Our Week in Pahrump that Lasted a Month

Pahrump, Nevada
Noveber 22 – December 22, 2017

Once Uncle Clay left, we planned to only spend a few more days in Southwest NV and then continue on. But when our original reservation neared it’s end, we were just so comfortable that we decided to stay a few more days. And then a few more. And then a few more. I went in the office so many times to say, “Actually, can we change our departure date again?” that I’m sure they were making fun of me. But it was so easy to be there. After lots of moving camp, and lots of boondocking, being hooked up to water & electric, being comfortably warm at night, having a big clean shower, and spending days and days and days without disassembling our house is just addictive. I could let myself think that the sleepy little town of Pahrump was a depressing place to be. In fact, the owner of the local VIDEO RENTAL STORE (yes, they still do exist) couldn’t believe that we choose to stay in her town. She said, “The only people that stay here are the ones court-ordered not to leave.” But instead I decided that daily swimming, free wifi, and stained glass class for $4/pop was a true life of luxury. It was the holiday season, so there were also craft fairs and movie nights, and I chatted it up with old ladies in the puzzle room (and the laundry room, and the dining room, and the pool…). The pool….oh, the pool. We swam almost every day.


For $4/class I learned how to make stained glass! I made this rooster for Mimi’s new sunroom.
Holiday fun with the gingerbread kit from our dear friends, the Eberths!
This pool…for days.

Folks, sometimes old people are GRUMPY. We had a couple of run-ins with people with their undies in a wad. But way way way more often, we chatted with the most sweet, interesting people. I loved chatting with the woman who worked at the entrance gate who had just moved out to Nevada with her 2 kids from Oklahoma. I loved getting to chat with the stained glass teacher who had lived in Searcy, Arkansas in her RV – the same years I was there going to school! We loved talking to our funny next-door neighbor who ranted about how the schools had let down his son who is deaf, and in the next breath teased his friend that he could have had Brad’s life if he would just get up and go for a run like Brad does. “Dude…I have MS.” was the friend’s reply. We watched this large man hook up his crockpot outside one day and set it up on a folding table. He chopped various veggies and threw together a hearty stew. Then the crockpot full of stew sat on that table for the remainder of our visit. Brad saw him come out and get a scoop of it to eat several days after he’d cooked it.

We bumped into a woman one day who Sunny had already met. “Oh, it’s my friend! You’re name is Sunny isn’t it?” She asked with a mischievous smile. “Let me see if i can remember your sisters name…..hmm….”

“It has to do with the ocean,” Coral hinted.

“Is it Seahorse?” the woman asked. We all laughed. We asked her what her name was, but she pretended for several minutes not to remember.

“Is it Seahorse?” We asked her.

“Yes, it is…it’s Seahorse.” We called her Seashorse for the rest of the month.

Blowing magic bubbles with our friend Seahorse. (You can see that she made a stained glass of her favorite ocean marsupial!)

One of our most memorable Seahorse quotes is when she told us that she found the most interesting animal out in the woods…it was half deer and half bear!  What?!

“Yes…”she told us, “It had a dear little face and a bare little butt!.” The girls and I still tell this joke all the time…

The girls and I got in line for “photos with Santa” in the craft room one Saturday morning. Everyone else in line was holding a small pet. When it was our turn, the woman with the clipboard pointed to the girls and asked, “Is it just them?”

Yes…just my children. No cat or dog for Santa’s lap in this family.

They let us get photos with Santa, even though we didn’t bring a pet. (Does Santa look familiar?)
We just happened to be in town for the Pahrump Nugget 250, the championship 250-mile off-road race for the year. The finish line was right outside of our campground. The event brought an entire subculture of people into town and filled our campground. One of the top groups of competitors were our neighbors for a few nights. They made it a point to chat with us and invite us out to watch. “Are there cash prizes?” I asked, trying to figure out why this sport was such a big deal. “Well, yes, the winners get money,” he replied with a smile, “But it’s not what you’d call a cash positive activity.” We found a place on the route to watch for awhile. The picture does nothing to capture the intensity of the moment – the engines are deafeningly loud as they roar past, and the tires throw baseball-sized rocks in every direction. It looked like a blast.
Finishing up Brad’s miles with him in Death Valley’s Golden Canyon.
Death Valley has so much more to offer than I ever would have expected.
According to a blog post we read about filming locations, this is where some jawas were hiding in Star Wars Episode IV. Can you see the tiny jawa hiding in this picture?



We visited the Las Vegas Natural History Museum again. After 18 months of visiting museums all across the US, my perception of this place was very different. I know that I have friends who love Las Vegas, but in my opinion the attraction of the place is only a facade. If you just walk up to the glitz and glamour and fancy, expensive entertainment, and reach out your hand to touch it, the entire scene would fall flat onto it’s back like a piece of painted cardboard. Behind it is a city of homelessness, potholes, addiction, corruption, and crumbling infrastructure. It’s sad to me that in a city where millions of dollars of tourist money pours in each year, the local museum can’t even afford proper exhibition materials. I know that it’s complicated by the fact that the strip is outside of city limits, but I hate how obviously very little is being given back to the local community. (Although, maybe if Nick & Angela read this they will tell me otherwise & change my mind…)

Nevada is an interesting place.  It’s strikes me as a place where the current day mixes and mingles with the wild, wild west.  A woman at our RV Park warned me not to go out into the desert around Las Vegas.  She said that when mobsters ran the city they frequently dumped bodies out there.  “Why bother burying a body when there’s endless desert wilderness in all directions? Big businesses came through and bought the mob out of all the casinos and stuff, but it’s still not that much different.”

One day during stained glass class, some of the old women started talking about a place in Pahrump called “The Chicken Ranch” and how they served great dinner.  “My son couldn’t believe that I went there,” one shared. “He said, ‘Mom, you must not have gone into the actual place.’ But I told him oh yes I did!  We saw the spanking couch and everything.”  Another lady standing closer to me leaned over and said, “They’re talking about the brothel.  It’s one of the best places in town to get dinner.”  My jaw dropped.  I was totally mortified and angry that there are places in my country in 2017 that still allow prostitution.  I hate it so much that I physically hurt when I think about how much this debases both women and men. But more than the horror of considering this reality, the hilarity of listening to old, conservation women discuss their experiences dining there was so memorable.

“Once a big limo pulled up and some rich guy came in,” one woman told us. “The owner quickly came and drew shut these curtains that separated the dining room from the hall where they choose the women.”  I was so tempted to shout, “Why do you go there?!  Why do you support that place by purchasing the food?!”  But instead I focused on my colorful glass rooster pieces, trying not to let any shards cut my fingers, and giggling to myself at these old women retelling their interactions with the current, legal sex industry.

We had been there nearly a month when we decided it was finally time to pull up the stakes and roll south. That night Coral started puking. A few days later it was Brad. Sunny and I sequestered ourselves to try to avoid the germs, as Christimas was quickly approaching and we didn’t want a virus to derail our family holiday plans in Arizona. We decided if no one else had thrown up by Tuesday we would leave on Wednesday. Tuesday came, and we seemed in the clear. But then the winds came. We thought maybe we would just brave it anyway.

“I wouldn’t do it,” our neighbor Mary warned. (She had knitted warm hats for the girls, in yarn colors of their choice.). “These are the Santa Ana winds. They come every fall, and I’ve seen them turn an RV right over. It’s not worth it.”

This advice was hard to ignore.

“I’m so embarrassed… I promise this is the last time!” I said sheepishly when I returned to the office the next morning, to once again announce a changed departure date.

“That’s fine!” Julie replied as she always did. “We want you guys to just stay!” We hugged goodbye. Our 1-week stay had turned into 30, and I can’t think of a better way to have spent a month.

5 Comment

  1. Marie Scanlon says: Reply

    don’t hit me but there advocates of sex workers who think the only thing debasing about it is the judgements of people who choose it as a profession. i’ve had some arguments with people and it’s challenged my thoughts about it. still not sure how i feel about it but i have decided to try and not jump to judgements and conclusions about it since I don’t know or have experience with it.

  2. Someone says: Reply

    News Flash, if you don’t like our town, do us ALL a favor and dont come back. This town is total freedom, its not some yuppie Starbucks coffee infused dream and its NOT really for families. Spare us your outrage and keep on driving. Out here we carry guns, people go to brothels, people shoot off fireworks, people gamble and smoke. If that scares you, Pahrump is not the place for you

    1. Sarah says: Reply

      I think you’ve misunderstood me…I LOVE spending time in Pahrump!

      1. Marie says: Reply

        one of the grumpies, maybe?!

  3. Marie Scanlon says: Reply

    that’s how I understood it, Sarah!!

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