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“Reno is so close to hell, you can see Sparks”

— Anonymous

Reno is your last great chance to stock the larder and o.d. on civilization before you step into the desert. Gas, food, and love are the cheapest money can buy here in NuVada. This area was the last "fun" stop for the Donner Party who headed west and into cannibalism. Make this your last stop heading east into... into... into what you choose to do in the desert - with the exception of dining on "long pig."

Here is a bare bones (local) guide to ancient Reno - before Planet Hollywood, gated townhouse colonies, and "resort" casinos. This is a guide to Reno's soul kitchen.

(The following word/map is based on the statistical assumption that you are one of the +70% of those whose pilgrimage rolls east on I-80 to the Playa.)

Feed the Rolling Stock (a.k.a. gas stations)

First feed the buggy. The two cheapest places for fuel bracket the Reno/Sparks oasis. First sign of civilization east of Truckee will be Gold Ranch (Exit 2) and their cash-only cheap gas/food/no lodging.

(When you get off the I-80 there, Circus, Circus Oasis has a free coffee and tourist info building right there. Fuel up on some caffeine for the ride through Reno.

At the opposite end of town is the Alamo Truck Stop (Exit 20, right to the light, left on Greg, it is on your left). This is the cheapest gas in the entire area but bring a book. The line at this last Sparks stop is a bit much at certain times of day.

There are three gas stations at the Vista Blvd. Exit, but the Rock Blvd. Exit is usually cheaper. There are no gas stations near the Sparks Blvd. Exit.

Albertson's is also off the Keystone Exit. They are VERY Burner friendly. Pallets of water and goodies can also be found here.

Two huge gas stations, McDonalds, two little markets, and Del Taco are all north off the Vista Exit. South off the Vista Exit is Alamo.

Food, Hardware and Other Useful Gear

Two solid choices here and they are as American as G Dubbyah Bush: K-Mart and WalMart. Both are open twenty-four hours to slake the most insomnia driven consumer lust. Selection and prices? Oh, you know the drill with these MegaMarts. WalMart is the best choice because it is situated in the same parking lot with THE cheapest place for groceries from Sacramento to Salt Lake - WINCO. Even you coupon shoppers will like the prices. WINCO is also open 24/7. Sharing the parking lot with WalMart means that you can bed down for the night in the lot, too. This is a Winnebago-friendly zone.

K-mart is off West McCarran Blvd. (Exit 11). Stay to the right and take the ramp on the right which button hooks towards the Big K.

WalMart is off I-395. Stay on I-80 until you pass the casinos. Get over the right and take 395 North/Susanville (Exit 15). Second exit up is Clearacre/McCarran (Exit 70). Take the McCarran side on the right and Walmart is left at the light, tucked between McCarran and 395.

Reno has been blessed with a Trader Joe's, packed to the rafter with pre-fab gourmet delicacies suitable for transporting to the playa. Trader Joe's is located off of 395 South at the S. McCarran exit. Get off the freeway, go left on S. Virginia, under the freeway overpass, and left again on South McCarran. At the first light, make a left into the Smithridge Shopping Center.

For those who prefer a less-than-monolithic corporate shopping experience, hit Raley's Supermarket. This has been a long-time stopping point for Burners heading east. Last year they even stocked dry ice just for us. Raley's is located off the Keystone exit. Make a left off the freeway, then a left onto W. 7th Street. Raley's is on the far right-hand corner.

For two hits in one lot, try this combo: hardware and clothing.

Savers Reno is thrift shop heaven and Savers is at the top of the heap if for no other reason then it is housed in an old supermarket. This means huge selections of clothes, pots and pans, etc. It might be a decent place to score a cheap bicycle, providing it hasn't been cleaned out already. It's not the Diggers Free Store but it's as close as you'll find on the way to the Playa.

Eagle Hardware shares a lot with Savers.

Get off I-80 at Susanville/Carson City (Exit 15) heading north on 395. Take the first exit, Oddie Blvd (Exit 69). Go right. At the second light, Mall Drive, turn light into the parking lot. Dead ahead is Eagle Hardware. Cut right at the stop sign for Savers.

The coolest place for hard goods is Twin City Surplus. Locals call it "The Red Barn." We're talking real live Army/Navy store. Loads of surplus goodies, new gear like tents and packs, rope by the foot or the mile of every type (even climbing stuff): it's all here. You need fifty yards of camo-netting for shade? This is your place. As far as camping gear goes, Twin City is to WalMart what your local videophile movie rental store is to McMegaVideo. It's worth the side trip just to wander around the joint. Get off at the Victorian Av./4th Street Exit, take a right and 0.7 mile up on your right you will find the big red Quonset hut.


The casino buffet is a ubiquitous feature in every joint. If you can stand the noise (slots, crowds, etc.), you can pack down enough chow to keep you going through Day One at Black Rock City. Fight the urge to bring in 10 gallon baggies and fill them with shrimp. Those casino boys have no sense of humor, unless you have a credit line of $100K with them in which case, they will pack the shrimp in ice and carry it to your vehicle. Food quality is pretty good and the price is right considering the all-you-can-eat deal. Carnivores, lacto-oviods, and vegans will all find enough food to keep them smiling all the way to the gate of Black Rock City. Just don't play the games. They will feed you like a king because they expect you to drop a bucket or two of quarters on you way out. The best places in town to feed your face buffet-style are Atlantis located on South Virginia several miles past down, and John Ascuaga's Nugget. They ain't the cheapest, but worth the extra money, for sure!

John Ascuaga's Nugget (Nugget Blvd. Exit 17 in Sparks) features the Awful Awful which is a good deal but a bit tough on the gastro-intestinal tract of everyone but the most hearty trencherman. This is a cholesterol belly bomb, and Reno tradition, that would drive Homer Simpson to go macro-biotic! It's delicious!

Cal-Neva (2nd and Virginia) has a deal for you red-blooded American types: a hot dog and a Heineken for $1.50. Do the math on this one. With a little creativity, you can feed an entire family for under ten bucks and be so sloshed that you'll need a designated driver for your rig. GOD BLESS AMERICA! Speaking of getting hooched up...

Deux Gros Nez ("Two Big Noses" in French), owned by Tim Healion, features reasonably priced good food, great coffee and is open until midnight. A bit harder to find if you don't know Reno it's at 249 California Ave. (California and Liberty). Heading south on Virginia, take a right onto California. It's three blocks up on your right.

Pneumatic Diner is like Deux Gros Nez but has a more Ally McBeal feel to it. The food leans to veggie which fits right in with the smoke-free vibe. Another one off the beaten path, southbound on Virginia Street, right on First Street to 501 W. First St.

Beto's does the best Mex this side of the Rio Grande. Get your tacos done with beef, pork, chicken, goat, or brain. Goat soup (minus the head) is on the menu for Rolling Stones fans. Combo plates are $4.00! Cheap and perfect -- this place is the real deal. Take the Keystone Exit 12 to the first light - make a left on 5th street and its four blocks up on the left. The place is tiny so be careful not to miss it!

Louis' Basque Corner is nationally known for their great Basque fare. Dine family style (long tables, benches, everyone sits together, big bowls of pass around food) and eat like a monarch. Turn left on 4th off Virginia and Louis' is three blocks up on the corner.

China Diner will sling you some late-night Chinese at 275 West St.


Zephyr Bar: The Blue Lamp is no more but in its place has arisen The Zephyr. It is bigger the Blue Lamp (so is my van) and it is right on Virginia Street so you don't have to go looking. Open from 2 PM until "Two, Four, sometimes Six AM depending on the band and the crowd," according the bartender. You'll find local hipsters, the college crowd, slumming execs, and an occasional Hells Angel (We have our own chapter here - credibility at last!) in the crowd so it's a great mix. Monday nights is open mike - poetry at 10 PM with music following. Bring your poesy and your favorite ax and jam till the wee hours! The decor makes you feel like you are already at Burning Man! Dig? (Bonus trivia: the Zephyr is owned by Todd Englert, former owner of the Mission District's Albion. Old timers will recognize the painting of the pool players hanging to the right of the bar....)


If you want to rent an RV, do not wait until the last minute! With the size of Burning Man and the size of Reno's RV rental avails... well, you do the math! If it's late in May, you may be too late already. See the RV page for starters.

A Real Bunk for One More Night

Why are you staying in town when the Playa is calling your name less then two hours east of here? Keep moving!

If you insist on staying over, there are no cheap rooms over the Labor Day holiday or any other holiday for that matter. Little motels are not necessarily any cheaper then the big casino towers.

Easiest place to stay is John Ascuaga's Nugget in Sparks (Rock/Nugget Exit 17 - take Nugget Avenue branch and bear left). It is the last big place before the desert and it has a pool/jacuzzi area with a sliding glass roof. The Oyster Bar does a great Pan Roast plus, there are four other restaurants including the ever-present buffet. Spend the night, swim and jacuz, stuff yourself at the buffet breakfast, and head for the Playa. The Nugget is out of the downtown core so if you are wheeling a big rig, this is the place for you. They just built a new freeway on ramp so you can get back on the road without making any creative turns in tourist traffic.

Wherever you stay, remember this is the last big blast of summer so book a room early if possible.

Hootchy-Cootchie Dancers

What! You need to see breast now? You're only two hours from Black Rock City, horn dog! If you must here are some addresses. You can find them on your own, consider it foreplay.

The most convenient is the Wild Orchid, just south of downtown Reno on Virginia at California. For other bumps and grinds: The Men's Club is at 270 Lake Street downtown, Fantasy Girls, 1095 East Fourth, and the Spice House is at 310 Spokane (off of E. 4th, past Wells Avenue).

Mustang Ranch is closed due to the Feds. Joe Conforte (King of the Ranch) is still on the run from the law but his nephew (and local Hells Angels Prez) operates The Old Bridge Ranch which is located 200 yards south of the old Mustang Ranch and (you guessed it) across a little old bridge! Nice to see a family tradition carried on, eh? If you must get your apple polished pre-BRC, take Exit 23 take a right and have at it, cowboy!

Hippie Supplies

The Melting Pot: Need incense, charcoal cakes, a sari, a drum, digeridoo, finger cymbals, body oils, or a nose ring? Stop by The Melting Pot (888 South Virginia - Hours: Mon-Sat 10AM-7PM, Sun 11AM-6PM). This is THE place in town to "Burning Man Up Your Act!" The staff is great and they are fellow Burners!

Camp Gear

WARC is a non-profit that serves people with developmental disabilities in the Reno area. They own and operate 4 thrift stores. Their Pyramid Store is right on (right on!) the way. They have been collecting bikes, camping gear and other sundries for our pleasure. Here's the deets: WARC Thrift Stores (All profits from the stores benefit programs for people with developmental disabilities in Reno). Locations: 406 Pyramid Way, Sparks 790 Sutro Street, Reno 570 Gentry Way, Reno 201 Keystone, Reno. Open 7 days/week: Mon-Sat 9 a.m. - 5:45 p.m. Sun 10 a.m. - 4:45 p.m.

Goin' Straight – The Reno Tour:

No, not that "Goin' straight!" Here we are talking about going in a straight line. If you don't know Reno (and who really does?) then why not just follow this straight line and make a tour of it?

Zero out your trip odometer as you are getting off I-80 and the numbers here in parenthesis will show you distance from the freeway.

  1. Get off I-80 on Virginia Street heading south (right turn).

  2. Once under the Reno Arch, it's only a block to the Cal-Neva (0.8 on your left).

  3. Cross the Truckee River, and three blocks up is The Wild Orchid (1.2 on your right).

  4. Two more blocks and the Melting Pot appears (1.4 on the left).

  5. Another block or two and it's The Zephyr Bar (1.6 on the left). Across from the Zephyr is Romantic Sensations where you can stock up on all the "Exotic Bootery" and "Risque Apparel" you need to make your Burning Man Nights sexational!

  6. At the next light is the Blue Heron (1.7 on your right).
    Between #1 and #6 you can get pierced, tattooed, and clad in bondage gear at various locations which are all on the right (west) side of Virginia - interesting feng shui.

  7. Make two lefts and you are on Center Street which will take you right back to I-80! Beered out, tummy filled, properly shod/clad/drummed/oiled/stimulated you are now ready to Burn!

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