Wednesday June 5, 2019 was the first leg of our return drive from California to Denver, CO. It was largely uneventful, but an interesting story developed toward the end of the day.
After we packed up our camping gear, we exited the campground and turned right on highway US 199. We followed this scenic road mostly along the Smith River, until we entered Oregon and then reached Grants Pass. At Grants Pass we merged on to Interstate 5 and followed the expressway eastward to Medford, OR, at which point we exited and continued on Oregon 140. This highway became our home for quite awhile, as we traversed southern Oregon. Eventually OR 140 dropped south into Nevada at the Sheldon Antelope National Refuge. Southern Oregon and northern Nevada contain a lot of wide open spaces!
At Denio Junction, NV 140 veered south, until it intersected with US 95, and this highway eventually transported us to the interchange with Interstate 80 at Winnemucca, NV. Prior to our trip we marked Elko, NV as our Wednesday night lodging destination, but Winnemucca seemed to be a large enough town to offer chain accommodations for the night. Elko was a larger city, and we stayed there seventeen years ago, when we returned from a trip to California to visit friends in Fresno. Jane and I remembered the presence of a significant Basque community, and we anxiously anticipated some Basque cooking. For these reasons we drove on and took a pass on the inviting environs of Winnemucca.
When we stopped in Winnemucca for fuel, we switched positions, and I became the driver while Jane navigated. Part of navigation duty was researching lodging in Elko, NV. We were in for a surprise. Jane checked all the major chains that we favor, and each one signaled no vacancy. Elko is one of a limited number of stay over cities, as travelers cross northern Nevada, but full hotels on June 5 was hard to comprehend. Finally she called the Comfort Inn, and the recipient of the call referred Jane to the Scottish Inn. Given the dearth of options, Jane immediately connected with the front desk person and reserved a room at the independently operated Scottish Inn.
Two hours later we arrived at the Scottish Inn and checked into room number 26. We were happy to have a bed, but the accommodations could be described as barely passable. It is ironic that we felt this way after sleeping in a tent for seven nights!
By now it was 8PM, so we quickly jumped back in the car to search for some tasty lamb prepared as a Basque specialty dish. This was my dream meal. The Star Hotel advertised Basque cooking, so we quickly found it on the corner of W. Silver St. and S. 3rd St. A parking space was not readily visible, so I turned right on a side street hoping to find parking. We passed three or four brothels, and Jane’s desire for Basque cuisine from the Star Hotel faded.
I executed a U-turn, and we returned to Silver and found Luciano’s, an Italian restaurant directly across the street from a public parking lot. Given our hungry state and level of frustration, we jumped on the Luciano’s option for dinner. When we walked through the door, we were overwhelmed by the loud din of voices and the number of patrons swarming the small restaurant. Because we were only two, we were seated immediately next to a wall and next to a large table of ten.
It was not long before the waitress approached our table to take drink orders, and I asked her why Luciano’s and Elko were so crowded, and we discovered that our visit coincided with a week long mining expo. We endured a similar situation several years ago, as we passed through Des Moines, IA during a pork convention. Never take lodging reservations in any U.S. city for granted.