As I have said, one of the ways I get inspiration for story ideas is through reading news articles in the paper, online or in magazines. Although I may not actually visit a place, I can imagine what it’s like through articles.
I read A LOT. I used to be a voracious fiction reader, but when I started writing, I didn’t want to be inadvertently be influenced or compromise my own creativity, but that’s for another blog entirely.
Nipton is this tiny spot on the bottom of the barren desert landscape desert as you travel to and from Vegas and California on the 15.
It was another one of those turnoffs I had always wanted to explore, but never had the time and in the desert, if you turn off without knowing what to expect, you might find yourself in a very precarious situation without cell service. I don’t advise adventuring in the desert areas unless you are fully aware of the dangers and prepared for emergencies.
Quick side story, coming back from Laughlin one time, the LOML and I were in an older car and the radiator overheated IN THE MIDDLE OF NOWHERE. We actually happened to stop under an overpass, the only one for as far as the eye could see. We were alone on the road and we filled the radiator with water and hobbled to the rest area. When an older man saw us and we told him our story, he said we were lucky we didn’t crack the radiator because we hadn’t waited for the radiator to cool before putting water in it. LESSON LEARNED. Be prepared when traveling in the desert.
Back to Nipton. Right after I published “Desert Town Angels” the LOML and I decided to take a side trip from Searchlight to the 15. Searchlight is a desert town similar to all the desert towns that inspired the fictional setting of “Golden Peaks.” Most people just drive right through the main road without even noticing the town. Of course Searchlight, the hometown for Sen. Harry Reid, has this really great place to use the restroom and buy snacks when going to and from Laughlin.
So we veer off at Searchlight and after passing a few residences, we head into the lonely desert under gray skies. Soon we pass a Joshua Tree forest. The first time I ever saw a Joshua Tree, which looks like a cactus mated with a palm tree, I thought I was looking at the Martian landscape, before we actually had photos of the Martian landscape.
Then up and over a hill where we passed snow-covered hills. We were excited to see the snow that came right up to the road (we’re from the West, we don’t get snow, we have to go to snow). At the bottom of this pass, there was a gathering of trees on the barren landscape that I thought was maybe a ranch. Silver train tracks cut across the desert and two trains were approaching from opposite directions (that’s when I kicked myself for not putting a train somewhere in my story).
Reaching the trees, we saw buildings and didn’t know we were in Nipton until we reached the train tracks and slowed down as we realized two things: 1. There was nothing beyond the tracks and we were about to leave Nipton and 2. If we crossed the tracks we would be stuck on the other side for a while.
With quick thinking, we turned left into a parking lot and there was a sign that read Nipton. Jumping out of the car with our cameras, we caught the two trains just as they passed looking as if they were going to crash into one another. It was interesting how one train had seemed closer and we didn’t expect them to reach the intersection at Nipton at the same time.
Turning, we walked to a rock garden in front of the B&B. Readers, if you love trains and barren desert landscapes and outdoor activities, this B&B is for YOU. There is one room in the cabin that faced the trains. Don’t worry, they provide earplugs as we were told by one of the friendly guests who gave us a tour of the cute little B&B.
Then we saw a restaurant, and a General Store, which was stocked pretty well. Not so long ago I had read about some problem on the 15 that diverted traffic through Nipton and the General Store was sold out and had to turn customers away. It was a very cute store.
Standing in Nipton, I smiled.
This was what I had envisioned, this desert town.
A collection of wood buildings with limited amenities on either side of a road leading to a state road on one end and on the other, an Interstate anchored by a larger desert town.
It wasn’t until after the trip that I realized my imagination had been influenced by these articles. I had been in Nipton and other desert towns before I ever visited them. I can already imagine what it will be like when I visit Goodsprings.
Imagination based on things you read in articles is another example of creative inspiration. I knew what a place like Nipton was like without ever going there because I had been to similar towns and I had lived in the desert area for so long.
If you enjoyed “Desert Town Angels,” I hope you got a sense of what it’s like to visit a desert town. I hope that if you have been to one yourself that I have captured the essence of the desert town atmosphere. If you have not, I hope that when you do have the opportunity to visit a desert town you will feel as if you’ve already been there, if only in your imagination.
R. A. Lee