Las Vegas wasn’t a stop on the roadtrip either of us were desperate to visit, but we really had no choice. There are only two or three highways that head south in Nevada, and all end up in Vegas, so it was a sensible place to spend the night.
I’d post pictures, but they’re the same old Strip sights you’ve seen a zillion times. We did stop at one place off the beaten path: the Gold & Silver Pawn Shop, featured on my favorite guilty pleasure pseudo-reality show, Pawn Stars!
If you’ve never seen Pawn Stars, it’s essentially a seedier version of Antiques Roadshow. The show apparently has a fanbase, as the store was absolutely mobbed with tourists. Also, the three main characters featured on the show were nowhere in sight, though you could buy plenty of t-shirts and mugs with their likenesses.
We continued south on US-93, which we had taken from US-50.
US-93 is one of the original border-to-border highways, beginning high in the Canadian Rockies and ending in the border town of Ambos Nogales.
US-93 also crosses the Hoover Dam, which I’d visited on the my last roadtrip but was looking forward to seeing again. Only problem is, they’ve significantly beefed up the security check-points since 2005, and we ended up waiting about 45 minutes in single lane traffic to cover about 2 miles in distance (temperature outside: approximately 112 degrees):
We crossed the bridge, skipping the paid parking on the Nevada side in favor of the free lot in Arizona. It was just as impressive as when I’d last seen it (and no, I couldn’t get Phil Hartman’s character from Vegas Vacation out of my dam mind).
While the dam itself was as I’d remembered it, the view has changed significantly. In 2005:
The new Hoover Dam Bypass Bridge, pictured above, is being built to alleviate the tremendous amount of traffic on US-93, which bottlenecks into just two lanes at the dam. I didn’t realize it at the time, but its completion will mark the end of an iconic roadtripping experience: cars will no longer be allowed to drive over the dam once the new bridge opens.
Other than Rockefeller Center, I can think of no other architectural work I’ve ever visited that encapsulates the Art Deco style as perfectly as the Hoover Dam.
One of my favorite sculptures is this pair of 30-foot tall “winged creatures”…
Designed by Oskar Hansen, they’re meant to convey “the immutable calm of intellectual resolution, and the enormous power of trained physical strength, equally enthroned in placid triumph of scientific achievement.” The Deco twist is too damn cool:
The Hoover Dam Exhibition Hall…
…which screams 1930′s so perfectly, it might as well be a movie set:
Great font on the rest room signs…
Awesome tile floor design:
Pictures don’t do it justice. If you haven’t been, just go – and make sure you take the dam tour, stop in the dam gift shop, and take all the dam pictures you want (sorry, couldn’t resist). We continued along US-93…
…stopping at a gas station with some great wall art. A UFO theme on the mini-mart:
Then, a roadtrip theme on a nearby gas tank:
One of my favorite roadside places to swim in the US is Willow Beach, just off of US-93 down the road from the dam. Though the surrounding mountains are impressive, there is simply nothing better than jumping from 112 degree temperatures into absolutely freezing mountain water. Nothing.
Back on 93, we made one short detour, and it is one I’ll never forget.
Chloride is another in a long line of near-ghost towns we’d come across on the trip, but this one felt distinctly different.
Where other ghost towns we’d visited seemed to be clinging on to a scant bit of hope that they’d one day spring back to normal life, Chloride gave off the impression of being perfectly content with its near-forgotten status. Proud, even.
Chloride was a boom town from the 1860′s – 1920′s, when silver chloride (hence the name), gold, copper, lead, and zinc were mined from nearby mountains. The town population went from 2,000 at its peak to nearly zero after the mines went bust. Many of the original wood buildings were lost in fires, though some remain. The post office below is located in what was once the town pool hall.
Then, in the 1960′s, Chloride found a brief new life as a small counter-culture destination for hippies and artists, a spirit that seems to have remained with the town.
There’s plenty of roadart to be found everywhere (sculptures crafted from rusted junk), as well as quirky buildings like the gas station below.
This building is identified as the Arizona Central Bank. Is it? Was it? Who knows??
Chloride reminded me a lot of the type of small town you come across in post-apocalyptic video games like Fallout (nerd alert!), where everything is very close and conveniently navigated by arrow signs:
Then we took a turn down a dirt road, following a sign for the cemetery.
Chloride Cemetery is unlike any cemetery I’ve ever been to.
I usually dislike cemeteries. Unless they’ve got some history, I find modern cemeteries to be the most sterile, boring places I can possibly imagine spending eternity, with each headstone being nearly identical to the next and the grass a too-perfect shade of green.
The Chloride Cemetery, on the other hand, might be the most charming graveyard I’ve ever visited…
Every single grave had character. Take, for example, this great wagon wheel grave (for a man who died in 1998!). Awesome!
While modern cemeteries always seem to have an air of emptiness and neglect, Chloride’s is teeming with life and spirit. Another example – this grave, covered in a mountain of plastic flowers for a woman who died in 2004.
Best of all, though, are the downright quirky graves. Check out this one…
…with a faded, 80′s-style Pepsi can taped to it:
Chloride’s cemetery dates back to 1800′s, and I believe that, over time, many of the headstones were lost. It appears the locals have tried to make everyone feel remembered…
…though it was admittedly creepy finding all these baby dolls lying around a cemetery!
At least the monkey didn’t have those freakin’ cymbals:
Back to less creepy stuff. A cross decorated in trinkets, a horseshoe, and a boot spur:
Robert Edwards, a member of the Coast Guard, mounted a propeller to his headstone:
Wheels and a motorcycle gas tank on this grave:
Another fantastic grave. Don’t go thinking this is old either – the man died in 2002:
A beautiful hand-carved grave:
A fenced-in grave:
Another odd grave, this mound of white rocks is bordered by bricks:
Another one, with yellowing photographs…
And really neat 3-D lettering (er, and a spelling error – though I think it’s neat to have a spelling error on your grave):
Even the more typical graves have at least some flair, like this wood headstone (and a bottle of Seagram’s):
A guy who doesn’t want to be bothered in the afterlife:
Never seen anything like it. One bit of warning: don’t wear sandals if you explore the Chloride Cemetery. Though we couldn’t see them, tiny barbs from some sort of plant were scattered all over the ground, and hurt like hell when you stepped on them.
Finally, we pulled into the town of Kingman, Arizona for the night, crossing onto an old section of Route 66. Though decommissioned in 1974, what remains of The Mother Road is now referred to as Historic Route 66…
…which sort of takes the fun out of it, in my opinion (nothing says “No more crazy adventures here!” than by adding the word “Historic” to something!).