Desert Companion

Road warriors

andrewkiraly2_0_0.jpg

Andrew Kiraly

Andrew Kiraly

Travel is not about the destination, it’s about the journey. Ferocious cliché, yes, guilty as charged, but, yeah, owning it, making it my thesis. The truism asks to be dusted off and given special consideration in the context of the Southwest, where it can seem to outsiders like the cosmic mayo jar was down to butter-knife scrapings and the culture and natural beauty got spread awfully thin in these parts. You’ve probably heard a version of an observation like this from visitors and recent transplants to the area: Your desert! It’s so barren, so featureless, so visually arid, so ... deserty. And then you do the de rigueur crash course in Appreciation of the Subtle Sculpture of the Southwest Landscape 101 tap dance.

That our desert has a difficult, recondite beauty is so much more true than we perhaps appreciate. It’s easy to tune out on those road trips when the a/c is deep in its ritual hum and the miles seems strung endlessly along in either direction, the landscape perpetually melts by and gas-station novelty towns are only good for a bathroom stop and maybe an ironic selfie in front of the alien jerky display: midpoints on a map or hazy, interstitial states. But those moments require and reward attention. The journey really is the destination.

That’s what we celebrate in the feature “Compass points," where four writers launch in four directions from Southern Nevada and record the sensory input, whether it’s mental states, landscapes, roadside attractions or a killer burger. These aren’t brochure-ready destination travel pieces — not that there’s anything wrong with those — but rather breezy tone poems that celebrate a sense of place — again, not in a particular endpoint, in this case, but in the entire trip. You’ll discover small towns on the verge of becoming ghost towns, Southwest oddities like drive-through zoos and remote natural hot springs happily free from the creeping spiderweb of your cell phone network. Meanwhile, “Planes, trains and jeeps” will reintroduce you to some of the great sights and destinations of the Southwest under a new moniker: The Grand Circle. More a space or state of mind than a linear road trip, it reminds us of all the different ways to explore the Southwest — whether by wheel, foot or oar. Or bike — a recreation medium that the town of Beatty is hoping to turn into a source of revenue as its fortunes as a mining town slowly fade (“Build it and they will bike.". Also off the beaten path is our story on a Las Vegas sommelier with an unlikely backstory in the rural Nevada town of Yerington (“Little bit country.”

Support comes from

Even if you’re not packing the car for a road trip, there’s plenty to explore in town this season — like that other thing Vegas is famous for: drinks. The rise of mixology as a culinary art has sparked a whole new breed of bar in Las Vegas (one that’s a welcome break from the gloomy video-poker grottoes that spring so readily from our native soil). And with it comes a new kind of seasonal offering: the summer cocktail. Check out “Buzz feed." Whether you’re looking for something to take the edge off the heat or take your head off your shoulders, our summer cocktail preview should generate some serious buzz. Happy tripping.

If you’ve enjoyed this read, wait until you get your hands on a bunch of these reads from contemporary voices mining the good stuff from Las Vegas — all laid out in a gorgeous design experience. Subscribe. It comes to your house. For real!

KNPR and NPR Thank-You Gifts including t-shirts hoodies and cap

More Stories

Andrew Kiraly
Desert Companion
Editor's Note
May 01, 2017

Thrills and chills

Desert Companion
All things to all people
Feb 01, 2012

The Answers

Desert Companion
Feature