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Keep Nevada Weird

Nevada is such a strange place with so many quirky things to see. On my way from Colorado to the Sierra Nevada, I was planning on driving straight through and not really seeing anything, but plans change. My week-long stay in Death Valley was cancelled due to flooding from Hurricane Hilary, so I found myself with a week on my hands. And really, Nevada is a great place to have time on your hands.

The Hotel Nevada

This hotel in Ely was always in the plans because I couldn't drive from Ouray to Mammoth Lakes in one day. After spending so much time in nature all summer, the flashing lights and bells and cigarette smoke of the casino were jarring. I couldn't think why I would have booked a stay here. 

But it turned out to be lovely. The staff, while in absolutely no hurry to check you in, are exceedingly friendly and interested in chatting about who you are and what you're doing in such a random place. They give you a drink voucher for that night and a breakfast voucher for the morning, neither of which I expected. The hotel is historic and has all kinds of signage about its history. My floor had charming murals on the walls and information about famous people who had stayed there in the past. And the lobby was filled with information about local events and not just brochures, but homemade flyers about interesting driving routes to take in Nevada. I was so impressed. 

The Lunar Crater

After leaving the The Love's Travel Stop in Ely, I had 168 miles to travel to reach Tonopah. And there is nothing in between. No-Thing. No towns, no gas stations, no food, no water, barely any other cars. It's unbelievably desolate.

The ghost towns, like Warm Springs, aren't remarkable, just crumbling and graffitied concrete, and not really worth exploring. You can visit the furthest spot from a McDonald's in the contiguous United States if you're heading to Area 51. I didn't take that 42 mile round trip detour.

But what I did detour for was the lunar crater. It's not actually from a meteor crashing into the earth but it damn sure looks like it and I thought it was cool. 


Tonopah occupied two and a half of my non-Death Valley days. I worked during the day and only had time to go see things at night, so most people would probably only want to spend one and a half days here, but there is plenty of Americana to see. 

The Clown Motel

Yes, this is real. No, I did not sleep here. The horror.

Crescent Dunes Solar Energy Project

This installation is more impressive from aerial photos but it's only a few miles outside of town, so why not stop by? Maybe during the day you can do a tour, but I'm not sure.

Tonopah Mining Park

This mining park is really cool to roam around for an hour and it's only $5. I enjoyed all the minerals on display in the museum and the grates outside where you can stand over the 500 foot deep mine shafts. You're also encouraged to touch all the old your own risk, of course. But I appreciate how you're allowed to wander around freely and expected to not be a dumbass.

Mizpah Hotel

I didn't stay in the Clown Motel but I did stay in the second most famous hotel in Tonopah. The lady who runs the coffee shop across the street in the Belvada told me she used to work at the Mizpah and refused to go in the basement because it creeped her out so much. But how lovely and old-world glamorous this was. Why stay in the Motel 6 when you can stay here? Now, I think everyone should dress up when they go to the bar in a place like this and that would make it even more fun, but I know I'm in the minority. After all, we have schlubs like this in Congress now, so that's a losing battle. 


Just as driving westbound from Ely there's a whole lot of nothing until Tonopah, coming up from Big Pine, California there's also nothing - 97 miles of nothing until you reach Goldfield.

The International Car Forest of the Last Church

I don't have much to say about this other than maybe we need a nationwide vote on which is more interesting - this or Carhenge? The signage says "taggers are tolerated, artists are welcome", so if you visit, feel free to add your own flair to the car of your choice.

The Goldfield Cemetery

This was fascinating to walk around because someone had put a lot of time and effort into preserving the history of the people who lived here. There are a lot of unknown graves, but many are known and the plaques tell what they can. Often that includes state or country of origin (very few people born in Nevada) and what they died from. Lots of people died from pneumonia and mining accidents, but I photographed some of the other ones and added them below. Some are really sad, especially the suicides, and reveal the hard life in a mining town. It's worth noting that Tonopah has an equally interesting cemetery which I wandered around, but I won't subject you to a second set of headstone photos.