"Back on the Road..."
Day Two, Tuesday – Virginia City and others:
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Day two dawned early as we faced the question: "Now that We're here, what do we do?"
Well, I had some vague ideas and by staring at the map for a bit, got some that were less vague. So, after breakfast at Mel's
- they had a great steak & eggs deal - we headed down Virginia to the 395, off to find that all important commodity of gasoline.
After gassing-up, we continued down the 395 to the 341 and hung a left. Soon the road began to climb into the mountains to the east of Reno. A few miles up, we stopped at a "Vista Point" to, well, "vista."
The view back down of the valley, Reno, and the snow-covered Sierras beyond was spectacular. And the "Vista Point" was interesting too. Apparently, it had
been a rather fancy picnic area, with stairs to a viewpoint and firepits and whatnot, but that had been years ago.
Now, the parking area was gated off (the entrance to the parking lot was where we pulled off the road), the stonework was crumbling or graffiti-etched or both, and all the tables had long ago been removed. It was kinda sad, actually.
The road kept climbing for a few miles, then dropped down on the other side of the mountains to the small settlement of Virginia City - as seen on TV!
(okay, not really. The "Virginia City as seen on TV!" was just a backlot set for Bonanza. But it is a real place)
Virginia City was one of the big stars of the "Comstock Lode"
mining era back in the late 19th
century. These days, it looks little changed from then. Victorian-era buildings stand next to one another along the narrow main street that runs pretty much on the side of the mountain (so that it was as close to the mines as possible), fronted by wooden sidewalks.
Small businesses - mostly tourist-oriented these days - fill these old brick buildings. A couple of actual real-life Western Saloons (with gambling and whiskey and sarsparilla and everything) still find their home in this city.
The street looks out over a valley where "boot hill" and the mounds that are the old mining tills still reside - along with the newer homes of the current fifteen-hundred residents - down from its peak in the 1890's of thirty-thousand. Frighteningly enough, these fifteen-hundred make it the largest
city in all of Storey County, Nevada!
We spent several hours wandering the town, checking out the shops and in general acting touristy. Unfortunately for this activity, April is a good month before the tourist season officially starts in Virginia City so a lot of activities/tours
were closed. Including - very
unfortunately from my viewpoint - the Virginia & Truckee Railroad
The old short (but rich - thanks to the Comstock) line
used to run from Virginia City down and over to Carson City - the state capital. From there it headed north to Reno and south to Minden. The Virginia City branch closed in 1938, but the rest hung on until 1950.
These days, a short, mile-and-a-half section runs from Virginia City for the tourists. But they have big plans to continue the restoration all the way back into Carson City (not the least reason being Virginia City has no
hotels/motels - and such a link would bump up tourism there big time). The project
seems to be going well, so hopefully in a couple of years I'll be able to ride it...
...but this year, heck, even the mile-and-a-half section wasn't open for the season yet.
So after a few hours at Virginia City - and getting a couple of hot dogs and sarsaparillas at the Delta Saloon (home of the famous "Suicide Table!"
) - we headed off again down the 341 past "towns" that made Virginia City look like a major metropolis, until it hit the 50, then headed west on that towards Carson City.
is Nevada's capital and - not unlike Virginia City - still retains many late-19th
century buildings along its
main drag (the 395). We basically toured the town by car for a while. Eventually, we ended up south of the main part of town at the "Nevada State Railway Museum."
Problem with that
was, we ended up there at about 4:30 - and the place closed at 4. We did
, however, manage to snag a couple of "What to See in Carson City" folders (and hit the restroom) which gave us some ideas of what to see...
...which, for us, was a drive by some of the city's more historic homes.
Finally, as the day started to fail and we were beginning to get hungry, we headed back up the 395 towards Reno.
We'd decided that - at least one
night in Reno - we'd buffet. And as we were heading right past the hotel we'd planned to buffet at
- the Atlantis
(chosen by diligently going through the "What To See in Reno" pamphlets the night before), we decided to make it this
In Las Vegas, the Atlantis
would be a small sized - if fairly new - hotel. Nothing really special. For Reno, it's high-end.
Its buffet has a tropical island theme
- including a "tropical rainstorm" every fifteen minutes or so (though I think they really
need to improve the effects - and more importantly, timing
- for their "rainstorm" show). It's small, but the food there was quite good - miles better than the last
buffet we'd been to, the Sahara's
, two years ago in Vegas.
We were nicely full - and night was nicely on - by the time we got back in our car to head to our hotel. But before we got there, though, we stopped for a walk along Reno's "Riverwalk."
The Truckee River ran just a half mile south of our hotel as it bisects Reno. Indeed, it's the whole reason Reno is there
- because the spot was a good river crossing. Anywho, Reno has been fixing up their "Oldtown" including the river through it. They've put in some nice walkways on both sides, lined with artworks and fountains. Part of the river is in downtown now a "white-water rafting" area - though, admittedly - a very short and "no experience necessary" stretch of white-water.
We strolled down one side and up the other, enjoying the walk and the river. Finally we got back to the car and headed back to the Sands
and our room. Day Two was officially over.
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