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    Southern Nevada itinerary: ideas for a bizarre tour of US oddities

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    Lluis Enric Mayans

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    Il Nevada is a very large state, yet most of the classic West Coast tours touch it only superficially: Las Vegas - with its well-known Red Rock Canyon and Valley of Fire parks - looks more like a stopover between California and the states of Utah and Arizona, full of popular and well-traveled destinations. Only the most avid roadtrippers can boast of having traveled the secondary roads that cut through the most arid and desolate areas of Nevada: one of these, for example, is the Extraterrestrial Highway, the UFO-infested alien road that laps the mysterious Area 51.

    Today we want to offer you a series of little-known stages of the Southern Nevada, in search of the eclectic spirit that distinguishes these places: a bizarre itinerary that goes to find ghost towns, saloons, art installations, kitsch attractions, unusual museums, absurd clubs and somewhat grotesque and mysterious oddities that lurk in the most unexpected corners of this so desolate area. Being an itinerary for the most part out of the classic rounds maybe you will never go through it all, but if you are in the area (and it is not so unusual), a detour could undoubtedly be worthwhile!


    • Map of attractions
    • Tonopah, a clown-themed horror motel… near a cemetery
    • Goldfield, a haunted hotel and a forest of machines
    • Beatty, among ghost brothels and statues in the desert
    • Amargosa Valley: unlikely records and sexy aliens
    • Mercury, bogus towns for nuclear tests
    • Unusual, bizarre Las Vegas… kitschy!
    • South of Las Vegas
      • Seven Magic Mountains
      • Goodsprings
      • World’s Largest Chevron

    Map of attractions

    Tonopah, a clown-themed horror motel… near a cemetery

    A proper off the beaten path can only start from an unusual place: in fact, no one would start a tour from Tonopah, remote town with a mining past in the even more remote Nye County. In the language of the Shoshone Indians, Tonopah it means "some water and some trees", and that's pretty much what you should expect. However, as this beautiful book by Giorgio Vasta teaches us, the "nothing" in the SouthWest is a relative concept, and indeed it can turn out to be much more fascinating than one might expect.

    Would you believe me if I told you that in Tonopah, among the shacks and saloons left to rot on the side of the road, there is a shabby old cemetery in Far West style, behind a horror-motel colonized by grinning clown? No, she is not one western version of It, but the harsh truth! If you want to see your worst nightmares materialize before your eyes, put the address 521 N Main St, Tonopah on the navigator and reach the Clown Motel: just behind the motel you will find the cemetery that houses dozens and dozens of ghosts of Tonopah miners exterminated by the mysterious Tonopah Plague of 1902 and by a mine accident in 1911. Just a couple of photos and then off you go, unless dare to stay overnight at the Clown Motel, a real horror motel: clowns and dolls they are everywhere, on the shelves in the hall, in the paintings on the walls, in the bedrooms, around the corners, above the doors… Stephen King would be proud. Creepy!

    All accommodations available in Tonopah

    Goldfield, a haunted hotel and a forest of machines

    Not far from Tonopah is located Goldfield, a mining town with a glittering past, now little more than a ghost town. This tiny town is a kind of mecca for everyone ghostbustersAlong the dusty streets that branch off from main Crook Avenue you can see buildings that are little more than relics of a bygone era. In N 5th you reach the Santa Fe Saloon and Casino, grab a snack and then venture among the wreckage, scrap metal, car wrecks and rusty wrecks that crowd the abandoned warehouses located in front of the Saloon: the landscape looks a lot like certain glimpses of nearby Bodie.

    The old school is haunted, the houses, the shops, the sheds are haunted, but the spookiest building is definitely the Goldfield Hotel. Not much is known about the intentions of the current owners of the hotel, but ghost tours are sometimes possible within this hotel huge historic building, which testifies to how important Goldfield was just a century ago. Ghost stories echo within the walls of the vast empty rooms of this creepy hotel: you can watch it from the outside, or let the locals tell you some legend. If you liked the one in Tonopah (and you have a little taste for the macabre) you can also visit the Goldfield Cemetery, and go in search of the tombstone of the "nameless man who died eating newspaper glue"!

    Goldfielders also have an insane passion for broken cars: visit the absurd Goldfield Art Car Park Gallery, clearly visible on the main road (306 Crook Ave, Goldfield), and the must-see International Car Forest of the Last Church. You know Cadillac Ranch in Texas? Here, the Car Forest is perhaps even more incredible and absurd: it embodies the slightly sick dream of the two artists Chad Sorg and Mark Rippie to create a place halfway between the forest and the car graveyard in the desert. There are about fifty cars planted in the ground and graffitied: take your car alive and well and take a ride in this absurd circuit of motorized giants! You will reach it by taking the main road south and turning left onto Crystal Avenue, practically at the southern end of Goldfield.

    Beatty, among ghost brothels and statues in the desert

    This place will definitely sound familiar to those who have stopped here after visiting the Death Valley: it is a very strategic place to sleep near Death Valley, being practically on the doorstep of the famous California park. Near Beatty there is another ghost town, much less authentic than Goldfield but much visited: Rhyolite. To stay on the subject of ghosts and surroundings, I would like to point out the thirteen white figures of the disturbing installation by Albert Szukalski, "The Last Supper”, Very loosely inspired by the work of Leonardo da Vinci. It is part of the Goldwell Open Air Museum and makes a decent figure in the nowhere surrounding Ryholite.

    The neighbor is a lesser known but equally unmissable place for those who love this kind of thing. It is located on a clearing off US-95, 3 miles north of Beatty: it is the sign for Angel’s Ladies Brothel, a brothel that at the time was supposed to cheer the truck drivers passing along the Nevada roads. Not just truckers, but paratroopers too! Don't believe it? Go there: you will find the wreckage of a small airplane crashed right near the brothel ... but whose was it?

    Rumor has it that it belonged to the owners of the restaurant, who had launched a competition: whoever parachuted from the plane precisely onto a mattress lying in the desert, would have won a free night with a girl. Once the aircraft crashed: no one was hurt, but the publicity stunt had had its effect, and still continues!

    Amargosa Valley: unlikely records and sexy aliens

    You may not know this, but prostitution is legal in some Nevada counties. And speaking of ghost brothels, I would like to point out a decidedly absurd one that to be honest is not ghost, but… alien! I don't know what sexual tastes you have, but hidden behind the service area Area 51 Alien Center di Amargosa Valley stands the ambiguous pink building Alien Cathouse, a place for adults only dedicated to those with extraterrestrial fantasies. I didn't have the (er) pleasure of going there, but it is said that it is also possible to take free tours inside the brothel, to see the various themed rooms. I don't know, maybe it's an other world experience.

    In the surroundings of the service area there is also the World’s Largest Firecracker, the biggest firecracker in the world: what can you do, in Nevada (and all over the USA) they love to collect these records!

    Mercury, bogus towns for nuclear tests

    Nye County is known to be a nuclear testing area (Nevada Test Site). mercury, one of the most mysterious destinations in Nevada is (or should we say was) a town destined to welcome those who worked in the protected area of ​​the Nevada Test Site. It was a "closed" city, that is reserved for insiders, the buildings were all temporary and yet nothing was missing: houses, post office, swimming pool, cinema and anything else that could cheer those who lived there. Today Mercury remains closed to the public (or almost, as we will see shortly) and many of these "facilities" have been dismembered or relocated elsewhere.

    Also in this desert area, in the first half of the XNUMXs, they were set up false American-style townspeople, with houses built in various materials, gas stations, cars and mannequins positioned in a strategic way, designed to simulate the inhabitants: all this served to test the consequences of an atomic explosion on an American community, and could provide relevant data in terms safety. The experimental atomic explosions were Annie e Apple 2: what remains of the fake towns (including the famous surviving house you see in the gallery) can be visited thanks to some tours organized by the Nevada National Security Site, during which you can also visit Mercury, some complexes dedicated to atomic experiments and a crater caused by explosions: the Sedan Crater.

    Unusual, bizarre Las Vegas… kitschy!

    Las Vegas it is controversial, and there is no doubt about this: either you love it or you hate it. Today I would like to point out a handful of decidedly unusual places, which go beyond the classic tour of the Strip. Places that will delight those who want to see the less commercial side ofeccentric soul of Sin City.

    Pink flamingo
    Neon museum
    Fremont Street
    Flaming Praying Mantis
    Neon museum
    Pinball Hall of Fame
    • Lonnie Hammargren's Museum House: the former deputy governor of Nevada Lonnie Hammargren she is an avid collector of all kinds of memorabilia that can come to your mind. Her house in 4300 Ridgecrest Dr is squinting at stuff of all sorts: Dinosaur statues, airplanes, gondolas, casino signs, spaceships, Egyptian coffin, rollercoasters and millions of other collectibles. The family opened the house to visitors once a year, but rumor has it that it has been mortgaged and that tours can no longer be organized. It would be a real shame! If you are there and you are curious, go to the address: even just looking at it from the outside you can understand what kind of madness this house is. Mazzarò move!
    • Pinball Hall of Fame: if your childhood was marked by pinball machines in arcades do not miss it Pinball Hall of Fame, an impressive collection of over 200 pinball machines and more. The oldest machines are from the 25s, and the news is that you can play them: the tokens cost just 1610 cents. The Pinball Hall of Fame is located at XNUMX East Tropicana Avenue.
    • Neon museum: the lights in Las Vegas are the masters, and this could be said by anyone who takes a stroll in the night without limits of the Strip. If you add to this the anxiety of accumulation-stuff typical of these parts, magically you get the Neon Museum. Located at 770 Las Vegas Boulevard North, this kitschy museum houses hundreds of neon signs of casinos, hotels, theaters and burlesque clubs of yesteryear. Tours are also available by reservation.
    • The Big Edge: Nancy Rubins created a monument-installation formed by the chaotic superimposition of over 200 aluminum boats colorful among canoes, kayaks, boats. Although not having a particular meaning according to the artist's idea, this madness would seem to conceptually represent a bouquet of "big metal flowers". If you want to see The Big Edge go to 2600 W Harmon Avenue.
    • Fremont Street and around: along the way you will find a huge fire-breathing mantis (Flaming Praying Mantis, 707 Fremont Street) e the largest yellow hydrant in the world (820 Fremont Street). The Big Rig Jig, in 1028 NV-582, is an extravagant S-shaped installation made up of two real intertwined tankers (that's right!). This last area of ​​Fremont Street is not the best to visit: you just need to get by car, take a couple of photos and leave ... unless you are a fan of vinyl: right in front of the Big Rig Jig there is a well-stocked shop, L'11th Street Records. Two streets further north, on Stewart Avenue at the corner of N 6th St, is a mammoth mural depicting a creepy horned toad splashing blood.

    Advice on where to sleep in Las Vegas

    South of Las Vegas

    Here's where to stop on the way south to Las Vegas to get your fill of oddities.

    Seven Magic Mountains

    Coming out of the city, like good oddity hunters, avoid I-15 and instead follow secondary S Las Vegas Boulevard where, just 10 miles south of Las Vegas, in Sloan, are the Seven Magic Mountains: you may have seen this installation on the cover of Land, album of The lights of the Power Plant. The seven colored totems (about 9 meters high) that stand out in the desert are the work of the Swiss artist Ugo Rondinone and, according to him, would mean "physically and symbolically" something halfway between the natural and the artificial. It was originally planned to be removed in 2018, but the colored stones of Rondinone were also there during our last visit, at the end of 2019.

    ATTENTION: navigators can make you wrong! It happened to us the first time: putting the address of the Seven Magic Mountains on Google Maps, we found ourselves traveling a dirt road in the desert and we were in danger of getting stuck in the sand. Getting to the parking lot adjacent to the Seven Magic Mountain is very simple: here are the precise coordinates, follow these to make sure you arrive.


    A nice stop on this tour is Goodsprings, where is the Pioneer Saloon, much loved by motorcyclists. After the installation of contemporary art by Rondinone, you can finally throw yourself headlong into the classic Far West: this is a real saloon, not a pale reconstruction as there are so many in the area. Here, as in Oatman, Clark Gable and Carole Lombard, Hollywood legends, have passed.

    Il Pioneer Saloon it is located at 310 NV-161, Goodsprings: you will find it by deviating from S Las Vegas Boulevard at NV-151, in the locality of Jean. After about 7 miles you will see the unmistakable Saloon sign: soak up the atmosphere and pretend to be a cowboy biting into one of their great burgers. Don't forget to visit the courtyard in the back of the club, where there is also one Time Capsule full of mysterious testimonies of the past, which will only open 21 October 2114. The town, with its modest mining past, is not a ghost town, but it is close to: walking or driving its few streets you can realize it with your eyes.

    World’s Largest Chevron

    Finally, a kitschy madness. Right at the intersection of I-15 and NV-151 towards Goodsprings (Goodsprings Road), it is located Terrible Herbst Convenience Store, better known as the World’s largest Chevron. What is it about? The name says it: it is the largest Chevron gas station in the world. In this corner of the Nevada desert, just where it would normally be more difficult to refuel, you will find a number of 96 petrol pumps. But it does not end there: enter and browse the immense market adjacent to the pumps: you will find restaurants, well 60 bathrooms, a 4-meter big foot, a couple of airplanes and motorbikes hanging from the ceiling, a cave-icebox with an endless collection of Nevada beers, a full-size "Welcome to Las Vegas" plaque and many other oddities ...

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