It’s Thursday morning. We meet in the motel lobby for the free breakfast. Gently microwaved cinnamon rolls. Bacon and biscuits. Yogurt and oranges. There are lots of people staying in the Holiday Inn Express in Winnemucca, Nevada.
We rolled in here last night late. There was a casino in the motel so we met there for a nightcap. It was not a rockin’ night in the Winnemucca Holiday Inn Express Casino. We all wasted a few dollars in the poker machines at the bar and got free margaritas as a result. Not a bad trade-off.
So now, breakfast behind us, Bob fills up the van while Glenn and I get text and video posted on this blog. Brian Butko has put up a few of our photos too on his amazing and valuable Lincoln Highway News site today, and that’s much appreciated. We are grateful for all the attention we’ve received there, as well as for Brian’s constant guidance through the pages in his book.
We set off about 10 am, continuing eastbound on I-80. The Nevada landscapes are amazing and ever changing. The mountains that you seem to be heading for suddenly shift to the right side of the car and you’re barrelling straight ahead on a flat and direct line to the horizon. There are more billboards here in Nevada, but there’s not a lot of civilization, so the billboards appear only as you approach the bigger towns.
Interstate travel may give you a few seconds off your trip, but you get none of the slice of life joys and local idiosyncracies that come from traveling a road like the Lincoln Highway that often went right through the center of towns. You might be delayed by lights and traffic but you just might encounter someone who will change your life. On the interstate, terrain is what you encounter, and out west, that’s a big thing for us Pennsylvanians, but it’s not as immediately engaging as talking to someone. And I notice that often folks in rest stops appreciate a bit of small talk to break up the day and the constant companionship or loneliness that they may be couped up with in their cars.
At one rest area, we talk for a moment with some folks going to a family reunion in Steamboat Springs, Colorado. One of the women has a PEEBLES Family Reunion 2004 T-shirt on, but she says they are headed now for a DeHuff reunion.
Interesting lunches are sometimes hard to find anywhere near an interstate. The interchanges seem to specialize in franchised fast food of the worst sort. But we’re talking about lunch and we see the signs for the upcoming Wells exit, and on the FOOD sign we notice Bella’s Diner. Hmm. That sounds interesting. A diner in north central Nevada?
We get off at the first Wells exit but don’t see Bella’s, so Bob keeps driving through the town which seems small but not abandoned, an old motel, some houses, a number of small businesses, enough to earn the place a pair of interchanges, and when we arrive at the eastern exit to Wells, we see Bella’s and we pull in. There’s a big case of baked goods when you walk in. Big iced cinbamon buns. Obviously fresh and homemade pies. Cookies. Great signs. Soup of the day (chicken noodle) posted on a dry erase board. Smiling cashier. Busy waitresses. “Sit anywhere you’d like.”
We start noticing the T-shirts and shot glasses and coffee mugs with saucy babes on them, and they all say Bella’s Gentlemen’s Club. There’s apparently more here than just your run of the mill greasy spoon.
The cheery, slim, young waitress behind the counter tells us they have a really good cook, and Bob asks what she likes here. “I like the bacon avocado cheeseburger,” she says. “I don’t think it’s on the menu but it’s really good.” We all three order the bacon avocado cheeseburger. Bob and Glenn start with the soup and I get some chili (also highly recommended by our waitress in her white undershirt that says WWF for World Wildlife Fund.)
I notice the curtains on the windows are all old aprons, and there’s a great view of snowcapped mountains out the side windows. People who go to chain fast food joints never find such places.
Then the food is as good as we’d hoped. These are the first burgers we’ve had since our first day on the trip when we stopped at the Steel Trolley Diner in Lisbon, Ohio, for a Lincoln Highway Burger. These bacon avocado cheeseburgers are MUCH better than those were. I think Glenn is falling in love with the waitress. Then, she suddenly packs up and gets ready to leave with two white plastic bags of goodies. “I have to go and bake,” she says. She’s the baker behind the goodies on and in the glass case! I’m impressed. Maybe I’m falling in love too. We find out after she goes that her name is Alicia.
It turns out to be a really wonderful lunch. Tasty. Memorable. Funny smart waitress. Good place. Good apple pie a la mode. Beautiful crust. The kind of surprise that makes travel valuable. We all read the Wall Street Journal article about Wells, Nevada, and Bella’s business here, and it makes me wish Wells were somewhere on the Lincoln Highway.