the World“. The time for this event is not yet determined. For details contact Great Basin National Park at (775) 234-7331. . . Follow Highway 50 to Eureka for their Holiday Bazaar that is scheduled for November 18th and 19th. Then on November 20th come to the Family Turkey Trot 5K Run/Walk. Continue down Highway 50 to Austin for their Christmas Bazaar on November 19th. . . Southward down Highway 95 go to Tonopah for their Craft Fair on
November 19th. Farther south ward on Highway 95 you won’t want to miss the Pahrump Social Powwow on November 18th through the 20th. . . In the south east on November 8th go to 1000 Flags Over Mesquite. . . In Boulder City go to Winter ArtFest on November 12th and 13th. Also on November 12th in Henderson is the Tater Tots and Beer Festival. On November 8th through the 12th in Las Vegas checkout the Indian National Finals Rodeo. The Soul Train Awards are on
November 6th at the Orleans Casino. On November 12th and 13th gaze skyward at the Nellis 2016 Air Show & Open House.
Overheard at Planet X: “My watch didn’t have a second hand, so I went to a second hand store, but they didn’t have any either.”
Parting Shot —
An eight unit stack train, westbound at Verdi. David Carballido-Jeans