NevadaGram #133 – September 2012 Goldfield Days, Postcard from Kingston, Calamity on the Comstock

What They’re saying About Us

The Guardian (UK) cuts a rug in Las Vegas.

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Goldfield Days is shaping up to be something different this year. It’s the weekend of August 17-19, and Goldfield is the place to be.

Comstock Mining Inc. has begun surface mining within the Virginia City National Historic Landmark. The Comstock Residents Association is a group of local citizens formed to prevent it. We are not anti-mining, but this is the wrong place for pit mines. You can find out more at www.comstockresidents.organd on our Facebook page. Will you help? Your contribution will help us protect and preserve this national treasure.

Thank you!

Goldfield Days, third weekend in August, is the little city’s annual celebration of itself, and it’s always a dandy. One time a lady took her clothes off in front of everybody, this time they’re going to burn a bus. I’m packing for the trip, see you there.

Here on the Comstock, the citizens who act for the Comstock Residents Association (CRA) were geared up for the Storey County Commission meeting on July 19. The Commissioners were to vote on a request from Comstock Mining Inc (CMI) to allow ore trucks on the highway in Gold Hill. We expected to lose, and we did, but never did we expect to have the rug pulled out from under us the way it was.

We had come prepared to speak against allowing the trucks, but when the item came before the board it was immediately continued to the next meeting.

We were nonplussed, but in a little frenzy of whispers we decided it was a way of acknowledging the Open Meeting Law violation by the Planning Commission, which will have to re-agendize and hear the request again before it can be acted upon officially by the County Commission. Later one of the commissioners said no, it was because the signed minutes of the Planning Commission meeting hadn’t reached the County Clerk in time to consider them.

Postcard from Kingston

Last year the residents and friends of Kingston held the first Kingston Jubilee. Our friend Jim Allander told us how much he enjoyed the town party in the middle of nowhere, between the camping and music and mingling. So last month my wife Barb and I loaded our truck with camping gear, drove four hours east from Dayton, and joined Jim for the second annual celebration.

The town of Kingston sits near the geographic center of Nevada, a burg of 100 or so residents at the foot of the Toiyabe Range on the west side of Big Smoky Valley. Austin, on U.S. 50, is 25 miles north. Kingston has grown in recent years as newcomers from the Reno-Carson area have built second homes.

Residents may have to drive two hours to find a supermarket, but they relish the community’s peaceful surroundings. Kingston’s elevation is relatively high, about 6,000 feet, and the Toiyabes offer trout streams and endless hiking and ATV trails. Two miles up the canyon from town Kingston Creek flows past a nice U.S. Forest Service campground sheltered by trees and shrubs, and a bit farther is Groves Lake, where anglers fish for trout.

He was right. It was a wonderful weekend. We set up our tents at a secluded campsite near Kingston Creek. Jim brought his ukulele and Barb her guitar, and they played and sang at the campfire. One particularly appropriate song was “Have You Ever Seen the Rain?” because it drizzled on and off all weekend. We heard some good thunder crackles, too, but the rain was such a novelty in this dry summer that we often walked around in the drizzle.

The Kingston Jubilee was held on the large, green lawn of the Miles End bed and breakfast Inn. Jubilee organizers John and Ann Miles are former Silver City residents who have created an attractive retreat in the middle of town. From Miles End it was a short walk to two other important businesses, the Kingston General Store and Zach’s Lucky Spur Saloon (see, which Men’s Health magazine named “the best bar in the middle of nowhere” in October 2011.

From Friday evening to Sunday afternoon a constant parade of musicians appeared on stage. Performers included rockers Highway Jones and the band Weapons of Love with James Ames and Rudy Rodarte. Elements of the Rickety Nelsons (Jim and Barb) played with ace backup singers Donis Rodarte and Mary Ames.

Groves Lake, in Kingston Canyon. Photograph by Max Winthrop.

At the Freakers Ball on Saturday night local residents and ranchers boogied alongside out-of-towners and Burners. Many in the crowd turned out in costume. Glamorous women swooped by in flowing dresses and pink, blue, or green hair. Men sported Stetsons and top hats. One guy was boogying in a terrycloth bathrobe. A Kingston couple came as cave man and cave woman, wearing furs and carrying clubs. Other dancers wore tie-dyes.

In consideration of the neighbors, the band stopped playing at 11 pm, but most of the crowd stayed later, extending the lovely evening late into the night.

A round of staff reports ensued. It turns out that everything in Storey County is hunky-dory, and as citizens we couldn’t help but feel great about that.

And then, in a surprise move, and a dazzling display of bureaucratic legerdemain, Storey County Manager Pat Whitten turned everything upside down. He announced that on the advice of District Attorney Bill Maddox he was instructing county employees not to enforce any provisions of the Special Use Permit regarding trucks on the highway.

“The company can do as it pleases in that respect,” he said.

And that, suddenly, was that. It was as if, when a high-stakes chess game was about to begin, the referee had suddenly tipped the table over and declared a winner.

On to the next item on the agenda, the county endorsement of


Congressman Mark Amodei’s bill to turn over some BLM surface rights to Storey County. While Pat Whitten described the Amodie bill and its beneficial effects, those of us still stunned by his previous pronouncement were trying to grasp the fact that the rug had been neatly pulled out from under us.

I spoke up, mentioning that the public hadn’t been given any information about the bill until five days before and had not been given an opportunity to participate in any discussion and blah blah blah.

I was having trouble catching my breath as I turned to Pat Whitten and told him that what he had said previously truly took my breath away, that I could scarcely believe my ears, and did he actually mean to say he was suspending the rule of law in Storey County?

He said absolutely not, he never said anything like that.

I asked him to repeat what he did say, so I could understand it properly.

He refused. “It’s in the record,” he snapped, and zipped his lips.

Then the commissioners voted unanimously to endorse the Amodei bill without further discussion. We’ve since learned that as much as 75% of Gold Hill could eventually be pit mined under this arrangement, and the entire Virginia City National Historic Lamdmark could be lost.

Quick notes from beyond the mountains: Here’s a great collection of photographs from the 2012 Stewart Father’s Day Powwow at the Stewart

Complex in Carson City . . . Here’s the State Parks calendar with great stuff through the end of the year . . .

Lake Tahoe motorcyclist Carl Ribaudo describes an enjoyable ride that combines “the Sierra’s epic mountain roads, a wild west flavor and the spicy history of Nevada’s Virginia City for a great loop starting from South Shore Lake Tahoe.” He adds, “The route I propose takes 3-1/2 hours according to Google, but with the twisties, the viewpoints, and the meanders around historic Gold Country towns, it is a pleasant all-day jaunt back through history, literary, and pop culture.” He fails to mention that the journey is also enjoyable when made in a car, but I assure you it is . . .

It’s amazing what you find when you explore Nevada. This charcoal kiln is in the Diamond Mountains north of Eureka. The jutting stones allowed the builders to climb the sides of the structure without scaffolds, as they built it.

Each Raley’s and Food Source store in Nevada donate 5 cents to the Nevada State Parks system when shoppers use any reusable grocery bag at checkout . . .

Overheard at Joe’s Tavern in Hawthorne: “Once all hope is extinguished, Charles, there is no basis for pessimism.”

Happy Highways,



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