Taking the roads less traveled in Nevada offers a special view of the state.
BY SARAH DECKER NING
I was insistent upon driving to the National Cowboy Poetry Gathering in Elko this year. Having lived in Nevada since 1997 and in Las Vegas since 1998, I knew I was missing out on the unique history of the state by always heading to an airport instead of hopping in a car when traveling. Having been born in Indiana, I have always said I am a “Hoosier by birth, but a Nevadan by heart.” I really wanted to experience the views that could be taken in while traveling in a car. What better way to explore than on a road trip with friends? So with my pals who share my love of Nevada and armed with several weeks of research on the cities, ghost towns, and historical relics we wanted to see, we packed our bags and were off with Las Vegas behind us.
Next we arrived in Amargosa Valley, directly next to the Longstreet Inn & Casino. With the relatively barren desert landscape along Highway 373, we were caught off guard to see this unexpected large cow perched on
the side of the road. Come to find out this is a statute of the deceased bull Herman, who was billed as the World’s Biggest Steer at 6 foot 4 inches tall and weighing 2,800 pounds. *
This photograph was taken at the Car Forest in Goldfield. Officially named the International Car Forest of the Last Church, this made our list because it was bizarre and seemed colorfully artistic. We found these cars beautiful, abandoned, and almost begging to have us interact with them.
This photograph was taken in Goldfield, outside the original Santa Fe Club Saloon. In the weeks leading up to our road trip, we had discovered through an Internet search that the notable Nevadan Jim Marsh has had a life-long passion for this area of Nevada, owning several bars and saloons. We chose to visit the Santa Fe Club Saloon where we knew Mr. Marsh housed many of his own historical relics, including many photos and documents. The area has a great little bar and was a nice stop in our day.
The first photograph was taken at the historical landmark famed Mizpah Hotel in Tonopah in room 401, the great corner suite overlooking Main Street that is named after the owner’s grandmother Emma Bunting. By the time we arrived at this fantastic hotel that has been so incredibly preserved, we had traveled through Amargosa Valley, Beatty, and Goldfield. Tired from our journey, we had dinner at the hotel restaurant and then played cards and drank cocktails in the lobby bar well into the night as we reminisced about our exciting day and all we had seen. In our collective extensive travels in our lifetime, we all decided these beds were without question the most comfortable mattresses we have ever encountered. In the remodel and preservation of this hotel, there was great care in paying homage to its history in its design, but thinking about modern touches like these great mattresses. It was nice to enjoy a great night sleep after a long day on the road. Short of sighting the famous ghost of the lady in red, we could not say enough nice things about our stay at the Mizpah.
Next we arrived at the town of Belmont, which made our list of stops because it certainly seemed through all our research like a true Nevada ghost town. Intrigued by the famous courthouse, which sat on the opposite side of a little ravine, we explored most of the town on foot. There was an eerie silence all around us the entire time adding to the whole ghost town experience. So many relics of the past seem to simply be everywhere, including old wagons, abandoned tools, boarded up mine shafts, and crumbling facades of buildings. The tools in this photo were on a picnic table behind an old wooden house. In the context of where we found them, they were part of a ghost town. Somehow pictured here, they are exquisitely beautiful.
This photo was taken beside one of the many great Nevada Historical Markers pointing out the historical relevance of a particular spot. This one, with the famous courthouse in the distance, talks about Belmont, the courthouse, and its history. This sign is number 138 of more than 265 located throughout Nevada. They were an endless source of interesting information along our journey from Las Vegas to Elko, and certainly helped sew together our historical points of interest throughout our journey.
Having left Belmont and while buzzing along dirt roads through Manhattan, we passed through Carvers and Kingston, reading the fun facts we discovered about these two towns along the way. We did not have time to stop though, for we were on a mission to reach Austin. We stopped to have lunch at the International Hotel Cafe and had a most spectacular bowl of homemade tomato soup to accompany a darn good grilled cheese sandwich. Attached on one side of the cafe are remains of the historic International Hotel (originally constructed in Virginia City), including this great old bar. I kept thinking some bar maid with a bustier was going to pop up and offer me some whiskey.
A stone’s throw past Austin we climbed up a slightly steep pass, reaching the renowned Stokes Castle. Beautifully perched on this ridgeline, it seemed to possess the ideal view of the grand valley below. It remains standing as a monument to the men who built it and those who helped develop the mines around Austin, and is a reminder that you never know what you are going to find along the next mile marker on a road trip.
From Austin to Eureka—with no rest for the weary traveling the Loneliest Road in America—we forged ahead. The first photo was taken at the famous Eureka Opera House in Eureka, in front of the stage with its original curtain. Weeks in advance, we reached out to Patty Peek, the Assistant Director of the Opera House regarding hours of operations. Low and behold, it was Patty that warmly greeted us upon arrival and showed us around. From the Opera House, to the Court House across the street with its pressed tin ceiling and the old shotgun mounted on the wall, to the printing press machines and materials housed at what once was the Eureka Sentinel newspaper, Eureka is a literally a gold mine of historically fun Nevada relics.
We made it! After 36 hours, several hundred miles, and countless photos, stories, and cool memories, our journey concluded with our arrival to Elko and the start of our second adventure at the National Cowboy Poetry Gathering. This photo was taken at the Pioneer Bar at the Western Folk Life Center where we raised our glasses to friendship and our fun road trip.
Although she has lived in many different places across the country, Sarah Decker Ning chooses to call Nevada home. Since meeting her husband in Reno and moving to Las Vegas in 1998, Ning has kept up on various happenings across the state.
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The photo of Herman, the world’s largest steer has caused some of our readers to call … well… BS. The statue is, as one reader pointed out “udderly female.” Sure enough, a call to the Longstreet Casino confirms the statue is of Alphie, a “giant desert bovine.” The Longstreet Casino’s website, however, does identify the statue as Herman, who sadly passed away last year.