The Big Bonanza

Nestled in the Virginia Range above Reno, the small old-west town of Virginia City, Nevada is the “birthplace” of Mark Twain, origin of the psychedelic “San Francisco Sound”, and the site of the Comstock Lode, known around here as the Big Bonanza. In our solar system, the Big Bonanza has to be the planet Jupiter, which is two-and-a-half times larger than the other seven planets combined.

Subaru on Grade Small_tonemapped

Jupiter the size of a Subaru orbiting the Legacy Dome (from Geiger Grade)

With the 180-foot diameter Legacy Dome as the sun, still visible on the distant horizon, Jupiter would be about 18 feet in diameter, and orbit 19 miles from downtown Reno. This would make Jupiter about the size of our trusty Subaru, with an orbit reaching out to the Virginia City National Historic Landmark, the largest federally designated historical district in America.

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Virginia City from the top of Mount Davidson

Virginia City made history in 1859, with the first major silver discovery in the United States. Christened the Comstock Lode, the vast deposits of silver ore extracted from the hard rock mines turned this patch of rocky sagebrush into the richest city in America. The shiny treasure aided the Union cause in the American Civil War, built much of pre-earthquake San Francisco, helped gain Nevada its statehood, and gave us our sterling nickname of the Silver State.

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Mark Twain working on a deadline

In the rush for silver, Samuel Clemens, born in the state of Missouri, arrived in Nevada in 1861 as an unknown journalist apprentice, and was hired as the newspaper editor for the influential Virginia City Territorial Enterprise. By 1863, he had made a name for himself, and began using the moniker Mark Twain at the end of his satirical and controversial editorials. A year later, with his faithful audience of readers in tow, he left Nevada destined for world-wide celebrity and fame.

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The Red Dog Saloon, downtown Virginia City

One hundred years after Mark Twain left town, a group of folk musicians calling themselves the Charlatans came to Virginia City to play a six week stint at the Red Dog Saloon. Dressed as wild-west gunslingers and tripping on LSD, they took to the old-timey frontier stage, and played a new brand of electrified psychedelic rock, that was to become known as “The San Francisco Sound”. Hanging like birth certificates, posters and memorabilia inside the Red Dog record the history of the Charlatans, later performances by Janis Joplin and The Grateful Dead, and the dawn of the 1960s counterculture movement.

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Psychedelic surface of Jupiter (photo credit: NASA)

Like the effusive liquid projection of a psychedelic concert light show, images of Jupiter reveal the planet’s stormy bands of flowing gas. Although a long way from Virginia City and the Comstock Lode, the massive size of distant Jupiter qualifies it as our solar system’s Big Bonanza.

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Our Red Dog and her Big Bonanza belly

6 thoughts on “The Big Bonanza

  1. Another great piece, with some fascinating history and trivia. I really enjoy it when I stop by your blog and see that you have a new post, because I know that I’m going to discover something I didn’t even know about…

    Liked by 1 person

  2. The image of your Subaru really puts into perspective the size of Jupiter! I visited Virginia City several years ago on our way to or from Tahoe but I didn’t remember the connection with Mark Twain/Samuel Clemens. Thanks for the history lesson – and that gorgeous picture of Jupiter!

    Liked by 1 person

    • Hi Janis, We were in Tahoe this weekend for a concert, and will finish up our Legacy Dome series next week from the lake. Thank you for the wonderful comments!


    • Thanks Brick, Clemens lived an interesting life, but Twain took it to the next level. Neither was ever at a loss for words, nor afraid to speak and write what was on their mind.

      Liked by 1 person

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