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The Stop Past Death Valley — Primm, Nevada | Special to GPR Road & Travel

If you’ve ever made the drive to Las Vegas from parts of California — your foray sent you through a vastness of desert. And invariably, you’ve ponded the reasons they’ve landed on naming it Death Valley.

Each time making the run, I’ve mapped out the pit stops, always though passing up Primm, Nevada. There never was a reason. Except the oddity of it I didn’t want to contend with — a seemingly last resort place that outcrops from the wasteland like Mad Max’s Barter Town. It always was that strange juxtaposition of frivolity amid nothingness. Was it a town or a casino or a leftover movie set? And why is there a rollercoaster, all there in the desert?

But on my last ride through, maybe out of boredom or curiosity or both, I rolled in from the last leg of desolation before Vegas to gas up, take a whizz, and kind-of-sort-of check it out. To a bit of my surprise (!), Primm is actually quite nice. Or is trying really hard to be, which counts big when the alternative is simply more desert.

Primm is home to three casino hotels: Buffalo Bill’s, Whiskey Pete’s, and its purported crown jewel — Primm Valley Resort. Buffalo Bill’s lays claim to the roller coaster and a concert stage. Whiskey Pete’s is set up for the family fare, complete with gold rush theme. And Primm Valley Resort holds mantle as the fanciest of the three, and is adjacent to a clothing outlet mall with the likes of Nike, Tommy Bahama, Calvin Klein, and on.

With no time to spare, beyond a peak and glance, I skipped past all of that, in favor of the gas station and its sizable quick-mart. Bathrooms were bountiful (and clean!). The gas wasn’t cheap. And the snack selection lived up to typical rest stop standards.

But with eyes set on Vegas, it seems we hurried off to the road before we could adequately explore what was what in Primm. There's a history to this place that isn't explained in a quick stop or in passing by. Now though, Primm seems a little less odd, a little more hospitable, and worth a deeper dive — the next time our journey takes us on by.

Jason James Barry is an award-winning essayist and journalist - and chief correspondent for Join him on his adventures in travel - and the food along the way.


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