Tuesday, August 12, 2008

Vacation Drive: Nevada

There's a certain rugged beauty to this state, or at least those portions visible from I-80. Ranges of mountains separated by the valleys. Desert scrub. In an austere way it's quite pretty. Often we drive through Nevada at night and in the winter, but this time we hit it in daylight going in both directions, and the contrast is quite vivid. A bit of snow on the ground and some moonlight can turn the landscape into something almost magical, but it was still impressive this time.

That being said, seeing the view is sometimes a problem thanks to the proliferation of billboards, mostly for casinos. Of all the states we drive through, Nevada has the most billboards by far. Based only on how many exist they must have no regulations controlling them at all, regardless of their location.

Sadly, if you are a non-smoker, you don't actually want to breathe in the state, particularly inside a building. As far as I can tell all residents of Nevada are required by law to smoke constantly, and the result is that I wind up holding my breath every time I go into a gas station. A while back someone told me that Nevada had passed a law making restaurants smoke free, but that the casinos had managed an exemption of some sort. Truth be told I don't know how that law has worked out. We almost never eat in a restaurant here, so I haven't got much direct experience with the smoking ban. I do know that breathing clean air in gas stations is just about impossible, and we've been in a "non-smoking" hotel room in Wendover where the cigarette smoke was pouring through the vent fan in the bathroom ceiling - from the floor above - making the night miserable. As I say, we try not to breathe much while we're here.

There are also some very strange looking people living here. Maybe this is what the west has become, as chaps and cowboy hats have become less and less useful the people of Nevada have taken dress and personal grooming to new lows. Or maybe it's just the residents I see along the I-80 corridor, and I shouldn't be making generalizations about the entire state. Whatever it is, I never seem to get across Nevada without encountering several people who look like they were recently released from prisons or mental institutions. None of them has ever been harmful as far as I know, but if I was only judging by appearances I'd find some way around Nevada rather than going through it.

In any event, Nevada is about 400 miles across along the I-80 corridor, and there are things to look at while you're there. Our outbound trip never stops in Nevada on the first day except for gas, so we just blow on through and keep moving. We try to do the same on the return trip, and that's just fine with us as we have no interest in gambling, which seems to be the only significant industry in the state other than mining.

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