Saturday, September 21, 2013

Crossing Northern Nevada - Mining and Gambling.....and Cornish Pasties

Today the plan was to leave Winnemucca, and drive as fast as possible to Twin Falls in Idaho, as there was nothing to see on the way. Things went a little differently than planned. First, Winnemucca has a certain wild west charm, and we had to explore a little before we left. Second, the scenery en route is not boring at all, as we led to believe (I'm not sure who told us it would be a boring drive, or if we made that one up in our own minds before leaving Australia). Third, we stopped in a couple of places along the way for short breaks, and kind of lingered. Let me explain...

Nevada is a state which seems to have been built on the industries of mining and gambling. Winnemucca in the north of the state is certainly thriving as a gambling centre, and nearby Elko is pretty much the same, though without the mining industry, these towns might struggle for a while. The evidence of mining is plain as you drive through the north, where quarries are set up in the amazing valleys that run throughout Nevada. We passed through a beautiful valley today called Pumpernickel Valley, which was partly green, partly scrubby, and partly salt flats. Building is going on here, but the industry is an alternative energy centre, which makes me feel better about the fact that the natural beauty was spoiled. Actually, natural beauty may be stretching things. The landscape is magnificent, with vast valleys hemmed in by the bleak mountain ranges of Nevada, though I'm not sure I'd call it beautiful. I saw natural beauty in the Sequoia forests a couple of days before, and I don't think this matches that. But it is certainly no less striking.

Winnemucca had some interesting features. First, we had breakfast in The Griddle, which is a fantastic authentic American diner. The service was friendly, the choice of food was enormous and the portions weren't all daunting, and the place itself was beautiful inside.
Inside The Griddle, Winnemucca
We then took a walk around, taking in the ambience of the town which has its roots in ranchers and their buckaroos, as well as a basque influence, and of course, trappers and miners. The most famous incident in the town's history was when the bank was robbed by the Hole in the Wall Gang and this is also reflected in some of the town's buildings, such as the Sundance Casino, or The Hole in the Wall Cafe.
Winnemucca's Basque influence

The Hole in the Wall Cafe, Winnemucca

We left Winnemucca after visiting the Buckaroo Hall of Fame which has a number of interesting items and pictures relating to this fascinating part of the West's history. We then traveled east to Elko where we intended just to stop and stretch our legs. Instead we walked around Downtown Elko for over an hour, stopping to have a Cornish Pastie along the way. It was a bit of a surprise seeing a The B. J. Bull Bakery and pasty house in the middle of Nevada, but the food was absolutely amazing. Caroline and I shared a beef and mushroom pastie which was great, and then shared a cherry pie which was even better! We got talking to the guy who ran the place, and he said that pasties were a staple diet of miners in the area, and that many Cornish miners were drafted out to help with the mining of the region. Hence the reason why there is a Cornish Pastie shop in Elko, Nevada!
Elko's Cornish Pastie Cafe

It was mid afternoon by the time we left Elko, and after about another 2 hours driving we came to the amazing town of Jackpot, Nevada. Jackpot has a short, but incredible history. It was founded around 1954 by "Cactus Pete" Piersanti and Don French who had run gambling establishments in Idaho until the state banned it. They then moved to the area which is now called Jackpot (named by Cactus Pete apparently) and set up legal gambling establishments under Nevada law. It's still hard for me to believe that there are actually real life characters called Cactus Pete, but the proof is there for all to see.
Yes, there is a real life "Cactus Pete", and he owns a Casino in Jackpot, Nevada!

Well, it was then a short hop to Twin Falls, Idaho where we are staying the night before heading to Yellowstone tomorrow. We had hoped to see the amazing Shoshone Falls in the evening, but we got here too late, and will have to go in the morning before leaving town. However, we are staying only about 5 miles from the falls, and they are apparently quite spectacular at the moment, so looking forward to that. All in all, another great day taking in American history, culture and scenery.

1 comment:

  1. Your making us very jealous Carl. Hope the rest of your trip is as good as it has been so far.