Car trip to Carson City hasn’t lost its charms

The last time I drove the 450 miles between Las Vegas and Carson City was 1989, a solitary drive in July at the end of the Legislature with two yowling cats and a car that overheated. I stopped in Tonopah for repairs, and a man without teeth grinned at me and said he didn’t work much on “furrin’ cars.”

It was a Toyota. He said he fixed it.

The next day, I spent the rest of the drive stopping at remote bars to let the car cool down, asking for a Diet Coke for me and water for my cats, who were hauled into cat houses they never imagined seeing. It was a slow, horrible process.

So when Nevada’s 150th birthday rolled around, it seemed the right time to repeat the drive to Carson City to see how Beatty, Goldfield, Tonopah, Mina, Hawthorne, Walker Lake, Yerington and Dayton had been holding up the past 25 years.

Much the same.

Brothels, bars and gas stations still dotted U.S. 95. The Exchange Club in Beatty was closed, but a few new hotels had opened. The Mizpah Hotel has been jazzed up, and I hear the ghosts were still there. Hawthorne still had the ammunition storage buildings that made the community look so mysterious and worthy of a murder-mystery plot. Dayton showed a burst of growth. Business in downtown Carson City seemed to have perked up despite the freeway bypass.

I stayed with friends living not far from the Governor’s Mansion and visited friends who lived so close to the mountains that I saw a dozen deer on the way to their homes. The golden leaves of fall in Carson City were Midas-like.

Because it was pre-Halloween, the Governor’s Mansion was decorated lavishly with orange lights and ghosts and ghoul to scare the little children.

What did the Sandoval family give to trick or treaters? Toothbrushes, books and candy, covering all the bases — health, education and sweets.

The Nevada governor is believed to be the only one in the nation to personally pass out goodies to the kiddies. Locals in the know said this year marked the best decorations of all time.

I missed Halloween at the mansion because I was in Virginia City watching its parade and cast of characters, most dressed in Western wear. It became obvious some of the Western wear and long beards were not costumes but routine apparel, one more appeal of Virginia City, where wild horses grazed in front yards.

The major attraction was the Nov. 1 parade in Carson City to celebrate the state’s 150th birthday … and Lt. Gov. Brian Krolicki’s chili feed at the Nugget where anyone could schmooze with him or former Sen. Richard Bryan or former Gov. Bob Miller or any number of politicos of either party.

Before the election, both Miller and Bryan were candid about their concerns. Bryan was worried for all Democrats, while Miller focused on his son’s chances at becoming attorney general. His worries were well-founded. Three days later, Ross Miller lost to Adam Laxalt.

Laxalt seemed attached by an unseen leash to former GOP Gov. Robert List, meeting and greeting potential voters at post-parade celebrations.

How many parades in America draw legal prostitutes? Yep. The Bunny Ranch was well-represented.

Wild Ass Women marched. They are not prostitutes. They are a group of women who adopt wild burros.

Oh yeah. I have pictures of the Wild Ass Women. They’re part of my Nevada. Like Lake Tahoe and Genoa and Minden.

At least once, to get a real sense of Nevada, drive these lonely highways that criss cross the state — U.S. 95 or U.S. Highway 93 or U.S. Highway 50.

Without exploring rural Nevada, you can’t really claim to be a Nevadan.

And if there’s a parade waiting for you with Wild Ass Women, so much the better.

Jane Ann Morrison’s column appears Thursdays. Email her at or leave a message at 702-383-0275. Follow her on Twitter @janeannmorrison.

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