Nevada Series: Coffee and Neon Signs

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Downtown Elko, NV. (Photo: Matt Valdez)

Neon signs and cold nights go hand in hand—coffee from a street side café simply completes the whole deal. When I was a single man, I sat solitary in a corner booth or at the bar in such establishments. I sat with a black cup of coffee in a ceramic cup resting on the table or counter, spending the evening with my books. Biographies on James Chalmers, Henry Martyn and other Evangelical Protestant missionaries kept me company. I embodied that old country song, by Tim Spencer, which says in part:

Cigarettes, whiskey and wild, wild women

They’ll drive you crazy, they’ll drive you insane.

Except for the cigarettes, whiskey and wild, wild women, or not so wild, wild women, or wild, or any woman, my life then was exactly like that song. It was Spartan—simple, uncomplicated, and boring. Now I got me a fine woman. When we aren’t raising our children, we go raise cane all over this land. With our children tagging along. The photo above was taken on a family night out on the town, during a parade last Christmas time in Elko.

Elko Town has many neon signs, and a few coffee joints. A lot of casinos and some burlesque houses. We just settled for checking out the parade floats with our bundled up children.

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Downtown Elko, NV. (Photo: Matt Valdez)

Nevada’s Neon Roadside Museum Pieces

Nevada has some eclectic old neon signs tucked away in small towns scattered about the high desert. Some signs still operate, glowing and beckoning road weary travelers to stop. Others have ceased working but still stand, reminding the stray passersby of the once vibrant businesses. The post-war period of the 1950s was a hay day for road side diners and motels along Nevada’s now almost forgotten highways. Now, these buildings and signs are fixtures to the lonely stretches of roads, like pieces of furniture, they accentuate the uninhabited places, providing visual markers to sight-seers and vacationers. The old neon signs are roadside museum pieces, accompanied by dirt lots, old brick buildings and rusting horseless carriages out back.

I’m thinking about making a series about neon signs in Nevada, but I also think about a lot of things (some to fruition and some to the back burner of my mind). This year my wife and I plan on getting out there and exploring Nevada, so I am sure neon signs and ghost towns will find their way in later blog posts.


Veldez, a blog, is layman literature which includes observations about family life, vocation, books, music, the outdoors, and life as it is. Written from the perspective of a twenty-something husband and father of five, a Christian worldview is the common thread throughout.

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