On down the road

A lot of people travel in a style that I think of as classical, meaning they travel in a way that's much like the way a classical composer like Brahms would write a piece of music. Every note is in place, every instrument plotted, every movement arranged. “On the 17th, we'll be here. On the 20th, we'll be here. On the 22nd, we'll be having lunch here.” That's fine and dandy. I've traveled that way, and it certainly has its benefits.

But my natural travel style is much more jazzy. Instead of tripping like Schubert, I'll mosey like Dizzy. That is, I'll hop in the car and head out of town, not knowing exactly where I'll end up that night. Or tomorrow. Four days from now? Your guess is as good as mine.

Which is how I recently found myself in Belmont, Nev. I'd started out with my trailer, intending to get to Convict Lake, a gorgeous place just south of Mammoth on 395. But I started thinking about all those 'Fornians from Victorville and Ridgecrest who were hankerin' to beat the heat just like me, which resulted in visions of a jam-packed campground. Too much humanity.

So when I got to Carson, I jazzed. I headed east instead of south, turning left on 50, then right on 95A, then over to Hawthorne and then, by late that afternoon, I was on my way to good ole Belmont, about 50 miles northeast of Tonopah.

There was one joint open in this well-kept “ghost town,” a saloon called Dirty Dick's. How could I not go in? The locals were already hangin'—Donnie, Carl, Jimmy and Stretch, all being cared for by the friendly and perfectly bearded barkeep, Fly. In Dirty Dick's the one available imported beer was Coors, since it had been shipped in all the way from Colorado. Pop me one, Fly.

As I sat and listened to these gents tell the tales of their day, which were mainly about (1) tractors, (2) cattle, or (3) stuff, it struck me—there are guys in Denmark and Rhode Island that would pay good money to be here in this bar right now. Real good money. Between listenin' to these fellas and admiring the classic paintings on the wall of stunning hookers, I realized that I had stumbled into a genuine rural jackpot of sorts at this perfect little roadhouse.

At 5, Jan and Jack rolled in, bearing a pan of pizza. Oh really? Jan laid it on a table. “Here ya go, ya slobs,” she announced. “Nevada style pizza, fresh out of the oven.” She explained it was a three-meat combo—antelope, elk and venison, topped with jalapeno slices. I just about fell off the stool. Antelope, elk and deer pizza? “Oh yeah,” she boasted, “and I shot the antelope and the deer. Jack got the elk.”

That pizza was so goddamn good it wasn't funny. After my second piece I was thinkin' I'd done real good with my Belmont improv. And then Betsy showed up with her chicken taquitos.