NevadaGram #109 – Inside Nevada’s Mutable Border: Randsburg California

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The folks from Vail go skiing in the Rubies.
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On the map, Nevada is an oddly shaped chunk of terra firma containing 540,000 square miles within its mostly straight-lined boundaries.

Photograph by Max Winthrop
Robin in Randsburg

But you can’t just draw a line and expect an energetic state like ours to stand still for it.

Exploration on the ground confirms that the actual Nevada overflows these arbitrary borders, and embraces adjacent parts of California, Oregon, Idaho, Utah and Arizona.

Nowhere is this more obvious than in Randsburg California, which could have been assembled from pieces of Silver City, Tonopah, Goldfield and Mina, with a soupçon of Austin and a pinch of Caliente. Randsburg is in Inyo County, just west of US 395 where the Trona Road comes in from the north.

From Stovepipe Wells we took the Emigrant Canyon Road up over Wildrose summit and down the west side of the Panamints through Trona (what a spectacle!) to join US 395 at Johannesberg.

Photograph by Robin Cobbey
Randsburg Dawn

Randsburg is just a mile away, off the highway in an alternate universe. You cannot buy gasoline in Randsburg, but you can furnish your house with antiques. You can drink until 2 am in the bars, although they sometimes close earlier, but you can’t buy anything to eat after 5 pm (for a dinner out you go to Ridgecrest).

We stayed at the Cottage Hotel a historic property that has been very nicely restored to a higher level of elegance than it enjoyed in its heyday, and I recommend it. Watch your step, though, if you arrive after dark, and remember that the entrance is not on the main street, but on the next street over, down the hill.

We came home to Gold Hill via US 395 up the Owens Valley, along the eastern slope of the Sierra, which I also claim for Nevada.

Twin Lakes, Fossil Falls, Big Pine, Independence, Lone Pine, Bishop, Manzanar: all ours.

Lee Vining and Lundy Lake: ours.

The splendid array of crags across the Sierra summits: ours too.

Here is a terrific article on a most unusual man. Gareth Hughes left a Hollywood career as an actor and director to become a missionary to the Paiutes of northern Nevada.

I was again honored to be a speaker at the ’49ers Death Valley Encampment — so as to warm up the crowd for Sourdough Slim, America’s favorite big-hatted, accordion-playing, rope-twirling yodeling cowboy. Since it was Veterans Day I read the part of “Breaks, Brains and Balls” in which Joe Conforte recalls his Army service. After avoiding the draft for nearly two years, he was inducted into the Army on November first, 1945. He went AWOL the first time on New Year’s Eve, and it took him ten months to complete basic training. The chapter is titled “The Army made me a Lazy Man”; Here’s a brief excerpt. The book will be published in the spring by Gold Hill Publishing Company.

Quick notes from beyond the mountains: Pioche is hosting its “Cookie


Neon Boneyard Museum on Las Vegas Boulevard
two blocks north of Bonanza. Click the shoe for a short video.

Video courtesy Las Vegas Sun

Crumb Trail” event on Dec. 4, starting the weekend with a “Cookie Crumb Pub Crawl” on Friday the 3rd, starting at 3 p.m. Buy a commemorative shot glass at any of the 3 bars, and each bar will fill it once with your choice of beverage! There are three motels and

two guest cottages in Pioche, in case you need to stay overnight to enjoy “Breakfast With Santa” the next morning, at the Silver Café (from 8-10 a.m.). Then stick around for haywagon caroling, and the “Cookie Crumb Trail” of hot beverages for your commemorative mug and cookies at the businesses in Pioche from 11 a.m. to 4 p.m. Pioche will repeat this lineup of activities on Dec. 11 (except for the Pub Crawl). . . .

The Neon Boneyard Museum in Las Vegas will open to the public in December with daily tours. Interior renovation of the iconic La Concha Motel office will begin in the spring. Uprooted from Las Vegas Boulevard where it had caught a zillion eyes since it opened more than 50 years ago, it still teases and pleases the eye with its graceful and glorious swoop [ Details in the Las Vegas SUN ] . . . Virginia City‘s busy holiday season begins Friday November 26th when Santa settles in at the Visitor Center at S. C Street for the first weekend photo op, and continues through Saturday December 18th with the Comstock Nites Christmas Crawl Back In Time. The Union Brewery, Red Dog Saloon, Ponderosa Saloon and other participating Virginia City Saloons will offer drink specials, raffle prizes, and music . . .

“Nevada Northern Railway locomotive #93 returns to service” — actually, it’s been back in service for a while now, but this is such a pleasing sight I can’r resist watching it.

The Wild Nevadan is a new website devoted to “the wild land, wildlife and hardy people of Nevada” and to celebrating our state and its people. Its Grand Opening &

Holiday Sale Runs until Dec. 15, offering a selection of inexpensive Nevada-made gifts. The site’s proprietor is Heidi J. Bertolino, herself a wild Nevadan, who also conducts a blog on the site. Her first entry describes a return trip home she made to Tonopah recently, and contains this passage: “My short skip, round state tour, that lasted a mere 72 hours, only reminds me there are countless others who love Nevada as much as I do. You have to love this state to live here for long. If you live here long enough you will find a way to appreciate the wildness that defines her. A couple generations go by and there are family traditions your wild ancestors started, that we get to appreciate. I am thankful to know I have common ground on which to stand with my fellow Nevadans. It feels good to be one.” Check it out . . .

Photograph courtesy Harrah's Reno
Shanghai Acrobats at Harrah’s Reno

And check out this cool listing of every historical marker in Nevada — thank you, Mr. Basso . . . To no-one’s great surprise, Lake Tahoe tops the list of the Orbitz Top 10 Early Ski Destinations for 2010. “In addition to ski and snowboard enthusiasts, the Top 10 Early Ski Destinations deliver something unique for everyone — from world-class ski resorts to luxurious spas, upscale shopping, eclectic boutiques, a vibrant nightlife and other athletic pursuits such as mountain biking and trail blazing. The once and current king of the early ski season is Lake Tahoe, which also topped last year’s in-season list of top ski destinations.” Cool, huh? . . .

In Las Vegas the Bellagio Gallery of Fine Art has announced a new monthly event, “Art & Wine: A Perfect Pairing” on the second Wednesday of every month (upcoming dates include December 8 and January 12, 2011) and will feature art and pairings varying from champagne to tequila to possibly beer. Just which one will depend on the inspiration of Jason Smith; he’s Bellagio’s Director of Wine and he will pair wines from Bellagio’s cellar with artworks featured in the current Gallery exhibition. For more information, e-mail Shant Apelian . . . The Nevada Division of State Parks has awarded nearly $1 million for outdoor recreational trails projects throughout Nevada. Projects include motorized and non-motorized trails projects, building new trails, maintaining old trails and educational efforts . . . Stephens Media, the corporation that publishes the Las Vegas Review-Journal, has acquired the Lincoln County Record, established in Pioche in 1870 and the Ely Times has shifted publication to Fridays.

Overheard at the Eureka Farmer’s Market on the sidewalk on the west side of Main Street: “A good man can be stupid and still be good, but a bad man has got to have brains.”

Happy Highways,

David W. Toll




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