Well technically it wasn’t in Vegas…
I bought a Groupon tour at a 53% discount but the tour would have been worth it at full price.
We started our day by meeting our driver and guide at a local motel at 8 am. We were a small, intimate group – just four of us. The others were my daughter-in-law, Jody, a couple from Sweden – Fia and Martin – and our tour guide, Jennie DuFour. We introduced ourselves and headed out to our first stop, Hoover Dam, to marvel at the incredible engineering that keeps the Colorado River at bay. We had wonderful views of man-made Lake Mead.
Next, stop was Chloride, Arizona. Once a booming mining town in the 1860s, the population has dwindled to about 250 mostly retired people. At one time there were over 72 mines operating in Chloride and you can see the remains of a lot of them on the mountains. For all intents and purposes, Chloride is a ghost town that never really died. There are ghosts of buildings that used to be lived in, ghosts of mines that used to be producing, and ghosts of people that used to live here. We had time to browse the shops and see the town’s lawn art, amazing sculptures crafted from junk. Jennie referred to it as sculptural metal and some of it is very cleaver. From town we headed down two miles on a rutted, dirt road to see the famous Roy Purcell murals. These are larger-than-life murals painted on the granite faces of a canyon in the Cerbat mountains east through Chloride. Roy Purcell is a well-known AZ artist who now lives in Tubac, AZ. According to Jennie the reason of why and when of the paintings is full of myth. The paintings themselves are highly symbolic images in lurid colors and they remind me of the “hippie” art of the 1960’s. It is well worth the short 4-wheel drive adventure to go out to see them.
Next our SUV headed down Historic Route 66 to Oatman, Arizona.
This was also our lunch stop. The tour company provided a lovely box lunch as part of the tour. What a fun, little town! Just 150 people—and one town legend, known as Oatie the Ghost—make Oatman their home. Wild burros roam the town begging for food. Several of the store actually sell “donkey food” which is much healthier for them than people food. One of the local residents told me that “people food” is like giving candy to a baby — not good for them at all.
On a historical note – Clarke Gable and his bride, actress Carol Lombard, spent their honeymoon in Oatman at the Oatman Hotel. The town also stages a re-enctment of a Wild West gun-fight 7 days a week. Another of the locals told me that it was done by all local volunteers and that many of the town’s people dress in wild west garb “just because.” I also learned that Oatman is a favorite stop for motorcycle groups out for the day on their “hogs.” There was a large group in town when we were there and I was surprised ot see almost all of them without helmets on. Arizona is on of the few states that does not have a helmet law.
Our last stop was a little place that Jennie referred to as El Dorado Canyon. The owners, Tony and Bobbie Wervy, bought the property as a 50 acre ranch with gold and silver mines and the remains of an old ghost town on it. They have an eclectic collection of memorabilia and let you roam freely about their museum and grounds. They offer a 90 minute guided tour of the mine. Our stop was only about 45 minutes but there is more than enough to keep you occupied even without taking the mine tour. It is a fascinating look back into the past. I am a history buff anyway and this was fascinating. Tony Wervy was friendly and shared a wealth of information with me. It was amazing to learn how people lived and worked mining for gold at $1.50 a day. All done without electricity and modern day equipment. The mining equipment was all steam powered and they used candles in the mine for lighting. The mine shaft that was used in the tour was up 200 feet deep but some were down 400 feet.
This tour winds it way through the Mojave Desert making a big circle and covers about 300 miles. Our guide was also knowledgeable about the desert and the plant life found there. Just a 45 minute ride from the Strip and you are in the old west reliving the days of gold & silver miners. This is a nice break from the hustle and bustle of The Strip.
We arrived back in Sin City at about 5 p.m. It was time to head out for Albuquerque, New Mexico and a visit with my son and his family. I had two grandchildren waiting to see their grandmother.