Bill Brown
Channel 2 News

We see mile-after-mile of Lonely Highway - vast but beautiful vistas that seem to trail off into nowhere.

But you only have to exit the freeway to realize that central Nevada is alive and well, still kicking, even after the worst of the recession.

For instance - your first stop might be Lovelock about 120-miles east on Highway 80.

Just over 2,000 people call this small town home and most of them for the same reasons. "I think the thing that holds people here it's still a rural community. A handshake means something. If something has happened at a neighbor's house and they know they're gone on vacation that gets reported," says Lovelock Mayor Michael Giles.

And another common theme among small town Nevada - family.

"Because my brother's here, I have two other brothers but they since passed away. And my daughter's here and my son lives in Orovada so I'm closer to my people."

Lovelock has held on because of it's green thumb - agriculture, but now they're hoping for a resurgence that could give them an economic spike - something we see everywhere else on our trip - mining.

"When they were going full time here there was probably 225 employees. Not all of them live here, a lot of them would commute, but if we had 100 here that would change the whole look of this community," says Ruth Rodriguez.

And mining has completely changed other small towns. "It will continue to grow. I mean we have to accept mining, that's the main interest. That's what keeps it going here, if we can look for other economic boost that's great."

"Without the money support I really don't think the town would really exist as far as what it is now. There wouldn't be a whole lot of reason for people to be here as far as economics you know, the jobs and stuff," says Colt Nelson of Barrick Gold Corporation.

And while mining does bring in jobs and pump money back into the economy - even helping reopen some closed casinos - some people say they would still be there without it.

"Its size. I like Battle Mountain. The people here are really good, friendly. I have a 10-year-old and a five-year-old. I can let him write his bike to school I don't have to worry about it," says business owner Sandy Ayers.

And there aren't many towns left that can say that.

I spent a lot of summers on a cattle ranch near Lovelock and it hasn't changed much.

But Battle Mountain is exploding.

Friday - another boomtown that can't keep up with people who want to live there. Elko is nothing like you might remember.