Hunkered down in thick jackets, fleece, sweatshirts and even blankets, thousands of Carson City residents braved frigid January wind Monday to watch the Olympic Flame pass through the capital.
"It's a piece of the world coming through our neck of the woods," said Tim Suchsland, 16, of Carson City.
The flame arrived in Carson City at 8 a.m., about 15 minutes late because of strong winds that also forced the flame to travel inside a van between Douglas County and Carson City rather than in a Chevy Avalanche designed to allow the flame to travel exposed.
Mark D'Amico, the first Carson City torchbearer, arrived in a caravan of cars and runners to find a crowd around 100 chilled but excited revelers who had arrived on Clearview Drive as early as 7:30 a.m.
Torch in hand, D'Amico pumped his fists in the air and waved his torch before it was lit, to the cheers of the crowd. An above-the-knee amputee, D'Amico ran his portion of the relay with part of the ebullient crowd following behind him.
"What an experience," he said. "This not only represents America, but the world. The world comes together during the Olympics. It was a blessed experience, one I'll cherish for the rest of my life."
On Fairview Drive, Susan Forman of Carson City and daughters Michelle, 10, and twins Lindsey and Megan, 11, huddled against a wall waiting for the torch to pass. Several hundred people lined Fairview and South Carson Street, waving American and Olympic flags.
"It's really uplifting, this time of year, especially with all we've been through," Susan Forman said. "It has more meaning this year. We need something uplifting."
To the girls' excitement, torchbearer Barron Lauderbaugh passed by for their first view of an Olympic torch.
"I just really wanted to see it," Michelle Forman said.
"I've never seen it before, just on TV," Lindsey Forman said. "It was fun but cold."
At the end of the relay, the girls got to hold the torch of Lynn Haller of Fernley. Haller, 14, said carrying the torch was "one of the best feelings in the world.
"I was kind of nervous. I didn't know what to do," she said. "It was a good kind of nervous. It was so cool."
The high winds did cause the flame to go out a couple of times, but Mark Walker, torch relay spokesman, said a backup flame from Olympia, Greece, is always on hand to protect the integrity of the flame.
When the flame went out on Rick Riley, of Washoe Valley, all he could think was, "Great, here it is all the way from Greece, and I let it go out."
"I was not the only one," he noted.
"The people involved in this are so inspiring," he added. "It was just a neat experience to be there with all the people who had been chosen."
At the Governor's Mansion on Mountain Street, about 200 cheered as Nicole Williams passed by. It was like a parade that was over too quickly, said Carson resident Gary Dalen, who came with his wife, Jaye.
"This is as close as we'll get to the Olympics," she said.
Lauderbaugh, of Carson City, found himself a celebrity by the time he reached the torch's morning break at the Carson City Community Center, posing for photos with his torch and even signing his first autograph.
"My heart is still in my throat," he said. "It was like running on air. I can't get rid of the smile. It will be here for another six months."
Greg and Erin Lehman brought their three small children, Caden, 5, Lindy, 4, and Brynn, 1, to the Community Center to see the torch.
"This is bringing out everyone's patriotism and pride," Erin Lehman said. "It's diving into everyone's hearts."
Alicia Blake, 8, of Carson City, perhaps summed up best why so many turned out to see the torch Monday.
"Because that was a once-in-a-lifetime deal," she said. "It was really cool."
In ancient times, the Olympic games were held in honor of Zeus, the king of gods, and in his honor, a flame was lit to mark the beginning of the games and extinguished to mark their end.
The 2002 Winter Olympic torch has traveled over 8,000 miles of its 11,500 mile journey. It continued to Reno and Sparks Monday and from there was taken by train to Oregon. The torch will reach the the Salt Lake Olympic Stadium on Feb. 8. The games end Feb. 26.