Why Wouldn’t You Go to Reno?!

10.58pm, Tuesday 16th March, La Quinta Hotel LAX, Los Angeles, CA
Hi folks, I couldn’t get the wi fi thing to hook up this morning at the airport, and I had the same problem here tonight until I investigated a few boxes on the “find wireless networks” page. It said, “check to see if the wireless switch was on”. Well, where is the wireless switch? I looked under and along the sides of the computer and switched everything to the opposite spot and eventually found it. Must have slid closed when I was putting it in and out of the case at security this morning. See, I keep learning new stuff!!

I want to catch you up with the weekend trip to Reno, then tomorrow morning I will have a lovely write up of my day today in Orange County with Kevin ‘the gun operator’ Butler, plus … mission more or less accomplished with respect to my USA quest for this trip!

So, here’s what I wrote on the plane this morning:

Saturday 13th & Sunday 14th March

Del McCoury: bluegrass royalty

I took the train called the California Zephyr from San Francisco up through the Sierra Nevadas to Reno, then it tracks further east and north east through Utah, across the Rockies and up to Chicago. There has been some serious snowfalls in the Sierras of late so this was why I chose the train. It flies through market gardens and orchards on the plains, then climbs up into the mountains – slowly winding through old gold rush towns, then barely crawls through the snow drifts across the tops, literally clinging to the sides of canyons where it’s a 2000 foot drop to the American River below. Then it’s downhill through snowfields and past high lakes to Truckee, more snow, and on into Reno. Quick check in to the hotel in Sparks where the Del McCoury Band – stellar bluegrass players – were at the Showroom.

Now Del is bluegrass royalty, a member of the Grand Ole Opry and a living legend. There he was on stage with a full head of silver hair in a very Johnny Cash / Elvis crossover look (check the picture) hitting those pure harmonies with the lads in the band every single time. Too good to be true. After the show, I bought the new CD from Mrs McCoury (she handles the money!) and caught up with Del for a yarn.

The must-do sign

Then it was off downtown for the must-do photo of the Reno sign. Then into the old Nugget right next door and down the back to the old ‘open 24 hours’ diner – home of the Awful Awful burger. Picture a half pound slab of beef pattie with cheese, lettuce and tomato on a soft onion bun, perched on a one pound (500 grams) stack of string fries in a basket, and that’s what we’re talking about! They’ve been serving these things up at all hours for the past 50 years, and the story goes that it got its name “because it’s Awfully big and awfully good!”. I got through four bites and a handful of fries before waving the white flag. But it was good!

The next morning the train was due to leave Reno at 8.26am, and they changed the clocks forward an hour for daylight saving, so I set the alarm not wanting to miss the thing, and was down at the station bright and early. Only to find that due to severe winter weather further east, the train was delayed by at least three hours! No worries, walked back to the Old Nugget diner for breakfast. I’d seen the “Famous Hangover Omelet” listed on the menu the night before.

Now this is serious.

Need I say more?

It’s a four egg omelet, stuffed with the Nugget’s own Special Chilli Grande, smothered with cheese and salsa … served with hash browns, toast, and a complimentary ‘Nugget Bucket’ of Bloody Mary. All this for $8.40! Can’t go wrong.

There are 10 stools at the kitchen counter in the diner, so I sat in with the crew of the “weekend fun train” that was due to head back to San Francisco that morning. I ordered the omelet and was staggered to see the mound of food that was delivered on a plate the size of a small baking tray. I took a photo with the coffee cup for perspective! I couldn’t make much more than a one-inch dent into this behemoth of a breakfast … but do not fear, it did not go to waste. I boxed it all up and gave it to the homeless lady who was being treated to breakfast by the train crew. So do not miss a meal at the Nugget Diner if you’re ever in Reno. It’s old school, the coffee is good and a bottomless cup to boot, and the conversation is always interesting.

Finally got on the train just to have another two-hour delay in Truckee where they hitched up a Union Pacific freight engine because one of the Amtrak ones blew something major – and we wouldn’t have made it up the mountain. So being so late, we got to see the sunset on the California Zephyr heading into the Golden Gate City, and I finally fell into bed late Sunday night.

As for Reno, I can’t understand why it’s not booming! It’s like a little Las Vegas 20 years ago only it sits at the foot of snowcap mountains. You can ski today, play golf tomorrow, and ALWAYS get an Awful Awful burger or a Hangover Omelet. Why wouldn’t you go?

3 responses to “Why Wouldn’t You Go to Reno?!

  1. yalumbastories

    Jane, I rode the Zephyr one summer. Gorgeous views beyond words! And Reno was fun too. Somehow, I missed the Awful Awful burger. Life doesn’t seem complete now. Tony B

  2. Wow….these stories are wonderful and I want to be on that train with you! It’s like you are living all those movies of my childhood…..but not the awful awful!

  3. I’m going to deliberately get a hangover next time I’m in Reno so I can try that omelette!

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