Posts Tagged ‘NV’

Reno, “The Biggest Little City In The World” as it bills itself is a fun area to visit.  It doesn’t have the glitz of Las Vegas but it is at the base of the Sierra Nevada Mountains in a high desert.  Because of this, winters are somewhat mild and although summers can be hot, it always cools down at night.

The population is a little over 225,000 making it the second largest city in the state.    My brother used to live in both Carson City and Reno and we would visit him.  It was always amazing that he could keep his windows opened with no screens.  There were no bugs in that semi dry atmosphere.  But just to the west of Reno are the mountains and they are quite spectacular which makes this area a fun place to visit even if you aren’t interested in gambling.

The University of Nevada–Reno is located in the city and although there are some big gambling resort hotels, with the advent of Indian gaming in nearby California and Oregon, Reno lost its reputation of a gambling mecca second to Vegas.

There also used to be dude ranches and many women came and stayed for 6 weeks to establish residency to get divorces.   That practice no longer exists.    There are still some glitzy gambling places downtown on the main drag but the large casinos that were a block off Virginia Street, have now been converted to condos.  And the condos along the Truckee River can be quite pricy since there is a brass and marble Truckee River Walk with a park for entertainment as well as a budding arts district with many boutiques.

You can also find the National Bowling Stadium which brings in conventions as well as the National Automobile Museum.    But, to me, half the fun of Reno is the surrounding cities.  Not far from the city is Lake Tahoe, the second deepest lake in the US and 16th in the world.

As you drive the interstate west you come to the town of Truckee, an old Western railroad town with lots of charm.  But what makes Truckee well known is the Donner Memorial State Park only two miles away.  This is where the 89 person party died and were eaten to survive by the remaining people during the winter of 1846-47.

From there it is just a hop, skip and jump to the north end of Lake Tahoe.  There are a few casinos here but mostly people come for the winter and summer sports.  My favorite place to take my travelers as we drove around the lake was the Cal Neva.  The resort is now closed for renovation but this place was owned by Frank Sinatra and in its hey day the Rat Pack partied hard here.  You could even see Marilyn Monroe’s old cottage when the place was opened.

I liked taking passengers in to the Cal Neva for two reasons.  If you went to the back bar you saw the outside swimming pool.  A line ran through the bottom to indicate Nevada and California sides.  You could just imagine the Rat Pack partying around that pool.  Also there is another room with a large fireplace where the two state lines went through.  I would have my travelers straddle the two sides and take pictures of them standing in the two states at the same time.  The renovation is going to take over a year and I look forward to the reopening of this historic place.

South Lake Tahoe is where the majority of people go.  You can take a cruise on the lake to Emerald Bay and see a castle called Vikingsholm, a 38 room reproduction of a 9th century Norse fortress.  To visit the castle you have a steep one mile walk, however.  But most people come to this area for the water sports and in the winter the excellent nearby ski runs.

From South Lake Tahoe, you can go north and East and you will find yourself in the Capital, Carson City. (Note: you can leave Reno and head south and west, too.  Either direction will get you to Lake Tahoe.  Although the way in to the lake from Carson City is a pretty steep mountain road.)    Carson City was founded in 1858 and became the capitol in 1864.  At the time Nevada did not have enough population to be a state but Lincoln overroad this.  He was fighting a war and needed the silver for bullets that was coming out of the Comstock Lode in Virginia City, fifteen miles northeast.

The federal government established a mint for coining the silver and even the Capitol has a silver dome.  If you visit, the Nevada State Museum is also an interesting stop on your journey.    When you are in Carson City you will be traveling on Highway 50.  This road starts past Salt Lake City at the Nevada border and parallels the interstate somewhat.  It was once part of the Pony Express Trail and with towns only about 100 miles apart US 50 has been dubbed “the Loneliest Road in America.”

It’s 588 miles from Salt Lake to Carson City and I drove it once.  I saw no humans but about four so-called towns and one coyote crossing the road in this desert area called “The Great Basin.”

If you visit the area don’t forget to stop in Virginia City.  In the 1870’s with almost 30,000 residents, more than 100 saloons, many banks, churches, theaters and the only elevator between Chicago and San Francisco, this mining metropolis near the Comstock Lode ran 24 hours a day.  Mark Twain and Bret Harte worked as reporters for the newspaper.

Today if it wasn’t for tourism, Virginia City would be a ghost town.  But many of the buildings have been preserved and you can visit the Delta Casino and Saloon where you can see Suicide Table, Comstock Fireman’s Museum, Mackay Mansion, Piper’s Opera House, the Bucket of Blood Saloon, and the Silver Queen Saloon and Hotel.  On display there is a 15 foot tall dress made of 3200 silver dollars and a belt made of $5 gold pieces.  It is a climb in and out of the mountains to get to Virginia City, but well worth the trek.

Actually the whole area is worth seeing.  You can go by car or fly or even more fun, you can take Amtrak.  No matter how you get there, I think you’ll agree, the Reno area was well worth your visit.


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      Did you know there are only 7 bridges in a 750 mile section of the Colorado River?  This is because the terrain is so harsh.  After 9/11 they started building another bridge next to the Hoover Dam (but far enough away so a large vehicle would not contain a bomb and blow up the dam).  They started in 2002 and finished in 2012.  That gives you an idea how hard it is to build in the area even with today’s technology.
       Everyone knows about the Hoover Dam and Lake Mead that backs up to it.  But farther north is Page, AZ and there the Glen Canyon Dam (only 16 feet shorter than Hoover Dam) backs up Lake Powell.  Lake Powell was named after John Wesley Powell, a one-arm Civil War soldier who was the first known white man to boat down the Colorado River to the Grand Canyon.
        The Colorado River is extremely important in the desert Southwest.  It supplies much of the water to Arizona and California.  Therefore they have built the dams for water supply and flood control, and down by my son’s home in Yuma, AZ irrigation makes Yuma the winter vegetable capitol of the US.
        It took years to fill Lake Mead and Lake Powell and they are several hundred feet deep.  Obviously the depth depends on the Colorado winter snows and is crucial for providing water to the desert areas.
         A lesser know dam is the Davis Dam, backed up by Lake Mohave, which is just south of Las Vegas.  This is where the town (if you can call it a town) of Laughlin, NV sits and across the river its sister city Bullhead City, AZ (often called the hot spot of the nation–because of the summer heat).
          One more “dam” fact.  If you continue south you will get to Lake Havasu which was created by the Parker Dam.  Lake Havasu is not only a great recreational area but is also famous for London Bridge.  Yes, they brought London Bridge here and assembled it piece by piece in 1964.  And there is even a quaint English village with shops and restaurants found under part of the bridge.
          All of these areas including Lake Powell, Lake Mead, Lake Mohave and Lake Havasu have rocky cliffs, sandy beaches, and blue/green water.  It is perfect for boating, swimming, hiking and all types of recreational pleasures.
          I recently drove from Wisconsin to Arizona and made a stop in Laughlin to meet my brother.  There are several large casinos that sit along the banks of the river– some with over a thousand rooms.  I think they wanted the area to become a mini Vegas but that was only a dream when Don Laughlin started the Riverside Casino back in 1964. — You can read a history of Don Laughlin and his casino if you goggle him.–
          Laughlin started out serving chicken dinners for ninety eight cents and the rest is history.  Due to the recreational activities in the area the town has survived.  They were badly hurt when Indian gaming started in Arizona and California but today they have reasonably priced entertainment–Jay and the Americans were there when I was– and during the week you can get rooms for $20 and not much more on weekends.  (I paid $21.00 for Harrah’s on a Sunday night).
           There are quite a few places to visit when you are in the area.  You don’t want to miss London Bridge or the town of Oatman, an historic gold mining town.  There is a classic car collection at the Riverside Casino and you are a hop, skip and jump from Kingman, which is on Route 66.  You can follow Route 66 east (actually along I-40) up to Williams and either drive or take the train to the Grand Canyon.  In the winter the train runs a Polar Express to see Santa with cookies and hot chocolate provided as well as the reading of the Chris Van Allsburg classic story of the North Pole.  The amazing thing in this area is you can go from winter snow to warm desert in just a few hours.
             As you continue back towards Kingman don’t forget to stop for lunch in Seligman, AZ.   I stopped on tour with my motorcoach once.  We had a great lunch at “The Roadkill Café.”  Oh so much to see and do in this area.

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