I bet not many of you have added the desire to attend a state legislative session to your bucket list but it’s been on mine for years. I guess that’s part of the political nerd in me. I tried to get a couple friends to go with me on a recent trip to Carson City but they were all sick that day so I made the journey solo. Looking back, I’m grateful no one wanted to go because if they had, they would never talk to me again.
In this case though, the journey definitely outweighed the destination as I wound my way up through rural Nevada on Highway 95, hitting some of the more colorful and historical areas I’d only heard about. That was another item on my bucket list.
After seeing a couple pictures of the old mining town Rhyolite, I decided that would be my first stop. While several people recommended it, they never mentioned the Goldwell Open Air Museum that is co-located with it. That was a much more fun adventure with all the outdoor art dotting the desert.
Both historic places are just outside the town limits of Beatty which calls itself the “Gateway to Death Valley.” At one time Rhyolite had over 8,000 people living there. Just a few of the old buildings are left – enough to tell me I’m glad I wasn’t one of the original residents.
According to the web site goldwellmuseum.org, “a group of prominent Belgian artists, led by the late Albert Szukalski, created a self-described art situation consisting of seven outdoor sculptures that are colossal not only in their scale, but in their placement within the vast upper Mojave desert.”
As I listened to the museum guide tell another traveler, some of the sculptures were created by placing bed sheets over real people and then pouring plaster over them to form the sculptures’ bases. The pieces were coated in fiberglass to help withstand the weather and wind.
It wasn’t hard to walk among the outdoor art and even take a short sit on the artistic couch brought to the museum in 2007. That pause gave me time to ponder ‘why here’ and ‘why these pieces.’ I never got to an answer.
As I made my way to Tonopah, I passed through the tiny, quirky old town of Goldfield. Not having time to stop, I promised to return the next day.
Mind you, I had been to Tonopah once before with my husband but returned to it anyway. I didn’t get a chance to look around previously so this time I did. It didn’t take long.
I stayed two nights at the Mizpah Hotel which was well worth the trip just by itself. It was originally built in 1908 when goldminers were flocking to the area. It was beautifully restored to its early grandeur and reopened in 2011. It had all the historic charm of yesteryear with all the modern day amenities.
The hotel got its name from the wife of Tonapah mines discoverer Jim Butler when it was built. It’s biblical reference means “to come back together with those you love.”
As legend has it, a female companion to the Tonopah miners dubbed the “Lady in Red” was murdered on the fifth floor of the Mizpah by a jealous lover. Some people believe her ghost still roams the halls leaving trademark pearls behind. Even though my room was also on the fifth floor, I didn’t have any encounters with the Lady nor any miners and jealous lovers.
When I returned to Goldfield the next day, a short 30-mile jaunt, I had a blast roaming around the streets and into some of the shops, what few there were. One of the best places I visited was the antique store on the main thoroughfare with shelves stuffed with, well, old stuff. Not being totally into the art of antiquing, I found an interesting leather-wrapped bottle that now sits on my patio shelf.
The Goldfield museum, such that it is, was a fun place to pop into. Outside were boxes and boxes of beautiful rocks. The museum owner said I could buy the rocks for $3 to $5 a pound or just go up the road a bit and grab my own for a $1 a pound in Gemfield.
Before I did that, I walked around the famed Goldfield Hotel that is reputed to be one of the most haunted places in the world. Besides the ghosts, the hotel is famous for being the setting of many old movies. There really wasn’t much to see in the light of day. Looking through the windows though, I could imagine the grand ballroom in the height of its heyday.
Even though I couldn’t get close, I took a couple dirt roads up and around the back of an old gold mining operation. I can’t imagine working in one.
I took off on a dirt road leading to Gemfield. I loved it. There were a dozen or so wild burros grazing in the desert along the way and a beautiful view of the valley below. I gathered a bunch of chalcedony rocks to take home, hoping they would be as beautiful in my backyard as they were in the wilderness. They are. I’m not a rockologist; I just loved the colors and shapes.
Back in Tonopah, I walked through another outdoor museum dedicated to the early 1900s mining era. Seeing the one-room dilapidated shacks people lived in back then made me glad for my life today.
Sunday morning I departed for Carson City amid glorious blue sky, no-wind weather. Did I mention it had snowed on me the night I arrived in Tonopah? The first of May? Really?
I forgot how far north the Mojave Desert extends until the drive. It was nice to finally get up in the mountains and green valleys of northern Nevada.
I visited the Nevada Legislature building on Monday morning teeming with suits. Black suits. Brown suits. Both men and women. In my gaily-colored dress, it was obvious to everyone that I was a visitor.
About the only thing I can say about my bucket-list item is that it appeared more business was getting done in the hallways than the hearing rooms.
I originally intended to spend two days watching our laws being made; my total time in the building was about 90 minutes. I left and did more sightseeing around the capital. It was way more interesting.
While it took me three days to get to our state capital, it took me seven hours to get home. Now on my bucket list is the desire to go back to the Highway 95 strip of old mining and ghost towns and explore what I missed the first time.
The Legislature? Nope, I done.
And, my friends are still talking to me.