It is traditional for us to unlimber our Nevada ‘Must-See Must Do’ list in this first edition of the New Year. In the past Robin and I (and once, Shorty — he loved the dog-friendly Harrah’s in Laughlin!) have made each selection. This year, though, many of them have been submitted by our Correspondents around the state — no-one knows what’s happening better than a savvy local. And we’ve made it a point to include more restaurants than before, as food can be the highlight — or the downfall — of any journey. Our purpose isn’t to make a list of Bests — always subjective — but to call attention to some of the excellence occurring daily in Nevada that doesn’t always get the attention it deserves.
Nevada Restaurants of the Year
The Lectrolux Cafe, named for the spaceship Bill Rountree made from a vacuum cleaner and a chandelier and mounted on the roof above the door is now Kerouac’s, with new owners from New York City. Home of the Best. Pancake. Breakfast. Ever. as served on Saturday morning at Snake Valley Days. The re-do of the interior is moderne to the max without going over the top, a harmonious urban vibe. Yes, but it’s a 6-hour drive from everywhere but Ely! (and it closes for the winter)
Max Winthrop, Upper Lehman Creek Campground
Clean and comfortable, Happy Garden provides reliable service and consistent, delicious dishes. Menu includes soups based on homemade broths, crisp spring rolls, and a wide-range of entrees to satisfy any palate. Steaming plates of bright-colored fresh vegetables and crispy tofu please vegans among us. Open daily 11 – 9
Alexa Mergen, Ely
Metro Pizza (four more in Las Vegas) is a family-run business with fantastic pizzas and fresh, delicious sauces for their spaghetti, fettuccini and huge ravioli and their chicken or eggplant parmigiana, baked ziti, calzones and stromboli. Lunch specials Monday – Friday, 11 am – 2 pm. Try different types of pizzas 50% off Monday through Thursday 2:30 to 4:30 pm.
Pauline Cimoch, Las Vegas Valley
LAKE TAHOE NORTH SHORE
As a family-owned business for more than 25 years, T’s Mesquite Rotisserie is a small yet popular Mexican food joint that offers perfectly skewered chicken, beef, and vegetarian options to enjoy right there or to go. Open from 11am-8pm daily, T’s can get really busy during lunch hour, yet the line moves fast.
Kayla Anderson, Incline Village
On the bottom level of the Lakeside Inn and Casino is the hole-in-the-wall joint called Latin Soul. Breakfast includes traditional Huevos Rancheros or French Toast Toirijas with strawberry butter. Specialty dinners include scallops wrapped in bacon with espazote brown butter and chile Serrano salsa. You won’t be disappointed.
Brendan Packer, Zephyr Cove
No visit to Las Vegas is complete without experiencing a buffet and the best in Las Vegas is Bacchanal Buffet at Caesars Palace. Why?: truffle deviled eggs, avocado toast, wagyu beef, dim sum, char-grilled lamb t-bones, Osso Buco, Japanese noodles, bone marrow with wild mushrooms, and made-to-order chocolate lava cakes.
Diamond Jack Bulavsky, Las Vegas
Mom’s Diner, a small place at 1240 State St (off the main highway in the middle of the town) has the best customer service in the valley. The Chumley family takes great pride in the food and excellent service, and people come away with being one of the family. Recommended: chicken fried steak, homemade pie, ham steak and eggs.
Vern Hee, Pahrump
You may not think to find good ‘ole Southern food in Northern Nevada, but M&M’s Southern Café two doors down from Perfect Peace Community Church is all about feeding souls as well as bellies with authentic dishes such as frog legs, fried okra, chitterlings, hush puppies, and black-eyed peas. End the night with beignets and you won’t be disappointed.
Kayla Anderson, Sparks
And All the Rest . . . .
Nevada City of the Year
Las Vegas is the greatest boomtown in history and the best-known city in the world, the youngest and brightest urban center in the American Southwest. The Las Vegas Strip is as familiar an American landmark as the Statue of Liberty, and the valley’s population is now measured in the millions.
Las Vegas is one of the great man-made wonders of the modern world, an unofficial InterNational Park, privately owned and paid for by the direct, voluntary financial support of citizens from every nation on earth.
Nevada Attraction of the Year
This mighty range in Elko County is a geographical and historical Nevada landmark. It is not only beautiful to see pressed up against the sky, it is a vast realm devoted to outdoor recreation: hunting, fishing, hiking — the Ruby Crest Trail runs 40 miles along its back — camping, skiing, offroading, and the luxury of the Ruby 360 Lodge.
Nevada Event of the Year
— RACE THE RAILS, NNRy
This is not a race against time or your fellow riders, you’re racing a steam locomotive! When the train whistle sounds, mountain bikers and road bikers race on separate courses to get back to the depot before the train. Mountain bikers take a 10-mile course through the mountains surrounding Ely; road bikers take a 25-mile course along roads and highways,
Nevada Hotel of the Year
— The COSMOPOLITAN of LAS VEGAS
This luxurious property opened in 2010 and has already remodeled all its rooms, which are just gorgeous! Enhanced by art, and the Art-O-Mat which dispenses small treasures made by artists, the Wicked Spoon buffet, Secret Pizza (hidden, so find it!) and drinks at the Chandelier Bar, you needn’t ever leave.
Nevada Hidden Treasure of the Year
— WALLY’S WORLD, ELY
It won’t open until April 1st, but this superb fragment of the fabled Wally Cuchine collection of more than 2,000 pieces of Nevada Art is certain to be a grand occasion. With this show the Garnet Mercantile basement goes onto everyone’s Ely to-do list. When the entire collection arrives, this basement will be Nevada’s Louvre, thanks to Wally and the Ely Renaissance Society.
by Evangeline Elston
Though I am a hot springs enthusiast, I had never even heard of Tecopa Hot Spring before I spotted it on a map in September. A trip to Tecopa for me was a two-day drive coming and going.
I took Highway 50 east from my place in Carson City and then Highway 95 south to Tonopah, where I spent the first night at the historic Mizpah Hotel: antique fixtures, claw foot bathtubs, high quality bedding and coffee served on each floor early each morning. The restaurant in the hotel, the Pitmann Cafe, is said to be one of the best in rural Nevada.
Also on Main Street is Whitney’s Bookshelf, a favorite used bookstore. I rarely find a title I’m looking for, but I always find a book I want to buy. Larry Whitney, the store’s owner, is full of insight and a very interesting person to talk to. This visit I picked up Laughing Boy by Oliver LaFarge and Last Go ‘Round by Ken Kesey. With a few exceptions hard covers are $2.50 and paperbacks are $1.
The Tonopah Brewing Company, a couple of blocks uphill from the hotel, serves a variety of beers brewed on site, and BBQ. I liked the Mucker Irish Red Ale.
Tonopah has always had a weird vibe to me. It’s an old mining town that has known booms and busts and it shows in the contrast between the old run-down houses and storefronts and the grand Mizpah Hotel and some of the new and thriving businesses. I always have the feeling that the next time I’m through I might find half the town boarded up again. But, at least for now, Tonopah seems to be thriving.
This drive to Tecopa is full of childhood memories, interesting history, stunning views and solitude which I adore. Growing up, my folks would take us on winter camping trips to Death Valley for a break in the wintry weather and to see the wildflowers blossom in February.
It took me all day to drive down to Tecopa by way of Pahrump with many photo stops and an easy driving pace. Tecopa Hot Springs is made up of three small camping resorts, Tecopa Hot Springs Campground and Pools, Tecopa Hot Springs Resort and Delight’s Hot Spring Resort.
The Tecopa Hot Springs Resort offers RV and tent camping, a few cabins and a small motel with private mineral pools for the rooms. I stayed here the first night. I enjoyed the private tub and the room was clean but not fancy.
The Tecopa Hot Springs Campground pools are wonderful, very clean with a low key, relaxing atmosphere. The men’s and women’s pools are separate and bathing suits are not allowed. The women’s area has two large tubs or small pools. The first tub is open to the air and the second has a roof. There are showers, toilets and benches throughout the small bathing area.
Delight’s Hot Spring Resort seemed to be the nicest of the three RV parks because it’s off the main road and has wonderful views on the desert to the east. I only went by it on my runs and didn’t investigate it.
I used these pools in the morning and evening each day. It was so calming and deeply relaxing. Other users keep their conversations quiet and everyone spends a lot of time in silence. I learned that many of the visitors who come regularly are retired Japanese folks from the Los Angeles and Las Vegas areas. It makes sense given the popularity of hot springs in Japan.
I woke up early, made some coffee on the picnic table outside my room and sat for an hour watching the morning light change on the colorful desert.
In the afternoon I drove the seven miles to the town of Shoshone. I needed an extra jug of water and I needed to get on the internet if I could find a connection. There is no cell phone coverage in the Tecopa area at all. In Shoshone I found a small grocery store with high prices and a lot of tourist stuff related to Death Valley. I was pleasantly surprised to find the Shoshone Museum across the Highway from the market. It has a bit of everything, settlement and mining history, native American culture as well as some paleontology with a dinosaur bone display.
The woman working at the museum asked my if I would watch the desk for her while she ran to the post office and I gladly obliged. There is a Wi-Fi hotspot at the museum, so while I was in charge I sat on the bench out in front and checked my work email.
I started the day again with a run, to a good sized marshy hot pool called The Dip where at 8:00 am there were already happy folks soaking.
I went on up the trail to an area called the Mud Hills, a gorgeous five-mile round trip run followed by another soak at Tecopa Hot Spring.
China Ranch is about nine miles from the Tecopa hot spring resort area. Take Old Spanish Trail a couple of miles and turn right on China Ranch Road which becomes narrow and steep and feels very remote, which it is. The most common vehicle traffic is the off-roaders.
The landscape is barren. The canyon is made of dramatically eroding, sparsely vegetated buttes and hills of white, cream, orange and brown. It’s reminiscent of Death Valley and the views around Zabriskie Point. China Ranch Date Farm is a family-owned working date farm located on the Amargosa River. The river is famous for running mostly underground, but the narrow valley through which it flows here is green, in lush contrast to the surrounding barren desert.
I hiked to the top of a ridge where I was able to get views of the farm and much of the canyon. It was stunning: a lush date farm tucked out of sight in the middle of the harsh, mountainous desert. The orchards are planted in sections according to the date varietal and country of origin. The bakery serves date milkshakes, breads, cookies and muffins and sells dates grown on the farm. I sat in the shade outside and ate some date bread — which was delicious. The folks enjoying milkshakes looked very happy too.
From the farm I drove back toward Tecopa to the Villa Anita, an ever-evolving art installation created by David Aaron Smith and Carlo Roncancio. It is a sprawling two-acre labyrinth of rooms, gardens, sculpture, works in progress. I spent a fascinating hour with artist David Aaron Smith. All the rooms in the “villa” are covered with his original art, paintings and sculpture, vintage and modern one of a kind furniture, found art, plants, flowers and trees and the fashion photography of Carlo Roncancio.
He explained that he uses plastic and glass recyclables to insulate the floors and walls and that the temperatures inside during the summer are pleasant when outside it can be 120 degrees. You can visit Villa Anita for the tour and the tea, or you can stay there and experience the art in total immersion; it operates as an Air B-and-B as well. And if you are an artist or find yourself drawn even further into the work, you can volunteer and arrange to stay for a time to help add to the vision.
I stopped in Tecopa at Death Valley Brewing. One of the owners was working the bar and served me an IPA. It was cold and good, and the atmosphere was casual and friendly.
It was my final evening at the hot spring and there was live music at the outdoor stage. I was curious so I headed there. It turned out to be the Executive director of the Hot Spring Conservancy who I’d met when I arrived, on drums, the gal who works in the camp store and gift shop singing and playing guitar and her husband also singing and playing. About 50 people gathered for the music, all sitting on hay bales or at picnic tables drinking their own beer and wine. They were locals and people from the campground. It was a very pleasant evening.
Another repeat of my run and soak morning routine, followed by packing up to head back north toward home. I pulled out of Tecopa on Highway 127 toward Death Valley Junction. My Dad had taken my sister and me to the Amargosa Opera House when were maybe nine and ten years old. My sister was interested in ballet at the time and an eccentric artist and dancer named Marta Becket had been living in Death Valley Junction and performing ballet in the old opera house. She had also painted murals of audiences for the shows on the inside walls. It was odd and a little spooky and the memory of has never left us.
Driving north on Highway 95 it was wind with puffy white clouds and bright sunshine. The White Mountains to the west were dramatic with snow covering their peaks against the crisp blue sky. I made several stops to take photos and just watch as the clouds ran by. My destination was again Tonopah, where I spent my final night in luxury.
I continued north on Highway 95 back to Yerington but took Highway 208 through Smith and along the West Walker River to meet up with Highway 395 at Holbrook Junction. The river canyon gets very narrow and steep outside of Smith. It has tall rocky walls jutting straight up out of the water and the banks are covered with willows and cottonwoods. It’s a beautiful place to stop, stretch and poke around or have a picnic lunch.
I drove back into Carson Valley at dusk. It was cold, and the air was clear. Jobs Peak, Jobs Sister and Freel stood watch as always over the ranches and communities of Minden, Genoa and Gardnerville, their peaks dusted with snow. As I often do ending an adventure on the open road, I felt a melancholy yearning to keep going . . . maybe never stop.
|Evangeline Elston grew up in Silver City, directs the Valhalla Art, Music & Theatre Festival at Lake Tahoe and spends free time rediscovering Nevada.|
Yes, we are aware that maps show Tecopa across the line in California. But have you ever seen that line? No. No-one has. It’s not real. Tecopa, Shoshone and environs are firmly within Far Western Nevada which extends all the way to the ridge line of the Sierra and includes all of Owens Valley among many other interesting and enjoyable places. Far Eastern Nevada includes the Grand Canyon. Far Northern Nevada: Boise.
If you have a personal Nevada Adventure to share, please reply to this email with a brief description + video/3 sample pix.
Five Years Ago in the NevadaGram
Las Vegas has celebrity chefs, but rural Nevada has celebrity bartenders, and none stands higher among this colorful collection of keepers of the long board than Gary Fly. He has mixed and served drinks and poured beer in saloons all over the state. I have personally been served by Fly in Gold Hill, Virginia City, Austin and Ione, but I didn’t recognize him when I bellied up to the bar at the Mizpah Hotel in Tonopah.
His luxuriant whiskers were gone, and he was bareheaded. I’d never seen him in that condition before, and it wasn’t until he spoke that I knew him. A drink at the bar at the Mizpah is always an occasion; prepared by Fly it is an occasion of state.
Governor’s Global Tourism Summit:
My most enduring recollection of this annual gathering of Nevada’s Tourism professionals is of the High Roller. This immense Ferris Wheel — 550 feet high, tallest in the world — seems to overtop everything in the increasingly high-rising Las Vegas Valley except the Stratosphere Tower. It takes most of an hour to make its rock-steady rise into the sky and back down again, and the views of the sprawling city are stupendous.
From up here the phrase Global Tourism Summit seems quite apt, the golden city spreading out for miles, gleaming bright as day in the dark night, like a poster for the event. But it’s at the Media and Tour Operator Marketplaces where the work gets done. There and over cocktails at the nearby bars.
Our experience of the High Roller was enhanced by a pair of fellow passengers who were determined to have some fun being silly and striking saucy poses, and who succeeded brilliantly.
I think of this marvel as a tribute to George W. G. Ferris, Jr., who invented the Ferris Wheel, and unveiled the first one at the 1893 Columbian Exposition, famous as the Chicago World’s fair. As every schoolchild knows, he was inspired by a water wheel at Cradlebaugh Bridge over the Carson River in Carson Valley.
Suffice it to say that the ride on the High Roller was the high point of the Summit for us.
Ten Years Ago in the NevadaGram
On Wednesday morning participants will have a group tour of area ranches and can observe and photograph birds of prey up close as they gorge themselves on the nutrient-rich afterbirths during the winter calving season.
On Friday evening, a Birds of Prey Lecture and Cocktail Reception will feature a wildlife biologist with his live falcon, a local falconer with his live Northern Goshawk, and another falconer with his live Ornate Hawk Eagle. And on Saturday a second group tour of area ranches will be followed by a buffet lunch and group discussion on sightings. After that, there’s an Owl Prowl (visits to nearby barns and owl habitat) & Live Bird Field Demonstration.
The Guard, formed in 1860 and wiped out by Indians at the Battle of Pyramid Lake, is Nevada’s oldest military unit still under arms. Designated as Armed Rabble, its signature maneuver is the Tactical Withdrawal. It has received unit commendations for Graceful Disengagement, and is second to none when it comes to Pell Mell Retreat and the even more demanding Running For Their Lives. The modern Guard is best known for capturing the BiCentennial Wagon Train on its approach to Silver City in 1976.
Overheard on board the High Roller while looking down on Las Vegas: “Oh, Charlie, I’ve never been able to figure out just what a feminist is exactly. But it’s what people call me whenever I say something that sets me apart from a doormat.”
Is Eli Kerr a name to conjure with? (Wait, Where’d He Go?)
Harrah’s thinks it is. The hallowed Reno hotel has booked Eli to perform magic on the Sammy’s Showroom stage through the winter. Robin and I were night-clubbing at Harrah’s the other night and caught his mystifying act. With three assistants, two of them gorgeous, a cheerful non-stop patter and unobtrusive mind control, Eli Kerr demonstrated one impossibility after another.
We watched closely and as carefully as he snipped a piece of cotton clothesline into bits and then shook the bits out of his hand as one intact length of rope again. We watched, but we did not see. We watched as he slithered and shimmied his way out of a straitjacket, came popping out of a locked trunk — and that thing with the bowling ball! We only saw what he wanted us to see, and he made us laugh while he did it.
Enjoy dinner at one of the excellent downtown restaurants — including some right here at Harrah’s — for a “special” Reno night out and then add Sammy’s Showroom to make it “extra-special”.
Black Rock City’s Bikeageddon of 2017
This year, 3,754 bikes were abandoned by participants with no regard for the principles of being a Black Rock City citizen. People either dropped the bikes carelessly, or they left them unlocked to be stolen and abandoned. This created tons of work for other Burners just like them, who spent days cleaning them up and getting them hauled off playa. We’re sharing this story of how they pulled it off so Burners can realize the impact of their actions on their fellow participants, plan accordingly, and pack out everything they bring — including bikes.
Fifteen Years Ago in the NevadaGram
Fishing is hot at Pyramid Lake right now. Go to the south end of the nets (near Sutcliffe), or the area around the Block House at the south end of the lake, or the very south end of the lake below Popcorn Rock. You’ll need a sinking line, 10 ft 8 w rod, shooting head, or teeny type 4 line. Woolly worms or foam beetles. You can tie the beetle on behind the woolly worm.
Jim Seagrave at The Stardust in Las Vegas writes: “Thank you for spreading the fame of ‘Eggs’ Rothschild in NevadaGram #17. As you suspected, he’s one of the original Stardust owners, along with the infamous ‘Chicken’ Cacciatore and the sinister ‘Clams’ Marinara.”
Michael Jackson (the beer enthusiast, not the Thriller man) said “One of my favorite flavored beers is made in the town of Sparks which adjoins Reno, Nevada. The dry, herbal High Desert Harvest Ale, from the Great Basin brewery, contains pinon nuts, juniper berries and sagebrush, the latter a very bitter ingredient.” I will add that my own flavored beer couldn’t be farther away: the light and floral Delerium Tremens (from Belgium). Favorite Porter: Ruby Mountain!
That outburst was prompted by a conversation I had with Tom Young about specialty beer — the Harvest Ale is a good example of a seasonal style — what it is, how something like ‘Maya or Maya Not’ is selected for production, and what happens if it makes it to market.
Overheard on board the High Roller while looking down on Las Vegas: “Oh, Charlie, I’ve never been able to figure out just what a feminist is exactly. But that’s what people call me whenever I say something that sets me apart from a doormat.”
Happy/Sad News from Herb Robbins in Gold Point. He has turned in his badge as Sheriff Stone and Red Dog Lil is just Sandy Johnson again:
After 35 years for me and 25 years for Sandy taking care of guests here in Gold Point it is time to announce our retirement!!
Before going any farther please note that our e-mail address will change to herbandsandra7 gmail.com which you can start using now as it is ready to go so please update your list if you wish to communicate with us via e-mail. Our phone number, 775-482-4653, will remain the same.
Effective the last day of this year Sandy and I will no longer be involved in cooking and taking care of large groups.
But don’t despair!! Walt said he wishes to continue with his friend Victor. Walt’s phone number is 775-482-4635.
So the both of them will take care of renting cabins and cooking food.
Sandy and I will still have the rv park and our 3 little cabins available but will not be advertising anywhere.
It’s been a lot of fun and we have a lot of great memories of all those years and we thank everyone for visiting and hope you’ll still come by and say howdy.
Happy Trails and Sunsets, Herb and Sandy
Parting Shot —
View from the office window by Robin Cobbey, Gold Hill