NevadaGram #128 – April 2012 Tonopah, Death Valley Junction

What They’re saying About Us

USA Today includes Virginia City’s Americana Music Festival among the 10 best.

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The Mizpah Hotel has captured the hearts of all Nevadans by coming back to life before our very eyes,

Downtown Tonopah is beginning to thrive. That’s the BelVada just beyond the hotel.

like Sleeping Beauty awakening to a kiss.

In this case the smooch was bestowed by new owners Fred and Nancy Cline, and the revived and renovated Mizpah has resumed its role as “the finest stone hotel in the desert”, a magnet for locals from six counties in two states and for the US 95 Las Vegas-Reno travelers alike.

It turns out that the Mizpah’s return is only one among many signs of new life in old Tonopah.

Right across the street, the old Bel-Vada building once housed the toniest offices in the city. When the city went into decline the offices were converted to apartments, and most recently of all it was stripped of anything of value — including doors and windows — and abandoned. Now it is getting a new roof and the two lower floors will be restored for community use as a visitor center and meetings facility, bringing still more life back to the downtown.

A Message from Marta Becket

A year ago I had a very realistic nightmare!

It became very real when we had the next board meeting at the Amargosa Opera House. Prior to that, I had been in the hospital for 8 weeks for a hip replacement and broken wrist. During that time several of the board members decided to try to remove me and those loyal to me from the board and the Opera House facilities!

It’s been over 45 years that I have been the founder and it is still hard to believe these individuals would stab me in the back. We now have a law firm who has helped to straighten out this mess. So I can report that we are currently OK.

I have reconstituted and reorganized the board. We have put directors of the board in place who are loyal and share my vision of Death Valley Junction. It seems incredible that a devious plan, such as this, could have destroyed one of America’s treasures.

As many of you know I have retired February 2012 from the stage and doing shows. I am staying busy doing paintings, sketches and helping to run the nonprofit.

Plans for the Amargosa Opera House and Hotel are many. You can always call and speak with Richard Regnell he is the Director of Operations and is coordinating all the donation programs.

These are hard times for everyone, especially the arts! As Mrs. Fulcher in my show says, “painting, dancing, and playing the piano is unnecessary”, but without the arts, life would be soulless. For 45 years I have shared my artistic talents with audiences who come back again and again. They must need what I have to offer, so I ask in some small way, help the Amargosa Opera House continue to offer the classics for which I have dedicated 45 years of my life. I’ll need your help more than ever. Help the Opera House to stay alive, the “show must go on”! And I thank you and I am grateful for what ever you can give!

With warmest personal regards,

Marta Becket, Founder and President of the Board

Another is the Crescent Dunes Solar Energy Project a few miles north of town. The 648-ft concrete tower is visible from US 95, and the surrounding array of 10,000 highly polished mirrors (heliostats) will be more than two miles across when installation is complete.

photo courtesy Crescent Dunes Solar ProjectThe sun rising over the San Antonio Range will drench this array of mirrors with light, sending 10,000 beams of sunlight to a target at the top of the tower, relentlessly hitting that bulls-eye from dawn to dusk with tightly focused energy from space.

This energy heats

a saturated salt solution which is pumped down the tower to creates the steam that drives the generators and produces enough electric power to serve 75,000 homes. Sunlight to steam to electricity: an elegant combination of 18th, 19th and 21st century technologies. The Spanish firm building the system is the only company in the world that would guarantee it will work, so they got the job.

No doubt they’ll have their fingers crossed when it goes online next year.

Solauro Industries has established a regional operations base in one of the hangars at the airport where WWII bomber crews once trained. Solauro’s business is the reclamation and remediation of abandoned mine sites. Financing comes from recovery of metals in historical mill tailings and mine waste dumps. Crews and equipment are dispatched from Tonopah to project sites all over the southwestern USA to perform reclamation and remediation of abandoned mines, eliminating hazards such as open shafts and other environmental issues.

The Round Mountain Gold operation in Big Smoky Valley is expanding, and at Goldfield the highway is being moved to accommodate the Metsallic Ventures project there. Goldfield is also feeling its oats, and I expect this year’s Goldfield Days to break new ground.

Also in Esmeralda County, the old Foote mine in nearby Silver Peak is now known as Rockwood Lithium. It is the only producing lithium mine in the USA, and is being doubled in size. The expansion is funded in part by a $28.4 million DOE grant to meet the need for advanced transportation batteries.

There’s even a company drilling for oil up in Hot Creek Valley and in Gabbs Valley too.

Quick Notes from beyond the mountains: A 30,000-acre site along the Upper Las Vegas Wash known as Tule Springs is the single-largest known assemblage of ice age fossils in the Southwest, from 7,000 to 250,000 years old. It is also a migration corridor for desert bighorn sheep, which move through the area as they travel between the Spring Mountains and the Desert National Wildlife Refuge . . . The Las Vegas SUN should win another Public Service Award this year, this time for its list of “50 must-eat Las Vegas meals”. For an occasional visitor like me it’s indispensable, and even locals will find new discoveries to enjoy.

In July, Reno is Arttown

Trey McIntyre is one of the most sought after choreographers working today having created a canon of more than 90 works for the American Ballet Theatre, New York City Ballet and other ballet companies around the world. He formed the Trey McIntyre Project in 2008 based in Boise, Idaho.

. . . Nevada Magazine’s annual Great Nevada Picture

Hunt photo contest is underway and open to all photographers. Prizes will be awarded to Winner and Runner-Up for best urban image, best rural scenic image, best wildlife image, best human-interest image, best event or show image, and best photo illustration (includes HDR images, whatever they are). In the THEN & NOW category, photographers re-create vintage images from Nevada’s past. Photographers must provide a high-resolution file of the history photo being reproduced, and the modern photo must be taken from the exact same location. Send photos via e-mail by 5 p.m. (PDT) on Friday, June 29. If you need to mail your images, call 775-687-0606 for instructions. Check out past photo contest winners and contest details here. Any NevadaGram subscriber whose photo is selected will receive an additional prize from us — just send a note with news of your award. The Snake Valley Festival will be held June 15-17 in Baker, to celebrate and raise funds to support community preservation.

Books & Authors in Tonopah

Virginia Ridgway (above, left), shown here with co-author Janice Oberding, invited Nevada writers and publishers to join her for the launch of their new book, “Mizpah Hotel: History, Happenings and Hauntings”.

Appropriately enough the event was held at the Mizpah and attracted local author Shawn Hall and Stan Paher (below), the Distinguished Nevadan from Reno with his many Nevada books. Yes, that’s former Governor/Senator Richard Bryan and his wife Bonnie in the background. He created the Commission on Tourism, and was my boss for a year and a half back then — which is when I first met Virginia. Virginia and Janice dedicated their book to him: “Thank you Senator Bryan, for your steadfast, outstanding support of Tonopah and the great state of Nevada.”

To the great delight of everyone present, Virginia and Janice completely sold out of their books.

Photos by Robin Cobbey

All proceeds from the three days of events will benefit Great Basin Water Network to help protect the water and environment in eastern Nevada. The Festival will overlap with Great Basin National Park’s Astronomy Festival, June 14-16.

Tonopah isn’t the only historic city with 21st century overtones. These antelope-friendly windmills are in Spring Valley near Ely on US Highways 6/50. Most recently, Secretary of the Interior Ken Salazar has approved a 350 megawatt photovoltaic solar energy facility on 2000 acres of the Moapa Band of Paiutes reservation northeast of Las Vegas.

A wine tasting at T&D’s Restaurant and an ice cream social at the community center will kick off events on Friday night. Saturday’s activities include a giant name-your-price yard sale in the center of town, the smallest parade near the Loneliest Highway (it’s so small they go around twice), and booths and vendors flanking the main street. Of note is the book booth which features the best of big bookstore browsing in downtown Baker. Food will be available at the community center, T&D’s, and Lectrolux, with free entertainment at T&D’s in the afternoon. Other activities include a silent auction, children’s games, and a massive water fight. Saturday night features a BBQ dinner and live auction at the Border Inn. For runners and walkers, Sunday’s Snake Valley Slither, a 5 or 10K run or walk begins at 8 am . . . Al Moe, whose excellent books on casino gambling and Nevada history are available in our online bookstore also writes a blog about Casino Gambling for and in this one he reminisces about casino comps in the good old days . . .

Overheard at the bar of the Gold Canyon Steak House in Dayton: “Here’s the thing, Kennie: you were born with the key that opens the gates of heaven. That’s absolutely true I promise you. But here’s the other thing: the same key opens the gates of hell.”

Happy Highways,



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