NevadaGram #91 – Poetry in Fallon, Art & A Capella in Eureka

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The New York Times eats lamb testicles in Virginia City.
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We can’t seem to stay away from Fallon. In the previous Nevadagram I reported on our February visit. Then we went again this month, and we’re going again in April for Rural Round-Up, the annual tourism get-together for rural Nevada. Yes, yes, yes, I admit it — We’re falling for Fallon.

Photo by Max Winthrop

This time we discovered the best way for out-of-towners to introduce themselves to Fallon and its subtle charms: make your visit when there’s an event at the Oats Park Arts Center. This time we came for a reading and photography exhibit by Michael Sykes of Cedarville fame, and it was well worth the trip.

One delight was Michael himself, the star of the show, but there was another. As careful students of the NevadaGram well know, I’ve been trying to find a great martini in Fallon, so far without success. I’d made such a pest of myself that local people were stopping each other on the street:

Photo by Max Winthrop

Yes, you can have a great martini in Fallon: at the Art Bar.

“Hey, Charley, where can you get good martini around here?” And Charley would shrug and look at his shoes and then go home and call all his friends: “Hey Ed, hey Bill, Hey Jeannie, where can you get good martini around here?”

As it turns out, the answer lay right in our path. There’s a bar at the Art Center, which opens on the evenings of an event, and there’s a fellow named Kirk Robertson who answers the call when someone orders a martini. And even though he doesn’t wear shiny black shoes, trim white jacket or snappy black bow-tie, he makes an excellent martini. Kirk is a poet of considerable reputation, and behind the bar he is poetry in motion, but he’s not there every night. The Art Bar is open when events take place, plus one evening a month when there’s no event, to provide a gathering place for people who connect with the center’s purpose and activities to sit around together and talk.

Photo by Max Winthrop

The Courtyard Cafe, Fallon

We stayed over at one of Fallon’s motels, and found a local favorite restaurant for breakfast. The Courtyard Cafe and Bakery is right next to the little Centennial Park at the intersection of Williams (US 50) and Maine Streets, just east of the old wooden court house. This building was once a liquor store and the easternmost location in Nevada where you could buy a San Francisco newspaper on the same day it was published. It has been reconfigured as a pleasantly informal cafe serving breakfast and lunch, but not dinner. We liked it a lot. Hint: Eggs Florentine. So we are making more discoveries in Fallon, and the more we discover, the better we like it.

Photo by Max Winthrop

Michael Sykes read to an appreciative audience for an hour during his program at the Oats Park Art Center in Fallon. This piece is titled “Amen”

Alone at night after caroling
through streets of snow-covered Cedarville
cold mid-winter solstice
nearly full moon slightly on the wane
floating through thin heavenly clouds
above Hays Canyon Range in Nevada
late but not too late to bundle up
and drive south twenty-two miles through
Surprise Valley to hot springs below
Eagleville and soak in deliriously
warm water under moon and stars
for an eternity of peaceful surrender
to the body’s letting go good-bye
I’m going now leaving it all behind
turning slowly in the warm water
of an ancient embryonic dream
not coming full circle all circles gone
no dimensions left no boundaries anymore
passing out of the shadow of death
into life everlasting world without end.

Travel Nevada, Nevada MagazineWe took the long way around to Eureka where we joined friends at the Opera House for a performance by the Edlos. Our first stop was for lunch in Winnemucca, and we found a winner: the Third Street Bistro — which is not on Third Street, but Winnemucca Boulevard, the local Champs d’Elysee.

You won’t suppose that you’re in Paris, or even Marseilles, but you’ll enjoy the hearty servings of delicious food. We each had half a Philly cheese-steak sandwich with soup (me) and salad (Robin). This is a considerably more ambitious sandwich than the one you’ll get in Philadelphia, it’s actually glamorous. We were both pleased, and we both wondered how anyone could put away a whole sandwich. Actually, we noticed that many customers were carrying take-home packages with them as they left. But not the little cookies that accompanied each lunch, they’re too good to put aside for later.

The eagerly-awaited America’s Car Collection project has slowed to a stop. The cars are still garaged in town, but the exhibit hall has yet to break ground and the marketing staff has been furloughed, victims of the national fiscal fever.

We were in Elko by a little past 4. A couple of glasses of zinfandel at the Gallery Bar, a stroll across the way to the Flying Fish for a fabulous dinner. Ah, Elko, what a cool little city you’ve become.

As we headed west again to Carlin the next morning we made sure to stop at BJ Bull’s Cowboy Countryon the near west side of Elko for pasties and a cherry pie. Mr. Dunbar, the pastyman, has added a new beef and mushroom version. It is very good, but our favorite is still the beef and cabbage. You can buy 20 frozen pasties for $40 to take home as edible souvenirs of your visit.

It’s 25 miles from Elko to Carlin, and besides the pleasant surroundings you’ll pass two interesting landmarks. One is the Tonka Tunnel, a railroad tunnel just to the south of the highway tunnel. This is the site of the first American bloodshed in World War I; I don’t mean a paper cut, I mean bullets, and I mean bloodshed. I’ll put this in a NevadaGram one of these months.

photo by Gary Koy, BLM

The impressive California Trail Interpretive Center between Elko and Carlin will open in 2010.

The other is The California National Historic Trail Interpretive Center. This is an impressive structure on the north side of the highway at the Hunter offramp. Its mission is to keep California Trail history alive — between 1841 and 1869 as many as 350,000 people packed their belongings into wagons and headed west. The best known of them was the Donner Party, which followed the Hastings Cut Off trail south along the east side of the Rubies, west around the south end, and then north again along the west side (a 130-mile detour) and the Center is located where they rejoined the main trail.

The Center is scheduled to open in the summer of 2010, by which time the permanent exhibits will be installed, a mile of interpretive trails developed, and all the kinks and glitches smoothed out.

photo by Max Winthrop

The Edlos with Chris Knudsen, a volunteer from the audience, as Officer Krupke.

From Carlin we turned south for the 90-mile drive to Eureka, arriving in time to join our group of excursionists at the Opera House for the evening’s performance.

I’ve written about The Edlos before, so I’ll merely say these guys caught us up and carried us away. Their program was devoted to songs from Broadway musicals, and they not only had the audacity to tackle “76 Trombones” without even a glockenspiel to back them up, they made it work.

The next day began at the Pony Express Deli on the uphill end of town (US 50 goes east and west but the canyon Eureka occupies trends north and south, so giving directions becomes complex), recently reopened and offering lattes and tasty baked goods as well as more routine breakfast fare.

photo by Max Winthrop

Art is everywhere in Eureka, including the Court House.

The rest of the day was devoted to art. Yes, art; Eureka has become a focal point for Nevada art, due mainly to the active presence of Wally Cuchine, Executive Director of the Eureka Opera House and de facto curator of art in Eureka County’s public buildings. Wally himself is an addicted collector, with more than 1,000 pieces in his personal collector. Most Nevada artists, past and present are represented.

That collection is seen by invitation only, but the permanent collection in the Opera House and the rotating exhibit in the Court House are open to visitors.

Quick notes from beyond the mountains: Virginia City will hold its Fourth Annual Mad Hatter’s Easter Parade and Great Virginia City Easter Egg Hunt on Saturday, April 11. The Easter egg hunt, for children 10 and under, will begin at 10 am at Miner’s Park, E and Carson Streets, with the littler tykes scrambling for eggs in the adjacent baseball field. Some eggs will be cooked and some will be plastic, containing either candy, or the name of a Virginia City shop where the finder will receive a free gift. The Easter Bunny will be present. The Mad Hatter’s Easter Parade will begin at noon on C Street, promenading from the Virginia City Jerky Co. on South C Street to The Way it Was Museum, within sight of Cora’s Coffee House . . .

An alpaca

I don’t know how long it’s been since you’ve been to an alpaca show, but for me it seems like forever. We can catch up on the progress of alpaca breeding by attending the seventh annual Alpaca Western Extravaganza Saturday & Sunday, April 11th & 12th at the Reno-Sparks Convention Center, 4001 S. Virginia Street in Reno. Some 400 of the wooly critters will be present, and the show provides an excellent opportunity for people interested in alpacas to talk with experienced owners and breeders about the potential for alpaca fiber . . .

Railroad bridge now in place
The V&T railroad bridge has been set in place above US 50 at Mound House, and track is being extended to it from the north.Railroad bridge now in placeThe remaining four-mile stretch of track to the east side of Carson City is awaiting funding, and the sight of the old locomotives chuffing over the highway should accelerate the fundraising process. The engineers, conductors and gandy-dancers of the V&T Railroad are getting ready for daily operations beginning May 23rd and extending through October 31. The V&T provides an enjoyable experience for the passengers who are provided with an informative narration as they clack and clatter along, and adds enjoyment also to passersby who watch it glide along its shiny rails.

Some of the businesses located near the Truckee River in downtown Reno have banded together as the Riverwalk Merchants Association to sponsor a variety of events and activities, with a Wine Walk on the third Saturday of each month from 2 to 5 pm . . . If you’d rather run, you’ll have to wait until May 3 and Reno’s Rock-n-River Marathon and Half Marathon Festival. The marathon begins beneath the Reno arch at 6:30 Reno Tahoe TerritoryAM, with the others following at half-hour intervals. I’ve read all the details on the website but haven’t found anything about wine . . . Here’s a new website devoted to nightlife in Las Vegas . . . Another Bad Beat Poker event at the Carson Valley Inn! Here’s an explanation of Bad Beats (and a good poker story too), and here’s how it went at the Carson Valley Inn: playing Texas Hold ’em in the Carson Valley Inn Poker Room, Eric Anderson of Gardnerville, with two spades in the hole, watched with supreme satisfaction as the first three cards gave him a spade flush and four cards to a straight flush. When the five of spades came up on the river he had a seven-high straight flush and bet it strong. But Fred Oakes from down the road in Minden stayed with him bet for bet, raise for raise. Both players went to the limit with their raises and both realized they may be playing for a $1,000 Bad Beat prize. As Eric said, “I knew I had the 7-high straight flush and was hoping I’d be beat.” Eric’s hopes were realized because Fred showed an 8-high straight flush. The Carson Valley Inn’s Bad Beat promotion pays out a $1,000 cash prize whenever a hand of “four-of-a-kind” or better is beaten by a higher hand. So, an immediate $500 in cash helped console Eric, $300 plus the pot went to Fred and the remaining $200 was split among the remaining players at the table . . . Here’s a terrific website devoted to more than 4,000 historic Nevada maps, many of the originals over 100 years old, deteriorating, rare, and uncataloged. There are also nearly 50 historic maps dating from 1750 into the 20th century depicting the western discovery and settlement of Nevada . . . If you’re looking for a city that has escaped the worst of the economic downturn, look at Elko: two hotels (total: 2,500 rooms) are being built, and 6,000 new homes are projected over the next ten years . . . The 17th Annual Las Vegas City of Lights Jazz Festival on Saturday, April 25, 2009 at the Government Amphitheater in the Clark County Complex, 1 pm – 10 pm.

Government Amphitheater

You can bring picnic baskets , but no glass containers; there are concessions and crafts at the Jazz Village. Admission is free for children 12 and under, $20 for children between 13 and 18; children’s tickets will be available at the on-site festival box office on the day of the event. The Jazz Festival VIP/ Early Bird tickets receive first entry from 10am to 12noon for center of the venue seating for $110 in advance, General Admission adult tickets in advance are $60 (plus tax and service charges/fees). Tickets can be purchased in Las Vegas at all three Mr. Bill’s Pipe and Tobacco Stores, UNLV Performing Arts Box office or by calling 800-969-VEGAS . . . Another 2-for-1 celebration is in the works for Virginia City. Recently the old city hosted a combination mountain oyster cook-off and St. Patrick’s Day parade, now comes a combo chili cook-off and Cinco de Mayo Celebration and Chili on the Comstock ICS Cook-off. Red and green chili and salsa competitions will be held in the Bucket of Blood Parking lot. Cooking begins at 10:30 am and tasting at noon on Saturday, May 2. If you want to enter the cook-off, send an e-mail request for the entry form . . . On Saturday, April 25 a day of education is planned at Walker Lake State Beach starting at 9 a.m. to honor loons, American white pelicans, grebes, cormorants, coots and thousands of ducks and geese.

Walker Lake

If you come you could see as many as 500 loons, the largest concentration of common loons west of the Mississippi. Bring binoculars to view the birds up close from free boat rides provided by the Nevada Department of Wildlife. Free natural history lectures will be presented by the Lahontan Audubon Society, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service and more. If you love birds, Walker Lake,Mineral County or the world in general you’ll be glad you came. More info: 775-945-5854 . . . Tickets for the 2009 season of the Lake Tahoe Shakespeare Festival (July 11 through August 23) are now available online or by calling 800-74-SHOWS (800-747-4697). Prices start at $22 for open seating tiers and range in options up to the premium seating section at $72 . . . The Red Dog Saloon in Virginia City is being primped and polished for a June Grand Opening on the 24th anniversary of The Charlatans’ first appearance there to begin the musical era of sex, drugs and rock ‘n’ roll.

Overheard at the Middlegate Bar: “I like my coffee like I like my women — full of booze.”

Happy Highways,

David W. Toll

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