Monday, November 28, 2016

Worried about the law in a Nevada ghost town

I see cops.
See us sticking out into the road?
And I immediately think they plan to ticket us for parking out into the road.

Our fifth-wheel is a monster when it comes to parking on downtown city streets. And even though Goldfield, NV., population 204, isn’t a real city, it does have a downtown and we are hogging the street, trying to park to the side so I can walk down the sidewalk and take pictures (some below).

This is a ghost town, even though people still live here. It was born and went bust during the glory days of the gold rush. In its prime, there were more than 30,000 people here. A few left town millionaires. Stories place Wyatt Earp and his brother Virgil here.

But today it’s a collection of dusty and rusting artifacts of yesterday. I see art in that dust everywhere. A building covered in road signs. Cars decorated with found items, even other cars. A shadow of a phone-texting man cleverly placed to show him near the shadow of a real stop sign. 

This town is worth so much more than the mere minutes I’ve been here, snapping a few dozen pictures or brokeness-turned-lovely, art out of ashes.  But I’m worried about the cops. So I tun to race back to the fifth-wheel (puffing hard in this 6,000-foot altitude), to get it out of the street.

But I see no cops. They must have moved on. They must be used to tourists like us. Tourists who hog the street and take snapshots of the past.

But, wait. Cops? In a ghost town?
Where do they get the water in a desert?

Clever shadow art.

I could shop here all day.

Less government.
Beetles reign!

Pure art.

Unsafe privatization?

Don’t blink.

You might miss something.

Like we did a few days ago when we let life’s little upheavals distract us from an adventure down a dark trail.

Our fifth-wheel is sick, so we’re headed north from Death Valley into Carson City, NV, for repairs. It’s a six-hour drive up Route 95 through beautiful high-desert landscape cradeled by the Sierra Nevadas.

As we near our RV park, we fail to make much note of the acres and acres of what looks like elongated Hobbit houses (close-up above) dotting the valley floor. Bunkers, we shrug. Hundreds of bunkers. We shrug again and turn in for the night.

We winterize the RV because the nights are freezing and we walk the dog and we ponder the fate of our trailer. While doing this, we fail to notice the munitions warning signs. We are oblivious to the town park’s colorful windmills made from torpedo remnants. We don’t see the submarine missiles displayed on the sidewalks downtown.

We head north in the morning and pass what is clearly a very large yet deserted military installation called Hawthorne Army Depot. So on the way out of town, I Google what I just saw.

Apparently, we just spent the night surrounded by the largest ammunition storage facility in the world. The town itself is only 1.5 square miles, but the depot covers 226 square miles and can store 600,000 square feet of ammunition in those Hobbit houses I saw — more than 2,400 bunkers.

Its history is fantastic — during World War II it employed more than 5,000 people -- (go ahead, Google it for yourself) and its mission frightening (Is the ammunition still there? Are the bunkers empty?).
Curiously, something this important to the safety of this country is not run by the government. 

Imagine that.

The ammunition needed to send this country to war is stored by an independent contractor — Day & Zimmerman Hawthrone Corp., a leading manufacturer of ammunition who  also makes the little silver foil wraps for Hershey kisses (or used to).

Forbes named the company one of the richest privately held companies in the United States, with revenues of $2.5 billion a year. They hold more than 350 government contracts and we pay them more than  $151 million a year to store wartime ammunition.

If we renege on a payment and need a bullet, can they say “No?”

The U.S. Marines used to guard the facility. That job has been outsourced, too. To Day & Zimmerman.

So my gut tells me I’m not the only one who blinked. Everyone in this  country must have blinked when the government decided to hand over the largest ammunition storage facility in the world to one of the richest companies in the United States.

I’m hoping there's a clause in those contracts that puts the facility back under Marine protection and Army control in the event of war. Because if we are attacked, I want the bottom line to be our protection, not a bank account.

Friday, November 18, 2016

A window exposes more than a view

I’m taking a nap inside a very old Alpha fifth wheel that isn’t mine in a trailer park where I do not live.

Except for this week.

I live here, in a rental trailer in a trailer park in Pahrump, NV, because my brand-new, beautiful, georgeous fifth wheel, the one with a fireplace and big screen TV, with a kitchen island and hard wood floors, broke.

Broke. And we can’t use it. We made plans for it to be fixed next week because this week we want to play in Death Valley National Park.

So we rented this trailer In a trailer park, where I am taking a nap. But I can’t sleep because there’s noise outside my window,  I can hear what trailer parks are known for. Unruliness. Men yelling at each other. (A fight?) And cars spinning out on gravel. (A FIGHT?) And I lay here, beginning to question our safety.

But I’m curious. So I peak out the window and I see someone’s car has pooped out. And a bunch of men are pushing the car, which spins again and is freed from whatever was holding it. And the driver drives off. The men high five. Well, some of them do. Then they disappear into their trailers. These men. These kind men. Who extended a helping hand.

While I extended judgement.