By Kristen Peterson & Mikayla Whitmore
Birds are surfing the wind, floating stationary in space. Amused by their game, they drop back down to the rooftop of the Blue Sky Motel, then lift off again. This day is theirs, one they share with the faded and taut windsocks near the dirt airstrip.
The more than 300 residents are absent of view, likely tucked in their homes lined parallel to the airstrip. Some belly up to the smoky bar of Cal-Nev-Ari casino, watching a game on TV under a string of colored lights. You wonder how often the adjacent banquet room and dance floor are used. This town is its own island in the desert with U.S. 95 slicing through it.
There isn’t much else here, only a restaurant in the casino, a post office, a community center, a convenience store and RV park. But it’s enough for the retirees and personal aircraft pilots whose hangars sit next to their homes.
Cal-Nev-Ari, founded in 1965 by Nancy Kidwell and her husband, Slim, who’d acquired more than the 600 acres of land from the federal government, belongs solely to Kidwell. After her husband died, she married his stepson, who also later died. The two men rest together underground inside a small piece of land near the airstrip, framed by a white picket fence, each awaiting their wife who has the plot in between.
Nineteen miles from Searchlight and 75 miles from Las Vegas, the town is up for sale with a price tag of $8 million, lowered from $17 million in 2010.
Kidman, in her late ’70s, wants to retire (even travel) before being laid to rest in the is poetically blank dusty town.
Palm fronds flap loudly in the wind. The pool — an inviting oasis caged inside a white fence near the motel — is devoid of swimmers. Picnic tables in the gravel of the RV park sit unused this afternoon. Outside the Blue Sky Motel a giant satellite dish stems from the ground, pointing toward space. Even the neighborhood of homes with porches maintained, personalized and facing the airstrip and mountains in the distance, offers little movement.
Inside the diner where every condiment arrangement is a still life, fake floral arrangements and photos of aircraft dominate the mostly southwest decor. Sealed off from the sun with a giant shade screen, it connects with the small casino and bar where airplane sculptures, crafted from discarded beer cans, hang from the ceiling.
We tell the RV park host that we’re site-seeing as we stand alongside its small putting turf. If it weren’t for him, we’d see no one else on the gravel landscape.
Kristen Peterson is an award-winning writer living in Las Vegas, Nevada, covering art in Las Vegas for more than 15 years at the Las Vegas Sun and Las Vegas Weekly while freelancing for publications such as Desert Companion, Vegas magazine and The Guardian.
Mikayla Whitmore, Las Vegas native and UNLV graduate, has exhibited at multiple venues including P3Studio at the Cosmopolitan, Marjorie Barrick Art Museum, & Humble Arts Foundation. She was recently awarded Best Photographer in the City of Las Vegas by Desert Companion Magazine. She currently balances her studio practice with work as a staff photographer, researching dinosaur species, and road tripping.