I’m writing this week’s column from the car en route to Las Vegas, the third leg of our honeymoon.
Before even getting engaged, I had agreed to go with my now husband (still not used to that word …) to the reunion of his Navy ship, the U.S.S. Okinawa LPH-3.
It just so happened it ended up being two weeks after our wedding, so we decided to take a week exploring Nevada, ending up in Las Vegas for the reunion this weekend. (Truth be told, it was more my idea. He offered to scrap the reunion for a more traditional honeymoon, but I thought this sounded more fun).
Our first adventure was to head east on Highway 50 to Austin. I grew up in Elko County so I know the eastern half of the state, and now the western half is home. But I haven’t really explored the central portion.
Austin offered a few places to stay and the visitors center did a good job of giving a description of each. We naturally settled on the Paradise Castle Ranch. It’s a bed and breakfast run by Donna Sossa in a castle her late husband built for her about 15 miles outside of Austin.
What the castle may lack in modern conveniences, it makes up for in charm. It comes complete with a knight in shining armor standing guard in the dining room. It even has a hidden room accessible by a secret passageway — but I’ll let Donna decide if she wants to let you in on the secret of where it is.
The first day, we checked in, toured the royal quarters, and went exploring. We drove through town and out Highway 50 then took a jaunt down a dirt road. We started down the road just as the sun was setting and the giant, golden moon was rising over the Toiyabe Mountains.
Oh, wait, before this, we’d taken a side trip down the dirt road south of the castle where we saw no less than a hundred antelope lazing around in an alfalfa field. I told Gary how I have good wildlife luck — I always see local animals in my travels. He said that’s not a thing.
Although he still doesn’t admit it, it became clear once again as we sunk into a watering trough filled with natural spring water at Spencer’s Hot Springs.
As darkness crept in, out of the stillness we heard movement.
I whispered to Gary, “Be very quiet, there’s donkeys coming up behind you.”
Like a ninja, he floated over to me, and we watched as a herd of nine wild burros and a baby slowly approached to drink in the pool beneath the tub we were soaking in.
Wary creatures, they kept their eyes trained on us as they sipped. We dropped low in the water, peering just over the edge of the trough at the animals. We barely breathed.
Still, the burros spooked easily and would dart off into the blackness, only to return cautiously. Off to our right, another herd lingered, but didn’t approach. They brayed back and forth with our donkeys. And two horses snorted just out of sight directly in front of us.
Gary whispered, “We could be on a beach somewhere, but instead we’re sitting in a horse trough in the middle of the desert surrounded by wild donkeys.”
We both agreed it was the better option.
After more than an hour we conceded the trough back to the animal kingdom and its unspoken rules. The heater of the car dried us off as we drove west back to our castle. The honey-colored moon shone overhead.
Teri Vance is a journalist, freelance writer and native Nevadan. Contact her with column ideas at email@example.com.