It all started with two friends taking a road trip along Highway 50 four years ago. Their first stop was at Middlegate Station — an old Overland station used by the Pony Express — about 50 miles east of Fallon.
Larry Messina and Frank Smith continued their trip, stopping to visit bars in Austin and Eureka.
They had so much fun, they decided to visit as many bars in Nevada as they could.
“But we needed some kind of a purpose,” Messina said.
So they recruited friends Jim Kiernan and Bob Fredlund and traveled to every bar they could find north of Las Vegas, some closed, some barely operational, documenting them in photographs for their book, “Bars of Nevada, The Historical, Hysterical and Barely Standing.”
Taking two or three days at a time the Carson City foursome traveled to some of Nevada’s hidden corners, looking for a drink and a good story. And, usually, they found both.
“A lot of hardscrabble types are out there running these places,” Kiernan said. “The gentleman that was running the place out in Jiggs had some great stories.”
Fredlund said Jarbidge stood out to him for its landscape.
“The tundra of the country was wonderful,” he said. “The washed out roads, and trying to forge new roads ... we really got a feel for the Western life.”
Along the way, they said, they met all kinds of people. They were rescued by an elderly woman driving an International Scout who found them lost on a dead-end dirt road trying to find a shortcut to Tybo. The woman who owned the bar in Midas had also written a book about the history of the town, and shared it with them.
“You could tell the second we walked into these places that we didn’t belong,” Smith said. “But we never had a problem. We got along everywhere.”
In some places, they didn’t see any people at all. And that was OK, Fredlund said.
“The bars were the binding agent to go out and see Nevada,” he said.
They counted up the wildlife they saw to include wild horses and burros, bighorn sheep and all sorts of livestock.
Finding hours of operation for some establishments proved impossible, as they were dependant on hunters passing through and other caveats.
They visited Indian Maggie’s in Belmont more than once, but could never find it open.
They also found some unexpected gems, like the old sign from the now defunct Lucky Spur in Carson City. It now stands at the Lucky Spur in Kingston.
The book features photographs of the bars and a brief history of the towns they’re in. While most people when they look at the book tell their own stories of visiting the different bars, Smith said, it may also serve as a kind of historical record.
“Rural Nevada is going away,” he said. “In another 10 years, a large percentage of the bars won’t be open. You wonder how some of them have stayed open this long.”