Roll the Dice and Quack Your Luck

Nevada - Virginia City, Reno and Carson City

With David Backman and Kathleen Donohue


Rising from the arid flatlands of the desert, nestled by the high, snowy Sierra Nevadas to the West, the Silver State of Nevada calls to explorers and gamblers across the country. NOT spent some time visiting the cities off the beaten path.

Virginia City

Once a stopping point before the mountains on the way to California, Virginia City's fate was irrevocably changed in 1859 with the discovery of the Comstock Lode of silver, which saw the city's population boom from a quiet 4,000 to nearly 25,000 overnight.

Comstock Lode

The Comstock Lode was the first major discovery of Silver in the United States and came a decade after the start of the gold rush in California. Silver was considered at the time to be as valuable as gold, and most of the mine's output was purchased by the U.S. government for the purpose of minting coins. 

Virginia City Gold Cart

And when you have an influx of people chasing a mining dream, you need to start to develop services to help house, clothe and keep the burgeoning population.

But you also need ways to entertain these same miners, and more importantly separate them from their hard mined money, and that gave rise to the gambling halls on C Street. Among them was the gaming tables of the Delta Saloon, famous for betting on the cards, especially in the game of Faro.

Delta Saloon Cards


Fortunes were won and lost over these tables, which brought elation and depression, as well as thoughts (and actions) of suicide. So much so that the gaming table in the Delta became known as the Suicide Table.

Suicide Table


In the years of the first half of the twentieth century, the gambling capital of the United States was in the so called "Biggest Little City in the World" - Reno. Reno was THE destination for well heeled gamblers looking to increase their luck and fortunes, until the rise of Las Vegas to the south eclipsed the city.

Reno Sign

Gamblers are a known superstitious lot, looking for any additional chance of luck. Fitzgerald's Nevada Club even wanted to entice gamblers for luck by displaying a piece of the fabled Blarney Stone, only this piece was to be rubbed for luck, unlike the parent stone in Ireland which, when kissed, supposedly grants the gift of gab upon the kisser.

Blarney Stone in Reno

The luck granted may be questioned, however, since Fitzgerald's did not survive and like other casinos in the city, closed over the years. Another piece of the stone also entices rubbers for luck in Las Vegas.

Reno brought other people different luck. Levi Strauss made Blue Jeans famous but the idea of a riveted pant made from sturdy cotton for work first were invented by Jacob Davis in his tailor shop in Reno in 1871.

Reno Jeans

Success was sought to be woven into the genes of the city.

Carson City

In 1864, Nevada was admitted into the Union as the 36th state. Broken off of the Utah territory and formed into it's own territory in 1861, the territory was quickly admitted and the capital established in Carson City, near the silver fields around the Comstock Lode. In order to get to the business of governance, in the 1870's the state authorized and built a state capitol building to house the legislature and state government. Expanded in the early 20th century to include larger legislative wings and the state library, the building continues to serve the citizens of the state today.

Nevada Capitol Building

Nevada Capitol Duck Closeup

While reserved for the governor, NOT was not above trying out the parking spot for size.

Governor's Parking

To celebrate the state's sesquicentennial, a time capsule was buried on the grounds in 2014 to be opened as part of the state's bicentennial 50 years hence.

Nevada Time Capsule

NOT tried to use his psychic powers to peer inside to see what was hidden for the future to find, but nothing came to him. then he remembered that he felt that psychics were quacks.

Heading back to California, the crew needed to cross the Sierra Nevadas. The highway runs across the Euer Saddle at 7,240 feet elevation. It is better known as the Donner Summit, a wider, gentler way through the mountains than the nearby Donner Pass. Despite the location, NOT didn't feel too peckish, and everyone there made it home alive.

Donner Summit



North American Travel United States Travel Nevada Travel

Photos courtesy of David Backman
Last Updated 2017