DeVos: Making tracks to Reno |

DeVos: Making tracks to Reno

Jon DeVos
Staff Photo |

In 1927, Reno started calling itself the “Biggest Little City in the World.” Then they backed it up by passing the most liberal divorce laws in the land. Residency requirements became a mere Hollywood-style vacation for six weeks.

Gambling was legalized in March of 1931. If you’d ever gambled on love in the moonlight and lost, you could wait at the blackjack table while the pain healed. By May of that year there were so many divorce-seekers flooding Reno that tent camps were set up along the Truckee River to handle hotel overflow. Reno courts were processing 3,000 divorces a year. And just when life couldn’t get better, Prohibition ended.

Reno had it all. Easy divorce, gambling and legal booze. What more could any red-blooded American wish for? Well, gamble and gambol sound alike, don’t they?

Prostitution has been an unspoken fact of Nevada life since the mining days of the late 1800s. Today this vice/crime/abuse/blessing is totally legal in 14 mostly northern rural counties around Reno. Even in Las Vegas, where it is not legal, first-time charges of solicitation usually carry no bigger penalty than a stern look and a quick fine. Las Vegas phone books have over 100 pages of “Escort Services,” which sort of tells you what they really think.

But it was none-of-the-above that lured my wife and I aboard the Fraser Amtrak to Reno. My wife bowled in the 2015 Women’s National tournament in Reno last week. Her bowling ensemble has no pockets. I was along to carry the wallet.

The train trip was fabulous and relaxing, sitting like pod people observing the passing scenery as it unfolds before you like museum dioramas. It’s an interesting tour of the backsides of towns along the way. But the Amtrak service and the food were good, it ran reasonably on time and you did not have to abide a groping TSA pervert.

In Reno, my wife has her favorite stores. One is Junkee’s, famous for its recycled antiques and accessories. She can browse there for hours past the point where my inner child is kicking and screaming on the floor.

“Well,” I said in a voice brimming with innocence, “why don’t I drop you off there and then I’d like to run back to that flower shop we passed.”

“Why would you want to go to a flower sh . . . I didn’t see any flower shop.”

“It was just back a few blocks,” I said, “orchids and stuff.”

“Hmm,” she said, “I did see it, Wild Orchid Gentleman’s Club I think. Sure, I’ll shop for a few hours while you go sniff flowers. One thing before you go?”

“Sure, what’s that?”

“Give me all your cash, credit cards and car keys.”

There are lots of peculiar folks lurching around Reno, many of them in that narrow corridor between a psychotic meltdown and an alcoholic episode. Mostly harmless and seemingly extremely happy, they were just off in some parallel universe where they had not yet invented the showerhead.

We’d barely sat down in our compartment for the return trip when my wife jumped up and started wildly slapping her pockets, “Call my phone, I dropped it somewhere!” she shouted, leaping from the momentarily departing train. I could see the future.

A woman answers, “Hi there,” I say, “you must have found my wife’s phone.”

“Honey, I sure did. I hope you don’t mind if I made a few calls.”

“Uh, calls?” Who to?”

“Just a few friends. And one to your bank. It was in her contacts. The personal information tucked in the case helped me verify her ID. I’ll give your phone to an Amtrak uniform. Ask the conductor for it and thanks for visiting Reno.”

Thankfully, it turned out my prediction was wrong and the phone returned uneventfully.

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