Every now and then we all cross paths with a place that leaves us saying what the f just happened. For me, it was a blazingly hot afternoon in Goldfield that left me feeling like I had just been hit by a psychedelic Nevada bus of sorts, questioning how I spent the last few hours, but not wanting to leave at the same time. Ever have one of those off-kilter kind of afternoons?
As the current number of people calling Goldfield home is less than 270, life seems to move delightfully slower around these parts. More than enough to keep you baffled while you pour over one historic ruin to the next, but in a laid back, Sunday drive kind of a way.
Although a random passerby might be able to get some sort of a glimpse of the worthwhile pocket of history buried in Goldfield by the mandatory slower speed limit through the downtown, the fact of the matter is that you could [and should] spend HOURS wandering the relics lining the streets and hillside. One of those places that even if you hadn’t planned on stopping, some of the stuff you can spot on the main drag will be pulling you out of the car before you can say Nevada ghost town.
Mega-fascinating doesn't even begin to describe what’s going on here. As one of the state’s most successful boomtowns ever, it’s hard to imagine the streets bustling with commerce and the mines pumping out $86 million worth of riches, but oh, it happened. We’re talking such a level of grandeur and promise that Goldfield even attracted famed westerns like Wyatt Earp and Mark Twain. A true rough and tumble nugget of Wild West magic, and totally the type of scene I’d choose to go if time travel were an option.
It’s amazing how hours can melt way like minutes when peering into the windows of the formerly high brow and currently haunted Goldfield hotel—reportedly one of the most haunted places in Nevada to be exact—sling back a few cold ones with the “Meanest Bartender in Nevada,” check out the historic rail yard and bottle house or two, or even dive right into one hell of an edgy sculpture garden. In a field. Made of out of cars.
Having done all of these things, [yeah, you know the travel sweet spot I’m talking about] I was on my way out of town having spent waaaaaaaaaaaay WAY more time that I ever imagined in Goldfield. It was the Meanest Bartender who tipped me off about this eccentric place, “just on the edge of town.” Snaking my way out of what felt like just about everyone’s personal property line in Goldfield, I had arrived at one of the funkiest places I never knew existed: The International Car Forest of the Last Church.
And all it took was Goldfield resident Mark Rippie’s pipe dream, a few pieces of heavy machinery, and wild artistic abandon to meld the whole together. Rippie’s vision was to have an unconventional space where artists could run amok—anything goes style, and with the International Car Forest of the Last Church, he accomplished just that.
As I descended from the hillside and into the pit of wayward installations there was a hyper fusion of interesting components coming together here. With no real artist’s statement or informational bulletin providing a passerby of what the heck they’d just stumbled upon, it was all just up to you to take it how you wanted it. And that my friends, was the beauty in it all.
There was a level of grace in how the cars were stacked on one another and driven into the ground at uncanny angles. It also exuded a sense of endangerment if one of these rusted out beauties were to come tumbling down. And, while I don't necessarily go searching for dangerous situations, you’ve gotta admit that if there’s a level of risk involved it makes it that much cooler, right? Dangerous art. I love it.
So you’ve got some old, crumpled, Burning Man-esque cars ‘saved’ from the nearest junkyard to live on in a gallery [so to speak,] and then there were all these other AAAAH-mazing facets of artistry being intertwined throughout each ‘installation.’ The spray-painted splashes of color, incredible murals and portraits and overall sense of refined freedom moved me, to say the least. The perfectly balanced cars [even if it meant using a boulder to find that proportion], unsuspecting talent present just about anywhere, and heck, even the Barbie dolls glued to the broken out car window was magnetizing. I wanted to see and understand all the weirdness around me…it was all just so seductive.
The whole notion of making something otherwise viewed as garbage into something that can be appreciated always strikes a chord with me, but man, this was taking it to a new and zany level that was hard to turn your back on. There was some major talent here—a whole lot of it, begging to be enjoyed but without a filter. No walking around silent in a glossy-floored gallery with a pricy glass of pinot, name dropping artists and challenging one another on so-called sophisticated thoughts to be had here. This was the type of place you could enjoy a mean match paintball while interpreting the art, and hey, you never know. The remnants of that battle may even be turned into an exhibit.
While the concoction of all these interesting elements were consuming me, I quickly took note of my favorite part of this unconventional roadside attraction. The juxtaposition of the cars and the natural landscape was fantastic. How could I have overlooked this?! Here I was, digging deep in the dredges of that dusty art minor from college trying to reawaken intellectual thoughts that were once driven into my brain, and the beauty in the whole thing was that it was all so wild. I couldn't [and still cant] get over how the desert seemed to encroach and ‘take back’ the cars: a Joshua Tree challenged a vertical bus and an old Caddy was riddled with tumbleweeds and goat heads.
The International Car Forest of the Last Church completely captured the grandness in the off-the-beaten-path nature of Nevada. It was remarkable how it too, like countless other relics of Goldfield’s rich past, was once treasured and then left exposed in the Nevada elements, begging for the next person to uncover and appreciate its meaning. The next time you’re passing through what many would consider to be a boring drive, open those peepers and let Nevada take over. Just like the oddities of the Car Forest, there’s a lot to be appreciated out there, you just have to let it happen. And Goldfield, you knocked it over the left field wall.