“On the road again…” Without fail I sing that out loud when I put the 4-Runner in drive with the Airstream in tow. This trip, Ralph was spared (left behind to continue shaping young minds at COCC), but I had Raven by my side as I embarked on a long-ish journey through the Southwest.
Among other activities, I was researching the lesser-known fossil dig sites of the West for a magazine article. My first order of business was to study up on the geology of Nevada. First stop, Reno…and the nearby Nevada State Museum in Carson City.
Despite the terrible online reviews, I overnighted at the Silver Sage RV Park in Reno. While it’s no magical oasis (and, admittedly, it is located in a fairly sketchy part of town), the sparse Silver Sage is perfectly clean(ish), perfectly safe, (inside locked gates), and perfectly situated (directly across the street from the Peppermill and the stiff Oceano bar martinis). My RV neighbors—the ones that appeared in daylight—seemed like friendly young vagabonds.
The Nevada State Museum houses an assortment of rocks n’ fossils and displays several dense, boring placards bearing the history of The Dawn of Life (precambrian eon to the cenozoic era). The Bones of Interest include a fabulous Imperial Mammoth—found in the Black Rock Desert many years before Burning Man—and an Ice Age horse discovered at Pyramid Lake, posed dramatically against a fiery landscape.
Alas, the massive mammoth is a cast made from the original bones. This ruins it for me. I inquired about the location of the real mammoth, but the character stationed at the front desk was cagey with his answer. (“In storage around here somewhere,” he hedged.)
Other exhibits at the museum include stuffed area wildlife, the ubiquitous firearms display, a replica ghost town, and an intriguing fake mine shaft in the basement (uncomfortable going for those taller than five-foot-six).
It’s no surprise that a museum in the Silver State dedicates a lot of real estate to the process of coining—from the Comstock Lode mines, to the mills, to the mint. The “old half” of the museum is actually housed in the old Carson mint, where the first coin (a Seated Liberty Dollar) was struck in 1870.
Numismatists will love the cool coin collection and "Coin Press #1"—which today still strikes medallions at the rate of six per minute. (Buy a blank in the museum store and watch it pressed on the historic machine on the last Friday of the month.)
The museum is easy to find, right on Carson street in the middle of the old casino section across from the ancient Nugget. Explore the residential section behind the museum and you’ll stumble upon the neoclassical Governor’s mansion. I’m told Sandoval actually lives there. I hung around for a few minutes hoping to catch a glimpse of him coming out in his bathrobe for the Sunday paper, but no joy.