Party worthy of Wonder Woman, Mr. Washington

It was a strange sight that July 4.

Speeding down the town's only road, a leveled dirt "Main Street," were more than 30 costumed revelers going hell-bent on ATVs through this unnamed central Nevada town.

There went Wonder Woman and her gold bracelets.

George Washington rumbled past, his white wig firm despite the wind.

It was 100 degrees that day, but on they drove to celebrate Independence Day at Tom Johnson's 80-acre Dixie Ranch. It's a ranch without a steer, but he's got plenty of beer.

Johnson, a broker at Sperry Van Ness Carson City, and his wife, Linda, converted an 1871 schoolhouse on their property into a personal "watering hole," complete with an antique bar taken from inside the old Garibaldi's Italian restaurant.

"The bar will be stocked with beer, whisky, vodka, wine, tequila, and something called 'vat of death,' which is made in big water coolers," he says.

Vat of death sounds something like an old college favorite: a bottle of Squirt, tequila, limeade, a case of beer.

In this dusty town of 25 (Johnson declined to give the name, fearing an influx of party crashers), the first off-road costumed parade had a sparse attendance. But they sure had fun. The second-annual event may be anticipated this year. Perhaps the locals will even have lawn chairs pulled up.

"We have flags on back and drive up and down through the middle to town," he says. "The residents thought we were insane, but they loved it."

The locals are invited to the July 4 barbecue, which will probably have a total attendance of 50. Coming the farthest is the Johnsons' daughter, TomiJo, who lives in Colorado.

Last year, George W. was portrayed by Johnson's 11-year-old nephew, Taylor. The costume was made by Johnson's sister-in-law, Lori Johnson, of Las Vegas. The seamstress also pieced together her Wonder Woman costume.

Linda donned a Mardi Gras costume in honor of the Big Easy after Hurricane Katrina.

Johnson climbed on to his 800 CC Bombardier with an American flag tied over his shoulders like a cape. A Texas flag (in honor of his birth state) and Old Glory whipped in the wind on the back of his ATV.

What's the costume this year?

"I don't know. It will be patriotic, though, whatever it is, it'll be very patriotic."

For all you other off-roaders, Sand Mountain seems to be the place to be.

"It's always popular for ATVs because it's a large area and they can go nuts out there," said Diana Cranston, co-owner of DC Motor Sports of Carson City.

AAA Travel estimates that more than 360,000 Nevadans will travel 50 miles or more, a slight increase from last year. Nearly 300,000, or about 83 percent, are expected to travel by car. Since the July Fourth holiday falls on a Tuesday this year, many may take a four-day holiday.

It's traditionally the biggest travel weekend of the summer, which translates into more accidents. In 2004, about 253 people were involved in fatal car crashes during the holiday, according to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration. Alcohol was a factor in 225 of those deaths.

Going crazy doesn't mean you should forget your flag, said Cranston, and she means the off-roading safety flag. These flags on long fiber-glass poles are attached to the back of ATVs and dirt bikes so that others can see the vehicle coming up a hill. They're required at Sand Mountain.

"Sometimes that will be the only thing you'll see and that'll give you time to stop or get out of the way," she said. "And they're only $10. They are inexpensive for what they could cost you otherwise."

• Contact reporter Becky Bosshart at or 881-1212.


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