Vegas, The Hoover Dam, and a Strange Little Town Called Chloride (Weirdest Cemetery in the US?)

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!

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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.

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We continued south on US-93, which we had taken from US-50.

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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.

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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):

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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).

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While the dam itself was as I’d remembered it, the view has changed significantly. In 2005:

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And today:

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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.

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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.

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One of my favorite sculptures is this pair of 30-foot tall “winged creatures”…

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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:

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The Hoover Dam Exhibition Hall…

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…which screams 1930’s so perfectly, it might as well be a movie set:

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Great font on the rest room signs…

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Awesome tile floor design:

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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…

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…stopping at a gas station with some great wall art. A UFO theme on the mini-mart:

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Then, a roadtrip theme on a nearby gas tank:

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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.

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Back on 93, we made one short detour, and it is one I’ll never forget.

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Chloride is another in a long line of near-ghost towns we’d come across on the trip, but this one felt distinctly different.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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There’s plenty of roadart to be found everywhere (sculptures crafted from rusted junk), as well as quirky buildings like the gas station below.

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This building is identified as the Arizona Central Bank. Is it? Was it? Who knows??

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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:

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Then we took a turn down a dirt road, following a sign for the cemetery.

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Chloride Cemetery is unlike any cemetery I’ve ever been to.

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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…

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Every single grave had character. Take, for example, this great wagon wheel grave (for a man who died in 1998!). Awesome!

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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.

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Best of all, though, are the downright quirky graves. Check out this one…

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…with a faded, 80’s-style Pepsi can taped to it:

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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…

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…though it was admittedly creepy finding all these baby dolls lying around a cemetery!

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At least the monkey didn’t have those freakin’ cymbals:

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Back to less creepy stuff. A cross decorated in trinkets, a horseshoe, and a boot spur:

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Robert Edwards, a member of the Coast Guard, mounted a propeller to his headstone:

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Wheels and a motorcycle gas tank on this grave:

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Another fantastic grave. Don’t go thinking this is old either – the man died in 2002:

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A beautiful hand-carved grave:

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A fenced-in grave:

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Another odd grave, this mound of white rocks is bordered by bricks:

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Another one, with yellowing photographs…

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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):

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Even the more typical graves have at least some flair, like this wood headstone (and a bottle of Seagram’s):

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A guy who doesn’t want to be bothered in the afterlife:

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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…

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…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!).

-SCOUT

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19 comments

  1. Reminds me a bit of Concordia Cemetary in El Paso, which is where John Wilkes Booth is buried. Lots of interesting graves besides his there.

  2. I absolutely love these updates. Thank you so much! It’s inspiring me to take my own roadtrip!

  3. Oh Scout! Didn’t you see the murals at Chlorite? Huge personal art work on the rocks.

  4. You are really coming through Phoenix? If so, you must go here:

    http://www.friendsoftheorpheumtheatre.org/history

    Its hot here, btw. Make sure you have plenty of water in your car. And beware – many of the rest areas on the freeways are closed thanks to budget cuts (and cheap legislature). So when you see a sign for gas at an exit, coz it might be 100 miles before you see another chance.

    Oh, and welcome!

  5. Coming through Tucson? Go see the El Tiradito Shrine (tucked in south of the Convention center which ate a huge swath of historic Tucson)

  6. Now I want to go to Chloride, take a bunch of pictures and use them all in a computer game.

  7. The thing I love about Tucson is its display of art throughout the city, that is indicative of the desert and its wildlife. I can’t remember where it is now, but there is a bridge in the shape of a rattle snake (Jody probably knows). There are also many mosaics and murals on the roads, medians and highways. Also check out the 6th Ave underpass at 4th ave. Park your car on fourth, and take the sidewalk underneath. Both sides of the pass are filled with black and white head shots of a few thousand Tucson residences.

  8. Wow, your summer trip is making for great reading. The Cloride restaurant makes some mighty fine food and a friend got smashed on their surprisingly large liquor collection. That cemetery is pretty strange.

    Look forward to the rest of the travels.

  9. Did you happen to see Santa’s Land Office on Rt. 93 (I think it’s just north of Kingman)? I passed it on a trip through there last year and had to stop. Some pictures here: http://killedbycrafts.blogspot.com/2009/05/arizona-driving-tour-day-seven.html

  10. I just visited Grand Coulee Dam in eastern WA and I highly recommend it as a road trip destination! It’s wider than Hoover AND there’s a laser show projected on the side of it every night in the summer showing the history of the Columbia River. Nearby Route 155, passing Steamboat Rock, is some of the most gorgeous scenery in the state.

    Gotta thank you for such exhaustive posts from your road trip, Nick! I’m leaving Seattle to move back to the East Coast and have been trying to decide what route to take home. These pics have convinced me Route 50 – “The Loneliest Road” – will make for a worthwhile journey.

  11. Your comment about the Hoover Damn being an amazing example of Deco architecture is totally spot on. One other one I’ve noticed (really randomly) is the entrance to the Brooklyn Battery Tunnel in Manhattan. It has all sort of great Deco elements including one of the coolest clocks I have ever seen. It’s really beautiful in its way.
    http://blog.silive.com/latest_news/2008/03/Bklyn%20Battery%20Tunnel.jpeg

    I’ve even noticed these gorgeous deco lamps decorating the Manhattan entrance to the Lincoln Tunnel. I love how back then they made public projects so distinctive. Great public architecture has become a lost art.

  12. Really enjoy the blog. This travelogue has been especially inspiring, added a whole new perspective to the west!

    (One correction to above post, John Wilkes Booth seems not to have been buried in El Paso.
    http://www.findagrave.com/cgi-bin/fg.cgi?page=gr&GRid=7377)

  13. Phil Hartman? I think you mean Chevy Chase. Great pictures and stories as usual!

  14. Awesome photos! I love Willow Beach! Go there all the time!

  15. If your travels are taking you to Tucson, I think you might enjoy a visit to the Valley of the Moon. The last time I was out there it was by appointment only. Here’s a link: http://www.tucsonvalleyofthemoon.com/index.cfm

  16. Thank you!!! I stumbled onto this page while looking for something else.
    But!!! The cemetery is not strange to me as a genealogist and also a dweller of Amargosa Valley.
    I agree with the writer of this page… old cemeteries have sooooooo much more character than new ones. I have plot 33 out here, my stone is to have only 3 letters on it because I was born with such a great surname.

    Sly

  17. I just stumbled upon your blog. I have grandparent’s who lived in Chloride and are buried in the cemetery. I loved reading your reactions to it. Yes, it’s quirky, it’s fun, and I’m so glad you liked it. I don’t think a cemetery should be creepy and I’ve always liked walking through the Chloride cemetery. Thanks for a great tribute and read.

  18. The Hoover dam is still open to traffic, there are no plans to forbid traffic.

  19. wow, so glad i saw these pictures! thanks for posting! i think the cemetary looks amazing – death is only a moment, instead of mourning forever, its nice to see the graves decorated, shares a bit aboutwhat the decseaed personality was like :)

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