Last week I was too focused on completing the final requirements for my MBA to write any new blog posts.
To start things off this week, I thought I’d post a piece I wrote a year ago for my college class newsletter. The newsletter editor invited me to submit a piece telling my classmates more about my life in Nevada.
I used it as an opportunity to speak to those who think there’s not much in Nevada except Las Vegas and Sagebrush. It’s actually timely for me this week, too, because 12 years ago this week, I became a resident of Nevada. I’ve illustrated the text with some photos I’ve taken in various areas in the state.
First things first: it’s Nev-a-da, not Ne-vah–da. The name is Spanish for snow-covered, but the pronunciation is Americanized, just like the communities named Verdi (Ver-dye) and Genoa (Ge-Noah).
Second, a word about scope: Washoe County, where Reno is located, is larger than the state of Connecticut. Clark County, home of Las Vegas, is slightly smaller than the state of New Jersey. Google maps calculates the driving distance from Reno to Las Vegas as 438 miles, (the same as the driving distance between Washington, DC and Boston, MA). Needless to say, the two places are very different, and they represent just two parts of Nevada. Remove Washoe and Clark Counties and the area of the remainder of the state is slightly smaller than Oregon, but with a population less than 2/3 that of Wyoming.
Third: If you’ve driven across or flown over Nevada, you probably think of the state as a vast, empty sea of sagebrush and brown and dusty deserts with few trees. In reality, when you get off the highway and into the fabric of things, you discover that the wild areas (and the more than 300 mountain ranges) are surprisingly diverse, and as unexpectedly fascinating as the state itself. Nevada is paradoxically one of the states with the lowest population density and it is also one of the most urbanized states in the country.
Las Vegas is opulence and glitz, The Strip, but also the sprawling city beyond the casinos, shows, shops, restaurants, and people aggressively distributing flyers on the street: it’s hot traffic jams, countless developments (built and unbuilt), Red Rock Canyon and Mount Charleston, with Lake Mead and Hoover Dam a bit further afield.
The Reno-Tahoe area includes not just Reno and Sparks, but also the Nevada side of Lake Tahoe, Carson City, the state capital, and to the east, the historic mining town of Virginia City. Reno is old Victorians, river-front mansions, 20s and 30s era bungalows, and suburban-style neighborhoods dating from the post-war years through the present day. Reno was Las Vegas before Las Vegas, but since most of the gaming action has moved elsewhere, the city now markets itself as a destination for outdoor recreation and the arts, as a university town and a place for tech companies seeking a location. It’s the Truckee River, Lake Tahoe, hiking, biking, winter sports, and sunshine. It’s Artown, summer concerts on the river, an international chamber music festival, farm-to-table restaurants, cafes, microbreweries, balloon races, and classic cars.
And then there’s rural Nevada: vast and mountainous, with a rough and unforgiving climate, but an astoundingly sensitive environment. It’s a land of miners, engineers, geologists, ranchers, hunters, cowboys, poets, picon punch, the Paiute, the Shoshone, outdoor adventures, and best-laid-plans gone awry: ghost towns, and the playas of lakes dried up either by geologic time or by diverted water streams. It’s wild mustangs, elk and big-horn sheep, Cui–ui, wildflowers, petroglyphs, solar and geothermal, copper, silver, gold, remarkable sunsets, and solitude amidst broad vistas with cloudless, deep blue skies.