The drive from Death Valley to Las Vegas was just as steep as it was going the other direction, but the lack of gusty winds made it a pleasure. As we came to an intersection in the middle of the desert, we noticed some activity in what looked like a small ghost town. There was a place for us to park the motor home nearby, so we walked to the Amaragosa Opera House, which is connected to a small hotel. The whole Spanish Colonial adobe building was constructed in 1923 - 25 by the Pacific Coast Borax company to house its workers and guests passing through and included company offices, employees’ offices, and a store. The northeast corner of the complex was a recreation hall used as a community center for dances, church services, movies, funerals and meetings.
The railroad line had reached this point, replacing the twenty mule teams and the area was very busy until borax that could be strip mined was discovered in the area and all but seven residents moved on. The building and town were deserted until New York ballerina Marta Becket and her husband had a flat tire in the area while they were on vacation in 1967. She fell in love with the place and rented it for $45/month and began to refurbish what had been the recreation hall. She enlarged the stage so she could dance on it, but missed looking out at an audience. She began painting the walls, giving herself a Renaissance looking audience with a king and queen, nuns, monks, and a balcony of painted ladies who looked remarkably like the prostitutes from nearby Ash Meadows. Her skill as a painter was remarkable. Since it was difficult to get live musicians to accompany her dancing, she recorded herself on the piano. She made costumes, hung lights made out of big coffee cans, and tuned the place into a real theatre. Soon she found herself performing many weekends with real people in the audience. After all that work she ended up purchasing the whole town such as it is. This lady could do it all and is still going strong at the age of 92, although a protege is doing the dancing these days. If you build it, they will come.
Today one wing of the hotel has been taken over by a model railroad club who is duplicating the T & T railroad which put Death Valley Junction on the map. Their exacting model of the hotel was amazing and their replicas of other towns in the area made us want to visit them all. It’s still a work in progress - another labor of love.
Tonight we found ourselves back in civilization in Las Vegas at a perfectly nice campground that is charging us $18/night. No gambling required. It's a mix of people like us and permanent residents. We are on a mobile home site, left empty after the previous resident left her stove on and burned the place on. Guess we should go to the casino buffet nearby for dinner.