It's often said that good writers have to find their voice. If that's so, Samuel Clemens found his in Virginia City, Nev. While working for its local paper in the 1860s, he assumed the name by which he's best known: Mark Twain. Were he alive, Twain would still recognize this town 25 miles southeast of Reno; it hasn't changed much in the last 150 years.
Immerse yourself in local lore at the B Street Bed & Breakfast (58 N. B St.;  847-7231) Innkeeper Carolyn Eichin, a former professor of Nevada history, is a walking textbook of information on all things Virginia City and beyond. Each of the three guest rooms in this renovated 19th century home has a queen bed and private bath. There's even a library stocked with books, magazines and newspapers about the Silver State. The bountiful breakfasts include homemade baked goods such as old-world mixed berry strudel. (Her husband is Swiss.) The hot entrees change daily.
The Palace Restaurant & Saloon (54 S. C St.;  847-4441) is across the street from the Territorial Enterprise, the newspaper where Twain worked. As countless black-and-white photographs on the walls attest, in 1875 the Palace began providing nourishment to the men who mined the region's gold and silver. The hearty fare consists primarily of soups, salads and sandwiches.
Clemens traveled from Missouri to Nevada by stagecoach. ("Our coach was a swinging and swaying cage of the most sumptuous description — an imposing cradle on wheels," he would later write.) Visitors can sample that experience aboard an authentic coach at TNT Stagelines (F Street, one block south of the Virginia & Truckee railroad depot;  721-1496). The Wild West thrill ride reaches 27 mph, a speed considered "flat out" back when coaches provided the fastest cross-country transportation.
The lesson learned
Given Virginia City's elevation — 6,200 feet — folks living near sea level may need time to acclimate. As Twain noted, "The thin atmosphere seemed to carry healing to gunshot wounds, and therefore, to simply shoot your adversary through both lungs was a thing not likely to afford you any permanent satisfaction."
Rooms at B Street are $129 and $139 a night. A meal for four at the Palace — with deli sandwiches and bowls of chili for the grown-ups and chicken fingers or fish for the kids — costs about $42 with sodas. Stagecoach rides are $12 a person. Although a few places, the Palace included, are open year-round, much of the town shuts down for winter the third or fourth week of October.Copyright © 2014, Los Angeles Times