Monday, May 23, 2016

Comstock Lode I

Taking our leave of Ely, we headed west on the loneliest road in America, US Hwy 50.  We know it is the loneliest road because it says so in the guide books and they informed us with signs all along the route.  If we had relied on our own observations we would probably have gotten it wrong, since I'm pretty sure we've been on roads with fewer cars.  But a couple dozen highway signs can't be argued with.  Nor can Life Magazine, which coined the phrase back in the 1980s.

Beautiful downtown Austin, Nev.
We usually try to limit our motorhome drives these days to under 200 miles. so we were scheduled to make an overnight stop in Austin, Nev.  Here is a piece of useful advice to our fellow RVers.  Don't plan to stop overnight in Austin, Nev.  The "RV park" we stayed in was one of the worst we've ever seen.  Just a gravel lot with 6 electrical posts sticking up out of the ground and some grungy looking spigots.  There were sewer connections but we did not hook up to any.  There was no office, no bathroom, no
Best restaurant in town
trees or grass or concrete or asphalt.  Just a box you were supposed to leave an envelope in after you stuffed some money into it.  Truly the low end of the scale as RV parks go.  (We did once stay at a place in Dinosaur, CO that might have been worse.  We'll call it a draw.)  The next morning we went and got breakfast at one of the two diners in town.  Trip Advisor told us the other option was worse.  I had burnt toast and a green chili omelet that actually didn't taste too bad.  Then we drove the length of town back and forth to look at the decrepit old buildings, then we hooked the car back up and resumed our journey.

In Austin they can only afford to build half a barn
We slept the next night in Fallon, which was reasonably nice but unremarkable.  Going through our data cards I find not one photograph from Fallon.  We did find a pretty good Chinese restaurant to eat at and ordered enough so we could have left over chow mien for breakfast.

Oldest saloon in Nevada, est. 1853
The next day brought us to Dayton, Nev where we are scheduled to stay a week.  Not that Dayton is that spectacular, but it is a good central location from which you can explore Lake Tahoe and all the places associated with the Comstock Lode.  Dayton is the oldest permanent settlement in Nevada, unless you ask someone from Genoa, in which case THAT is the oldest settlement in Nevada.  It involves getting nit-picky about what, exactly, qualifies as a "settlement".  Both sides agree that the first gold in Nevada was discovered at Dayton, but it played out pretty quickly.  Genoa has the oldest drinking establishment and it is still in operation, which in my mind counts for quite a bit.
Oldest saloon interior
Reconstructed fort at Mormon Station
We visited Genoa one afternoon.  It's about 30 miles from Dayton and was originally known as Mormon Station.  A group of Mormon acolytes set up a trading post in 1851 to provide supplies and a resting place for hopefuls on their way to the California gold fields.  They probably came away with more riches than most of the miners.We went to the aforementioned drinking establishment and tried a local brew, Carson Amber Bock, which they had on tap.  It was actually quite nice and we sat around talking to a couple of bikers about RVing, waiting for our restaurant to open for dinner.  It's a nice little town with a reconstructed Mormon Station fort and an impressive 1860s era courthouse.  How the name got changed from Mormon Station to Genoa I have no idea.
Genoa courthouse
Dayton Historical Museum
Dayton was also first visited by Mormons.  A group was sent by Brigham Young to the California gold fields in 1850 but got started late and had to winter over along the Carson River before tackling the Sierra Nevadas.  This was a few months before their coreligionists arrived at Mormon Station, so they really were there first.  The leader of the group panned some gold out of the river, but when spring came they followed Brigham's directive and left it behind to proceed on to California.  Some non-Mormon gold diggers stuck around to sift gold dust out of the river in a small tent camp.  It was over a year before any buildings appeared and a permanent settlement started up, leading to the argument about settlement primacy.  The shiny stuff at Dayton was placer gold that had washed down out of the mountains- there was no ore vein near Dayton.  The gold panners followed the trail of the placer gold up river and eventually discovered the source of the Comstock Lode at what became Virginia City some 12 miles away.

Museum interior - random 19th century artifacts
Dayton sits across Hwy 50 from the Carson River.  Our RV park is on the very edge of the "Old Town" area next to a second rate casino.  It is a nice enough RV park except the spaces are a little too close together for comfort.  With our humongous rig, there is no room for our car so we have to park it in a separate area about 100 feet away.  That was OK until we had to unload groceries.  The first few days there were a couple of empty camping slots that allowed us to take a straight line path to the car, but eventually those filled in and now we have to walk a minor labyrinth to avoid stomping through someone else's camp site.

We visited the Dayton Historical Museum, which is located in an old school house.  It was a nice collection of mid-19th century artifacts but with no organizing theme or story.  The lady docent however, was very helpful.  She filled us in on some things and gave us some advise on other places to visit, turning it into a worthwhile stop.  The modern town of Dayton has little else to see, so we'll need to be branching out soon.


  1. We missed Genoa when we were there and it is on my list for next time. Enjoyed your description of the whole area.

  2. We missed Genoa when we were there and it is on my list for next time. Enjoyed your description of the whole area.

  3. Hey Vickie.....we've been to these places, or more accurately, driven thru, but obviously you do more in-depth exploring than we do. My boys miss your girls!! Looking forward to reading more posts.