I was beginning to run out of synonyms for beautiful and spectacular the last few days. Now that we are in Nevada, I won't be needing any of those words. If we had come here directly from Reno we would have driven the "world's loneliest highway." If that's your only claim to fame, I might have to quote our beloved president and say "sad." The road we drove today was lonely enough until we came to a bright and shining light like we have never seen. If I were religious I would have guessed that the second coming was upon us. If I was a sci fi geek, I would have guessed that the extraterrestrials had finally landed. A little research answered all our questions. We were seeing the light gathering tower of the 110-megawatt Crescent Dunes Solar Energy Plant. The facility uses more than 10,000 mirrored heliostats, each with the square footage of a small house, to focus sunlight on a 640-foot-tall central tower, heating the molten salt inside to more than 1,000 degrees. The heat stored in the molten salt is then used to boil water, creating steam that drives generators to produce electricity day or night. This approach solves the problem with solar energy at night when you need that electricity to turn on the lights. The molten salt stays hot enough to power the generators until the sun comes up again. Depending on what source I read, this is either a wonderful way to use renewable energy, a Harry Reid/Obama boondoggle or a menace to the birds who get cooked when they fly into the concentrated sunlight. I've included a few photos I "borrowed" from the web since there was no way I could do it justice.
So we find ourselves camped at a casino once again. When Arab traders wandered through the desert, they looked for oases, bubbling springs surrounded by palm trees. Around here the oases are the casinos. Tonopah is a small town of only 2,000 these days, but its only grocery store and pharmacy are on the casino grounds. The laundromat is also here. Unless you need to get gas, all your needs can be met at the casino. Once again - sad!
While we were here we wanted to visit the mining museum. You might think we are tired of old mining towns by now, but each one has a different character. The story here was much happier with far fewer bad guys. As was the case with many mining towns, the discovery of gold at Tonopah was quite by accident. A prospector named James Butler was tracking down his missing mules. After the found them, he picked up a rock to throw at them but did not for he noticed the rock was flecked with something that looked like gold. Indeed, it was. Credit is given to Mrs. Butler who staked out the claim and got things going, very unusual for a woman at that time. The Butlers did not have the wherewithal to work their claims themselves and initially camped in a tent on their claims. They entered into a handshake agreement with some freelance miners and let them divide the profits 25%/75%. No one shot anyone and the funds were divided as promised. Tonopah's peak period was around 1905 when it became the county seat. Like so many before it, the good times were not to last. Production began to decline noticeably about 1913 and the glory days were a thing of the past.
The man at the mine told us we should also check out Goldfield, another mining town that has seen better days. He gave us mixed messages. He said that it is the county seat and the court house there is an impressive building - true - and that Goldfield is mostly a ghost town - also true. The problem with the unoccupied buildings and stuff laying around was that it all was too recent. I'm not interested in seeing broken and rusty versions of what were familiar household items in my youth.
What was interesting was the International Car Forest. As he was driving through Goldfield, an artist saw a car standing on end buried in the sand. This got his imagination going and he teamed up with a friend to expand on this concept. Today, over 40 automobiles including cars, trucks, and vans have been balanced delicately on their ends or stacked on top one of another, looking like a group of toys some giant child simply left lying around. Each of the junked cars has also been uniquely painted with designs varying from skulls to caricatures of politicians. A group of people appeared to be making a film while we were there. A woman stood on top of a tipped up car and fired off pink smoke bombs while black-leather clad men raced past her. A drone flew overhead filming the action. Watch of this film in your multiplex some day soon!