Click for larger imageToday:  a room that opens into a casino, a brothel, a train, a prison and an escape route.

If you are tired of the impersonal hotel towers of Las Vegas or Reno, then point your car to Ely, Nevada.  The lovely Copper Queen Casino offers rooms which open directly onto the casino floor.  Whether you prefer the upper balcony, with views of the pool, bingo caller and snack bar, or the lower floor where you can step directly from your room to a slot machine, the Queen has a place for you.  An entire mobile home park was slaughtered for the fake Click for larger imagewood paneling used to furnish the casino. 

Having enjoyed a Sunday morning breakfast buffet at the Copper Queen Casino complete with French toast sticks, we wandered out into greater Ely.  Once a mining town, Ely now relies primarily on tourism and prisons to keep the city alive. And…prostitutes.

Meandering through the backstreets of Ely, we stumbled across the Stardust Ranch.  MUNI Guy thought it might be a bar, but the low slung building in back and the sign in the window told otherwise.  Turning around, we realized we were on a street of brothels, although the remaining houses of happiness seemed to be in somewhat more questionable condition.
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While the sex trade held up one corner of the town, the largest tourist attraction is the Nevada Northern Railway.  For three hundred dollars, you can take control of a diesel locomotive; five hundred fifty buys you two hours at the throttle of a steam engine (which I understand may be the approximate fee for the same amount of time at Stardust Ranch, although steam is extra).  If the prices for driving are too steep, daily passenger trains take you on a tour of the surrounding hills for a much lower fee.  I don’t think the Stardust Ranch offers such discount tours.

Click for larger imageI conned MUNI Guy into walking through the machine shop, engine house, down rows of aging cars and past lines of rusting locomotives.  Then, having convinced him that driving a locomotive would be fun; we climbed aboard a 1952 R-3 and headed out on the mainline.  Two hours later he seemed to agree, although it is early enough in our dating relationship that he may still pretend to tolerate my train fetish. 

The train ride over, we went in search of the Ely Prison – Nevada’s other boom industry.  Short on convicts of its own, Nevada leases beds to other states.  From a police perspective, Ely is a great place for a prison.  Even if you did escape, there isn’t anywhere to go.  This didn’t stop the authorities from placing a sign at the front gate for fleeing prisoners.
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And now, back in our room after a dip in the Copper Queen Casino pool, we’re plotting whether to eat at the Jailhouse Steakhouse or the Double Wok Chinese/Japanese Restaurant.  Tomorrow, Salt Lake City…

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