An unusually light breeze uncommon for early January swept across the Loneliest Highway in America east of the Lahontan Valley.
A swirl of dust headed toward one of the old, wooden buildings that houses a motel at the Middlegate Station, a popular grill and watering hole almost midway between Fallon and Austin visitors say serves the best hamburgers this side of the Sierra Nevada mountain range.
For owner Fredda Stevenson and her husband, Russ, Middlegate Station is one of those last standing historical remnants of Americana where visitors learn history by traveling to the popular stop rather than reading it. The Stevensons bought Middlegate almost 30 years ago, but Freda Stevenson said the last few years have been tough to keep the business open, especially when they must rely on used or rebuilt generators to run the electricity.
Compound that with the Stevensons caring for their son, David, who has terminal brain cancer, life has become a challenge. On Saturday at 5 p.m., though, Middlegate Statin is having a fundraiser to help pay medical expenses for David and to assist the Stevenson with the extensive repairs performed on three generators including the $300–a-day rent they recently had to pay on another generator for six weeks.
“We’re still paying for repairs on a generator, and we bought a generator. Then we had to put a rebuilt one on the credit card,” the silver-haired Stevenson said, adding Russ and she had to travel twice to Arizona to buy all the parts.
During the summer, Fredda Stevenson said Middlegate does a booming business, so they can use the extra money to help them through the slow months. Now, with that money gone for generator repairs, Stevenson said their funds have dwindled.
“The repairs took all the money,” she said. “We have little resources for the winter.”
The Stevensons, however, have applied for about 10 federal and state energy grants and been denied each time. Stevenson said the reasons have varied, ranging from someone else received the grant to Middlegate Station falling out of NV Energy’s service area.
Each denial seems to drive a stake through her heart, but she remains positive.
Although the fortunes of Middlegate Station have been less than ideal, Stevenson tries to stay upbeat every day by taking care of David. Several months ago, the Stevensons brought their son home to provide Hospice care.
“He’s starting to feel better,” she said. “In a few months we have given him some quality of life.”
If David’s health stabilizes, she hopes the family can travel in a few months to a rock show in Arizona.
For now, though, Stevenson is looking forward to the fundraiser that’s being hosted by the Nowhere Nevada cast, crew and bands.
Nowhere Nevada Movie is rounding people up to attend the event through its Facebook page:
“As many of you may remember, Middlegate Station was incredibly hospitable and helpful in the making of our movie. We spent eight days out there shooting it, both in and around Middlegate Station, and it’s absolutely a blast every time.”
Stevenson said some of the stars from the movie will attend the fundraiser and a pot-luck dinner.
“I am also making some of my famous chili and cornbread,” Stevenson said, adding there will be plenty to eat. “There is no charge but a donation jar will be present.”
Other events may include comedians, a pool tournament, burger challenge, bingo, raffle prizes and drink specials.
Stevenson said she has her fingers crossed the fundraiser would be successful to help David and to save Middlegate, which was a Pony Express stop and station in 1860.
“I would hate to close it because it’s one of the last places left on the highway,” Stevenson said. “I would like to preserve our history because so much of it has gone away.”
Stevenson, who said her family and Middlegate mean so much to her, said she “swallowed her pride” when others stepped in to help, but Middlegate has been her life since 1984.
“I have made a lot of friends out here,” she reminisced. “For every enemy, I have made a thousand friends. I love people, or I wouldn’t be in a business like this. Ninety-nine percent of the people who come here have been great.”
Stevenson said Middlegate belongs to the visitors who yearn for a piece of history.
“It’s homey … that’s the way it is, dusty around the edges, but that’s Middlegate,” she said. “It’s part of America. We tell kids about history but by bringing them here, we let them see for themselves.”