Exploring Tonopah

Two days blurred together, as a mixture of work, napping, and riding around the town. Thee room at the National 9 Inn was pretty good for naps, though a bit noisy in the morning.

Nice room, except it was next to the ice machine!

At first I ventured out just to find food. The nearest place was this klassy burger joint:

Howdy stranger! Come in and have a decent burger and some appalling nachos!

I ordered a burger and a big pile of nachos, intending to save one for later, but as soon as I opened the lid of the nachos I knew I wasn’t going to eat most of them:

They were as bad as they look.

I didn’t know it was possible for a made-to-order pile of nachos to instantly look like it’s been sitting around for two days, but this burger joint nailed it. I salvaged the avocado and picked at the rest.

The only other nearby place for snacks was a gas station. Walking the aisles, I was amused to see how many bags were bloated due to the 6000 foot elevation of Tonopah:

Puffy from being hauled up to 6000 feet.

That was the extent of my adventure for the first day. After that it was all work and rest until the next morning. Then I got on the bike and did some real looking around.

The first thing I noticed was this communications complex built on the top a hill.

This installation is why I've had speedy LTE on my cellphone for the last four days.

It’s visible from everywhere in town, and probably also visible for 50 miles in any direction.

Tonopah was built up around a huge silver deposit in the local hills. Now it’s all about preserving that legacy.

"Big" Bill Murphy, hero of the tragic Tonopah Belmont Mine fire that killed 17 on February 23, 1911.
Jim and Belle Butler, discoverers of the first silver bonanza of the 20th century, resulting in the rise of the town of Tonopah.
Chillin with Jim and Belle.
Monument to dead miners.
This is where I did NOT stay.
That is a weird posture for a miner.
I think there's some resentment here, given that the Governor is name-dropped in the notice.
Old hardware in front ... new hardware on the hill in back!

I also found a nifty fixer-upper project:

Here's a restoration project for ya!

Just a little light dusting and a trash can, and good as new!

I brought the laptop to a couple restaurants around town and did some writing while I ate. I found two places that sold some version of “fish and chips”, and a coffee joint built into a gas station whose idea of a “mocha” was pre-mixed coffee and hot chocolate powder with whipped cream sprayed on top — but it was a vague reminder of the coffee shops back in Oakland, so I enjoyed it. None of the patrons wore face masks, but all the employees did.

There was lots of variation in proper mask usage. Several young people came up to me wearing their masks, then decided it was easier to talk to me if they pulled the mask down away from their face, and when the conversation was over they raised it again. Duh. Lots of other people wearing the mask over their mouth but not their nose, and breathing through their nose. We’ve all had over a hundred days to learn what works and what doesn’t, but good information obviously spreads at a different rate depending on where you are — and around here, your politics.

Nevada is a state full of people just getting by. Shutdowns and shelter-in-place began to hurt them immediately, and most of them had no safety net when the money ran out and were forced to make ugly life-altering changes. I sympathize with their resentment. The extent of the damage caused by an infectious disease as it spreads is not something you can see just by talking to your friends and neighbors. You need data from large-scale institutions … And of course you need to have faith in those institutions. If you don’t, you’d be inclined to think the whole thing was a scam, or something that only applied to big urban centers and wasn’t your problem.

That, in a nutshell, is why I saw regular people wearing masks in Reno, employees wearing masks in Carson City and Tonopah, and no one wearing masks in any of the small towns, regardless of their age or what they were doing.

Speaking of coverage, I noticed today that there was a gap between my cloth gloves and the sleeves of my shirt. Oops!

Deeper tan where my gloves didn't quite reach my sleeves.

It only took part of each day to ride around Tonopah from end to end and see everything. The town was really not that big. One of the restaurants I ate at displayed a giant photograph taken in the 1910’s, and the houses and mining facilities marched off to the edge of the frame on all sides, but the population and the mining activity decreased all through the 1930’s, and in the 1940’s a huge fire broke out and destroyed much of what remained. Even during the days of the the silver boom the population never climbed much higher than a few thousand and in 2010 there were 2500 people living in Tonapah.

Oh, did I mention there’s a nuclear testing range about 30 miles outside of town? There’s that.

At the end of the second evening I listened to the rest of the BBC Dracula radio drama that I’d started on the climb into town. For some reason I always forget that the original story actually ends with the protagonists pursuing Dracula all the way back to his home country — perhaps because all the dramatic retellings do it in a bit of a rush, after spending most of their time in England. Thinking about that sent me down several internet rabbit holes: The 1990’s movie. The town of Whitby, featured in the novel. A related tale from Jules Verne, called The Castle Of The Carpathians, photos of Colț fortress which was the likely inspiration for that, and a list of tourist activities in the area. It was all a fine contrast from the history and environment of Tonopah.

At the end of the second day I knew it was time to move on. Tonopah was a nice place to hunker down and work, but nothing more for me. The road was calling.

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