You take a trip to Death Valley, and you expect desert, big skies, sweeping vistas. Like this one, taken near the end of our ride today.
Gorgeous, and awesome in the truest sense of the word. But as it is the desert–the American desert in particular–you also get a lot of really fun weirdness. It started as soon as we got out of Las Vegas, which we left bright and early this morning by van. Our destination was Rhyolite, Nevada—now a ghost town, but once the third-largest city in Nevada. On the way there, we stopped for gas at Nevada’s own Area 51, complete with the Alien Cathouse Brothel and the World’s Largest Firecracker.
I am not making this up.
See? And it only got better when we reached Rhyolite. Which was really cool. Here is a shot of the train station, the only building left that is still more or less intact.
It is fenced in and there are no longer train tracks…but the station remains. Here is the front of a building that still has a name and date on it:
And here is a broader view of what was once a bustling mining town.
But I was telling you about desert weirdness, and Rhyolite has its share. First, there is Tom Kelly’s bottle house, a house made of bottles. Erected in 1906, the bottle house is just that: bottles mortared together to make walls.
Here is the front…
And here is the side…
I kept looking for meaning in the pattern of bottles. The house has three rooms and served as a family residence for years. Most recently, it was a curio shop.
After the bottle house, there is the Goldwell Open Air Museum, an artistic free-for-all that draws you in first with its sign…and a pole covered with shoes. And hubcaps.
Then there is this:
Icara (1992) by Dre Peters
See how the poles have things stuck all over them? Here is some detail on that:
I love this kind of stuff! There were tin cups, Mardi Gras beads, business cards, and even a pair of needle-nosed pliers stuck to these poles. There has to be a story–or several stories–behind this. But…there’s more!
A shepherd of desert cyclists, maybe?
Ghost Rider (1984) by Albert Szukalski
And a miner in the desert accompanied by a penguin with no name…
Tribute to Shorty Harris (1994) by Fred Bervoets
The so-called Pink Lady:
Lady Desert: the Venus of Nevada (1992) by Dr. Hugh Heyrman
A mosaic sofa-bench I couldn’t resist trying out…
Sit Here! (2000) by Sophie Siegmann
An artist’s rendering of the last supper, the piece that started it all…
The Last Supper (1984) by Albert Szukalski
And a stone labyrinth, which every desert needs:
Obviously, this ghost town is not completely abandoned, because artists keep adding to the free museum.
Once I tore myself away from the weirdness, the ride started in earnest, with a climb up to Daylight Pass–followed by a lovely 13-mile descent. We went from over 4,000 feet down to sea level at Stovepipe Wells. Here is the view back over my shoulder while I was climbing.
On the descent, we stopped to admire Corkscrew Peak…
And the Devil’s Cornfield…
Tomorrow we head for Ubehebe Crater and closer views of the Mesquite Dunes. Stay tuned…maybe there will be more weirdness!!