Desolate NEVADA consists largely of endless tracts of bleak, empty desert, its flat sagebrush plains cut intermittently by angular mountain ranges. Apart from the huge acreages given over to mining and grazing, much of Nevada is used by the military to test aircraft and weapons systems.

By far the most compelling reason to visit Nevada is to see the surreal oasis of Las Vegas. While its eye-popping architecture, lavish restaurants, decadent nightclubs and amazing shows offer an unforgettable sensory overload, the experience remains rooted in gambling. Even the smaller and more down-to-earth settlements of Reno and state capital Carson City revolve around the casino trade.

In the Great Basin, where the rivers and streams have no outlet to the ocean, Nevada has an eerie beauty. The main cross-state route, I-80, shoots from Salt Lake City to Reno, skirting bizarrely named little towns scattered with casinos, bars, brothels and motels. The other significant road, US-50, has a reputation as the loneliest highway in America. Older and slower, it follows much the same route as the Pony Express of the 1860s, but many towns have faded away altogether.

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