Nevada Food and Attractions
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TRAVEL TRIVIA  In Nevada, if a political election between two candidates results in a tie, how is the winner determined?
                                                                  Answer at bottom of page

Gardnerville  (cont'd)

Nevada Adventure Company

It’s 10:30 on a sunny morning at the base of the Pine Nut Mountains.  We’re at Nevada Adventures Company waiting for someone to show up so we can start our off road excursion searching for the elusive wild mustangs in the hills above us.  I think this is the place.  There's no signage but the address is right so we decide to hang out a bit.  A few minutes later a car pulls up.  A couple of men from Northern California are here for the ride too.  Next our guide and a mechanic arrive.  If there is one thing we’ve learned roaming around the Eastern Sierras is that patience is not a virtue, it is a necessity.

After filling out the necessary paperwork we are sized up for helmets, goggles and gloves.  A bandana (yours to keep) rounds out our gear.  Following a short orientation on things like safe driving and hand signals the four of us are led to our buggies.  The two-seater ATVs are Polaris powered, bright yellow, high clearance bouncing carts of fun.  Though not rockets, these things will scoot.  Buckled in, it’s time to kick up some dust and find those ponies!

Nevada Adventure Company guideWe head east into the Pine Nut Mountains on a fairly wide dirt road.  A couple of times we pull over to let a group of dirt bikes fly by.  After about five minutes we veer left and head into a maze of fire roads, trails, paths, and ruts so narrow the sage scrapes our sides.  How our guide leads us through the terrain without getting lost is a testament to his skills.  Did I say you’re gonna get dirty on this ride?  Driving through all the whoop-de-dos and sand pits is more fun than watching a clown on fire.  As we get deeper into the pines we spook a few wild horses.  Our chaperon has us slow down but it’s too late to get a good look.  

About two thirds through the trip we pass some hay strewn next to the road by some well meaning citizens.  We stop a little further up the road for a rest break and water.  The guide spends some time explaining the history of the area and some of the theories about how the horses got here.  Suddenly he stops talking and points down the hill a bit.  A wild mustang!  He tells us that is a stallion and his mares are probably hiding in the pines.  That is why he acts fidgety and keeps looking at us.  Once we leave he will head back over to the hay with his harem.  After taking dozens of pictures, we head down the mountain; mission accomplished.  We stop once more on the ride back to admire the valley below us and the Sierras to the west.

We have taken this trip twice and would recommend this to anyone with the outdoor spirit.  I am sure the ride would be considered tame to serious off roaders but to us city slickers it was a hoot!  Nevada  Adventure Company also offer ATV and Jeep trips.

TRIP TIP!  If the Rubicon Trail near Lake Tahoe is more to your liking try NAC's sister company, Lake Tahoe Adventures.  They are open all year offering ATV and Jeep tours during the summer and snowmobile trips in the winter.

Eastern end of Johnson Ln.  Minden NV, 89423  (800) 865-4679


Carson City


Feeling hungry after touring the Nevada State Railroad Museum we stumbled upon Sassafras Restaurant in downtown Carson City.  Chef Tony Fish touts his establishment as an "eclectic food joint".  That's an understatement.  He doesn't invent new dishes; he puts his twist on pub grub bringing it to an all new level.

At first glance, Sassafras' menu items seem normal.  Appetizers, burgers, pizza and the like.  On closer examination the eclectic starts to appear.  Blue cheese fondue with blackened shrimp, an Ahi BLT with wasabi or a praline bacon burger (spiced pecans and chipotle sauce).  The menu is only half their story.  Sassafras is chalkboard cuisine at its finest.  It is promoted as an "ever-changing bill of fare with an emphasis on fun that is inspired by everything."

On our last visit we ordered the Eviled Eggs and split a Fried Cheese CheeseburgerFor the Eviled Sassafras CheeseburgerEggs the yolks are mixed with smoked paprika and roasted peppers before being spooned back into the whites.  They're topped with some bay shrimp and a couple of jicama sticks for good measure.  Three stuffed egg halves make up an order, which may leave you wondering, did the kitchen staff give me an extra half or did somebody pilfer half an egg before it reached my table?

Cheese is the star of the Fried Cheese CheeseburgerChef Tony cooks up a quality hamburger and tops the patty with a couple of slices of jack cheese letting them melt down the sides.  While this is going on he takes cheddar cheese slices and cooks them on the flattop.  As they melt a golden crust develops.  That cheese is also placed on the burger. What you end up with is a cheeseburger that goes crunch!  The burger comes with homemade potato chips.

Part of the Sassafras experience is their Plan:b Micro Lounge.  On weekends the saloon welcomes local musicians.  Thursday is open mic night, Monday is Movie Mayhem.  Enjoy some good eats while watching cult classics such as Blazing Saddles or Oh Brother, Where Art Thou?.

TRIP TIP!  Down the hall from Sassafras is the Carson Cigar Club. You can order from Sassafras' menu and have it sent over. If a stogie and a gourmet pizza is your idea of culinary nirvana, this is the place!

UPDATE!  Sassafras has moved!   Their new address appears below.  Same friendly crew, same eccentric menu, just a new location.

Shortly after being voted number one in Carson City's Taste of Downtown the new owners of the building Sassafras occupied gave the restaurant 45 days to get out.   Sassafras' offbeat character did not fit in with their plan for the future and had already signed a long term lease with a new eatery.

On a side note, John Lennon's immortal words ring true; "Instant karma's gonna get you".  As of this writing Sassafras' old location on Carson Street remains vacant.  The new tenants backed out of their lease agreement presumably over the backlash created by the landlords when they pulled the rug out from underneath one of the city's favorite culinary hotspots.  

1500 Old Hot Springs Rd.  Carson City NV 89706

Paul Schat's Bakery

In 1989 Paul Schat (of Schat's Bakkery fame) packed up his apron and rolling pins, moved out of Bishop and settled in Carson City.  His reputation preceded him.  From the day Paul opened his bakery on Stewart Street locals and tourists have been lining up to sample his scrumptious baked goods.

A lot of the items found at the original Schat's in Bishop are also available at Paul Schat's Bakery, such as sheepherder's and cheese bread.  Paul raises the bar, however, by creating many of his own tempting products.  There are a dozen different kinds of bagels baked fresh each day, three varieties of pullaways (monkey bread), and over fifteen types of bread to choose from.  One of our mandatory purchases is the Asiago Cheese Bread with bits of cheese are in every bite.  Try tucking some smoked Gouda and grilled tomatoes between a couple slices of this for a mouth watering grilled cheese sandwich.  Don't forget the pastries!  A display case filled with sinfulicous goodies is guaranteed to bring out the inner child in anybody.

Paul Schat's Bakery also boasts an incredible deli.  If you plan to dine during the traditional lunch hour Paul Schat's Bakerybring your patience.  The place is very popular with the natives.  Start with a bowl of the soup de jour (try the corn chowder or tomato bisque when available) then choose between the many hearty sandwiches on the menu.  If you can't decide, you can custom build your own masterpiece.  When only a burger will do, Schat's cooks up half pound sirloin patties from a local ranch with an assortment of tasty toppings.  For a light lunch go with one of their amazing salads.

With your tummy stuffed and a bag of baked treasures in your hand there is only one thing left to do.  Walk down the hallway to the bakery's cake and chocolate shop.  Go ahead, it's too late to feel guilty now. Have a seat and order a slice of Boston Cream Pie, a chocolate truffle and a cup of Chai Tea.  Relax and cherish the moment; you deserve it.

1212 S. Stewart St.  Carson City NV 89702

Virginia City

Part living ghost town and part tourist trap, Virginia City attracts more than 2 million visitors a year. Heading north on highway 431 you can feel yourself being transported back in time as you pass through the towns of Silver City and Gold Hill.  In 1961 the National Parks Service designated Virginia City as an historical attraction.  It is the largest national landmark in the country.

Virginia City sprang to life in 1859 after two miners discovered gold in the area.  It was named after another miner, James Finnery, known as Ol’ Virginny to his friends.  He christened the place “Old Virginny Town” in honor of himself.  The city’s wealth and rapid growth was soon noticed by then president Abraham Lincoln.  The Union needed money to continue the Civil War, and in 1864 Lincoln made Nevada our 36th state.  The good, the bad and the ugly quickly poured in assuring Virginia City’s place in western folklore.  Samuel Clemens assumed the pseudonym Mark Twain here while writing for the Territorial Enterprise.

Even today, C Street is where most of the excitement will be found.  Stroll the creaky boardwalks lining the street and you’ll probably bump into gunslingers, prospectors and ladies of easy virtue.  The “Living Legends” docent program encourages volunteers to develop a character from Virginia City’s past, dress the part and walk the streets greeting tourists.  While visiting this colorful township you can take a horse drawn carriage tour with Happy Hoppers, pan for gold, don some cowboy duds and get your picture taken at Wild Bunch Old Time Photographs.  Stop by and watch outlaws shoot it out at the Wild West Show.  Check out the various museums and get a sense of pioneer life in the “Richest Place on Earth”. Shop for souvenirs; you’re bound to find some piece of junk you can’t live without.

The areas surrounding C Street are quieter and more suited for those wanting to explore Virginia City’s Piper Opera House, Virginia Citycheckered past.  Built in 1885, Piper’s Opera House is still staging productions.  During the 19th century a patron could view a Shakespearian play one night and a burlesque show the next.  Buffalo Bill and Annie Oakley were even known to perform here.  Tours are available of St. Mary’s Catholic Church; mass is celebrated Saturday and Sunday.  Hop on the TNT Stage line for a real stagecoach ride with speeds reaching 25 mph.  The Silver Terrace Cemetery is one of the best boot hills in the country, also one of the most haunted.      

After all that walking you’re going to want some refreshment.  During its heyday Virginia City boasted no less than 70 bars and saloons.  Many are still in operation today.  Their names reflect the dust and riches of the Comstock: Bucket of Blood, the Ponderosa, Delta Saloon, the Bonanza and Red Dog.  Each one has its own appeal. The Bonanza’s terrace affords a fantastic view of the valley below.  The Delta Saloon is home to the notorious suicide table where lives and fortunes were changed with the flip of a card.  The Grateful Dead and Jefferson Airplane played at the Red Dog in the psychedelic ‘60s.

Virginia City does not take itself too seriously.  Every March the city goes nuts during their annual Mountain Oyster Fry, otherwise known as the Testicle Festival.  In May it’s the Cinco de Mayo Celebration and Chili-Cook-Off.  Since 1959 the International Camel Races have been held here every September.  A few years later ostriches were added to the event.  October brings the World Championship Outhouse Races.

A word of caution.  Virginia City is carved out of the slopes of Mount Davidson; that is to say level ground is scarce.  If you’re not lucky enough to find parking on C Street be prepared to do some climbing.  There is a pay for parking lot next to the Bucket of Blood Saloon.

FUN FACT!   It was at the Red Dog Saloon that Janis Joplin hooked up with the house band de jour, Big Brother and the Holding Company in 1968.

Silver Terrace Cemetaries

The graveyard just northeast of C Street is actually a series of cemeteries.  This burial ground covers many acres with fences separating various religious, ethnic and cultural groups.  It seems the good citizens of Virginia City could not escape bigotry even in death.

Cemeteries in the Comstock region were not the dusty, barren boot hills depicted in westerns.  Just like today, communities during the 19th century wanted to bury their loved ones in park like settings.  Silver Terrace had benches and shady areas.  An elaborate irrigation system kept the gardens, shrubs and trees watered.  This was in stark contrast to the mine tailings just outside its gates.

The Silver Terrace Cemeteries are among the best preserved graveyards of the 1800’s.  For several Silver Terrace Cemeteryyears the Comstock Cemetery Foundation has been restoring dilapidated headstones, wrought iron fences and statues.  A donation box is kept next to the Masonic entrance.  Help if you can.  Guided tours are available.

According to many, this burial ground is also haunted.  People visiting at nightfall have reported a headstone that emits an eerie glow.  As they draw near, the light disappears.  Others have observed a man’s gravestone that periodically moves from its original site.  No one has seen it move and it is quite heavy; it takes three men to put it back.  One of the most famous spirits is that of a woman who wanders the grounds wearing a black Victorian dress and a large hat.  Some have seen her carrying a baby.

The cemeteries are not immune to the kooky events that keep Virginia City thriving.  Silver Terrace is normally open from dawn to dusk.  However, on Halloween it is open until 11 pm.  It is also available for weddings.  Couples have chosen traditional, western and Victorian themes for their special day.  A few have gotten hitched dressed as zombies!

A brochure advertising the RV park next door claims it’s in a quiet neighborhood.

Northeast Virginia City, off of E St.

TRAVEL TRIVIA ANSWER  By a game of chance. Unless other provisions are made state law NRS 293.400 High Cardmandates that local and county elections, as well as state and national primaries ending in a tie, the winner is decided "by lot".  This can be cutting cards, drawing straws or tossing a coin.  Here's how it went down in a 2010 primary election.  Carl Moore and Andrew Burasky were vying for a county commission seat.  Both candidates received 381 votes.  In a game of High Card Moore cut to the 10 of clubs while Burasky drew the queen of clubs.  Moore lost.