Friday, June 2, 2017

Brothels, Casinos, and the Basque...House Hunting in Nevada's Carson Valley

Letty and I both grew up watching "Bonanza" in our childhood years. Who wouldn't want to live on the Ponderosa? Now, we're in the real-life location of that fictional ranch and one question bothers me...with Carson City being closer to their house, why did the Cartwright men spend so much time in farther-away Virginia City than in the closer, and bigger, state capitol.

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This morning will be occupied by "business"...we're up here to investigate if it is a place we'd want to retire to. Specifically, we're looking at the area in the south end of the Carson Valley...around Gardnerville and see if that's where we'd want to spend the rest of our lives after I retire.

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The pros are good housing prices, low taxes, and country living are the draws.   We're playing house hunters, with three houses lined up to look at and see if we like what's in our price range.

House #1 on a 5 acre spread is too far back up towards Topaz Lake and has evidence of a large, recent wildfire on the hillside across the highway.

House #2 is nice, on a half-acre lot in Gardnerville near the country club but the street around it is not as nice.

House #3, across from the golf course club house looked good on paper but was pretty miserable in person.

Along with the 10-hour drive to see our families, pretty crushing traffic (due to only one main highway in the area) for a fairly rural area, a pretty desolate feel, and loss of California benefits for Tim, we decide to cross the Carson Valley off of our retirement list.

We'll pick that baton back up in a few days when we cross back over the mountains to our home state but, now, we're free agents...ready to explore the area as travelers.

Back up and around Carson City, we head over to Virginia City. Make sure you have a strong engine if you plan to take the shortest route up with a harrowing 15% grade. Easy parking is hard to find, so I relent and pay $6 to park in the Delta Saloon's (home of the "world famous suicide table") lot.

It's like Tombstone, set in the mountains. An old west town, where open-carry is a way of life (many of these costumed, and armed, men are also security guards at the local casinos so I don't know how many of these are props or real).

The hilly geography means wheelchairs are like rollercoasters on the undulating boardwalks. Tim has a few exciting moments where the wood meets the pavement.

It's chilly, so we retire to the Delta's casino with a cup of coffee an see the suicide table while feeding pennies to the slot machines.  After, we head down the street to enjoy some baked goods and the hundred mile view out behind the coffeehouse we're in.

A little window shopping later and we're heading down the hill.

Just for the heck of it, we drive through the Bunny Ranch brothel's parking lot to snap some photos and video (we're, by far, not the only ones).  I offer to drop Tim off and pick him up later but he declines...

While illegal in Vegas, brothels are legal in much of the rest of the state and several are out here east of the Capitol. Some innkeepers have told us of mild-mannered guests to their facilities who come up here just to tour these houses of ill repute.

Enough of that, after an afternoon break at the hotel, it's off to the "Biggest Little City In The World," Reno, to have some dinner.

While we could have a cheap spread at one of the local casinos, we opt instead for a delicious Basque meal in this Basque country.  The Santa Fe Hotel, an historic shepherd's boarding house that's surrounded on three sides by the massive Harrah's complex, will be the destination for tonight. We're a little early...the bar opens at 5, dinner is served at 6, and it's 4:30.

An hour is killed by going to a local pawn shop and then the Cal Neva casino at the end of the block where Tim wins $10 on the penny slots and $25 for me on the quarter machines.  Just enough to have a picon punch before dinner.

We strike up a nice, long conversation with the bartender at the Santa Fe (she's also a speech therapist so we have some common ground here and there) while waiting for the dining room to open.

The Santa Fe is a true, oldschool, Basque restaurant meaning that you don't get a table to yourself. We sit at a table made for at least eight wth a couple of gentlemen from the area joining us in a lively, talkative dinner of soup, salad, sausage, cheese, bread, wine, steaks, and fries.

It's an experience you won't get at a casino buffet and the price is not all that different.

Appetites sated, we say goodbye to our dinner companions, our new friends in the bar, and the city of Reno itself as we retire to the Homewood Suites to rest up for our drive over the Donner Pass tomorrow.

Copyright 2014 - Darryl Musick
All Rights Reserved

Photos by Letty Musick
Copyright 2014 - All Rights Reserved

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