By Mummy B.
During our road trip in Central Nevada, we stopped by in Austin, an almost-ghost-town where time seems to have stopped. We arrived in the middle of the night and enjoyed the following morning to tour this uncommon town.
In just a few hours we learned a lot about this place. Its glorious past was during the 19th century when a silver mine was discovered. Austin became for a while the second most important city in Nevada. Well, as you will see, this is not true anymore…
Abandonned castle, dry plains, signs of the past everywhere… Austin surprised us and was a perfect first step to visit this part of Nevada a little bit lost, forgotten and, for sure, off the beaten tracks.
Located on the heights of Austin, Stokes Castle is a stone tower which is above the Reese River Valley. It could have been the remains of an ancient and bigger castle but actually… not at all! Inspired by an italian medieval tower, Stokes Castle was built in the end of the 19th century by a rich railroad magnat and mine developer. The construction took less than a year and the whimsical man lived there for only two months.
It is one of the main points of interest in the area. Indeed it is listed in the National Register of Historic Places and represents a part of the historic heritage of Nevada. A State Historical Marker gives more explanation about the castle’s history.
The tower is nice and unusual, lone and surrounded by the wide open spaces of Nevada. But we also came for the nice view above the Toyabe National Forest. These landscapes of forest and dry plains all around made us feel like cut off of the rest of the world. We really enjoyed the silence of this early morning in an isolated place.
Austin is nowadays a small town and you can see almost everything of it walking along Main Street and some of the nearby streets. Located on the US-50 road (renowned as the Loneliest Road in America), the town has all the features of a stage city: gas stations and motels, diners, souvenirs shops.
But Austin doesn’t offer only these facilities. It is also a lovely place which can delight you with its authentic atmosphere.
Churches, buildings looking like movie sets, abandoned houses… and no one else around. This town is all about quietness, even with the pick-ups driving through Main Street and breaking the silence.
A few custom jewelry and souvenirs shops are selling local indian handicrafts and stones extracted from regional mines. Most of the items were not affordable enough for us, but these stores worth a visit at least to see all the available products. We specifically enjoyed ‘Little Bluebird Mine’ and ‘Gold in Quartz’.
Where to eat in Austin, NV?
After a wake-up snack at Stockes Castle, we decided to have a real American breakfast at the International Café… and by American breakfast, I mean one that you just can’t finish!
Once again, we haven’t met any tourist : there were only two regular customers at the bar and us!
Even if there is not a lot of restaurants in Austin, we picked this one on purpose. Indeed the International Café has, just like Stokes Castle, a State Historical Marker as it is the first commercial building of Austin. It is also the oldest hotel of Nevada which was first located in Virginia City and later moved from there to Austin by railroad.
We could visit the original bar, built in 1860, which was opening later that day. It was like travelling back in time to the saloons era.
Upstairs, the rooms are not rented anymore… especially because people say that it is haunted!
As we were talking with the waitress, we learned a bit more about the every day life for Austin inhabitants. This town is really isolated and there are no supermarkets or malls in the area. Actually, you need to drive to Fallon, almost a two hours drive, if you want to find shopping places. So helping each other seems to be essential for the community of Austin. Indeed, nobody seems to be driving to “the city” before asking if anyone needs something.
So here is a piece of advice if you were thinking of buying food for a picnic, medicines or camping equipment, clothes there (and so on…): don’t miss the last Target, Trader Joe’s, Wallmart, CVS or Wallgreens on your road (in Fallon, if you come from North California), because you won’t find anything like this in Austin!
Before leaving Austin, we knew we wouldn’t find any food store on our way. Indeed, as you will read it in the next article, we have been completely alone in the nature and we haven’t met anybody before Tonopah. So we decided to order sandwiches and drinks at Toyabe Café for the picnic.
The menu is large enough to satisfy any taste, the quantities are big ,as often in the USA, and the quality of food is good.
Where to sleep in Austin, NV?
We spent the night at Pony Canyon Motel. A typical name which matches perfectly with our idea of what a road trip off the beaten tracks should be!
We were just like in a movie : we only had to park in front of the door of our room! It reminded us a lot of memories from our honeymoon (a road trip in Western US in 2011).
Price was affordable: $54 for one night (and $10 fees for our dog).
The room was simple but quite comfortable. The owners were very flexible which is important when you hit the road and can’t plan exactly when you will arrive. We told them that we would arrive late at night and leave early in the morning. When we arrived, our key was on the office door waiting for us. We had already given our credit card number so we didn’t need to check out in the morning. We just left the $10 fee for the dog in the room and put the key on a specific box. And we never met anybody!
Our visit of Austin was lovely. It was a perfect place to start our weekend, far from the noise and the crowd of the cities of California. We needed this first morning to relax and take our time to enjoy these lonely and quiet days.