Nevada Adventures Part 1: Tonopah-Goldfield-Las Vegas

Greetings from the Silver State! I’m writing this from my father-in-law’s house in Ely. The weather may be sunny and boring this week, but it’s pretty cold, and there’s quite a bit of snow on the ground. It definitely feels like a bit of a winter wonderland out here in eastern Nevada – exactly what I was hoping for! It’s New Year’s Eve, which means we’ve got a late evening planned. We’re having homemade pizza for dinner, then going bar hopping, before toasting the stroke of midnight at the annual Fireman’s Ball, Ely’s idea of a Big Deal.

It’s already been a whirlwind visit. We set out at 4:15 Saturday morning, and ran into some very dense fog in the Columbia Gorge that forced us to take it slow. We arrived in Ely some 15 hours later never so desperate to get out of a car in our lives. We were greeted with hugs, handshakes, and homemade chicken enchiladas. Somehow managed to stay up until midnight before crashing.

Saturday morning it was a chilly 4 degrees outside. We met up with friends for breakfast, then stopped by Tara’s grandparents’ house for a visit. After that, we packed the car for more driving – yay! – and headed south, to Tonopah. When we went to Denver in October I had wanted to stay at the Stanley Hotel in Estes Park, a haunted hotel and Stephen King’s inspiration for The Shining. We were too busy though, so Tara compromised and said we could stay instead at the Mizpah, a hotel in Tonopah allegedly haunted by the ghost of a prostitute known as The Lady in Red. One of my blogging buddies, Mikalee, stayed at the same hotel two years earlier – the same exact room, as a matter of fact – and gives an excellent account of her adventure here. So, did we experience any ghostly happenings?

Quite possibly!

We arrived in Tonopah just after sunset. This is a quaint old mining town that has had its share of booms and busts over the years. The Mizpah Hotel dates back to 1907, and has gone through a number of owners over the years. It had been closed for a decade until 2011, when it was reopened and refurbished to its former glory. It’s an absolutely gorgeous hotel, lots of rich wood and carpeting and period furnishings. Our room, 502, was the Lady in Red’s room. She was murdered outside the door by a jealous lover, and is reported to haunt the premises to this day, especially preying on men. I guess if your gig is The World’s Oldest Profession, old habits die hard. Even after death. (Note: up until a couple of months ago, 502 was billed as The Lady in Red Suite. But it’s a smallish room, so the hotel now calls 504 the suite – and will charge you accordingly. But if you’re a ghost buff, you’ll want 502). The original elevator is still there, old and rickety and slow, but it got the job done, and took us to the 5th floor. Upon debarking, we entered a hallway/parlor area that can only be described as creepy. Dark shadows filled the corners. It’s easy to imagine ghostly entities roaming the halls. Our room was luxuriously appointed, and situated in a dark corner. I immediately busted out my ghost hunting gear – miniature tape recorder, EMF meter – and did some amateur investigating. I haven’t reviewed the tapes yet for evidence, but I can tell you that when I was out in the hallway I heard three distinct, very loud, heavy breaths that sounded like they were coming from right beside me. That night I slept like a rock, while Tara tossed and turned and did not sleep well at all. Interestingly, this mirrors Mikalee’s experience. Also, I normally run warm, but I was nice and cool that night. Tara, on the other hand, was burning up. She lowered the thermostat to 60, but instead the temperature rose to 70. We joked that the Lady in Red does not like other women. Maybe she was trying to make Tara as uncomfortable as possible? The next morning, the most unusual occurrence took place: we awoke to find a pair of dark wraparound sunglasses in one corner of the room. They were not ours, and also, we both swear were not there the night before, when we checked in. Nobody else had been in the room since. THAT freaked us both out a bit.

We checked out Tuesday morning and drove around Tonopah for a bit, visiting an old cemetery on the way out of town. Our next stop was Goldfield, an even tinier and more depressed former mining town. The whole town is on the National Register of Historic Places. I didn’t know what to think of the place: it’s pretty rundown and ramshackle, with a lot of deserted houses falling down on themselves, junked cars, mobile homes, etc. Very much a ghost town, but with a couple hundred residents hanging on. Nonetheless, it was interesting to see.

After that, it was on to Vegas! Tara despises the place, but was eager to meet up with her friend Betsy, whom she hadn’t seen in nearly two years, and her sister, Jessie. We met for lunch at In-N-Out Burger, at my insistence – I love the place, and they don’t have ’em up in our neck of the woods. After lunch Jessie went to work, Tara and Betsy went back to her place for some girl time, and I was free to wander the Vegas strip for hours. I parked the car in a lot halfway down the main drag, and my first stop was the Paris Las Vegas, where I donated $40 to the slot machines. Ready for a change of scenery, I went across the street to the Bellagio next. I came upon a penny slot machine with a progressive payout that just happened to catch my eye. Figured that would make my money last a long time, so I inserted $20, placed the maximum bet – 300 pennies – and pressed the button. Instant jackpot: $166.72. I couldn’t believe my luck – I never win in casinos! Now I had a dilemma. It was only 4:30, four hours until Tara and Betsy would pick me up. I had planned on spending hours gambling. I texted Tara the good news and asked for her advice. She told me to CASH OUT! Which, I have to admit, was the most appealing scenario. How often can you say you left Vegas a winner? I did spend another $10 seeing if the machine would duplicate that magic feat. (It didn’t). Still, I finished the evening $110 richer. Spent the next few hours wandering The Strip, and in particular the Miracle Mile at Planet Hollywood, working up a nice buzz from Fat Tuesday Hurricane daiquiris. Tara and Betsy showed up about 8:30 and we headed to Bahama Breeze for a late dinner, before checking into our hotel on Fremont Street. We were both too exhausted to check out the Fremont Experience, though.

This morning we stopped for breakfast at Hash House A Go Go, yet another Man V. Food spot. I ordered what turned out to be the biggest eggs benedict of my life, complete with sage fried chicken, bacon, biscuits, scrambled eggs, mashed potatoes, and a chipotle sauce. Seriously, this thing is considered eggs benedict?! It was delicious, though. Then we spent another 4 hours in the car for the trip back to Ely.

Currently, we’ve got a full house, and everybody is pushing the inebriated stage quickly, it seems. And we still have six hours until midnight! I’m excited to be back in the same place I was two years ago, ushering in another new year full of promise. 2014 will be even better, if that’s possible. It’s gotta be: 14 is our lucky number.

Happy New Year!

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16 thoughts on “Nevada Adventures Part 1: Tonopah-Goldfield-Las Vegas

  1. “and there’s quite a bit of snow on the ground. Saturday morning it was a chilly 4 degrees outside.”

    Sounds like MY kind of weather, Mark!

    And hey, congratulations of winning the instant jackpot: $166.72. Woot! Woot!

    Faaaaaaabulous slideshow! I watched it TWICE! Especially loved the shot of the Lonely Highway in Nevada!

    Happy New Year to you and Tara! Looking forward to hearing and seeing more about your trip!



    1. That’s the nice thing about Ely in the winter: if nothing else, you can count on the cold!

      And I’m glad you enjoyed the slide show. I have to admit, I like putting those together. My goal is to make you watch my next slide show THREE times!

      Happy New Year, buddy!


  2. Quite the trip so far!!

    Loved looking at all the pictures.

    That room and that story freaked me out a LOT…thanks…grrrrr!!

    Happiest of New Years, SIL!!


    1. Gotta admit, it was a pretty freaky experience. But lots of fun, too! I’ve really enjoyed this trip. It feels very much like a vacation, which – as much traveling as we do – isn’t usually the case. At the same time, it’ll be nice to get back home. I really miss the clouds. I could just do without another 15-hour drive to get there…


  3. Sounds like a fun, interesting time! I don’t know about you guys, but I find towns like Tonopah and Goldfield absolutely fascinating. It’s hard to imagine a “heyday” there, but I love trying. And the Mizpah is so creepily beautiful…

    The glasses, though…hmmmmm. Love the mystery!

    Happy 2014, bloggy buddies!!!


    1. I love towns like that. Tara has promised me a visit to Virginia City, possibly in May. Sounds like the type of place that would be right up my alley!

      Happy New Year to you, Brett, your kids, and the Grumpy Baby! 😉


  4. Whoa….the glasses would have really freaked me out, too! Was Vegas packed for the holiday? I’ve only been there in spring and summer. Good job cashing out a winner!


    1. Yes, Vegas was packed. But I think it might always be that way…just massive throngs of people crowding the streets day and night. It really is a different world there. Ironically, I’ve only ever been in winter. The heat any other time would kill me!


    1. The last time I stepped away from a casino a winner, I’d been playing nickel poker. Which has me wondering, why am I wasting my time on quarter or dollar machines?! Thanks for stopping by. I’ll check out your blog, too. Ron’s a great guy!


  5. So glad you all made it to Nevada. Sounds like an awesome trip.

    Sorry to have just started following your and then have been absent since Christmas. Sara and I had guests from the US and then did some traveling around our new country–sometimes without internet. Trying now to get back into the swing of things.

    Happy New Year to you and Tara from Sara and me!

    Hugs from Ecuador,


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