NevadaGram #24 – Too Much Fun at the Armpit Festival, Historic Hotel Auctioned, and the Slowest Race on Earth


The First Annual Festival in the Pit was a huge success, and Battle Mountain is still experiencing the bliss.

This flamboyant and flourishing offspring of the Ultimate Insult and the Old Spice deodorant company, drew several thousand visitors over its three-day run. Visitors

ienjoyed a varied schedule of activities and events at Elquist and Lions Parks and informal activities at the Owl Club and other hot spots around town. Hot spots in Battle Mountain? Yes, and a big parade. Gene Weingarten, author of the Washington Post Magazine article which branded Battle Mountain as The Armpit of America, was an honored guest. There will be a statue of him here some day, he’s done more for Battle Mountain than anyone since the railroad came through.

The magnificent 1908 Goldfield Hotel was auctioned off for $360,000.
The magnificent 1908 Goldfield Hotel was auctioned off for $360,000.

Goldfield meanwhile, was in a state of excitement over the fourth annual auction of county-owned real estate. As in the previous sales, dozens of town lots and other properties were scheduled for auction, but everyone’s attention was focused on Item #38, The Goldfield Hotel.

When the great day finally arrived, Goldfield was teeming with life. Its boulevards were lined with cars, sidewalks — yes, Goldfield has a few sidewalks — were crowded with pedestrians.

Red Roberts, in jeans, white shirt and straw hat, bought the Goldfield Hotel with one lift of the finger.
Red Roberts, in jeans, white shirt and straw hat, bought the Goldfield Hotel with one lift of the finger.

Colorful vendor booths offered everything from polish sausages to woven aluminum.

The hotel came up for bid between a couple of parcels of vacant ground. It sold quietly, opening for the minimum bid of $359,622.18, topped at once by Red

Roberts’ $360,000 — and the bidding was over. There was more excitement over a vacant lot on Crook Street. But Goldfield was exultant over the prospect of new energy being infused into the great brick hulk that has dominated the downtown since it was built in 1908. Red says he’ll have the hotel operational with at least one floor of rooms open within two years.

That money buys a very small house in an unfashionable neighborhood of East Bakersfield. Here it buys a famous five story hotel. Hmmm. If Red Roberts is as serious and as capable as he appears, Goldfield will be attracting visitors before long.

This 1926 Model T is one of the antique cars displayed at the old Goldfield fire house.
This 1926 Model T is one of the antique cars displayed at the old Goldfield fire house.

Namedropping: Stanley Paher sold a mountain of books in Goldfield, and got a sunburn in the process. Jim Marsh was in town but did not buy any hotels, Bob Perchetti and Virginia Ridgway were at the center of the activity as usual, the Victorian ladies from Austin robbed a bank, and Mark Edwards from KDWN lent his celebrity to the scene — it was a good old Nevada party, with Goldfield the center of attention for the first time in a long time.

And to close out the event on an even more optimistic note, Trish Rippie reports that Tonopah‘s fabled Mizpah Hotel has a buyer in the wings.

Goldfield's attractions include another automotive installation.
Goldfield’s attractions include another automotive installation.

I noticed some changes in old Goldfield. Most obvious: Richie Clyne of Las Vegas and Buck Kamphausen of Vallejo have collaborated on the restoration of the Goldfield Fire House, built in the days when the firemen slept upstairs and came sliding down poles to harness waiting horses to the pumper wagons.

Farewell to Canadian tippers

Last month’s NevadaGram inspired two subscribers to respond. Sandy Harmon of Tonopah wrote: “At one time I was a cab driver in Reno. One fare was a cabbie from Vancouver, BC. He explained that they don’t tip because up there the tip (15%) is automatically added to the bill.” Johnny Gunn of Reno wrote some fond words about Canadian barmaids. Let’s give Bill Maher the last word on our neighbor to the north: “Canada is America without the BS.”

It has been restored and outfitted with ancient motorized equipment and is now operated as a museum, manned by Chamber of Commerce volunteers. And if you take Fifth Avenue east past the Santa Fe Saloon, you’ll eventually come to an exhibit of automobiles plunged nose-first into the landscape. This is not a whimsical grouping, rather the cars spaced are far apart, as if they’d fallen from the bomb-rack of some passing B-52.

The Dixie and The Tahoe Queen raced again over Labor Day Weekend, and the result was a big argument. According to the official pronouncement, the Dixie, with movie star Loni Anderson aboard, beat the Tahoe Queen across the finish line by nine seconds. But the passengers and crew of the Tahoe Queen protested that their boat had crossed the line first and the Associated Press reported the Tahoe Queen the winner by three minutes.

The Dixie and The Tahoe Queen
The Dixie and The Tahoe Queen

McAvoy Layne, who portrays Mark Twain on the Queen’s daily afternoon cruise to Emerald Bay, was especially vehement in his objection. “We’ve been hornswaggled!” he insisted. “By the time the tired old Dixie crossed the finish line we’d already finished our victory celebration. We’re taking this to the top!”

This splendid contest is sometimes called The Slowest Race on Earth,

Schurz won’t be this serene during the Walker River Paiute Tribe Pinenut Festival, September 17 – 21. You’re invited to join the fun and enjoy the food. For information call (775) 773-2306

as the boats manage something like seven knots at flank speed. As Communications Director Carol Chaplin puts it, “This is one race where it’s okay to blink.” In fact, the 250-300 passengers aboard each furiously churning stern-wheeler enjoyed a leisurely brunch and toasted their good fortune at being alive on such a glorious day with gallons of champagne.

McAvoy Layne led the cheers aboard the Tahoe Queen
McAvoy Layne led the cheers aboard the Tahoe Queen
Overheard at The Carson Valley Inn in Minden: “About all we do since Ray retired is spoil the dogs, overeat and nap.”


David W. Toll



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