Travels in the American Southwest

A Timely Escape to Virginia City

Left Black Rock City mid-morning on Friday. I'm glad we left when we did. Sometime Friday afternoon, one of those horrendous, much feared dust storms kicked up. Winds gusting to 100 mph caused the oft spoken "white out". Visibility is reported to have been less than four feet and the wind borne dust drifted leaving dunes an inch to eighteen inches high. I'm glad we bailed early!

Picked up I-80 westbound after gassing up the RV in Fernley. MSO and I were struck by the large number of vehicles pulled to the side of the eastbound lanes. With each vehicle sat a Nevada Highway Patrol vehicle. It was a speeding ticket party and the guests of honor all seemed to have California tags, the vehicles laden with camping equipment. Any bets these out of state speeders were on their way to Black Rock City and Burning Man for the weekend?

Cruised through Sparks and its neighbor, Reno. Had no desire to stop because we were headed to Virginia City and I didn't want to tackle the twisting, turning SR341 after sunset. Stopped at a convenience store on SR341, just off of US395. Wanted to restock some essentials, like milk, bread and ice. The owner was pleased we chose his store to stop at to restock and told us about the sights we'd see on the road to Virginia City. Earlier in our trip, the Coleman lantern fell from its perch shattering the glass globe. While I knew the store didn't stock replacements, I asked if a camping supply store might be in the area. The owner smiled, telling us of a Walmart just west of US395 back the way we came. Backtracked, purchased a replacement globe and we were back on the road again. Followed the ups and downs and hair pin turns of SR341, rounding the final curve to see Virginia City. Pitched on the side of a mountain, Virginia City came into its own when in 1859, the Comstock Lode was discovered. Two and a half miles of high-grade ore produced $400,000,000 in refined gold and silver and for twenty years, Virginia City boomed. The Comstock Lode was directly responsible for Nevada's becoming a state joining the Northern Cause during the Civil War.

Drove down Main Street looking for the RV Park, but couldn't find it. Did some backtracking and sure enough, there it was. Must have been so excited about our arrival in Virginia City, I drove right by the sign directing us down the mountainside to the Park perched above the famed Virginia Cemetery. Stopped at the office where I learned about one of the joys of RVing and RV Parks. It's 5:00 and I just finished a 154 mile drive. The host asked my name, gave me one of those western smiles I've come to admire and said, "You're in space 15. It has a nice view (it did). Park your rig, hook up, have a cocktail. Come back and register at your leisure. The office is opened 'til 8:00." What a truly civilized way to do business!

Rather than head up to town, we opted for luxurious, long, hot showers not sparing the soap and shampoo. Mud browned water pooled at my feet as what seemed like pounds of dirt and dust washed down the drain. Clean as a whistle, I grilled up some steaks as MSO sautéed some peppers, onions and potatoes. We ate outside, watching the fluffy white clouds turn gold, pink and then purple as the day came to an end. In the clear mountain air, I knew a good night's sleep was assured

Up early the next morning, weighed anchor (so to speak) and drove back into town. Found RV parking, secured the vehicle and hiked up the one block to Main Street. Virginia City is now marketing itself as a tourist destination. Wooden sidewalks evoke the memory of days past. History is abundant as attested to by the bronze plaques adorning the sides of the stores. One details William Wright who penned as Dan De Quille for the Territorial Enterprise, which first published in Virginia City in 1860 having left Genoa where it was first published in 1858. De Quille worked there for thirty of the last thirty-two years of the paper's existence. For more about this man, who for a time worked at the desk next to Mark Twain, Click here. Other plaques tell the stories of the Bank of San Francisco, the Virginia City Agency of the Bank of California, the V & T. Car 13 (a reinforced rail car specifically built to transport bullion) and a couple detailing Samuel Clemens best known as Mark Twain.

A couple of the historic saloons are still operating but most of the square footage is dedicated to slot machines; It is Nevada after all. Polished bars with brass footrails running the length of the buildings still exist at the Delta and the Bucket of Blood. The Delta boasts of having a Faro table known as the historic Suicide Table, so named because its last three owners are said to have killed themselves after losing fortunes while gambling on it. The table is now under a protective plastic panel, forcing it to take a break from its string of murders. A sign, imbedded with 160 silver dollars, gives the history buff a brief but informative overview of the Delta and its beginnings. After strolling through town, we stopped at the Bucket of Blood on our way back to the RV. Paintings and photos of a 19th and early 20th century Virginia City cover the walls. A piano player bangs out songs from a bygone era on a rickety upright; My Darling Clementine, You are my Sunshine and other hits from over a century ago. In the best of western tradition, MSO and I swilled our bottles of Bucket of Blood ale while sitting in front of the large picture window in the back. The view of Emme Peak with the Pine Nut Mountain range rising in the distance is a memory of Virginia City that won't fade in time.

Back in the RV and we were again southbound on SR341, heading for US50, Carson City and US395. The plan was to head directly into California but MSO, knowing my attraction to Nevada history, suggested a detour to Genoa, Nevada's first Trading Post founded in 1851.

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