Leaving Las Vegas

I have a handful of posts I want to make about the time I lived in Las Vegas. Mostly road trips – Manzanar, Mountain Meadows, Rhyolite, and Tonopah. But it came up in my facebook memories that I left Vegas a year ago on Jan 2nd, so I thought it would be a good time to talk about the road trip and all the shit we saw on the way.

We had originally planned on leaving Vegas on Jan 1, 2019, and we planned a route that avoided Denver cos of snow. Turns out New Mexico and Arizona get snow too. Who the fuck knew? Because of dangerous driving conditions, Lipstick and Buzz and their crew let us crash an extra day with them, so we ended up leaving the next day. Let’s be honest, I wasn’t gonna complain about extra time with the Lipstick Gang.

On our first day, we got a late start and drove almost straight through to Gallup, New Mexico. We didn’t stop much at all because we were trying to rush through a window between two snowstorms.

On Jan 3, we drove from Gallup to Amarillo. We passed through the Continental Divide, which is the largest hydrological (big, fancy word) divide in the US. Basically rain and water and shit on the west side of the divide drain into the Pacific, and water on the east side drains into the Atlantic.

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I promise I’m wearing shoes. Ballet flats are shoes.

A lot of our driving on days one and two were in the vicinity of old Route 66. We couldn’t help stopping at Russell’s Travel Center, which is a truck stop with a diner, chapel, convenience store, and of course a pretty rad museum. They sold yellow cotton candy that was labelled as Donald Trump’s hair. I didn’t eat it cos eew, but it made me giggle.

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Actual Elvis sighting.

The museum at Russell’s was centered around cars, and there were several there that made Middle Little squee in excitement. Surrounding the cars were a ton of fifties paraphernalia and Route 66 memorabilia. There were pinup girls, soda machines, racing flags, and pretty much anything else you could think of. It is worth a stop if you’re going through the area.

On Jan 4, we woke up in Amarillo. One of my favorite country songs is George Strait’s “Amarillo By Morning,” so it did give me a little thrill to wake up there. Our first stop was Ozymandias on the Plains, which is a statue that is an homage to Shelley’s Ozymandias. I talked a bit about the poem in a previous blog post that you can read here.

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I met a traveller from an antique land…

We heard about the statue from Atlas Obscura, which I scoured during my trip planning phase in search of weird and fun things to see. The statute was created by local artist Lightnin’ McDuff, who was especially known for his found object art and unique sculptures. He passed away in 2018. It was one of several art pieces sponsored by Stanley Marsh 3 (he preferred the 3 instead of III) who is often referred to as a businessman and philanthropist and art lover. He’s most known for sponsoring the Cadillac Ranch, which is a sort of car-henge art project outside of Amarillo. I guess they talk up those things because it gets a little awkward if you bring up how he sexually abused kids pretty much his entire life. 

We also stopped at another weird art installation outside of Amarillo called The Stoner Patriot Peace Garden of All Faiths. It’s kinda in the middle of nowhere, but Roadside America has information on how to get there. It’s pretty easy to find, viewable from the freeway and accessed via a frontage road. Not really much is known about the creator, Richard Daniel Baker, but a fellow blogger shed a little light in this post, where she prints a letter by one of the folks involved in the project. I don’t know if I can adequately describe how odd and awesome and moving it was to be there, so I’m just gonna photo dump and hope that some of the essence of the place shines through.

We missed the Cadillac Ranch in Amarillo, but managed to stop at the VW Slug Bug Ranch in Conway, Texas. I couldn’t find any information about the instillation, and the closest building was an abandoned hotel/store that looks like it shares a property. It’s pretty much exactly what it sounds like – a car-henge of VW Bugs planted face first into the ground at a 45 degree angle and covered with graffiti. There was an abandoned shed and a bunch of used tires nearby. It was a cool place to nose around and take pics.

Our last roadside attraction in Texas was the Leaning Water Tower in Groom. From its inception in the 1920’s, Route 66 was the biggest highway in the US until Eisenhower’s Interstate Highway Act in the 50’s heralded improvements the would eventually replace the old route. Route 66 crossed 8 states, went through three time zones, and covered almost 2500 miles. It wasn’t called the Mother Road for nothing. Entire industries sprang up around catering to travelers along the highway, and many businesses used gimmicky marketing ploys and quirky attractions to draw travellers to their businesses.

In Groom Texas, Ralph Britten dreamed up the idea of a leaning water tower to draw people to his truck shop. He bought the tower, and placed it into the ground at an angle, balancing it on two legs and filling it just enough to keep the center of gravity low. That’s probably a really dumbed-down version of whatever math or physics went into that, but I studied history and that’s the best I can do. Anywhoo, it worked. People would come into the truck stop, panicked, and tell him that his water tower was about to fall over, and he’d laugh and sell them some gas or talk em into buying food or whatevs. Using the water tower as a draw worked and his truck stop was really popular until, strangely enough, it burned down. The tower’s still there, though.

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The Leaning Tower of Water

On January 5, we went through Kansas. There’s not much to say about Kansas. At this point we were close enough to Nebraska to just want to get there.

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Kansas. It’s a state.

On January 6, we made it to our new home in Nebraska.

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The good life. Fingers crossed.

I have so many cool Nebraska experiences that I want to tell you about, but I’ll have to save that for another day. I’m too busy living… the good life. 😉

Coming up very soon will be a collaborative blog post with one of my favorite people, Elaine Eshelman, about our trip to Manzanar. You’re gonna love her. She’s a rogue anthropologist, a writer and an activist, a loud-mouthed rabble-rouser, and a general all-around badass. I can’t wait to do this post with her. Until then, check out some of her other stuff. You won’t be disappointed. As part of The History Explorers (https://www.facebook.com/thehistoryexplorers/) she posts youtube videos where she teaches her daughters the actual, factual history that often gets left out of schools. She also runs an amazing collaborative writing page called Shorties (https://www.facebook.com/shortiespoetryandprose/). You can check out some of her more personal thoughts on her blog Living In Outer Space (https://livinginouterspace.blogspot.com/).

History Is My Love Language

I’m typing all this on my iPad because I can’t find the cord to my laptop. I think I left it at work, but who knows. Yesterday my friend, Lipstick, and I went on an adventure. This is us:

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The Vulgar Historian and Lipstick Go on an Adventure.

She took the picture. She’s the pretty one. I’m the one with the awesome hair.

We did a lot of talking and driving, and one of the things we talked about was our love languages. We both have the same love language – cuddling and history adventures. Lipstick called it something else, like, umm, quality time and physical affection or something. But she prolly read the whole book. I only read about four pages.

We also discussed a much better book, Anne of Green Gables, which we both love with all of our wistful little hearts. And we vowed to be bosom friends forever since we are such kindred spirits. Hopefully that means plenty more adventures ahead!

Yesterday, we kind of had a vague plan to do history stuff since Lipstick likes that kind of thing as much as I do. We heard there were some old buildings in Searchlight, but we didn’t see much interesting. We stopped in and got jerky at Gus’s Really Good Fresh Jerky, which definitely lived up to its advertising. The brisket was amazing. The Searchlight Museum hadn’t opened yet, and we were hungry, so we decided to head down to Laughlin for lunch,

Unplanned trips are the best, and I had never been to Laughlin before. Apparently, it was named after this dude, Don Laughlin, who saw the potential for tourism in the area, and bought up some property and opened the Riverside Resort. Most of Laughlin looks like it was built in the 1980’s, but that’s just a visual observation and shouldn’t be taken as a fact or anything. There was a statue of Mr. Laughlin in town that we got out of the car to look at. The statue had cobweb boogers that needed to be cleaned.

 

Lipstick was in charge of finding a place for us to eat lunch. She chose a place called Bumbleberry Flats, and I have to admit I was a bit skeptical. But she liked the name and it was close, so away we went.

The restaurant was in a place called Pioneer Hotel and Gambling Hall, which actually was built in the 80’s.

When we pulled up, I was even more skeptical. It was very old-west-saloon-and-brothel themed. It had that kind of western Main Street false storefront thing going on. The casino itself was actually closed, but the hotel and two restaurants were open. River Rick is the casino mascot (known as Laughlin Lou by some), and he’s pretty much the same dude as Vegas Vic of the Pioneer Hotel here in Las Vegas. I didn’t get a picture of the sign, but they have a weird rock art landscaping portrait that I did snap a pic of.

 

We went inside, and it was a 20 minute wait to be seated, which was surprising since it was a Monday afternoon. The hotel sits right on the river, so we went outside and looked around while we waited. It was gorgeous, y’all. The river was a beautiful blue-green and there was a cool breeze coming off the water. Lipstick and I sat on a bench and just soaked it all in.

After some time had passed, we went back inside and were seated after a couple of minutes or so. I have never been so happy to be proven so wrong about a place. The food was fucking amazing. We shared a bowl of chicken pot pie soup that was so creamy and buttery that I could barely stand it. And it had a little square of puff pastry on top that was like two orgasms in a row. I ordered the pecan french toast which was just about as perfect as it could be – crunchy on the outside and creamy and buttery and cinnamony on the inside, covered with pecans and maple syrup. Lipstick got cheddar bacon waffles with chicken and Louisiana honey hot sauce. Hers was pretty good too. If you’re ever in Laughlin, stop by Bumbleberry Flats, you won’t be disappointed. While you’re at it, stop at the hotel gift shop on your way out. They have candy cigarettes for fifty cents, which were somehow the perfect end to a perfect meal (since I gave up real cigarettes back in 2012).

After lunch, we headed back north and ended up in Nelson, Nevada. We stopped just past Nelson and did some hiking up through an area that was pretty much a tin can graveyard. We saw some cool stuff – giant sheets of metal on the ground, something that looked like a furnace, and a lizard that was too quick for me to get a picture of. We had so much fun that I forgot that I wanted to visit the graveyard. I’ll have to save that for another day.

 

After we hiked around Nelson, we went a couple miles down the road to the Eldorado Canyon where they have all this old stuff rusting in the desert. They do mine tours and rent kayaks too. It’s private property, but they let you go out and explore if you want. You just hafta stay out of the restricted areas and you can’t take professional photographs or go in the mine without paying.

Signs in the parking lot direct you to check in to the general store before doing anything. We needed water, so that was gonna be our first stop anyway. The lady at the counter was super-awesome. She was really friendly and knowledgable and funny. She told us to watch out for rattlesnakes because they had caught 16 so far this season. She also showed us a binder of pictures of dudes who didn’t listen when she said not to touch the cacti. Yup, she had “binders of men” – XD. She said that women never seemed to come in with cactus spines stuck in them, but it seemed like the lads couldn’t help themselves. For the record, here’s the cacti she was talking about.

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Don’t touch me or the cacti.

The site had also been used for a bunch of films and stuff. There was a book of pics from movies shot there, as well as musicians who had performed there or visited there. There were even a few shots of models from ads that were shot out there.

I don’t really know how to describe what the place was like. Like if the stuff on the walls of Cracker Barrel took steroids and started a resort for other old oddities, it would be this place. It was really jarring and surreal and completely fucking awesome. Lipstick said she could envision an entire season of American Horror Story shot there, and I completely agree. We’ve vowed to return to do the mine tour.

I didn’t take a lot of pictures because I was looking at everything with my for-real eyes, but here are a few.

 

There was this one weird marker that told the story of Queho who was a murderer who had somehow escaped justice and had been found dead in a cave some 20 years after his murder spree. So of course that piqued my interest and I wikipedia’d it when I got home. Queho was apparently a mixed-race Native American who either killed, or was blamed for killing, several people in the Eldorado Canyon area, including his half-brother, between 1910 and 1919. Prospectors found his mummified body in a cave in 1940. I guess the Elk’s Club thought it would be totes cool to exhibit the body one year at Helldorado Days (WTAF Elk’s Club?!?!), but the District Attorney at the time managed to get hold of the remains and give them a proper burial. Here’s a pic of the marker that tells a little bit of the story. Which is interesting for another reason that I’ll get into in a sec.

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Satisfactory! is the best I can hope for.

If you look at the bottom, you’ll see that the marker was placed in 2006 by The Queho Posse Chapter 1919, E Clampus Vitus. Well, friends, I’ll tell you, I didn’t know what in the fuck that meant. So I turned back to my good friends wikipedia and google and found out a little more.

So E Clampus Vitus (ECV) is a historical fraternal organization dedicated to the study of the old west, particularly mining. They call themselves “Clampers.” I got all this info from wikipedia, and you can read it yourself, but here’s the short version… The order started sometime in the 1800’s and a whole bunch of notable white dudes were members. Currently, they all wear red shirts and more pins than a TGI Friday’s waitress. The group seems to be a mixture of serious historical inquiry and drunken mirth-making. It sounds very much like a white-dudes-with-beards thing. I’m not a dude, but drinking and history and fucking around are my jam, so I’m curious. These kinds of things fascinate me, but I’m planning adventures at the moment so I’ll have to come back to this. If you, dearest reader, know anything about it please post in the comments.

The Queho Posse Chapter is the ECV chapter in Las Vegas. They’ve done a shit-ton of historical markers, which you can look up on their website. I peeped their fb group, and the only name I recognized was Mark Hall-Patton, which surprised me not at all as MH-P is a mirthful, bad-assed white dude historian with a beard. Fun fact, I met MH-P through church. Another fun fact, Lipstick had Mrs. H-P as a prof at uni. Isn’t the world small and weird and just as lovely as fuck-all?

Anywhoo, I didn’t mean to make this entire blog post about ECV. I just happen to get distracted rather easily.

After we were done in Eldorado Canyon, I took Lipstick to the abandoned pet cemetery in Boulder City. I’m not going to go too much into detail about that because I’ve previously written a bunch about it here. It was just as hard to find and just as big as it was last time I was there, and we explored a section that I didn’t get a chance to see last time. Here are some pics:

 

I want my grave to read “Fatums” when I die.

If all of that isn’t creepy enough, this grave has a fucking hole in it. Katie Dog, where are you? That’s a good girl….. aahhh fuck, it’s a zombie.

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So, um, yeah, we saw that movie and we knew it was time to nope the hell out of there. Lipstick said she was glad I hadn’t taken her out to the desert to kill her and make her into delicious blood sausage. I could never do that. She’s like one of those really pretty desserts that you can’t take a fork to because you don’t want to mess it up. However, I don’t think she was reassured much by Katie Dog’s possible resurrection, so it was definitely time to go home.

We’re already making plans for a return trip to Boulder City to check out some museums, and I want to show Lipstick the abandoned airport. And of course another trip to Nelson for the graveyard and the mine tour, plus our friend Chewie was talking about an abandoned boat dock which sounds kinda cool too. And we have trips to Lake Mead and LDS Dixie coming up as well. This is gonna be the summer of historical adventure, so buckle up dear reader, it’s gonna be an amazing ride.

History really is my love language. I’m lucky for all the beautiful souls in my life who fill that bucket. ❤