If you want to race it, Nevada will let you. Cars, bathtubs, camels, enclosed bicycles that resemble little bullets and other things both mobile and not: there are races for all of those and more in the Silver State.
1. Nevada Open Road Challenge (May 12-15) & Silver State Classic Challenge (Sept. 15-18)
Twice a year, Nevada shuts down a 90-mile stretch of state Route 318 from Lund (about 35 miles south of Ely) to Hiko. And people can drive their cars on it as fast as they want. Drivers in the Nevada Open Road Challenge, May 12-15, and the Silver State Classic Challenge (SSCC), Sept.15-18, can race their cars in speed classes ranging from 95 mph to 180 mph. 180 mph. There’s even an unlimited class — as in unlimited speed —for experienced SSCC drivers going faster than 180 mph; the event’s speed record, set in 2012, stands at 212 mph. This is also one of the few races on a public highway.
2. Cocktails and Cannons: The Great Bathtub Races (June 25)
Bathtubs show their adaptability as seaworthy vessels during The Great Bathtub Races at Cave Lake State Park near Ely. Both motorized and non-motorized tubs compete in this event born out of a hotel remodeling project, a little ingenuity and a town that knows a good idea when it sees one. The event started in 2009 as Cocktails and Cannons, an outdoor event at Cave Lake featuring fireworks. As part of the festivities, Cave Lake was decked out with floating bonfires made out of bathtubs recycled from a hotel remodeling project. It looked a little redneck during the day, but it looked amazing at night. And then someone floated the idea of racing the bathtubs the next year. The rest is history.
3. International Camel & Ostrich Races (Sept. 9-11)
Camels have been racing in Virginia City for the past 57 years. Or actually, they run around the Virginia City Arena and Fairgrounds, jockeys desperately hanging on, hoping the animals decide to cross the finish line. Over the years, ostrich, emu and zebra racing also has been a part of this quirky event, which began as a joke. In 1959, Nevada-based newspaper the Territorial Enterprise announced that a camel race would take place in Virginia City. That was a fib, but the idea gained traction and an actual race occurred in 1960. Director John Huston, in the area to film “The Misfits,” won the first International Camel Races, and the event continues today.
4. The Great Reno Balloon Race (Sept. 9-11)
The Great Reno Balloon Race is the largest free hot-air ballooning event in the world. During three days in early September, you can look up into the Reno skies and see a rainbow of hot air balloons soaring about. From its humble beginnings in 1982 with just 20 balloons, The Great Reno Balloon Race has taken flight with up to 100 balloons each year. The idea was to create an event that would keep visitors in town the weekend between the State Fair and the Reno Air Races and 35 years later, it is known as a world-renowned, and locally, a beloved community tradition.
5. Human Powered Speed Challenge (Sept. 12-17)
There’s no place like Battle Mountain. Especially if you want to see how fast a bike can go. Battle Mountain is home of the annual World Human Powered Speed Challenge, where recumbent bicycles enclosed in aerodynamic shells race down a stretch of Nevada state Route 305, attempting to break the record of 83 mph. What makes Battle Mountain so perfect for human-powered speed challenges? It has a long stretch of road where the slope is no more than 2/3 of 1 percent — the slope allowance necessary for this sport. The event, which is expected to draw 23 to 25 competitors this year, attracts teams from all over the world. Teams consist of a single racer, who is pushed along a 15-meter section of the course before launching into a 5-mile run culminating in a 200-meter tract, where the speed is recorded.
6. National Championship Air Races (Sept. 14-18)
High-performance aircraft race on circular tracks at this event, the only one of its kind in the country. The annual National Championship Air Races in Reno routinely draws upwards of 150,000 spectators to see pilots race in six categories, including the unlimited class, in which air speeds often exceed 500 mph. Between races, there are air shows and flight demonstrations, and attendees also can view displays of static aircraft.
7. World Championship Outhouse Races (Oct. 1-2)
Outhouses on wheels, pushed by teams with names like Sport A Potty and Commando Commode, race on the main street of historical Virginia City in this crapshoot of an event. As random as it may sound, the Outhouse Races do have a historical basis: it marks a moment in history when townspeople took their outhouses to the streets and marched to city hall to protest new ordinances that outlawed outdoor toilets. Participation is possible, as the race is open to the public — registration closes Sept. 28 — but it’s not for the fainthearted. Teams have to put together a functional outhouse that is at least 6 feet tall, not including chimneys or flags, among other requirements. But steering and brakes are optional.
8. Red Run Race (October)
Foot racing meets zombie theater at the Red Run Race in Virginia City. This year is the fourth anniversary for this event, where in the past runners have had three registration options: register as the dead, meaning you will dress as a zombie and be assigned to a “dead zone”; register as a “living insane,” meaning you will act crazy and pour fake blood on people; or register as a runner. Runners just run and “finish alive,” according to the event website. Crazy? Yes, but this is Virginia City, which has a reputation for hauntings (“Ghost Adventures,” a Travel Channel show, got its start here) and as well as quirkiness (the town is home to the International Camel Races and the Outhouse Races).
9. Beatty Bed Races (October 28-30)
Beds on wheels, pushed by five-person teams, are raced up and down a hilly street in Beatty as part of Beatty Days, Oct. 28-30. Why? We're not really sure. But racing beds makes perfect sense in the context of Beatty Days. The annual event also includes a root beer drinking-and-belching contest for children; a Pickle Liquor Hoot-N-Holler competition (you drink pickle juice and hot sauce and then yell; the loudest yeller wins); and Chicken Bingo, in which a numbered panel is laid out, you bet on a number, you let chickens run on the panel, and … you can imagine the rest. Beatty Days has more traditional events, such as a chili cook-off and a car show, but the Bed Race is something of a sleeper hit.