I enjoy history. The problem is it is generally taught so poorly. Mediocre teachers want you to remember names and dates. Superior teachers have the gift of bringing the times to life, such that one could almost imagine living in that place and time. In my experience, there aren’t many superior history teachers.
If you go to Virginia City, Nevada today without a knowledge of its glorious past, you are missing most of the experience. You can get some of its background reading a classic from Mark Twain, Roughing It.
It was here that Samuel Clemens became Mark Twain. It is here that Clemens, finding mining too backbreaking and difficult, decided to try writing, having gotten a job as a reporter for the city’s newspaper, the Territorial Enterprise.
In his book, he describes many Nevada towns that rose with the discovery of more silver. Some of them are but dusty memories, like Esmeralda, while others, like Austin and Eureka, soldier on minus the silver.
It was at Eureka that I wanted to make my first stop. I had heard of an old historic hotel, and wanted to stay there.
I got there after dusk, and found the hotel dark and seemingly unoccupied. After wandering all the way around its perimeter, I call their number and got another hotel owned by the same people, the Gold Country Inn. The receptionist told me that the Jackson House is closed after the spring and summer.
Oh well. I stayed at the Gold Country Inn. Meh. It was a nice modern hotel.
Anyway, one other thing I found interesting. While I knew that Highway 50 from Sacramento was the original Stage Coach route to Virginia City, I did’t realize that the Pony Express also traveled that route all the way across Nevada. Since I am apparently in a trivia-minded mood tonight, probably boring my 2 readers, I will mention the small town of Strawberry near the Sierra Summit on the way to Lake Tahoe from Sacramento.
For years I couldn’t see a relationship between a fruit and a small Sierra town. Well, as I learned some time ago, it had nothing to do with the fruit, but a man named Berry. He was at the Lodge overnight (which is still there from the stage days) and apparently insulted a man he later learned was ex CA Chief Justice David Terry.
Upon learning who Terry was and his reputation, Berry left in the middle of the night. Those witness to this hasty retreat said that he was made of Straw.
Anyway, we have left Fallon and are on the way to the first town, Austin (which is a bit smaller than the other Austin, reportedly in Texas 😉 )
Coming into Austin. There is a bar/saloon there that has changed little in 150 years. Still has the creaky wooden floors.
…on to Eureka…
If Time hasn’t stopped in Eureka, it sure has slowed down….
Next morning I wanted to stop and see Ely, which is a thriving small town. It started as a railroad town.
As I am on the Loneliest Road, I kept thinking of the Pony Express riders across this – sometimes trying to save their lives as the Paiutes are chasing them…
I walked around Ely a bit. I had noticed that when on the road we tend to eat the same as before without exercise, so I was trying to get some exercise in…I had thought that this was original housing for the railroad workers, and a local confirmed it.
OK, I like old walls reminding us of other times decades ago…
Another local told me that at one time this was Nevada’s tallest building, and if you want the “old experience” stay here…..
Tomorrow: On to Southern Utah where I saw some of the most spectacular scenery….
Part 1 is here
Part 3 is here
Part 4 is here
Part 5 is here
Part 6 is here
Part 7 is here
Part 8 is here
Part 9 is here
Part 10 is here