We are traveling back to Beatty, Nevada, for six weeks. I have a residency as Workspace artist at the Goldwell Open Air Art Museum; Jer has comfy quarters in the Goldwell House in the town of Beatty.
Travel, in October, we assumed would be relatively easy — rain, maybe, but too early for snow. The Honda was filled to the brim, of course, since Beatty, population 1, 154, has no art supply store.
Beatty has one grocery, two gas stations (if you include the Casino), 4 motels, and the Goldwell House. Four miles outside of Beatty is the Red Barn, where the Goldwell Foundation has studios for artists, at the head of the Amargosa Desert. That’s were we were headed, 220 miles south of Reno, 110 miles north of Las Vegas, and straight south of eastern-most Oregon.
The trip started out with rain (of course). The Cascades had snow dumped on them, so we opted for traveling east on the Columbia Gorge Highway (Interstate 80) which had both phenomenal cloud formations and marvelous green and gold forest to feed the eye.
We dropped south to Prineville at Biggs Junction and spent the night. Then we moseyed on down to Burns/Hines, where I fought with my computer and Jer did Wikipedia work. We slept well, and when I awoke with some good cheer the next morning (Thursday), Jer said, “we have a situation.” In my sleep befogged brain I was clueless about “situations,” general or specific, until he opened the curtains:
We both had learned to drive in the Pennsylvania snow and had lived in Wyoming for some years, but living in Portland for close to twenty years has a) made our traction devices unnecessary (the old chains don’t work on the Honda and b) made us older, wiser, and much more cautious. However, the snow looked to be lightening,the forecast not so bad and we traveled on southeast, along the edge of the Alvord desert and the Malheur Wildlife Refuge, down into the basin and range country of northern Nevada. It was slightly disorienting, although the highway was always oriented, even with tads of ground blizzards. We could only sort of make out the desert ranges that skirted each side of the highway. The fog/clouds/snow storms through which we traveled made the travel unreal and a bit magical. It was particularly magical because no real disaster or even anxiety occurred. The Honda hugged the roads, which were generally not slippery. And the bit of snow cover added some frisson to our travels.
No real danger ensued. Once we dropped out of the last pass down into Winnemucca the skies started to clear and we could feel the weight of the wet atmospher lift. But there were moments, when only the road gave us orientation.
If you are curious, we were in the quarter of Oregon which is, like the snow, mostly white — few roads,no towns, no hamlets, few crossroads, no gas stations, no national forests, no highway patrol or warning about ice signs — just blanks with highway lines overlaid– but not absent — space. It’s the southeastern corner of the state — not even a Herein Lie Dragons warning:
At the end of the day, Winnemucca appeared along the Humboldt River, our motel was as expected, and we went off to an unexpected pleasure at a Basque Restaurant at the Winnemucca Hotel, a funky old bar and family-style eatery along the river in what must be old town Winnemucca.
The dinner was worth the ride, the snow, the slight anxiety, and the shock of entering an empty bar (great back bar of mahogany) with no one there but the grouchy bartender, who announced that we couldn’t have dinner for 15 minutes ( at 6:15 PM). I ordered a Bud out of solidarity with the proletariat, found wine on the table, and a marvelous meal culminating in the best steak I have ever eaten. I’m only sorry they don’t serve breakfast, although I’m not sure I could deal with a Bud at breakfast.
It’s the Winnemucca Hotel on Bridge Street a bit off the strip of Winnemucca I-80, and definitely worth it, even to the point of drinking Bud beer. Some things, alas, don’t change. But some do, and having friends who can find a treasure like this is one of them. Thanks Joan and Skip. –-June
Oh, and I wasn’t even tempted to paint during this trip. I’m still trying to see the desert without imposing my Green Willamette Valleyeyes.