Monday, May 26, 2014

Memorial Day Weekend Roadtrip to Rhyolite

A ghostly last supper graces the entry to the ghost town
Memorial Day Weekend 2014.  Some choose to honor America's war dead by going to the beach.  Some choose to fire up the barbecue and grill hamburgers, hot dogs and steak.  I chose to head to Rhyolite.

Rhyolite is part ghost town, part public art installation.  It is unique even in the context of Nevada's own special brand of uniqueness.  In 20 years of living in Nevada, I had never been to Rhyolite.  I had heard of the Bottle House.  I recently heard about the open air public art.  And I really needed a roadtrip getaway.

So on Sunday, I fired up the diesel (and filled up the tires after the sensor light came on passing through the Spaghetti Bowl).  It was time to head two hours northwest of Las Vegas and to the ghost town of Rhyolite.

The restored Bottle House
Rhyolite, named for a type of igneous rock, was a mining town whose glory years were very brief, only a few years in the first decade of the 20th Century.  The town grew very rapidly, but the mine gave out sooner than expected.  The most famous structure left behind was the Bottle House.

Yes. Those are bottle bottoms. The original were beer bottles.
The Bottle House is a house made from, yes, bottles. Bottles and mortar. It's recently been restored to something even greater than its original glory.

I'm in camouflage. So you may not be able to see me.
Next to the Bottle House is a diorama of some sort:

Diorama. I can't believe I was able to recall that word without looking it up.
I could not find an explanation as to what this was a diorama of.  I'm guessing it was Peak Rhyolite, but I am only guessing.

Some of the structures are relatively intact:

One of the left-behind structures of Rhyolite
But keep in mind that in the old "boom and bust" West, when a mining town busted, a lot of the structures were hauled away, especially what was made of wood.  So the result is this:

Love among the ruins of Rhyolite
The buildings are in such advanced decay that it's like wandering among Greek or Roman ruins.  Only it's Nevada.

Weirdly enough, the bank is the one structure with barbed wire around it.  Is there still silver and gold in the bank vault?

Jewelry store
Yet, weirdly enough two, the jewelry store isn't ringed in barbed wire.

Another bank. In an even more ruinous state
My favorite structure in Rhyolite, among the buildings at least, was the abandoned railroad depot.  I know.  My favorite structure is always the abandoned railroad depot. And this was a particularly nice and rather intact one:

The public side of the depot, facing Downtown Rhyolite
What would you call this architectural style?  Old West?  Spanish mission, I guess.

Side entrance
And from the back (or track side):

Track side view. Well, track side if the tracks had still been there
The building had a couple of lives.  It was the town's railroad station.  It was then a casino, during an attempt to revive the town as a resort getaway in the 1920s (I believe).

Closer view of the track side
You can see on the sign.  In very faded lettering is the word "RHYOLITE," announcing the name of the town to the rail passengers.  A casino reference is clearly overlaid on top of the town name.

Nice crop of Joshua Trees frame the railroad depot
The abandoned town site is a bit farther back down the road.  At the entrance to Rhyolite is the public art installation:

Ghostly bicyclist. Apropos for a ghost town
The public art is quite eclectic.  For example, note that shrouded, ghostly figure from the Last Supper is carried over into the form of a bicyclist.  And nothing quite says eclectic like a lady, perhaps she's being crucified, and perhaps this is a totem pole cross:

Lady on a totem pole cross. Flanked by ancient wooden cannons
Or there are the face masks in the dirt:

Face masks in the ground.  Next to a dome of some sort.
Those Venetian style masks have always creeped me out.  But there's nothing creepy about this:

Pink Lady, with artsy mountain backdrop
That's "Pink Lady," as she is known.  And, yes, curtains match drapes:

Straight-on view
And nothing creepy about this either:

The ceramic sofa in hippie colors.  There are two bowls embedded on each armrest.  I thought they were ashtrays, but then we got to talking that this would be a great dog-friendly sofa (easy to clean up the shedded hair) and those bowls would be great as food on the left, water on the right.

But my favorite is the Last Supper:

Me as an apostle. (Not Judas, definitely not Judas)
I had to participate.

Pleased to meet you, Jesus.
I'm guessing you're allowed on this.  There were no signs.

Miner and penguin
And who can resist the charm of the desert penguin?

Welcome to Rhyolite
I don't know what took me so long to go to Rhyolite.

If you want to go to Rhyolite, just take US-95 north from Las Vegas. Past Kyle Canyon.  Past Lee Canyon. Past Indian Springs.  Past Mercury.  Go all the way into Beatty.  Then make a left when US-95 hits a t-bone and you either have to go right (to continue on to Tonopah) or a left to Death Valley.  Rhyolite is only about five miles farther down the road.

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