Tuesday, July 7, 2009


Nevada is the 36th state of the union, being admitted in 1864 by Lincoln partially as a way to secure enough votes to win his second election. When drawing up the borders of Nevada, congressmen of the day followed a strict process--if the land was ugly, it went to Nevada. Otherwise, it was allocated to one of the surrounding states (for example, Utah or California).

This process is apparent when driving I-80 through that miserable place of death. Almost immediately upon entering the state from California you leave the land of milk and honey and get lost somewhere in the Sahara1. You're welcomed into this circle of hell with a sign of a cowboy, evidence that the heyday of Nevada occurred sometime in the 1800s. The fact that people stopped paying attention to Nevada circa 1887 is evident by its insistence on touting the mining and cowboy culture, which only now exist in small pockets. However, Nevadans, like their Texan brethren, have deluded themselves enough to think they are cowboys, and hence the plague of boots and wide-brimmed hats. In truth, most residents of Nevada are currently involved in the state's main industry: escaping California's taxes.

The architecture of the second largest city, Reno, follows the design of the ancient boundary setters. Just like the field of dreams, if you build it in Reno, it will be ugly. It's a bad sign when even your casinos are hideous. Actually, that's a little unfair. There are some decent houses in Reno, and they were all built and are now currently owned by tax-evading Californians.

Outside of Reno, the scenery goes from ugly to ugly, where you find yourself driving through the "Great Basin", which is entirely populated by unnamed mountain ranges. True to form, in the old tradition of let no native exist on decent land, we somehow forced several tribes to live in reservations out there in complete desolation. So if the ugliness doesn't get to you, let your repressed guilt kick in as you journey through misery.

The sole attraction in mid-northern Nevada is the initials of the town of Battle Mountain chalked into a hill. I don't know if that's actually a joke, or just a hilarious inadvertent truth.

All is not rotten in the state of Nevada. Even with the implosion of the world's economy, they have enough money to reconstruct the entirety of I-80. At the same time. Refugee orange traffic barrels line the freeway, probably all on their way to California. This is likely to produce a new sort of crisis in the Golden State, as there are more traffic barrels in Nevada than atoms in the known universe.

Speaking of atoms, a Nevadan traveler will have a hard time empathizing with those who don't want nuclear waste stored in Yucca Mountain. I mean, the state is pretty ugly. There's not a whole lot you'd ruin. Could we find a better location for the waste? And no, Canada is not an option.

Arriving at Wendover, and looking out over the beautiful salt flats, you will grow a bit wistful for the great desert you left behind. Time spent in the wilderness of Nevada is time spent with the divine, because there truly is no other living thing out there2.

Believe me3. I looked4.

1. That's not entirely correct, as the Sahara can be beautiful with its waves of perfect sand dunes, whereas Nevada is just brown mountains covered in sagebrush, the state flower/tree/bush/living thing.
2. This is obviously a lie for dramatic effect. There were several horses and cows, which I mooed at. I mean, I mooed at the cows. You don't moo at horses. You whinny.
3. More of a joke, given the brazen lie that the statement is. There are several people living in Nevada. Tens. Possibly dozens.
4. I'm suddenly stricken by guilt for so mercilessly insulting the state. It's not THAT bad. There is some green on the drive, and the drivers I encountered were courteous and respectful, and aside from the kid who (forcefully and seriously) claimed they once found a catfish the size of a Volkswagen New Beetle at the bottom of Lake Mead, I've never met a Nevadan I didn't like.


drfindley said...

Here's how you can make your footnotes more awesome:

See also:

Chris said...

Are you aware that Battle Mountain was named the Armpit of America by Washington Post column Gene Weingarten (a high school acquaintance of mine draws the illustrations for his column)? The article is Why not the worst?

I even stopped there because of that column.

chris said...

okay, so chris, that article was amazing. I'm deeply saddened I did not stop and take the same pic.

and adam, bless you for that.