After 25 hours of exhausting travel, Ashley (aka Wingo) and I find solace in the arms of Billy the Barman at the Brew Brothers bar in Reno. Brew Brothers is consistently rated the best Brew Pub in America, and although the beer, in its 22oz glasses is outstanding, the rest of it looks exactly like what it is: A glorified RSL Club with attitude. It may be our first, but certainly won’t be the last tacky bar we visit before we quit Nevada.
We negotiate our way south, stopping at the well-regarded Virginia City Brewery and Taphouse. Although we have just missed the Rocky Mountain Oyster Fry and Ball Breaker Saloon Crawl, we happily sample their wares, as a charming bar gal gives us her view on where we should visit next.
She makes much of the Tonopah Brewing Company, so we continue south, marvelling at how dry the countryside is in the rain shadow from the Sierra Nevadas we crossed a few days earlier. It also appears as if this part of America has gone from wrack to ruin. Everywhere we look there are abandoned homes, derelict houses and shacks that are simply falling apart. As I’ve never driven this route before maybe it has always been thus, but I get a creeping sense that something much more sinister and permanent is going on.
In the taproom of the Tonopah Brewing Company we discuss this with the barmaid. A Nevada girl, she’s seems remarkably ill-informed on her State’s history and has little view on politics. Would she vote for The Donald we ask? She says not, but is unsure as to where she might place her vote. Like many young people she favours the views of Bernie Sanders, but offers that, “He is only promising to legalise Marijuana in his first month of office so that everyone will be too stoned to realise what’s going on”. But she adds, she may choose to exercise her right simply not to vote.
We continue south, sharing the driving, swapping life stories and old jokes. We drive past the “Largest Ammo Dump in the World” and stop to marvel at the museum. “We wouldn’t be doing this if the girls were with us”, remarks Wingo.
We are both surprised at the number of brothels advertised on the roadside. We pass one, The Wild Cat, in absolutely the middle of nowhere, with a battered Lincoln Town car parked outside. We fanaticise about the possibility of a withered hag, missing most of her front teeth, who still awaits passing customers although both her day and those of her customers are long gone. Toward Pahrump we find a novel approach; the clever targeting of those who are looking for a spot of alien action, and a moment of un-alien romance. But consider the advertising for a moment. What type of hot sauce would be you be prepared to buy from a brothel?
We are also alarmed at the number of casinos that litter the countryside. Although most are nothing more than glorified poker machine dens, it seems impossible that there are sufficient tourists (or locals) to support them. We wander into a Wal-Mart to pick up some supplies, and there are a dozen poker machines in the entry. Our heritage hotel in Tonopah has a row of eight machines as you check in. And we’re still two weeks away from Vegas.
Nevada was once the silver state, its mineral wealth underpinning the rise of America as an industrial nation in the early 1900s. But now it’s just gambling and sex. And it’s pretty tacky!
But our few days here has been fun, and only the sort of fun two slightly chubby, mature blokes off the leash can have. Tomorrow we explore Death Valley then turn north for the National Parks of Arizona and Utah. Goodbye craft beer and brothels and hello wilderness.