Lovelock is a pleasant little town in a tough spot: it’s just 90 miles east of Reno. So even though Interstate 80 carries travelers in endless thousands past the Lovelock offramps, few drivers venture to use them.
The eastbound folks are fully rested, with full bellies, full gas tanks, and the speedometer needle pinned at 68.5.
The westbound folks might be hungry and tired, but almost all of them are willing to go on another hour and a half to get to Reno instead of pulling off for food and lodging in Lovelock.
So when you do, take the offramp you have the town to yourself. It will never be mistaken for Carmel, but Lovelock is friendly and contains some hidden and not-so-hidden treasures to enjoy.
A celebrated member of jazz’s “young guard,” Grammy Award winner Nicholas Payton has recorded and performed with the best. He’s headlining this year’s Reno Jazz Festival, April 18 – 20 along with vibraphonist Bobby Hutcherson and The Collective.
The secret is to time your arrival so you are at the west end of town and into the parking lot at the Marzen House Museum at about 3 in the afternoon. This allows time to visit the Marzen House Museum and its collection of 19th century artifacts. Josef Marzen was German-born, a wholesale butcher turned rancher who built this house in 1876. Soak in his environment for a serene half hour, then back in the car and drive east on Cornell Avenue, Lovelock’s Champs d’Elysee. On your left you’ll see the Lovelock Inn, one of half a dozen lodgings available in town, and ahead on the right you’ll see La Casita where you’ll have dinner later. For now you keep going to the intersection with the blinking light overhead, and turn left.
Ahead is the famous Round Court House of Pershing County. Like all Nevada Court Houses it is open to visitors during regular office hours, and County offices are located around the perimeter, off the corridor that encircles the round court room in the center. “My wife and I were divorced in Lovelock,” a Winnemucca man once told me, “and we’re still going around in circles.”
More Lovelock information from Pershing County Chamber of Commerce, inviting you to join the fun at
When you’ve exhausted the possibilities at the court house, drive back the way you came, but go across Cornell Avenue beneath the blinking light to Broadway, the old business street along the railroad tracks.
Historical note: that blinking light dangling above the intersection was once the last signal light regulating traffic between San Francisco and New York. It went out of service when the freeway opened in 1983.
I don’t know which one it was, or if it is still standing at all, but in one of the Broadway boarding houses that catered to working men in the early years of the 20th century, a teen-aged girl named Edna Purviance helped her mother with the housekeeping. She graduated from high school in 1913 and quickly shook the dust of Lovelock from her shoes by moving to San Francisco.
There she worked as a secretary and ran with a racy show business crowd. One of her friends introduced her to Charlie Chaplin, who was looking for a new leading lady for his movies, and the rest is a
Cinderella story too perfect to be plausible (until the alcohol made it imperfect enough).
Charlie and Edna made 40 films together and remained close friends until the day she died.
Scotty the Assayer, whose little assay lab was also on Broadway, is Lovelock’s only other celebrity — during WWI he made the first military parachute jump in history. He missed the island he was supposed to land on, and nearly drowned in the Potomac River.
All right, go to the east end of town where Sturgeon’s has ruled since time immemorial, a very visible treasure providing food, lodging and gambling games at all hours. Pull up to the shops across the boulevard and find The Crow’s Nest Gift Shop. This is truly a hidden treasure. Nothing about the unprepossessing exterior hints at the lavish stock within. This is a store worthy of a community much larger than Lovelock.
Now you’ve seen the lodgings options — pick one, check in, and pretty up for dinner at La Casita, another of Lovelock’s treasures. This one is invisible from the freeway, but in plain sight if you come down the boulevard, an excellent Mexican Restaurant serving the classic dishes in informal but muy autentico style.
Breakfast in the morning is at Sturgeon’s, a classic small town full-service casino with an old-fashioned bacon, egg and pancake approach to coffee shop cuisine. It’s a local favorite, so you’ll have the added flavor of the community as well.
Overheard at the Gaudi Bar at Sunset Station in Henderson: “I sometimes fantasize about being immortal, but the sad fact is, I don’t know what to do with myself on a Sunday afternoon.”
Bad News from Battle Mountain: Donna’s Diner is closed. Donna and family had departed some time ago, and their successor was unable to maintain the tradition, alas. This is actually worse for Battle Mountain than the armpit hubbub.