The Lift To Reno — And Code Word For Mustang Ranch.

The Whoa Nellie Deli was teeming with business, cash registers ringing, cooks shouting numbers and a line to order. It was my third night ordering and I felt local, part of the crew. And now, we were in a bind. We needed to get Jeremiah’s bike on a truck headed to Reno and I looked forward to crossing Tioga Pass into Yosemite.
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So with my baby back ribs, I asked for a little help.

“Do you know anybody with a pick up or a trailer who’d like to earn some extra money taking my friend and his bike to Reno?” I asked the 20 something cashier. I explained our situation and then the word was out.

Licking the bbq sauce from my fingers and dirtying up several napkins while Jeremiah chowed on his thick steak, we had several visitors at our table inquiring about our dilemma. One ambitious and enterprising employee of the Whoa Nellie Deli was a true problem solver. Brendon works as a cashier at both the Mobil Station and the deli. In his early thirties with a slight paunch and an easy smile, he moonlights as a fishing guide in the summer and alpine ski instructor at Mammoth in the winter. Sincere and eager, he wanted to help Jeremiah. And he wanted the money. Though his truck was fitted with a cap over the bed, he was negotiating with one of his fellow workers, a hispanic guy in the kitchen. He was going to borrow the truck, pay the kitchen worker $100 and take Jeremiah early in the morning—to be back in time for his shift starting at 11am. The price? $200 plus gas.

“Would you like to go tonight? he asked. “I have to go to the airport,” he explained, “it would be much more convenient if we could go after work.” I’m not sure if it was the lure of another windy night in his tent at Mono Vista or just nostalgia, but Jeremiah wanted to leave in the morning.

Even after Brendan agreed to the early morning run to Reno, Jeremiah balked, reasoning that he’d find another offer more suitable and perhaps cheaper. “We’ll let you know,” Jeremiah expressed his uncertainty. But in a town with a population of just a few hundred, I suggested he not hedge his bets. Meanwhile, our enterprising driver was making calls.

By the time Brendan returned, I’d convinced Jeremiah to take him up on the deal. However, Brendan raised the price to $300 plus gas. He called the local AAA and got a quote to take a bike to Reno: $500+

Feeling he shoulda closed the deal earlier, Jeremiah was pissed. Too expensive, he reasoned.

“If you want to go tonight, I’ll do it for $200,” Brendan offered. “We have to go anyway.” That’s all it took to convince Jeremiah. An hour later we were loading El Viento into the back of a pickup and tying his baby down.

They got to Reno at 1:30am. The next morning before climbing the pass to Yosemite, I chatted with the crew at Whoa Nellie Deli while getting a good dose of protein from a massive breakfast burrito. After explaining the events the night before, chef owner Matt Toomey laughed.

“They had to go where?” he asked me a third time.

“The airport,” I explained, “that’s why they gave Jeremiah a better price if they left last night.”

“You know what the airport is, Allan?” Matt asked, his cheeks burning red and eyes wide as he laughed and shared the story with the kitchen workers, “they were going to Mustang Ranch!” For those of you who don’t know, Mustang Ranch was Nevada’s first licensed brothel in the only state in the USA where prostitution is both legal—and regulated.

The next morning Jeremiah waited until the doors of Sierra BMW were open for business. Jeremiah’s e-mail explains what happened to his bike:

I got the bike into Sierra’s service shop at 9AM on Thu. They’ve been very accommodating. I took everything apart. The water pump impeller/gasket and seals are fine (hence no oil/water mixing), but the impeller’s gears (2, plastic) were completely stripped. This means the engine was unable to turn the impeller and push water to the radiator.

The thermostat failure and the failure of these gears could be related–or not. In 30 years working for BMW service, they’ve never seen this happen, but aren’t surprised. They said they rarely see an F650 with 62,000 miles, and attribute this primarily to normal wear and tear as opposed to a special event. The Death Valley heat may have accelerated the inevitable, but who’s to know?

Stockton has the parts. They were ordered just in time on Thu, so they should show today, Fri. So, with any luck I’ll be back in business today. We had to drop the oil and coolant to get into the water pump, so I’ll be changing both here, at the dealer instead of in a parking lot. I’m also going to change the water pump impeller/seals with the spares I’ve been carrying, so everything is renewed. This is going to be expensive.

This should be a lesson for you too, as you have a lot of miles. A water pump rebuild should be done to Doc asap.

I bid one last farewell to Matt and the crew at Whoa Nellie Deli, and headed up Tioga Pass, at some 9943 feet, it’s California’s highest mountain pass.

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1 reply
  1. Johnha123
    Johnha123 says:

    This is a very informative article. I am glad to have discovered your blog. I will definitely promote this blog among my circle of friends Last minute travel


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