Aliens and Toys for Tots

Rachel, Nevada. If you know where that is you probably know it’s the alien capital of Nevada – our UFO siting rich state. (Rachel is arguably the alien capital of the world; on the border of Area 51). You may also know that Rachel was until recently the home of a giant Colonel Sanders visible from space. But what is a little less known about Rachel and we think equally impressive, is that this town of more or less 75 people annually donates an astonishingly large amount toys in the “Toys for Tots” campaign.  The town bands together for this cause, which isn’t a surprise when you understand a little about the community there. Little A’le’inn bartender Sharon told us about how she recently kicked cancer in the butt.  If you believe in the power of support, then the community of Rachel is part of why she could.  She had numerous phone calls a day of people making sure she was OK and asking how she was doing.  In fact this whole idea was one we encountered often on our tour of rural Nevada: often it seemed the smaller the population, the stronger the community.  Rachel citizens stack their mountain of toys at The Little A’Le’Inn where owner Pat and daughter Connie lead the effort.  Last year they had enough money donated to pay for the donations of three bikes.

Oh and no, we didn’t see any aliens on our journey to Rachel, but the locals seem to believe.  When we asked her about it Sharon said, “The height of human conceit and presumption is to think we’re the only intelligent species in the universe.”  Well said, Sharon.  Will make sure to watch NASA’s announcement on extraterrestrial life tomorrow (!).

Action: an act that one consciously wills; an exertion of power or force

We are going to save the earth via individuals’ independent passions.  Passion drives action.  Rather than forcing people to care about the entirety of “the environment” it seems something like this case will be a lot more successful: Where one man cares about his values, along with the toads with which he grew up, he takes ACTION.

Beatty, NV has taken the preservation of Amargosa toads into their own hands. Their coalition called STORM-OV, Saving Toads through Off-Road and Ranching Mining in the Oasis Valley, embodies all parts of their culture.

Read the NPR story on this “quirky kind of environmentalism.”

Diana’s Punchbowl. This geological wonder formed when a limestone hill collapsed and left behind the opening of a 200 degree F hot spring. We saw it, located 35 miles south of US Hwy 50. There it is, open with no fence for anyone to see.

City of “Remo”

Thursday night we attended the “Mo-Ball” in Reno which marked the end of a month-long fundraising campaign for prostate cancer, called Movember.    The idea for Movember blossomed out of a silly conversation over drinks in Australia: let’s have a moustache growing contest to raise awareness for men’s health.  ”To change the face of Men’s Health.” Inspired by all the attention breast cancer was getting, these men built a movement.  Reno alone raised almost $30,000.00, a huge number for the size of our community.  The cause is important, but we also learned Thursday night that the reason this fundraising seems to work. Men like mustaches.

One man among the mustached crowd was Kyle Baker, who has been touched by cancer far too much.  His father had a 4 month battle with it before it killed him, his aunt has it, and other people is his family.  When he heard about Movember, he wanted to support the cause for cancer awareness.  ”Plus you get to grow a mustache too, and that’s just fun,” he said.

The more awareness the better.  That’s Tristan Retzlaff’s idea.  He first learned about prostate cancer on the Tom Green Show, flipping channels one day.  He doesn’t even like Tom Green.  Some months later, he thought he was experiencing the symptoms that he had heard Tom Green talk about.  He went to a doctor and said he thought he had prostate cancer.  They didn’t believe him.  Once he found a doctor who did, the doctor told Tristan how extremely important it was that he had come in when he first noticed it.  Tristan was able to overcome prostate cancer quickly, all because he had (on an off-chance) heard the symptoms described, identified them, and took himself to the doctor right away.  That’s why he is so comfortable talking about cancer and its symptoms: hearing someone random talk about it saved his own life.  Movember is great because its meant to spread awareness and even women get involved.  But Tristan is from the mid-west, and he says it’s a lot more normal for people to talk about here than it is back home.  The community in Reno is a lot more involved, people come out to support things here, and community support brings more awareness, he said.

On the note of awareness, a list of prostate cancer symptoms from the Mayo Clinic:

Trouble urinating

Decreased force in the stream of urine

Blood in your urine

Blood in your semen

Swelling in your legs

Discomfort in the pelvic area

Bone pain

Two Moms Working Night and Day to Improve School

When Faith Osgard and Trina Olsen first entered a video and an essay in a contest at for their school Jessie Beck they had no idea they would actually become finalists. After noticing their school’s great needs and lack of budget Faith found this contest, and Trina’s videographer friend donated his time to make the video. Now three days away from the end of the contest they are in 4th place out of over 2,500 applicants nationwide! From here, the race to win 100K is all about how many votes each school’s video receives, which means Faith and Trina have been rallying troops at the school, getting as much air time as possible, and doing everything they can to encourage the Reno community to vote. Trina says, “If everyone in Reno voted one time that would be more than enough votes to win.” Nevada is 50th in the nation in funding among several other startling facts. Check out their well-done video contest entry.

Patho Phizz: So Hip it’s Sick

Some ideas are so bizarre they take a certain special kind of creative person to make them come to fruition.  Marti Bein and Ben Parks out of Tuscarora are some of those people.  Marti, a painter and Ben, a potter and nurse, have together just embarked on an exciting innovative design / business project.  It all started when they realized that the pathogens Ben was studying make pretty cool patterns.  Then Ben went out to buy his scrubs for work and his options were pastel colors, or something equal to Carebears. Ben and Marti got to thinking and creating- why not use those cool pathogen patterns for design? “Patho Phizz” was born -scrubs made of fabric with pathogens on them. Now doctors and nurses now have a more interesting option to wear to work, and diseases that are usually so foreign to us are familiarized as their designs are displayed in interesting shapes and patterns. But Ben and Marti are careful not to use designs of pathogens that hit too close to home. If you are in the hospital sick with disease you won’t necessarily want to see your disease printed all over your doctor’s outfit. Instead they have made designs out of things Candida.  What do you think?  Would you wear scrubs with pathogens on them?  Check out their super cool new site.

Nevada Day

Yesterday at Carson City’s Nevada Day Parade we asked people what “Nevada” means to them:

“Opportunity and freedom.”

One man said his daughter wants to be an archaeologist and in Nevada they are able to take her out to the desert to watch digs. He also said Carson City is an especially friendly place, when you smile people smile back and they mean it.

“In Nevada you can see a hill and think; I want to go climb up it and then do it. You don’t worry about it being private property or ever reaching a fence.”

One woman said Nevada is different because you can go drive for an hour and a half and be away from civilization completely.

To a lot of people Nevada meant one or more of these things: family roots, great expanses of landscape free to explore, and a place where people seem to feel there are less rules, and therefore more liberties.

Sand Mountain

Riders decked out in gear on quads, dirt bikes, trucks, desert buggies, and other off-road vehicles, each adorned with a flag zoom every which way. That’s one of the rules out here – each vehicle has to have a flag.  Some speed fast, others are ridden by tiny kids. Loud buzzing is everywhere, but no one seems to mind. Friends and family sit in chairs watching the action, drinking beer, and yelling to hear each other over the noise.

As you drive in, a sea of RVs make up a temporary city in the desert. The off-road vehicles cruising up and down and across the mountain, tiny in the distance, look like ants on their anthill. It’s a rush just to be surrounded by it and watch them speed straight up and then down this hill. “This is a religion,” said one friendly face, beer in cozy. “I mean these are my friends, but they are my family because we spend so much time together out here.” There were easily 1,500 people there.
Strapping on his helmet, another man said, “This is why we’re American. Because we’re allowed to do stuff like this…Some people don’t like us to though,” he said as he rolled his hand over gas and zoomed away into the desert, 2 other 4-wheeling mates in tow.

This is a dangerous activity, they admit, but as one said, “What isn’t?” It’s fun, and it means experiencing the outdoors with family and friends.

Sixto’s Oasis

After leaving the tumult of Las Vegas yesterday we were unknowingly in much need of a hot spring cleanse. About 100 miles out of Vegas, Bailey’s Springs was the perfect spot. Sixto runs the hot spring / RV Park 5 miles north of Beatty, NV where he makes it his purpose to maintain the baths as a calm rejuvenating space for people.

The hot springs here run through three different private houses, with different temperatures in each. I thought going in that this meant it wouldn’t be as enjoyable because the hot springs are in a less natural setting. Turns out this is the ideal hot spring experience. Perhaps because Sixto respects this land in the same way the Native Americans did years ago when they passed through the region. Sixto blesses the area and springs at least once a week, praying and smudging with sage and Palo Santo (Saint wood). He believes the hot springs have healing properties both spiritual and physical. As we were dipping in them Wednesday night we realized how rejuvenating they felt. It’s kind of like hitting the reset button. According to Sixto the baths feel so good and calming because the mineral-rich water extracts toxins from your body while replenishing you with the minerals you need. Not all baths are like this- others are more sulfuric, etc. The baths are only open for 12 hours a day- 8am to 8pm, allowing them to re-energize after daily use.

As we left Sixto gifted us with our own stash of sage, Palo Santo, and an abalone to smudge it in to keep good energy around us and ward off bad on the rest of our journey.