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mightymezzo73 in road_food

Sourdough Saloon, Beatty, Nevada

OK, if no one else is gonna, then I will.

In the summer of 1999 I headed out west with a graduate school classmate to do some geology field work in southern Nevada. Our field site was a lithified mud mound in the low hills above the tiny town of Beatty, Nevada. Instead of staying at one of Beatty's fine lodging establishments (basically a couple of casinos and low-rent motels catering to tourists sightseeing in Death Valley (some miles to the west) and on their way elsewhere from Las Vegas (115 miles to the south)), we camped at the foot of the mud mound in an area that was less a campsite and more of a "semi-level seasonal use cleared gravelly area." The only advantage to this location was that it was higher in elevation than Beatty itself and as such was slightly cooler, a decided advantage when one was sleeping in a tent in the desert in June. Other than that, it was definitely lacking in amenities. Namely, everything. No running water, no electricity, no grass, no trees, nothing. We stayed there for nine days. How did we ever survive? The answer lies within...

This is (as you can see) the Sourdough Saloon. Every afternoon around 4:00 (or sometimes earlier), my friend and I would descend from the mud mound after clambering around all day collecting samples, get into my car in a state of extreme dustiness and fatigue, and head into town. Our destination was this humble outpost.

The air conditioning was always on full blast and the beer was always cold. I learned that nothing tastes better after a long hot day working outdoors than an ice-cold Budweiser. We always sat at the bar and we always had pizza. Often we were the only ones in there and we passed the time talking to the bartender. After a few consecutive days we had already become regulars.

The interior of the place was cluttered with all manner of junk, but unlike the faux garage-sale/Grandma's attic decor of places like Friday's or Applebee's, this was the real thing. Decades' worth of random crap stuck to the walls, all of it with a story. The item we were most curious about was what appeared to be the front three feet or so of a Mercedes sedan. It was bright yellow and stuck out of the wall slightly above eye height. We asked the bartender about it. He explained that both Mercedes and BMW brought cars to the area every summer to endurance-test them in the brutal heat of Death Valley. Teams of automotive engineers from Germany stayed in Beatty since it was the closest town to the valley. Mercedes and BMW are bitter rivals, apparently. The Mercedes guys mounted this car's front end on the wall and rigged it with a device that would spray water via remote control onto an unsuspecting passerby. Say, someone from BMW. One afternoon we were in the bar as usual and a bunch of Germans came in and started fiddling around with the Mercedes. Sure enough, once they had settled down a safe distance away and tried to make themselves look inconspicuous, a person passed near the Mercedes and got a face full of water. The Germans roared with laughter.

My friend and I eventually moved on (after Beatty we went to Yosemite National Park) but I will never forget the time I spent there, especially the hours passed in the Sourdough Saloon.


I found that picture of the place on the Internet yesterday and waited as long as I could before I broke down and posted. I have a ton of stories but I don't want to monopolize the group...please, someone else post something!

October 2007

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