Thursday, May 30, 2013
DINING WITH NEW FRIENDS – THE HISTORIC MARTIN HOTEL
On the Cedarville, Burns, Winnemucca Tour
Sixth in a series…
Nevada exists, or so the wisecrack goes, to provide Interstate 80 something to cross at night. And Winnemucca is the halfway point. The late CSU, Chico Geography Professor David Lantis labeled such towns GEMs for Gas, Eats and Motel. Freeways across the west are dotted with these. Indeed, the moniker is what this gritty little city has devolved to. Sadly, its rich herding, mining and railroading heritage is viewed only by those not numbed by a perception of monotony along the I-80 corridor.
A good day in the saddle or seat ends between 3:00 and 4:00 PM. Lodging is secured – this time at the Best Western. A power nap followed by a quick shower reenergizes me to take a hike around wherever I am in order to work out the kinks and discover what’s what.
Winnemucca’s main drag (Winnemucca Boulevard, US 95) is as Dr. Lantis described with the addition of a couple of casinos and a Yamaha dealership. I walked past a string of both nationally and locally owned motels and nationally and locally owned eateries. I came to Bridge Street. Up this way seemed to rest the more vintage buildings in town. Most are home to antiques stores, county offices or vacant. To lengthen my stroll, I hiked along West Railroad Street parallel to the UP tracks figuring I’d take a look at the Amtrak station. We’d been through the previous summer on the Zephyr, but hitting town while snoozing around midnight, missed it. A spare but new brick waiting area, the facility looks more like a whistle stop than a full-fledged station.
Across from the depot, a wood frame building, certainly over 100 year old, stands. All parking in the immediate area was available. Had it not been for the various flags hung from the balcony, I’d have thought it was just another empty building.
Returning to the Best Western I informed travelling partner, John, that I might be on to something.
The Martin Hotel has earned a listing on the national register of historic places. No longer offering rooms, it does offer drinks to parched travelers and dining to both locals and those simply passing through: Basque family-style. “Basque Family Style”: that’s a redundancy right there.
A hour and a half after my discovery of this place we were seated with twelve soon-to-be good friends dining over course after course of freshly prepared soups, salads, baked beans and entrees served by a delightful wait staff.
A carafe of red wine is placed in front of us – rightfully – owing to the fact that wine is a staple. While dining on a luscious cream of mushroom soup, cloved roasted carrots, mashed potatoes, and (my choice) tiger prawns over linguine (the lamb shank certainly looked good!) the conversation began.
To my right dined an eighty-plus-year-old matriarch who, with family, was half way between home and a grandchild’s university graduation. Winnemucca would be their GEM this evening. Through banter she discovered my yen for motorcycle touring. The conversation came to life as she talked about Italy – including Stelvio Pass – Germany, France and England: all viewed from the seat of a BMW motorcycle with her late husband.
“Which model was it?” I asked. “The black one,” she replied. “We shipped it back and drove the thing all over the country before we got home…”
How her eyes danced at the thought of her husband and their journeys through the continent, the US and through life.
The historic Martin Hotel: I was glad I’d wandered off the main drag and found this gem among the GEMs.
Resource: Embedded in the history of Northern Nevada exists a subtle impact of the Basque people who grazed sheep and cattle in what appears to be a pretty unforgiving landscape. The Martin Hotel is touted as one of Nevada’s best Basque Restaurants. I can’t disagree. Their website: http://themartinhotel.com/
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