Nevada Correspondence – September 2015

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

Las Vegas(3), Lincoln County, Mesquite, RenoSmith Valley,

Tuscarora, Railfanning in Verdi

Las Vegas

Rio Hotel & Casino

Voodoo-Zip-Line-Rio-HotelHow often do you visit the Rio Hotel & Casino? You might be missing out if you have not taken a tour of this just-off-the-Strip location. It’s easy to get to if you’re not driving. They have a free shuttle bus that runs every 30 minutes from 10 a.m. until 1 p.m., and you can pick it up at either the Sports Book side of Bally’s or in front of the Front Lobby at Harrah’s. The return trip pickup is by the Carnival World Buffet.

While you are there check out the Voodoo Zip Line, located up the escalator in the Masquerade Tower. The line runs between the Rio’s two towers, some 490 feet in the air, from the 51st floor Voodoo Lounge. This is a good place to start if this is your first attempt “zipping.” It is controlled and will take you forward and backward, and you have plenty of time to look out at the great views. It is open 7 days from noon until midnight for $27.49 a ticket, and re-rides are $17.49. Hints: (1) Check out Groupon for a discount. (2) If you get the GoPro video done on the SD card, make sure you have them check when you get back to the 1st floor to see if the whole trip was recorded. Otherwise, you should get another ride with another recording, and check the SD on this trip too! (3) You can’t take anything on the ride, including glasses and flip flops, so use the free small lockers on the top floor by the ride. You will pay for the lockers on the 1st floor.

If you have the munchies after your ride, head on down the walkway to Burger King. Yeah, I know, “Burger King?”, you say? You might have seen a few of the BK Bar’s across the country. If not, that’s right, BK now serves beer at a handful of locations! Right now you can add a beer for $4 with your burger purchase.

Penn & Teller TheaterThe Penn & Teller Theater is known for the renowned illusionists who were performing on Broadway this summer. They returned to Las Vegas on August 22 for their 9 p.m. shows nightly, dark on Thursdays and Fridays. The World Series of Poker’s November 9 is scheduled in the Penn & Teller Theater starting November 8th. Tickets are free for this event; however, you will have to camp out in line hours before the event to see if any tickets are available. Tickets are first given to the November 9 winners for their family and friends, and they enter at 11 a.m. After that, there may be seating open for first come first serve.

If you do get there early, try Hash House A Go-Go for breakfast. Great food, great prices and great service. It is located between the lobster tank and Penn & Teller Theater.

Pauline Cimoch


Crush & the DJT Lounge

I consider myself a perfect gentleman in almost every way, but sometimes my wife throws me in the doghouse. What can I say? It comes with being married. But now, thanks to Michael and Jenna Morton at CRUSH inside MGM Grand Hotel & Casino, I have found a new way to say “I’m sorry” and it’s only going to cost me $1,000. CRUSH has a special four-course ‘Forgive Me’ prix fixe menu prepared by Corporate Executive Chef Billy DeMarco. The apologetic make-up menu begins with chilled Oh Toro tuna with white Alba truffles, followed by Loup de Mer sea bass with Russian beluga caviar. The main entrée is Kobe beef ribeye and spiny lobster tail. The meal concludes with Dom Pérignon Rosé Champagne and gold leaf covered chocolate strawberries. Being in the doghouse never tasted so good. 702-891-3222.

An American Harvest Blackberry Mule, one of many one-of-a-kind cocktails from the elegant DJT Lounge
An American Harvest Blackberry Mule, one of many bespoke cocktails found only at the DJT Lounge

The closest I’m going to get to the presidential race in the coming months is the DJT Lounge (DJT is Donald J. Trump) at Trump International Hotel, across from the Fashion Show Mall on North Fashion Show Dr. That’s where Master Mixologists Antonio Olvera and Andrew Almanza are creating innovative drinks and where traditional cocktails are getting a makeover.

“It’s all about the ingredients,” said Almanza. “Summer fruit is at its peak and that gives the cocktail its many layers of flavors. For instance, the Watermelon Basil is sweet watermelon juice that complements the basil in an infusion with Ciroc Red Berry Vodka. At the same time, you can taste the fresh pineapple and orange juice that is in the drink.”

Other refreshing cocktails are American Harvest Blackberry Mule made with organic vodka infused with raspberries, Tanqueray Gin infused with cucumbers and dill sprigs, Hangar One Vodka with pineapple and habanero chili peppers, and Jim Beam Bourbon infused with local honey from Pahrump Honey Company.

In addition, the mixologists keep a running list of special “off-the-menu” drinks made previously for specific clientele and documented as visitor favorites. They are only offered by
special request. Go ahead and request.

DJT Lounge opens daily at 6:30 a.m. 702-982-0000.

Diamond Jack Bulavsky


Brazilian fire eater 2Via Brasil Steakhouse Hosts Outdoor Brazilian Festival: The 2015 Brazilian Outdoor Festival is returning to Via Brasil Steakhouse at the Ft. Apache Commons Shopping Center in Summerlin on Sunday, Sept. 20 from 4 to 10 p.m. This event focuses on the South American culture with traditional Brazilian food and drinks, live music, samba dancers, stilt walkers, Capoeira performances performances – an art that mixes martial arts and dance – plus fire dancers and fire breathers highlighting the entertainment lineup.This year the event ticket sales will benefit Opportunity Village. Advance general admission tickets are on sale now through Sunday Sept. 13 at Via Brasil Steakhouse for $10 and after that $12.

Tule Springs Fossils Return to Nevada: In 2002, around 10,000 fossil specimens were excavated from the Upper Las Vegas Wash by scientists from San Bernardino County Museum where they have since been curated. In June, the fossil collection was legally transferred from the Bureau of Land Management to the National Park Service, and the fossils were transported from California to the Nevada State Museum, Las Vegas, where they are now exhibited. The collection of specimens includes Columbian mammoths, camels, bison, saber-tooth cats, horses and llamas.

Mob Museum Holds Author Talk and Courtroom Conversation: On Thursday, Sept. 10, John Alite will present an Author Talk at the Mob Museum downtown at 7 p.m. Alite collaborated with George

John Alite, former Mafia enforcer turned Government witness, to give Author Talk at the Mob Museum
John Alite, former Mafia enforcer turned Government witness, to give Author Talk at the Mob Museum

Anastasia to publish the book “Gotti’s Rules: The Story of John

Alite, Junior Gotti and the Demise of the American Mafia.” This Author Talk is free with museum admission and free for Museum Members. On Wednesday, Sept. 23, at 7 p.m., the Mob Museum will present its next Courtroom Conversation: “Fighting Organized Crime in the 21st Century.” The event is made possible by a grant from Nevada Humanities. The museum has assembled a panel of national and regional experts on organized crime including: Virginia Commonwealth University Professor and Criminologist Jay S. Albanese; Assistant Special Agent in Charge Patrick G. Brodsky of the FBI’s Las Vegas Division’s Criminal Branch, Support Services Branch and SWAT; and Thomas P. Ott from the U.S. Treasury Department’s Financial Crimes Enforcement Network. Tickets are $25; museum members receive a 10 percent discount, call 702-229-2734 for information.

Famous TV Comedy Writer Ken Levine Visits Las Vegas: Writer Ken Levine, the name behind some of TV’s best comedies “M*A*S*H,” “Cheers,” “Frasier,” “Wings,” The Simpsons,” and “The Jeffersons” has written more than 200 episodes for network television. Levine will visit and share anecdotes from his road to success during his talk “By Ken Levine” at 7 p.m. on Wednesday, Sept. 2 at 7 p.m. at the Las Vegas Academy of the Arts Lowden Theater downtown. His visit will be a fundraiser for the nonprofit Doberman Rescue of Nevada. Tickets are $29 and $49 through Eventbrite.

Jackie Brett


Lincoln County

Lincoln County Fall – September

It happens every fall. And for the past 15 years in the Pahranagat Valley, the air has been filled with excitement and anticipation for the beginning of the football season in Alamo. Not to overlook Lincoln County High in Panaca as well, but it is the Pahranagat Valley High School team that has drawn so much attention, even national attention. First, because they are the record setting seven time defending Division IV state champions. Never mind that its 8-man football, a record is still a record. Second, because they own the longest active winning streak in the nation at any level: 81 straight. Even NBC News did a piece on them, and the community itself, last year with veteran reporter Harry Smith on scene.

And the team looks to be quite deep this season as well. Maybe not the overall speed of last year, but with good depth. Head coach Dr. Ken Higbee says, “The best part of this group is the work they put in during the off season to get ready for this. They have really dedicated themselves to coming out and being ready. It says a lot about the makeup of our kids. The beauty of our depth is the competition we have in practice. It really pays off for us on a daily basis.”

Returning this season for the Panthers are All League selections Tabor Maxwell, Shawn Wadsworth and Christian Higbee. Maxwell, the All League First team quarterback in 2014, threw for a school record of 2,625 yards (155 for 227, 68.28 percent) and 38 touchdowns, with only two interceptions, in his sophomore season. It ranked him first among all high school quarterbacks in southern Nevada, even ahead of Bishop Gorman’s All State First team QB Tate Martell. And even though Martell plays for the #3 nationally ranked Gaels, it ought to be most interesting to watch how the two juniors will fare this year also.

Elsewhere on tap in Lincoln County this fall is the 112th Annual Labor Day celebration in PiocheSept. 4-7. A new organizing committee has put together an interesting and varied program. New blood, new ideas.

Anglers at the annual Carp Rodeo in Pahranagat Valley
Anglers at the annual Carp Rodeo in Pahranagat Valley

Sept. 19 from 3 – 7 p.m. is the Dutch Oven Cook Off at Cathedral State Park near Panaca. There’s a real art to good Dutch oven cooking, and some of the best ones will flaunt their culinary skills to compete for great prizes and good eating. The event, sponsored by the Nevada State Parks, is growing in popularity and attendance each year. Not just local folks, by competitors and visitors from surrounding states.

In the morning that same day, Sept. 19 from 9 a.m. to Noon, is the annual Carp Rodeo at Pahranagat Valley National Wildlife Refuge Upper Lake. It’s usually pretty well attended. Kids seem to like it. Though regarded as a “trash fish” by many Americans, the carp is a popular sport fish in Europe, for the fight they put up. According to the website of Pahranagat National Wildlife Refuge, “Nevada Department of Wildlife will be providing 100 loaner fishing roads and bait. Those who are 12 and older will need to purchase a fishing license prior to arrival.” Additionally, “the day also includes games for kids, gourmet cooked carp, and a barbecue lunch for the first 150 attendees. ”

Got a weekend free in September? Come to Lincoln County.

Dave Maxwell



You are Invited to Mesquite’s Fine Art Invitational

Mesquite Art Gallery 1No RSVP needed to experience this lavish display of art! Mesquite Fine Arts Gallery hosts its annual Fine Art Invitational Exhibition, August 31-September 26. This is the fourth year that gallery operator, Virgin Valley Artists Association (VVAA), has gathered artist groups from across the region to jointly display the best of their original artwork. This year five Nevada organizations participate: Boulder City Art Guild, City Lights Art Co-op Gallery of Henderson, Moapa Valley Art Guild, Spring Mountain Art Guild of Pahrump, and Mesquite host, VVAA. Utah artists from Dixie Watercolor Society, Southern Utah Art Guild and Southern Utah Watercolor Society round out the field of exhibitors. Visitors are invited to view and enjoy this abundant collection of original fine art Monday through Saturday, 10a to 4pm, through September 26. On the closing Saturday, many artists will be on hand for a “meet and greet” public reception, 2-4pm.

Stylized Southwestern art is always a favorite at the Mesquite Art Gallery. Painting by Jan Stensland
Stylized Southwestern art is always a favorite at the Mesquite Art Gallery. Painting by Jan Stensland

VVAA is excited to share their beautiful gallery facility with neighboring artists. “We are pleased to bring together artists’ original works from a 250-mile radius,” says VVAA President Jean Wiensch. “This is a great opportunity for our gallery visitors and our own artists to enjoy a refreshing variety of art styles and mediums.”

The Mesquite Fine Arts Gallery, located at 15 West Mesquite Blvd, Mesquite NV, has been the town’s cultural hub since it was built by the City of Mesquite in 2003. The gallery is an easily-recognized landmark, with its colorful murals, painted utility boxes, and a lovely desert garden that was installed by the artists. VVAA is responsible for managing the gallery’s rotating exhibitions of fine art and giftware, along with seasonal art sales, including its annual Christmas Boutique (Nov 23-Jan 2) and spring art sale. The gallery is staffed entirely with VVAA member volunteers, who also offer a robust curriculum of art classes and operate a full-service pottery studio. Art workshops and classes and use of the pottery studio are available for “drop-ins” who are visiting town on short term.

Made i n Mesquite NevadaVVAA proudly displays beautiful member work with “Made in Mesquite” labels. Its members’ artwork is found in private collections worldwide. Gallery admission is free, and all artwork and giftware is available for purchase. This pleasing venue hosts cultural and social events such as literary and poetry readings, concerts and artists receptions. Phone 702-346-1338 or see and on Facebook for more information.

Gallery visitors looking for a good meal should follow the locals to Panda Garden Chinese Restaurant. Located directly across the street from the Mesquite Fine Arts Gallery in the center of town, Panda Garden offers consistently good meals at very palatable prices. Service is always kind and efficient, and their fortune cookies never disappoint! Open daily for lunch and dinner, 11am to 10pm. 10 Mesquite Blvd, phone 702-346-3028.

Linda Faas



The Last 7-Card Stud Game in Nevada

eldoradodotcom poker-menThe Eldorado has had a poker room for more than 25 years, although it has been moved around the growing casino, the room is now quite permanent, and so is their one 7-card stud game. It’s the last stud game in town. In fact, it’s the last 7-card stud game in the state, so they baby it, keeping the game open, and allowing regulars a reason to play.

The room has 11 total tables, small by some standards, but the largest in Reno. The 7-card stud game is held daily with a $1-5 spread limit. The same limit that was commonplace at other clubs like Harrah’s and the MGM 30-years ago, so not much has changed. Certainly inflation hasn’t raised the limit, except for the rake which has risen to $4 from the 10 percent and $2 maximum of yesteryear.

Eldorado Hotel Reno -exterior nightAlthough you aren’t likely to see all 11 tables in action, the room is comfortable, with TV’s, cocktail service and a $1 hourly-comp rate. The room is non-smoking, and if there are players it goes 24-hours. Live games besides 7-card stud include $3/6 Texas hold’em, $3/6

Texas Hold’em with a full kill, $4/$8 Texas Hold’em with a full kill, and of course no-limit Texas hold’em – usually $1/2 blinds. All games have a Bad Beat Jackpot!

As for accommodations, Reno has many nice hotels and casinos with very reasonable rates. Rooms are highest over holidays and during events such as Hot August Nights. The Eldorado has 100’s of rooms, eight restaurants, a fitness center and pool. There is also a business center and free parking. The property is connected to the Silver Legacy which is connected to Circus Circus, so you can stay inside during stormy weather and enjoy three large casinos.The casino at the Eldorado is 81,000 square feet, with more than 1,200 slot and video poker machines. Table games include blackjack, roulette, baccarat, craps and Pai Gow. Casino credit is offered and you’ll want to take advantage of the comps available to player’s club card holders.

Al Moe


 Smith Valley

September has some great events coming up in Smith Valley, one of which is The Heritage Dinner at Smith Valley Community Hall, Saturday, September 19. Come join us in the best little Valley in Nevada!

West Walker River at Wellington Nevada
West Walker River at Wellington

August was a busy time in Smith Valley! The month started off with the annual Rummage Sale that supports Smith Valley Community Hall. This event is organized for two weeks prior to the sale, and raises over $5,000 to keep the Hall running for the rest of the year. The Hall is actually owned by Smith Valley. How cool is that? People generously bring stuff and more stuff- and a regular cadre of women and men get it all ready for sale. That Hall is packed by Friday, and the sale is Saturday, with 50% off on Sunday. A special feature is the stage area- where all the art, antiques and collectibles are gathered for sale. The Rummage sale is always the first weekend in August.

The Rotary Club of Smith Valley had their annual Lamb Feed on Friday, August 21st and had a great turn-out with some delicious lamb and fixings. There were some amazing raffle prizes, including a gun safe, large gas BBQ and a Ruger. The silent auction was a fun feature, with antique farm equipment and jewelry created by local artist Debbie Hockaday among other items. Three local Rotarians were honored with the Paul Harris Fellowship: Erv Hill, Greg Hunewill and Jim Lovett and more than 200 dinners were served. The DJ was great and some of kids started dancing at the end of the night — it was fun to watch such energy and enthusiasm.

Did you know that there used to be a Hudson-Aurora Copper train line on the east end of Smith Valley? The line ran along the Walker River, near Wilson Canyon. The old train depot for the line was moved in 1951 to Hunewill Lane, past where Lower Colony meets Jessen and Artesia and is now the residence of Kim Gattuso. Kim has kept many of the original features. Kim is our local Bowen Practioner and Yoga teacher. Her class is well attended and comprises men and women from 40 t0 80 years old!

 Michelle Van Sickle



If you missed the Elko County Fair Labor Day weekend you missed seeing Tuscarora-Independence Valley cowboys and cowgirls compete and some years sweep the stock horse events. Our local Tuscarora ranch folks are that good.

courtesy VanNorman & Friends
courtesy Van Norman & Friends

However, it’s probably not too late to take in the Van Norman and Friends Production Sale September 18-19, where you will see some of the best bred and finest-trained stock horses in the country. These working cow horses, bred and trained by ranchers in our Tuscarora area, are the real deal: “Many of the horses are raised outside in the high desert terrain which produces good feet and the experience to travel through brush, rocks, water, and steep terrain.”

Crowded into one of the auction barns at the Elko County fairgrounds, this stock horse sale is really fun to watch. The ranchers or their kids put each horse through its paces in a small enclosure. There are bid spotters scanning the audience and a guy way up in the corner with his laptop taking online bids. The auctioneer, Steve Friske from Muleshoe, Texas, is one of the best in the country, and he loves this horse sale because of its authenticity. His Texas drawl is fast and sweet, and you don’t want to scratch your nose while the bid spotters are looking. You might go home with a horse!

Nancy Harris McLelland


Railfanning in Verdi, Nevada

Amtrack Washoe Zephyr near VerdiLast month, we introduced you to the concept of railfanning, of going out to watch and enjoy trains as they move people and freight across the country. Now, we are ready to take our first trip to see the trains. For our inaugural trip, we have selected Verdi, Nevada, which is located nearly on the California state line, just west of Reno. Verdi has a number of great locations for railfanning: you can explore all of them as time allows. However, we have one particularly convenient and beautiful location in mind for today’s trip.

To reach our railfanning location in Verdi, take I-80 west from Reno. Then, take Exit 3 off the interstate. As you come down the off-ramp, you will approach a “T” intersection with two sets of railroad tracks immediately on the other side of the road. Turn left at the intersection and follow the road under the interstate bridge. The road will then make a 90-degree turn to the right and cross the railroad tracks. Just after crossing the tracks, you will see Quilici Ranch Road on your left. Take that left turn. Drive along Quilici Ranch Road until you reach a spot that suits your fancy.

Quilici Ranch Road is a quiet country road. It is paved at first and generally in good condition, but there are significant potholes, so drive slowly and be alert to avoid them. There are a limited number of places to pull off the road, so keep an eye out for them. As mentioned, the road is very quiet, if you spend an hour there, you might see just one car and one bicyclist, as we did during a recent visit. If you drive the length of the road, which is about two miles, it will turn to dirt and its condition will be rougher, but any car when driven in a prudent manner can easily handle it.

The train tracks are immediately to the east of the road; in some places, the tracks are 50 feet from the road, in other places, the tracks are within five feet of the road. You don’t want to be in one of those close spots when a train passes by. Afternoons are best for photography. At the southern end of the road, there is room for parking a number of vehicles.

The train tracks there are part of the “Overland Route” – the first transcontinental railroad in the United States, built during the 1860s by the Central Pacific Railroad. Now, the route is owned by the Union Pacific Railroad, which runs about 10 freight trains along the route on a slow day and about 17 freights on a busier day. The trains are not equally distributed around the clock: it is possible to sit for five hours without seeing a single train and then have three trains pass within the space of an hour. As the nation’s economy slows, the number of trains running is decreasing.

AMTRAK also runs its “California Zephyr” passenger trains along the route with a westbound train rolling through the area during the morning and an eastbound train headed to Chicago passing through in the afternoon.

Lastly, BNSF Railway runs occasional freight trains along the route under a “trackage rights” agreement with Union Pacific.

All combined, it is still not a huge number of trains rolling past our railfanning spot in an average day, so we have a bit more information to help keep you from getting “skunked” when you go out to see trains.

First, Fridays and Saturdays tend to be heavier days for rail traffic while Mondays tend to be slower. We have observed that there tend to be a number of trains that roll through the area around 7-8 am, and then there is a lull for a while. There will be an occasional freight during the mid-day hours, and then things seem to heat up around late afternoon and early evening. These are just trends; any particular day can be totally different.

Here is a great tool for railfanning: click HERE to see an unofficial nationwide AMTRAK train-tracking map. This map is updated every five minutes and shows where the trains are, which direction they are headed, and how fast they are going. On the map, look for Train No. 5 and Train No. 6: those are the “California Zephyrs.” You can zoom in to see additional details of the route and focus your tracking effort. Using this map, you can watch as a “Zephyr” approaches Verdi.

Another great tool that will facilitate your railfanning is Click HERE to go to the Railroad Radio website, and look for “Western Zone Streams”. Hold your cursor over the title and a dropdown menu will appear. Scroll down the menu to “UP Truckee” and select it. You will then be prompted to select appropriate software to listen to an audio stream of railroad radio conversations between train crews, dispatchers and track maintenance crews. The radio conversations can be very interesting and provide a wealth of information. Most significant are “track warrants” which dispatchers issue to train crews.

The warrants are issued when eastbound trains approach Control Point RV 208, just east of Truckee, about 20 miles from our viewing location. When you hear a train receive a track warrant from “CP RV 208 to CP RV 239”, you know it will be in our railfanning area in 40 minutes to an hour, depending exactly where the train was when the warrant was issued.

Likewise, westbound trains are issued track warrants for travel from Control Point RV 239, near Reno. Usually, these warrants are issued when freight trains are sitting in the Union Pacific Yard in Sparks or the AMTRAK trains are sitting in the station in Reno.

Once you hear a train receive a track warrant for travel from “CP RV 239 to CP RV 208”, you can expect it to be at our railfanning area in about 30 minutes, depending on how fast it gets going after receiving the track warrant. AMTRAK trains are almost always faster than the freights.

There are three things to keep in mind when viewing trains : safety, safety, and safety. Always remain at least 30 feet from railroad tracks when viewing trains. There are areas along Quilici Ranch Road where the tracks are less than 30 feet from the road: avoid those areas. Cross train tracks only at authorized crossings. Have any children and pets present under positive control; pets definitely must be on a leash. As a train approaches, look toward the cab of the lead locomotive, so the train crew will know you are aware of its presence. Do not walk, carry on conversations or otherwise allow yourself to become distracted. When a train is in the area, your attention must be focused on the train, both for your safety and to communicate to the train crew that you are alert and attentive.

One last thing: Quilici Ranch Road is a quiet country road. Be courteous to all residents and passersby. Do not block the road or driveways with your vehicle. When you are out railfanning, you are representing not only yourself, but also all railfans everywhere. Please set a good example with your demeanor.

Okay, there you go! Have fun, stay safe, and we hope you see lots of trains.

John Gaffney



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