Friday, June 17, 2016

Getaway to Virginia City

Next year will be my 30 year anniversary for living in Sacramento. During that time it took me over 20 years before I ever went to the Crocker Museum or Sutter's Fort. Now I love and appreciate them. I've yet to visit Chico. Recently I did get to check off one weekend getaway - Virginia City.

Now we have Old Sacramento, Placerville, Nevada City, and Jackson as nearby pioneer/mining towns that have kept their historic main streets, but nothing compares to Virginia City!

Virginia City is in the Sierra mountains a half hour past Reno. Most people my age think of it as where the Cartrights from the Bonanza TV show would go into town. It's full of history and, these days, events. The two it's most known for are the Rocky Mountain Oyster Fry in March and the camel races in September.

Virginia City sits at 6,200 feet on the side of Mount Davidson. The views from there are spectacular, making the town very picturesque. Virginia City was a mining “boomtown” with more than $400 million in gold and silver mined. That’s more than $20 billion dollars in today's money. During it's heyday, there were over 100 saloons for a population of only 25,000! Mark Twain originated here when Samuel Clemens took it as his pen name at the local paper. 

There are many things to do in Virginia City. While we did quite a few during the day, there's plenty more for a return visit.

We started out visiting the pioneer cemetary. Apparently it was actually 13 cemetaries that all occupy the same hill. Picture those western movies where everyone trudges out to cemetary hill. That's what this cemetary perfectly represents. It's on a hill opposite the city and there are many plots surrounded by wrought iron or wooden fencing. It has quite a few wooden tombstones left as well. 

We then ventured to the main street where there are many touristy shops and candy stores but also a large number of saloons. Back in the day it was about one saloon to every 32 people! Keep in mind that the place was full of miners. Just like for our California Gold Rush, these miners were from all over the world trying to make money to send back to their families. Much of the money never left the city as it was quickly gobbled up by the saloons, brothels, and gambling. 

We stopped in a number of saloons. Some were small, others large. One, the Delta I believe, is again what one thinks of from western movies. It had the staircase leading up to the rooms above and you could just picture some madam or prostitutes coming down the stairs.

The Ponderosa Saloon has one of the two underground mine tours. We decided to pay the $7 to check it out. It doesn't go too far in, maybe 50 yards, but it still gives you a sense of what it was like to work in such cramped corners and in the dark. At one point they turned out the light and you have never experienced total blackness as you do in a mine! It was very interesting learning about the mining techniques and how arduous the work was.

We also checked out the Firemen's Museum because it had many Victorian era fire trucks. Virginia City had many fires, but the Great Fire occurred in 1875 and wiped out one square mile of the town, leaving over 2,000 people instantly homeless. There were many interesting artifacts inside including a rope net used to catch people jumping out of windows, just like you'd see in an old silent movie. The trucks ranged from old man-pumped to steam powered. The man-pumped truck had long bars and it would take about 15 men on each side of it to pump up and town. Quite a workout! 

We were told we had to stop at the Bucket of Blood Saloon and were glad we did. Every weekend David John and the Comstock Cowboys are playing from 2-6pm. Old time cowboys with electric guitars. And they're good! The place was hopping and it made a great stop to rest and listen to good music.

On a recommendation from a local we had dinner at the Del Rio Cafe, which is known for its fish tacos. They were definitely good, but their guacamole is a little odd in that it has vinegar versus lime juice. It worked well with the fish though.

There's still so much more to see and do in Virginia City that I look forward to going back and not taking about 30 years to do so. 

the view for 100 miles

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