Slightly Off Center: Burning Man again?

By Dennis Hinkamp

I just wanted to give my 21st annual report confirming that Burning Man is still boring. I don’t know why I keep going back; it must be the excitement of those 42 600-mile-trips across Nevada that can’t compare to the relative blandness of Black Rock City and its now 70,000 citizens. Let me take you there, east to west, from Logan.

First stop is Snowville, your last stop on the Utah side. Snowville offers two gas stations and two cafes. You pretty much have to stop there for gas because the next pump is 110 miles away in Montello, Nevada.

Montello features two bars, an inconvenience store and a rail stop. If you can get past your indifference and look a couple blocks north, you will see one of the most eclectic handbuilt outsider art houses this side of Thunder Mountain in Imlay, Nevada (I will get to that later.) The owner has no phone or internet and asked me not to direct too much attention his way, though I doubt this column will cause people to flock there. You should also see the Montello version of the tomb of the Unknown Soldier. It is an interesting history of 10 soldiers who died of the 1918 flu pandemic. They were on a World War I troop train and their records burned before they could be identified.

By the time you make it to Wells, you will need gas because you were too cheap to spend an extra dollar a gallon in Montello. There are two giant truck stop options. There are also two legal brothels. Don’t miss the small but thorough Immigrant Trail Museum. More recent lore states that lots of famous people stopped here on driving trips to Sun Valley, Idaho. There are some sun-scorched remains of bars that look like they could have been hot spots in the ‘40s. Take a side trip to the ghost town of Metropolis.

Next up is Elko. The town actually appears to be prosperous, more from gold mining than gambling. It has a Smith’s, Walmart and Home Depot. The motel rooms are cheaper than Winnemucca so I often stay there. I stop at the Coffee Mug for dinner Cowboy Joe is the sort of independent coffee roaster that would fit into any trendy downtown.

Further west is Winnemucca, which is worth a giggle just for the name. The liquor store people are super-friendly. Plan your visit for dinnertime if you have time for a multi-course Basque banquet at the Martin Hotel. I can’t say much more about the town other than they have a friendly, efficient InstaCare staff; it’s long story but if you must know, Google Dennis Hinkamp/Burning Man/clown.

The next curiosity is Thunder Mountain in Imlay, Nevada. A spooky place falling into decay, it’s the epitome of outsider art.

Your last stop should be Lovelock, which also has a giggly sort of name. There is a small shrine there where you can take a padlock, attach it to a fence and I guess throw away the key and lock your love there. The prison is famous for having housed OJ Simpson, not for killing anyone but for trying to get back stolen OJ memorabilia. I used to wave when I passed, but he is now free. Lovelock is the county seat of the county in which Burning Man takes place. They have a friendly efficient court system, which I had to visit several times. (see Winnemucca paragraph).

The rest of the trip is downhill from Lovelock to Fernley to Gerlach to that temporary city in the Black Rock Desert where you can rest comfortably knowing that the best part of the trip is behind you.

Dennis Hinkamp is always open to column ideas but he reserves the right to ignore them.

This article was originally published on September 28, 2018.