Different views on the future — and carne asada

Today we saw two different sides of Tonopah.

We visited the Tonopah Historic Mining Park, which is built on top of the mines that made the town famous. (It’s well-done and worth a visit.)

We capped the day with a drive out to the Big Smoky Valley west of town to see the massive, state-of-the-art solar power plant being built there.

So there’s the town, old (mining) and new (solar). Bridging the gap was the Mizpah Hotel. Completed in 1907, the hotel has seen closed a few times over the years, and now it’s back again after a long absence.

The revitalization of the historic hotel is part of a new energy in town. The hotel’s renovations have been done well, recreating the original with a fine eye for small details. The owners of the Mizpah Hotel are also planning to open a brewery and a small casino.

For some, there’s a sense of hope that this town is having a resurgence. That has been met with resistance from other people who don’t want to see the town change and are satisfied with the way things are. It’s an interesting dynamic, and I plan to write more about this down the road.

• • •

We have been trying to collect souvenirs in every town along the way. I’ve asked people for help summing up their towns. In Tonopah, I asked at the mining park, and I was told I should get a rock.

A rock? No shot glass or coffee mug? (Those are the standard trinkets people suggest.)

Sure, buy that stuff, I was told, but I needed a rock because that’s what Tonopah was founded on – mining.

That made sense to me. Jim Butler, a rancher, found a rock with a vein of silver here, setting off a major boom. A retired geologist at the park generously said he thought he thought he could get a rock for me. He later handed me a rock that is a little smaller than a can of soda, and it appears to have silver in it. He said he couldn’t say for sure without assaying it, but on a sticky note, he wrote down, “silver-bearing vein quartz.”

So, I asked, that’s like the rock Butler found that started the boom?

Yes, I was told, except that Butler’s vein was a few feet wide.

Darn. Guess I’d better keep the 401(k) after all.

• • •

We’ve tried to eat at local restaurants throughout the trip, and in Tonopah, we’ve had some good meals. One odd moment came when I ordered carne asada; the waitress asked how I wanted my “steak” cooked. (Like carne asada?) What came out of the kitchen was a nice rib-eye, medium rare, with rice, refried beans and a scoop of guacamole.

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