At the end of Day 1 of our trip, we spent the night in Ely, Nevada. The Eastern Nevada town of 4,255 residents was a welcome change after hours and hours of nothing along Highway 50.
This was a race against time. I desperately wanted to reach Ely by sunset.
Here is downtown Ely. The last stop light was 257 miles behind us in Fallon. See the Hotel Nevada to the right (the 6 story brick building)? Until the 1940s, that was the tallest building in Nevada (including Las Vegas)!
The photo immediately below shows the other side of the hotel. You are looking at all the action on Friday night in town. Although we never went into the hotel/casino, this Yelp review is worth a read:
I'm giving this place 3 stars based solely on the fact that it is a microcosmic representation of all that is wrong with the U.S.A., and I find that extremely stimulating. The lady that checked us in was friendly and even gave us two margarita vouchers. The room was of average quality -- but that is not the point!
We arrived in Ely at about midnight and were looking for some place cheap to stay. The Hotel Nevada is the largest building in Ely and it also happens to be one of the cheapest places to stay. It's a sort of casino, 24-hour diner, and hotel. Ever seen Star Wars? Think Mos Eisley Spaceport. We made it into the diner at about 1am, the (approx. 50 years old) waitress was lamenting about a recently failed night-school anthropology course, a group of eight or so local teenagers were gathered at another table, and a lady in another booth was talking about how she found a new man while simultaneously coughing up a lung.
I must have become immune to the sound of that cough; it was so nasty that I didn't want to believe it was real. A cook came up to us and said, 'did you guys see where that lady puked?' -- I looked behind me, to where the woman had been sitting and noticed that she was gone, only a pile of puke remained under her table. I didn't say anything, just pointed. The waiter cursed to himself, put on some rubber gloves and proceeded to clean the area (briefly). Soon after, we got our food... But I had trouble eating it.
After 'dinner', we emerged to find ourselves in the gambling area. Many locals from the surrounding remote areas and many aged people gambled and smoked and chatted. A man ranted about proper fiber optic installation and two other men told my girl friend she was 'hot' and asked what she was doing with that 'fa#$%t' (me). We relocated to a quiet corner and reminded ourselves why slot machines suck. We redeemed our margarita vouchers and drank our cocktails. Another round on the slot machines. It is now 2am, we had our fun. Ely, Nevada is awesome.
We had dinner across the street at Happy Garden. It was supposedly the better of the two Chinese restaurants in town.
Across the street from the motel we stayed at was this collection of gas station signs. A large chain linked fence, the lack of a truck, and the law all conspired to prevent me from pilfering those signs. Talk about garage art!
We had lunch the next day at Silver State Restaurant. It has a hunting motif. The waitresses all wore camouflage. There was a display case with dozens of pictures of hunters and their trophies. Apparently, it takes years to win the lottery to get a license to shoot certain animals. And with license fees, trophy fees, and guide fees, it could cost tens of thousands of dollars to catch a big animal. The fees are even higher for non-Nevadans.
The special on the menu was the elk burger. I had to have one. Though it looks like a dry hockey puck in this picture, it was actually quite juicy and flavorful. Not gamey at all. I noticed that during our entire trip, no one ever served tomatoes, not even in salads.
Peter suggested that I pick up a passport and get it stamped along the way. I did.
At each of the five towns along Highway 50, you are supposed to go to the Chamber of Commerce and get a stamp or two.
Once completed, you're supposed to tear off the last page and mail it back to the Nevada tourism bureau. I'm supposed to get a certificate signed by the governor and a special prize in return...