Just ahead

In the end, 2012 came and went. Nothing happened. In fact, it was kinda boring. In the final analysis, the end of the Mayan calendar simply meant that those folks had miscalculated. Big time. What did we expect? I mean, these were people who had a fetish for cutting out hearts, fercrissake.

So Reno toiled on. By the year 2020, the city had shrunk significantly, what with the slow, inexorable contraction of the gambling industry. There were still a few hotel casinos, and some big ones, but the glory days were long gone, exalted in coffee table books that breathlessly relived the good times of the ’50s and ’60s ad nauseum. Generally, though, the city was hangin’ in there, mainly because of the excellence of its geographical location. More and more, Reno was a nice, ordinary, small city, just like hundreds of others in America. Nothing much special about it, now that every state in the Union had dozens of casinos (even Utah!).

That all changed in 2026. That was the year Dr. Mickey Tork, a young scientist at the Desert Research Institute, discovered, quite accidentally, that a certain resin found on the branches of sagebrush appeared to be lethal to the herpes virus. In fact, it became very quickly obvious during the first few tests on humans that Dr. Tork had found a bonafide cure for the disease, which now afflicted 2 billion people worldwide.

It didn’t take long for giant processing labs to be built on the outskirts of Reno. While Oregon, Idaho and Wyoming tried to cash in on this discovery, as well, all three being states richly endowed with sagebrush, it was found that the plants growing in Northern Nevada had the highest and most potent concentration of the anti-herpes resin. So the big pharmaceutical companies placed most of their facilities—huge suckers—in the Reno area. For us, this turned out to be the next Big Jackpot.

For the next seven years, until 2033, this unexpected and wonderfully positive development brought on a serious upswing of growth in Washoe County. People had jobs and money. The good times, almost unbelievably, were back. Just like that.

And then, Yellowstone blew up. Geologists had known for quite some time that the West was due to suffer another eruption of the Yellowstone supervolcano; it was Reno’s bad luck that the northwest corner of Wyoming exploded into space just as our new boom was boomin’. And that accursed northeast wind that settled in over the Yellowstone area during the weeks after the eruption was also rather unlucky. As a result, Reno and Sparks disappeared, buried under 185 feet of harsh, hostile volcanic debris. All that remained were the forlorn, isolated tops of our tallest buildings. A truly sad and spooky scene.

One day, the city that was Reno may again see the sun. Maybe. But it’s gonna be awhile.