Hot and tired out from the heat of southern Nevada? Las Vegas lost its sparkle? RV air conditioning given up the ghost? Here’s a fairly fast cure: Point your RV’s nose north on the Great Basin Highway (US 93) and head for Pioche. The name may sound a bit like a card game, but the town of “Pee-Oach” has a stormy history, a pleasant present day, and a free RV park.
Part of the 180 mile run from Sin City to this “Silver” city is listed as a scenic route, and by Nevada standards, that’s the truth. Rocky hillsides and draws give way to some verdant green as you pass through one of Nevada’s great wildlife refuges. A few – make that very few – small towns break up the scenery. Perhaps one of the most interesting road signs too, just outside of Caliente. Here, a local motel advertises its name, plastered right alongside a artsy set of railroad tracks. Yes sir, that’s what helps me sleep, the sound of a good, long freight train outside my wall.
But Pioche breaks the usual, “ghost town” glass by being a truly friendly little burg. Back in the day –- the 1860s and 70s, Pioche was no place for the faint of heart. Silver mining brought riches, tawdriness, and plenty of murder. The local “boot hill” cemetery received 72 internees by way of bullets before anyone ever died of natural causes. Violence aside, the townsfolk were right proud of their little community, which led to an early debacle worthy of present-day U.S. politicians.
By 1870 the desire became fertile to build a suitable courthouse for Lincoln County, and Pioche, being the county seat, had the appetite for the building. Initial estimates were far less than the $88,000 it took to build the two-story edifice, and bond issues to finance, and repeatedly re-finance the construct finally rang up the local cash register to the tune of a million bucks.
Today, behind the courthouse is the town’s welcome center for RVers. We stress the “behind” part, because when we stumbled into town late one afternoon, we mistook the town’s big green park to be the RV facility. We were enthralled with free electric, but couldn’t possibly level the rig next to the curb by those free power outlets. Next morning, after a good night’s sleep and a walkabout found that the RV sites are down below – not above – the courthouse. Sorry, no free electric at the RV park, but water and garbage service, and you’re all welcome to up to a seven-night stay. The town has set up a nifty “motorhome” contribution box for those that take the hint.
The town park, just a short stroll away, has horse shoe pits, a community swimming pool, elaborate kids’ play equipment, and plenty of inviting greenery.
After having seen first-hand the trouble some small communities have in “getting it together” in cooperation, we’ve got to hand it to Pioche. With a population of less than 2,000 souls, they have every right to take pride in the town park they’ve put together. Drop in sometime.