NevadaGram #192 – Snake Valley Days at Baker

All you have to do to get to Baker from anywhere in Nevada is to get on US 50 and drive east. That’s what Robin and I did, and then drove up the east side of the Snake Range into Great Basin National Park and the Upper Lehman Creek campground for three days.

www.nevadatravel.net

We launched the new website on the 4th of July and everybody was celebrating with fireworks!

The site is not quite complete — you’ll notice some omissions and an occasional unrefined page — we’ll fix those, but we just can’t wait another day. Enjoy!

This is one of those places in Nevada where you get close to heaven at 7,600 feet, and those three days coincided with Snake Valley Days, which made them even more heavenly.

Upper Lehman Ceek Campground, Great Basin National Park NevadaAnd to top it off — the cherry on top — our three tranquil days were taken as the last-minute turmoil of our website launch was coming to a boil. Our digital debut was barely two weeks away and the website wasn’t finished — for everyone else it was a panicky All Hands On Deck, for us it was was a camping trip.

We have visited this place since it was Lehman Cave National Monument, but this was our first experience as campers. We found the Upper Lehman Creek campsite and the facilities immaculately maintained, our neighbors congenial and considerate, and our surroundings beautiful and undemanding. We never unpacked the laptops and we pretended our cellphones didn’t work (Verizon; no pretense required for AT&T).

The first event on the Snake Valley Days schedule was a Friday afternoon Beer Tasting, but Friday was our first full day up there and we were still luxuriating in our woodsy green haven, so we didn’t make the drive down into town. Nevertheless, we tasted beer.

On Saturday morning we went to town for the Pancake Breakfast at what we remembered as the Lectrolux Cafe, named for the spaceship Bill Rountree made from a vacuum cleaner and a chandelier and mounted on the roof above the door. It’s called Kerouac’s now, with new owners from New York City, and we were curious about their take on things.

pancakes at Kerouac's, Baker NevadaBest. Pancake. Breakfast. Ever. Opinions from the surrounding tables made it unanimous: We never had such good pancakes! And the re-do of the interior is moderne to the max without going over the top, a harmonious urban vibe. Yes, but it’s a 6-hour drive from everywhere but Ely!

Geezers Band at Snake Valley Days, Baker NevadaSome time passed as the parade formed up, and then it rambled by, first from east to west and then from west to east in the tradition of small town Nevada parades. Some of the floats were familiar from previous parades over the years, others were huge pieces of modern farm machinery. There were water wars activists in the parade, but no politicians.

The action then shifted from downtown to the grounds of Baker Hall where booths had been set up, and inside the Hall where a Silent Auction and Bake Sale was underway. As with most everything else in town that day, the money that changed hands was destined to fund the Water War: Snake Valley vs. the Las Vegas water-grabbers. So far Snake Valley is winning but Las Vegas is still thirsty and Lake Mead is still drying up.

Denys Koyle at the Border Inn, Baker NevadaStrife was a faraway concept on this sunny, slow-moving day. Kerouac’s closed for the afternoon but T&D’s was open and there were food booths at Baker Hall. Saturday’s Grand Finale was a barbecue and dance at the Border Inn that carried the day well into the night.

US 93 north of Ely NevadaAnd then on Sunday we were outta there. Back to Ely where the Ely Renaissance Society has launched a bright new website of its own with good looks at the Renaissance Village, the Art Bank and the murals around th city. Lattes at the Flower Basket and then north to Wells on US 93. This is a drive that invites you to think . . . or at least to spend some time inside yourself. Amazing what you find there. . . .

This trip was also the maiden voyage for our new ride. Meet the van. It’s a Road-Trek conversion made in Canada on a one-ton 2000 model year Dodge-Benz chassis. It has a big V-8, new tires, and turned 55,000 miles on the odometer as we left Great Basin National Park. The TravelvanWe loaf along at 60 mph and get not quite 14 miles to the gallon of 85 octane regular. It is fully self-contained and allows us much more flexibility as we travel. We will always eat at local restaurants — that’s part of the payoff — but now we can feed ourselves too when it’s more convenient.. Anyway, that’s the theory.

Our first impression: the van is the dry land equivalent of a 2-man submarine: tight quarters, but everything is in there, including the kitchen sink. It drives like the heavy truck it is, and has a very wide turning radius, but it’s easy to drive and to park and gives a comfortable ride on the highway. So far we like it.

Front Street Before the Earthquake

Front Street before the Earthquake, Wells Nevada

After the Earthquake

Front Street after the Earthquake, Wells Nevada

Now

Front Street after the Earthquake, Wells Nevada

Our visit to Wells was brief — the Visitor Center was closed — and painful because it was our first look at Front Street cleared of its earthquake-shattered structures. Everything from the Bull’s Head Bar east has disappeared except the last two buildings. John Quilici’s meat market was the last store to close; when he died, the street died with him. The street had been commercially dead for ten years when the earthquake struck in 2008 Wells is more than ready for a new beginning.

We’ve come to depend on Doug Clarke, our Elko correspondent, for foodie news, but this time we found one he hasn’t visited yet. Himiko's Restaurant, Elko NevadaHimiko was once up by Raley’s where it was called Kabuki, now it’s on Silver Street just south of Idaho. The joint was jumping when Robin and I stopped by on the late afternoon of Father’s Day. We had a lovely supper at the bar [hint: yakisoba] and now we have yet another excellent Elko restaurant to point to.

We stayed at our fave, the Inn at the Gallery Bar which is being spruced and spiffed to serve an Air b+b clientele in downtown Elko. Gallery Bar, Elko NevadaGreat location above one of the nicest bars in town [hint: a Manhattan cocktail made with Jameson’s Irish Whiskey by Nick the Perfectionist Bartender], next door to Capriola’s, across the parking lot from the Western Folklife Center and within an easy stroll of everything in downtown Elko.

We could have done our business in a day, but Elko is too much fun to hurry through — and now we travel west toward home where the hullaballoo of website launch preparations awaits.

In Battle Mountain we discovered that the Visitor Center is being moved to the Cookhouse Museum; a kiosk will be available when staff is not on hand. No sign yet of that Indian Casino shaping up south of the Freeway but plenty of optimism in the air.

Winnemucca was a blur. We’d hoped to try Ormachea’s under its new owners but we’d have arrived home after dark so we saved it for next time.

We did stop in Lovelock though, and got two mega-sized (32 oz!) chocolate malts at Temptations, which is on the corner across from the famous courthouse and is one of the hidden treasures along I-80. They make a smaller size malt for sissies but they are so good — in the same league with S’Socorro’s in Mina — that 32 ounces is almost not enough.

Stand and Deliver - Nevada MagazineIf you were to ask the average Western history buff to name the most infamous desperados in the American West, she might rattle off well-known names like Jesse James and Billy the Kid. If she knew her Nevada history she might know Farmer Peel, John Daly or Lucky Bill Thorrington — or even Tony Spilotro — but it is highly unlikely that “Big Jack” Davis or “Fighting Sam” Brown, would be named. But they were every bit as nasty as the skunks everyone knows about. Read about our bad guys on Nevada Magazine.

Parting Shot —

Tonopah Sunset

Tonopah Sunrise by Teresa Madsen

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4 Comments

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  1. Jack and Lorraine Richmond

    Dave and Robin… great article on Baker,etc…made us want to go back there soon… the c ground at the top is spectacular but
    probably not open yet. Still adjusting to life in Reno..Miss you and ho[e to see you soon

    Jack and Lorraine

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  2. Jack and Lorraine Richmond

    We’re new to this communication via “commenting” on the Nevadagram so hope you get this. Let us know!

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    1. Jack and Lorraine,

      Looks like you were successful with posting your comments. Keep them coming!

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  3. Hi David,
    Wow, the Riverside. I worked there when I was 21, first as a telephone operator with one of those old-fashioned plug in phone systems (yes, I’m an antique too!), then I graduated to elevator operator where I met a few minor stars of stage and screen (who are probably all dead by now). I ended up as a cocktail waitress (I was pretty cute then) where I made a whole lot more money than in the elevator. Then, better yet, went on as a cocktail waitress at the Mapes, then eventually Harold’s Club 7th floor fun room, one of the only big showroom entertainment venues in town at that time. I finally got fired for pouring a drink in the lap of an over-enthusiastic butt-pincher.

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