Nevada Correspondence – August 2015


Each month our intrepid correspondents file dispatches from around the state. In this edition:

Gardnerville, Gerlach, Las Vegas, Lincoln County, Mesquite, Railfanning, Sparks, Tuscarora, West Wendover



Carolyn, afternoon bartender at the Overland in Gardnerville NevadaMeet Carolyn, the afternoon bartender at the “New”  Overland Restaurant and Pub located in Gardnerville, NV. What’s new about it? In a word, a lot!

Most people know the old Overland as a Basque restaurant located in central Gardnerville for years. Since the early ’80s it had been run by first Eusebio Cenoz then later with his wife Elvira. When Eusebio died in 1988, Elvira ran the restaurant and bar until its sale in the summer of 2014.

The purchasers of the old hotel is the Park Group, consisting of Bruce Park and his sons David and Jon, who have a multi-generational history in Carson Valley. They also have the resources to make the old Overland shine again, and shine she does!

The ‘new’ Overland Restaurant and Pub has opened its doors to the public and is once again on the dining map of Carson Valley.

Picon Punch is still on the cocktail menu although the initial quality of that lovely libation was in question. It depended on who was making them for you. Being somewhat of a purist, in the first few I had, I tutored as much as I could without being too insulting. This is where Carolyn comes in. Carolyn, for years, was a bartender at the Carson Valley Country Club restaurant. This Basque house is known for it’s picons, and Carolyn can make a good one . . . no, make that a great picon!

The Overland, once known for its Basque Cuisine, can still make a good picon, but if you are looking for a Basque style meal, you need to look elsewhere. The Overland Restaurant and Pub is decidedly not Basque, and when you ask about it, you will be told that they are “not that kind of restaurant anymore.” The restaurant is now a “farm to table” style restaurant. It features a menu that incorporates fresh food grown locally, in the style of the Old Granite Street Eatery in Reno. The Granite Street Group manages and runs the Overland, now.

Come in for a drink. Check out the remodel, which is really fantastic. They have preserved much of the building, including the pressed tin ceilings. The bar is nice, and on the other side of the bar is the pub, which I personally like — for now. It is comfortable and cool in there. Order a picon, and while enjoying it, peruse the menu and decide for yourself.

I mentioned that I like the pub side ‘for now’ only because gaming machines have not invaded it yet. There are ten cut-outs for machines in the bar awaiting gaming approval. Personally, I disdain gaming machines in the bar. They take up bar space and they stifle conversation, but they pay the bills. I still don’t like them in the bar. Against a wall, fine, but in the bar . . . not for me.

El Picon



This is a 1955 3-ton Chevrolet truck that was the hose truck for the Empire Fire Department. gerlachfiretruck300x200Everything is original on this truck, even the wheels and tires are 60 years old. It has 4,975 miles on it and those miles included the drive from Chicago where it was manufactured, to Empire. The rest of the miles were the weekly drive around town to keep the batteries charged and use up some gasoline before it went bad.

At the time of the closing of the U.S. Gypsum plant in 2011, David Carter was in charge of mobile equipment, which included this truck and the short line railroad engine as well. David was also the Fire Brigade Captain for USG and an active member of the Gerlach VFD. David is still one of a handful of employees left at the USG plant to do some basic maintenance and generally watch over the plant and town of Empire.

gerlachfiretruck200x200At the beginning of 2015, he was given the go-ahead to

acquire the truck. The first order of business was to license it; this 60-year-old truck had never been licensed. Then, it was a matter of old-fashioned elbow grease to get it looking the way it does today. It had been sitting inside a garage, but there was a four year collection of dust and bird crap on it that needed to be cleaned and buffed out.

On Saturday morning, July 4th, this old girl was trailered to Fernley, where David drove it in the Independence Day parade. My hat is off to David Carter and the whole Empire-Gerlach area for this symbol of the grit and determination that makes your town the unique spot that it is. Salud!

El Picon


Las Vegas

Since pizza is one of the five main food groups, I only eat the very best. Not a problem in Las Vegas as Tony Gemignani, who owns and operates Pizza Rock, is the 11-time World Pizza Champion. He is the only Triple Crown winner at the International Pizza Championships in Lecce, Italy and won the title of World Champion Pizza Maker in 2007at the World Pizza Cup in Naples, Italy … becoming the first American and non-Neapolitan victor ever.

There are 11 styles of Tony’s award-winning gourmet pizzas with the most famous being his World Pizza Cup winner: the Napoletana-style Margherita made with San Marzano tomatoes, mozzarella, fior di latte, basil, extra virgin olive oil and sea salt. Other pizza styles include New York/New Haven, Chicago Cracker Thin, Classic American, Regional Italian, Roman, Sicilian, Detroit, and Gluten Free, all cooked in one of the restaurant’s four different ovens. Pizza Rock is at 201 N. 3rd St. (between E. Ogden Ave. and Stewart Ave. 702-385-0838. Opens daily at 11 a.m.

Picasso-gift-shop-267x400Like me, I believe most NevadaGram readers prefer something a little different. Try this while visiting Las Vegas during August: go golfing and test your mettle when teeing off at 11 a.m. when the temperature is 101 on its way to 112.  However, there are benefits: getting tee times is not a problem and expensive green fees are reduced by half or more. Drink plenty of water on the course and save the cocktails

for the 19th hole.  Also, wear a hat, sunglasses, and lightweight, loose-fitting cotton shirts.

There’s more to Las Vegas than Neapolitan pizza and temperatures that reach 112. Pablo Picasso is on display at the Bellagio Gallery of Fine Art. Some 43 pieces, titled “Picasso: Creatures and Creativity,” are on view together for the first time in the United States. The display focuses on Picasso’s favorite theme – the human figure (my favorite human figure is the female). It’s a unique exhibit that reads into the mind of Picasso. On the way out, stop in the gift shop and buy the 200-piece Picasso puzzle titled Two Girls Reading for $22. It’s a nice memory of your visit and probably the only thing you can afford. The gallery opens daily at 10 a.m.  702-693-7871

 Diamond Jack Bulavsky


If you happen to be in Las Vegas the first Friday of any month try visiting First Friday Art Walk in the downtown arts district between Charleston Boulevard and Imperial Avenue.  First Friday is free, kid friendly, gives you lots of exercise, and runs the first Friday of every month between 5 and 11 p.m.  Police and security are present on all streets.  Wear comfortable shoes to enjoy the galleries, arts and crafts, artist performances, live bands,  and Kid Zone.  Most visitors miss this, but most of the food trucks are located on 3rd street between Colorado and Imperial Avenues, and on Colorado and Casino Center Drive.  This is where you should begin your journey, before the crowds hit and to start your hydration for the heat at this time of year.  Speaking of heat, if you need medical attention the First Aid center is at Colorado and Casino Center Drive.

Parking is always a big issue.  A lot of the streets are closed for activities, and parking fills up fast or costs $10 or more in lots.  You can park at the El Cortez Hotel downtown, where you can catch the free shuttle right across the street from the valet stand.  Symphony Park charges $3 for parking on Grand Central Pkwy and Clark Avenue, and the shuttle bus is free.  Shuttles normally run every 20 minutes from 4:30 until 11:30 p.m.  Make sure you double check with the shuttle bus driver for the last shuttle run time so you don’t get stuck walking a mile from where you parked your vehicle.

Paula Cimoch


Lincoln County

Summer events in Lincoln County are waiting for you to attend. Why not try them? Echo Canyon State Park has a Full Moon Hike on August 1. What is a full moon hike? The name ought to be able to tell you all by itself. It’s at the state park at Echo Canyon Amphitheatre, a bit east of Pioche on State Route 322, and Echo-Canyon-State-Park-37-400x300you are asked to bring along a flashlight, sturdy boots or shoes, and some water.

All would seem to indicate everybody is going on hike in the moonlight. Sounds reasonable.  Entry fees at the park are $7 per car, $2 discount for Nevada residents. Call Josh Rhein at 775-962-5102 for more information.

Everybody loves a county fair, and the Lincoln County Fair will be Aug. 6-8 at the fairgrounds in Panaca. You can see the full schedule on the events calendar on line at the Lincoln County website .

August 22 is the Scorpion Hunt at Echo Canyon State Park, beginning at 7:45 p.m. Yes, they really will be hunting scorpions, so you need to wear sturdy footwear, a flashlight and water.  Did you know the bigger the scorpion, the less the pain of the sting? However, the trick is to catch the scorpion and not get stung.

Wonder how many make up a pound? Not sure how much of a market there is for scorpions, though. Some cultures do eat scorpions, but I am certainly not a part of that culture. Apparently, they are best cooked to a blackened crisp, and have a nutty flavor, but are a bit gritty. Be sure
and get rid of the stinger. Same entry price as the Full Moon Hike.

School starts in mid-August in Lincoln County, and after that, a good many of the local folk are involved with high school sports very big around here. But do come for a visit before that if you can, or any other time of the year, for that matter. You’ll be welcome.

Dave Maxwell



Stop In and Step Back in Time! No town has a more intriguing and lovable museum than Mesquite!   The Virgin

Valley Heritage Museum is at the heart of Mesquite Boulevard, an arrow-straight road that, in the late 1800s, connected farmsteads of the little settlement along the Virgin River.   It is no accident that the museum sits on the route of the Old Spanish Trail, as this has always been a gateway to Southern Nevada.  That valley trail has transitioned into a commercial area that stretches over 2 miles from Interstate 15, Exit 120, returning to the highway at Exit 122 as it bumps into the Nevada-Arizona border.  Modern Mesquite long ago gave up alfalfa for golf course fairways, but it hasn’t forgotten its past.

Virgin-Valley-Heritage-Museum-MesquiteNVLook for the low rock building across from City Hall that houses the museum.   It features artifacts that are authentic Mesquite history, displaying only items that are part of the local area’s past.  There is the monstrous movie projector from the town’s early Elward Theatre and the 1916 state championship trophy earned by the Virgin Valley HS basketball team.  The team played their home games on a dirt court!  This collection has something for everybody to enjoy, spanning from paleo times to present day.

Museum Director Elsbeth Kuta with antique movie projector from the Elward Theatre
Museum Director Elsbeth Kuta with an antique movie projector from the Elward Theatre

Museum Director Elsbeth Kuta will show you around.  She points with pride to a newly-acquired bronze sculpture, and is pleased to play a record on the 1933 Victrola in the parlor room that was once the home of Mesquite’s beloved nurse, Bertha Howe.  Elsbeth can help those who come to Mesquite to learn more about early families of the area.  The museum sells books about local history, including the hilarious stories by Eddy Bounsall, one of the last gold miners of Gold Butte.   A local living legend, “Tuffy” Ruth, sometimes stops by the museum.  He can be counted on to regale with stories of his dynamite blasting days, building the I-15 highway through the Virgin Gorge, and other true tales of southern Nevada history.

Be sure to see the museum’s pioneer garden, planted with grapes, cotton, hollyhocks, and plants native to the area, and the adjacent garage-sized annex room that was once the town fire department.  This entire museum is a labor of love that has grown through the dedicated volunteer work of many residents.   More about this gem can be found on the City of Mesquite website. Visit the museum Tuesday through Saturday, 10a-4p, at 35 W. Mesquite Blvd, Ph 702-346-5705.

Golden-West-Casino-Restaurant-MesquiteNV900x600To wind up your step back in time, take a quick walk one block east of the museum to the Golden West for a good old-fashioned hamburger.  This small casino-restaurant at 91 E. Mesquite Blvd, has a non-smoking dining room that has been lauded for serving the best burgers in town.  It serves breakfast, lunch and dinner, featuring burgers, BLTs and grilled cheese sandwiches among other old-time favorites.   The mural on the building was painted to commemorate the City of Mesquite’s 25th anniversary a few years back.  The faux paintings in the windows and the little stage coach out front were “original” with the casino.

Linda Faas


Railfanning in Nevada

Photographers love this moving target

Nevada has a rich railroad heritage. It has been said that mining and railroads built Nevada. Since everyone loves trains, it seems appropriate to show you how you can explore railroading in Nevada, past and present.

locomotive_#681Q300x200Historic railroading may be enjoyed primarily in three locations in Nevada. The Carson City / Virginia City area, the Ely area, and the Boulder City area all host historic railroad attractions, many of them featuring classic steam locomotives.

Modern railroading in Nevada may be viewed along three active rail corridors that are crucial to the movement of freight and people from coast to coast. We will be showing you how you can observe modern rail operations and we will emphasize safety while viewing trains. Modern trains are large, heavy, and often very long. It may take a mile or more for a freight train to stop while running at track speed. Because trains are so large, you don’t need to get particularly close to them to enjoy and appreciate them. In addition to your own safety, be cognizant of the crews operating the locomotives. Their jobs can be very stressful; don’t add to their stress by unsafe actions in the vicinity of railroad tracks.

Now that we have introduced you to the idea of watching, appreciating, and enjoying trains in Nevada, we will whet your appetite with a picture taken in a location that you can easily visit.

John Gaffney



Last Chance Joe’s Last Chance is Now

Last Chance Joe towered above the main entrance to the Sparks Nugget in1958
Last Chance Joe towered above the main entrance to the new Sparks Nugget in 1958

The Sparks Heritage Museum, dba Sparks Museum and Cultural Center, working with Sparks Councilwoman Julia Ratti, was recently able to save from destruction the iconic figure of Last Chance Joe, a massive 36-foot-high statue based on a cartoonist’s caricature of an old-time gold prospector and originally installed in front of the Sparks Nugget in 1958. In 2014, the new owners of the Sparks Nugget planned to remodel the facade of the Nugget, but Joe didn’t fit their plans, so Joe had to go.

Nugget SparksSince the Museum site was not then ready, Joe was removed from the Nugget, placed on his back on a flatbed trailer and put in a parking lot while the design and construction of a suitable site was completed. Joe was eventually moved to his new home in front of one of the Museum buildings near the corner of Pyramid Way and Victorian Avenue. The new location, however, created problems with the figure that had not been anticipated. When originally placed in front of the Nugget in 1958, Joe was facing north and had a wall at his back, so he was fairly well protected from the sun.  The new location has him facing south with a wall behind him, subjecting the front of him to full sun all day. Moreover, the figure was never designed to go through the rigors of being moved. As a result, it is displaying many cracks and breaks caused by the move, lying on his back for a couple of months, being re-erected, and the subsequent settling onto his new mounting.
To compound the problems, not all of the pledged money for the move and restoration was received. The Museum finds itself approximately $25,000 short of the amount required to completely pay for the move and the restoration, which is going to cost almost twice as much as originally suggested. There is no money available to provide for Last Chance Joe, and it would be a shame if this historic relic is lost due to a shortage of money to preserve him. A plea is being made for all to make donations of any size to Donations can also be made in cash or check to the Sparks Museum & Cultural Center, 814 Victorian Avenue, Sparks, NV 89431. All donations will be acknowledged with a signed letter that may be used for tax purposes.
Dick Dreilling

Further Notes on Last Chance Joe

Last Chance Joe was born in 1952 as a drawing by Boise, Idaho commercial artist and ad man Roscoe “Duke” Reading. The creation of the comical white-bearded, one-toothed gold prospector had been commissioned by Idaho gambler Dick Graves for a combination restaurant and slot machine parlor he owned in nearby Garden City, Idaho the Last Chance Cafe. When slot machines were outlawed in Idaho in 1953, Graves closed down his chain of Idaho gaming “cafes,” pulled up stakes and moved to Nevada  and he brought his sidekick Last Chance Joe along with him.  In Nevada Graves rapidly opened three new “Nugget” casinos in Yerington, Carson City and Reno all in the spring of 1954 and all  prominently featuring Last Chance Joe, in painted sheet metal and multi-colored neon tubes, above their marquees.

Last Chance Joe, in three pieces, arrives in Sparks
Last Chance Joe, in three pieces, arrives in Sparks

The towering statue of Last Chance Joe that stood for 56 years in front of the Sparks Nugget was designed and built by R. H. Grosh Scenic Studios on Sunset Boulevard in Hollywood. Since the early 1930s, Grosh had been making props of all kinds for theatrical companies and the nearby movie studios, as well as for Disneyland, using a highly malleable and moldable plastic-impregnated fabric called Celastic.

The molded Celastic, when dried, formed a durable, thin-but-strong high-impact plastic. Beneath his Celastic outer shell, Joe’s builders used a steel framework over which chicken wire and multiple layers of papier-mache were laid. The statue was built in three sections made to be bolted together to enable it to be shipped to Sparks on a railroad flatcar  with the head, including Joe’s hat and full white beard, being easily the tallest section.

Last Chance Joe's Eureka Moment. The 1955 Carson Nugget sign: Joe had a miner's gold pan in one hand and a gold nugget held aloft in the other.
Last Chance Joe’s Eureka Moment. On the 1954 Carson Nugget sign Joe had a miner’s gold pan in one hand and a gold nugget held aloft in the other.

R. H. Grosh Scenic Studio’s rendering of Last Chance Joe, maybe not coincidentally, resembled a Disney cartoon character more than any previous depictions of him  on Nugget casino signs, matchbooks, coasters, brochures, and all manner of Nugget printed matter ever had. Their statue of Last Chance Joe, also commissioned by Dick Graves, was unique in yet another respect, as well: it displayed none of the earlier Joes’  usual prospector’s accessories a gold-washing pan in one hand and a gold nugget in the other, or a big heap of gleaming gold nuggets laying nearby.

Instead, the lofty new statue of Last Chance Joe stood alone with nary a gold nugget in sight and  with his hands now, for the first time, resting on the handles of his matched pair of six-guns. It was as though this latest version of Last Chance Joe, now legally divorced from his earlier gold-prospecting incarnations at the Carson and Reno Nuggets (Graves had sold them to others), had switched careers  and become a comic gunslinger along the lines of the Warner Brothers’ cartoon character Yosemite Sam.

But then, Dick Graves’ sprawling (for it’s era) new 1958 Nugget on the south side of B Street in Sparks was a  very different Nugget from its predecessors, exceeding all his previous Nugget casinos not only in size and splendor but also in the number of clever innovations that had made the Nugget name so outstandingly successful in Nevada. So perhaps it should come as no surprise that it would also have to have had a very different and new Last Chance Joe out front to greet the customers, too.

Dud Dillingham



We think this was the 17th Annual Fourth of July parade in Tuscarora, but nobody knows for sure. This year Vern Lamb, who lives and works at the nearby NDOT maintenance station, drove the firetruck.  Vern says driving a firetruck has been on his bucket list since he was a kid.  Two of his grandsons were in the back with semi-automatic squirt guns and water balloons, squirting the parade participants, all twelve onlookers and each other.

Tuscarora_4th-of-July-Parade-2015-400x300There were at least half a dozen horseback riders, the youngest being five-year-old Sarah Pfeiffer, who rode with her mom, Kelley.  They live at the nearby Quarter Circle S ranch, along with husband Darren and seven-year old son Thomas.  The parade also included Aurora Tuscarora Parks accompanying  her grandfather Dennis in his electric wheelchair. Terri Yohee and her grandson Lucas rode in a fishing boat decorated with red, white and blue bunting and hitched to husband Mike’s rig. Gold prospectors Andy and Lois  drove their four-wheeler, along with several  folks in  four-wheelers.  I don’t know who they were, but we were glad they joined in.

The hit of the  parade was the fleet of five aerial firefighting aircraft, a secret project Sidne Teske and Laura Moore worked on for a month.  Made of cardboard and glue, modelled after actual aircraft and strapped on to five lady pilots, these brightly painted  airplanes could easily serve as extreme wearable art.  Sidne says they will likely hang from the ceiling of the Duncan Little Creek Bar and Gallery in Elko until next 4th of July.

As always, the parade was followed by a barbecue and potluck on the lawn adjacent to the Pottery School.

Nancy Harris McLelland


West Wendover

HDA-speed-week-canelled-300x200Bonneville Speed Week 2015 has been cancelled for the second year in a row by the Southern California Timing Association, which published this notice on its website describing the condition of the race course on the Bonneville Salt Flats: “The SCTA President/Race Director Bill Lattin & the BNI Chairman Roy Creel spent this morning (July 20th) on the salt. The most they could find was 2 1/4 miles of salt suitable for a safe race course. The rest of the salt flats are either wet or wet and muddy. If the wet salt gets dry, future events could be possible.”

Rains on Bonneville Salt Flats had racers nervous in early July. With Speed Week set to take place August 6th to 14th, organizers of Wendover’s premier racing event were keeping a nervous eye to the sky and another one on the salt. In 2014, Speed Week was canceled for the first time in 20 years by the Southern California Timing Association due to rain. According to the SCTA web page, the amount of water dumped on the famous race then was simply too much to drain or evaporate before the start of the event.

'38 Ford Coupe at Bonneville 400x300The last time  that rain had caused the cancellation of Speed Week was in 1994 but, according to what few records were kept and the memory of old time Nevadans, this year’s cancellation could be a harbinger of several more in the coming decade. Already, unusually late spring storms drenched northern Nevada for almost two weeks this May, supporting ranchers’ claims that rural Nevada is headed toward a wet cycle.

During the late 1980s to mid 1990s, rain forced the cancellation or the curtailment of Speed Week and other racing events more than a half a dozen times, and during one particularly bad stretch it was only held once in five years. It was the uncertainty caused by those rain storms that prompted many of the world’s preeminent speed racers to look for other venues to run their machines, including the Black Rock Desert north of Reno that saw the breaking of the land speed record by a British team in 1997.

Last year,  Spring and Summer rains made 2014  one of the easiest wild fire years, and it was the first summer in almost a decade that the BLM did not have an emergency mustang round up to save herds from thirst or starvation.

Howard Copelan



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