NevadaGram #8 – April Armpit, McGill Drugstore and biking across Nevada


Early in April I aimed Buttercup east on Interstate 80 bound for Battle Mountain. I wanted to live life in the Armpit.

Soul Food, Battle Mountain
Soul Food, Battle Mountain

Turns out it’s not bad. Yes, Battle Mountain is a visual disappointment, a pain in the eye. Homely is too mild a word. But if you like the friendly small town life this could be the armpit for you. A recent flurry of real estate sales on Commercial Row suggests a modest renaissance is beginning. I stayed at the Comfort Inn(recommended) on the east side of town, and found a little shop called Soul Food to begin accumulating the gifts I like to bring back from excursions like this. And you can get a latte or an Italian soda at Mickie’s Mouse House next door!

The Star Hotel, Elko
The Star Hotel, Elko

Despite some mixed feelings, the community is busily organizing the first Armpit Festival, now a weeklong affair beginning June 28, including the traditional 4th of July celebration and culminating July 6 with the stock car races at the Battle Mountain Raceway. Details from the Battle Mountain Chamber and on the Chamber’s new website launching soon.

In Elko Just Pastries has replaced Tew Jwos Deli on Yuppie Row. Farewell to the best Reuben sandwich in Elko County. But they’re still serving the Big Bear Breakfast at the Commercial Hotel, so all is not lost. I stopped by to pay my respects to Miguel Leonis at The Star Hotel, and ask him about an interesting e-mail I’d received. “Oh, yes,” he assured me. “I remember that guy, big black hat. He sang twice that night.”

A new trend at the tables
Buddy Frank, once a Reno media hero, now a Wendover casino exec, told me about a new trend he’s watching in the casino business. Contrary to the accepted wisdom, there are young affluent players at the craps and 21 tables, and in growing numbers. The reason? The monied young are using casinos as social settings in the same way that earlier generations used bars, dances, hayrides and church socials, and this modern social experience includes putting some chips on the table.
For proof that this trend has been observed and capitalized upon, visit The Palms, Las Vegas’ newest casino, straight out of mtv.

Speaking of e-mails, this one came from Maarten van der Meide from Holland, recounting his 15-day, 1000-mile bike ride through Nevada last month:

Well I’m back from the States and must say it has been fantastic holidays! With nice weather and no flat tires!!

Let me tell you something more.

15-03 The flight to Las Vegas via Washington Dulles with United Airlines was not too bad. There was a kind man who helped me storing my bike box. Then I went on my bike to Ogden House Motel which I found fairly easily.

16-03 I planned to go to Hoover Dam but because of the jet lag I spent the whole day in Vegas; just relaxing and sleeping and cycling across the Strip at night.

17-03 On my birthday I made the trip as I planned to Pahrump via Red Rock Canyon. It was a tough route, especially to Mountain Springs. Quite cold at the summit. In Pahrump it was difficult to find a campground but finally I found one. There were some nice people who invited me at the evening. So I drunk some champagne on my birthday!

The McGill Historical Drugstore Museum

The old Kennecott company town of McGill, 13 Miles north of Ely on US 93, provides a fascinating experience of 20th century Americana: the drug store that operated from 1908 until 1979. It’s intact, with inventory dating back to the 1950s and a working ice cream soda fountain often attended by volunteer Dan Braddock, a Director of the White Pine Public Museum.

18-03 There was a bad northern wind the whole day so I decided to stay the rest of the day at a nice campground in Shoshone (warm water pool!).

19-03 Fortunately the wind was more light this day, but still from the north. So the first 25 miles to Death Valley Junction were tough. But then in the afternoon it was a nice route to Furnace Creek. My skin was sunburned this day.

20-03 I made a bike trip to Dantes View without all the luggage. Unfortunately I made a mistake downwards and had some blood on my legs. That afternoon I took a shower and swum at Furnace Creek Ranch and ate a big steak at night.

21-03 In the morning I made a trip on my bike to Badlands. In the afternoon with high temperatures I went to Stovepipe Wells. I met some nice people from British Columbia, Canada and we drunk

Maarten van der Meide pedalled 1000 miles across southern Nevada in March.
Maarten van der Meide pedalled 1000 miles across southern Nevada in March. (No, this isn’t Maarten, but you get the idea)

some beers.

22-03 In the morning I walked a hike trail to Marble Canyon. At 10:30 I started the ride to Mesquite Springs Campground in the northern parts of Death Valley. It was very warm (85-90 F) but my condition was good. I arrived in Mesquite Springs at 3.00 and before pitching my tent I went to Scotty’s Castle. There was a strong wind that night.

Ely's Amazing Murals Have you seen Ely's phenomenal murals? More about them next time.
Ely’s Amazing Murals Have you seen Ely’s phenomenal murals? More about them next time.

23-03 I went first to Ubehebe Crater which was absolutely worth the visit. Then at 9:30 I went to Scotty’s Junction where I arrived soon because of a strong tail wind. Then further to Goldfield, the traffic was quite heavy and there was some hail/frozen snow at higher elevation. I stayed that night in Santa Fe Motel.

24-03 Sunday. Bike trip further to Tonopah. Not many miles today but this was planned.

25-03 Start early in the morning (05.30), very cold. Beautiful but tough route to Warm Springs and then in the afternoon along hwy 375 (Extraterrestrial Highway…) to Rachel. I stayed at Alien Hotel in Rachel. Finally 110 miles that day!

26-03 From Rachel to Alamo. Quite nice. I pitched my tent that night in Alamo near a motel because there was no official campground.

27-03 From Alamo to Overton. This was a relative easy route. I stayed that night in a park because there was no official campground. There was a lot of noise and some irritating young people but I took this for granted….

Jack Sanders and his team poured their famous Pahrump Valley wines
Jack Sanders and his team poured their famous Pahrump Valley wines

This year’s Rural Round Up, a meeting of small county tourism businesses and organizations statewide, was held in Ely where two of our website clients and their products were featured. Jack Sanders and his team poured their famous Pahrump Valley Vineyards reds and whites, and Steve & Maggie Safford served the beers and ales they make at their Ruby Mountain Brewing Company in Clover Valley, south of Wells.
Steve & Maggie Safford served their Ruby Mountain brews.

28-03 From Overton to Valley of Fire and then further along Interstate Hwy. 15 to Vegas. Through Valley of Fire was scenic, but along Interstate terrific and bad.

29-03 To Hoover Dam and Lake Mead. I didn’t visit the dam inside. A very hot day.

30-03 The first day without long bike distances. I visited some Las Vegas casinos inside, like MGM, Circus Circus and Bellagio.

31-03 Another relaxing day with Stratosphere Tower visit and basketball on TV.

01-04 Early wake up because of the 08:05 flight to Dulles. It was a scenic flight and I saw Grand Canyon an the Rockies.

02-04 Arrival in Amsterdam in the morning. Finally, I’m quite satisfied with the trip I made. Total distance cycled: 1000 miles.

Beside the memory of the champagne on my birthday my best memories are not from Las Vegas but from Highway 375 where I rode lonely in beautiful scenic landscapes. Maybe I come again within a few years to visit Great Basin and Grand Canyon (North Rim). But first I’ll go to Canada and Mexico.

Thanks again for all your information and maybe we hear of each other in the future.
Yours, Maarten van der Meide
The Hague- The Netherlands

Overheard at Grub’s in Ely: “If I’d wanted an endless round of meaningless sex, I’d have stayed married.”

David W. Toll



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