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Road to BlizzCon Day 2: Fruitcake and Fallout

Alex Ziebart
11.05.14
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I couldn't even begin to explain why, but I'm fairly certain my comrade-in-arms Anne Stickney insisted on making our BlizzCon road trip an annual event exclusively so she could get a glimpse of a 104-year-old fruitcake. Our itinerary went through numerous iterations leading up to the start of our journey. The fruitcake was struck from the list countless times, but she managed to worm it back in there every single time. At some point, a guy accepts his fate and travels cross-country to see an old, crusty fruitcake. What can you do?

I'll let it slide, though. Day 2 of our road trip also included Goodsprings, Nevada, which I insisted on visiting from the beginning. Anyone who has played Fallout: New Vegas will recognize the location: it's the game's first Vegas locale. And, as it turns out, this supposedly-haunted town and its Pioneer Saloon may be recognizable to even those who have never touched a video game. It's been a standby location throughout modern pop culture, its Hollywood breakthrough predating Fallout by many years.

Gallery: Road to BlizzCon 2014 | 34 Photos



Alex, Day 2

Our day began not with Goodsprings, Nevada, but a stop in Hurricane, Utah. Hurricane, it must be mentioned, is correctly pronounced her-ah-kun. Hurricane, lying alongside a mountain by the name of Mollies Nipple (seriously!), is home of the aforementioned fruitcake. I'll leave that particular delicacy to Anne, but it's worth noting the fruitcake is only one attraction in Her-ah-kun's Pioneer Museum. Like many small towns in the American south, Hurricane wears its old-time Dixie pride for all to see: local artifacts fill the museum (a small four-room affair), including genuine pioneer clothing, old fashioned butter churns, horse buggies, and wrought iron farm plows. Our tour guide provided the story of the town: after a failed farming venture at a town named Virgin, a pair of men decided to dig a 13-mile canal through the mountains to the more fertile grounds of Hurricane. If there's one lesson I've taken from my travels through the American south, it's the fact that we love writing stories about the bull-headed. Hollow out a mountain for a house? Sure! Move a mountain and replace it with a river? Why not?

The Dixie label is even a curious one, I find. Dixieland is, in theory, a term meant to describe the American southeast. If true, the American southwest never got the memo. You can't walk ten feet without stumbling across a memento of Dixie pride or a claim to the Dixie title.

Following Hurricane, we ventured deep into Vegas territory. It seems obvious that someone roadtripping through Nevada should stop in Vegas -- the Strip is almost unanimously described as a must-see -- which is why we skipped it, skirting Vegas proper in its entirety. Instead, we swung north to Goodsprings.

Goodsprings, upon our arrival, seemed a wholly unwelcoming place. The road into town brings you right up alongside its iconic Pioneer Saloon and General Store, the only things in town a tourist might know about in advance. It's impossible to tell if they're open or not. The saloon's double doors are an imposing sight. The general-store-turned-cafe appears sealed tight behind its heavy storm door. Between them stands a courtyard, presumably for dining, but the access gate is chained shut. If you've never been to Goodsprings, there's no indication of where to go or what to do -- beyond turn around and return from whence you came. The Pioneer Saloon being our destination of choice, I gave that door a pull first. Despite a gap in the crooked doors wide enough to fit a grown man's arm, the saloon was locked tight -- though the doors felt as if they might tear clean off the building if you tugged a little too hard.

The General Store was the point of entry, it turned out. Our awareness of our tourist status was suddenly a hindrance: we were so hyper-aware of our tourist status, we were nervous about pulling open that unmarked storm door, feeling as if we might be intruding on a local's home. Once inside, it felt just that way: no one looked at us. No one said a word. To the denizens of Goodsprings, locals and otherwise, we didn't exist. Even back in our own home town, it's a natural thing to welcome a person into a place of business, so the overwhelming sensation of being unwelcome only grew more severe. Despite that, kitschy souvenirs were present in abundance, and every part of the building's interior advertised its own fame. Placards announced the Pioneer Saloon as the place Clark Gable drank while waiting for news of his wife's death. DVDs containing Goodsprings ghost stories littered shelves. The General Store's backroom had been transformed into a museum dedicated, primarily, to its own significance in pop culture: film stills and movie posters hung on the walls, advertising Goodsprings' appearances in Fallout, Miss Congeniality 2, Casino, and so on. Banners provided the context for its ghost stories, framing them as claims made by The History Channel.

Goodsprings, as an entity, wallowed in its own fame. The town declared itself as tourist trap wherever you looked. But unlike every other tourist trap we'd visited along the road, the locals seemed to want nothing to do with it. They weren't standing there with the sales pitch. They didn't greet us. They didn't even look at us. The entire experience changed the very second we sidled up to the bar. Though we'd lingered for a good while by then without so much as a 'hello,' stepping up to that bar transformed us into corporeal beings, an accepted part of their world. The young woman tending the bar became our shining tourist star, serving up a pair of stereotypical mugs of sarsaparilla and throwing in a DVD of the town's history -- a DVD which also included every single film and television appearance of the town. We stuck to the history on that one. The ice broke and not only were we then a part of the employee's conversation, but that of the Saloon's other denizens. The feeling of intruding on the locals' lives disappeared. They made us become the locals. They made us join the town of Goodsprings. There was no tour. There was no one coming to us to push souvenirs. Despite flaunting its own fame, Goodsprings is an old fashioned watering hole and expected us to treat it as such, approaching it as old friends.

And that's pretty damn cool.


Anne, Day 2

I suppose I should explain the fruitcake, shouldn't I. Look, a road trip is not a road trip if you don't go out of your way to make it an adventure. And what's the point of driving from point A to point B without a little adventure in the mix? If you're going to the trouble of traveling by car, you might as well embrace that big wide world outside of your car's four walls at any given opportunity -- who knows when you'll ever be there again? So when you see a mention of some hellaciously ancient food that someone has inexplicably stuck under a glass for longer than both yourself and your traveling companion have been alive, combined ... well. You go find that food, and you take a good long look at it, and you appreciate that somewhere, some when in this food's lifetime, whoever was keeping this food made the conscious decision to simply keep keeping it. Forever.

100+ year old fruitcake is just proof that humanity is really, really strange and not easily understood, and I appreciate that reminder whenever it pops up. That, and the nice elderly woman who gave us the tour of the museum seemed just tickled to death that we thought the place was cool. Small town America, inexplicably preserved ancient food, and we made a nice lady happy. All in all, a good start to the day.

Alex pretty well covered Goodsprings and the feel of the place, but I feel I should mention that both the General Store and the Pioneer Saloon were dark, covered in tin tiles, and just reeked of being incredibly old. Also, I fervently wished we hadn't stopped for lunch earlier because the burgers they were serving up in the store smelled amazing. We didn't see any ghosts. We did, however, see an old-time scale that was restored on an episode of American Restoration, and I totally saw that episode, and it was really cool seeing the restored item in person and touching it.

After we finished wandering Goodsprings, we were off to go look at another historically interesting thing -- the car in which Bonnie and Clyde met their untimely demise. I'm not sure if this was actually the car -- the casino in which it was housed certainly touted it as such, and it was riddled with bullet holes. It was also painted with "Bonnie and Clyde's Death Car" in large and inappropriately cheery lettering. They had Clyde's shirt in a case nearby, also riddled with bullet holes and complete with certificate of authenticity. This was all in stark contrast to the flashy blinking lights, music and sounds of nearby slot machines, which just added another whole level of strangeness to the display and what it represented. But hey -- that's Vegas for you.

We have finally reached our destination and are currently holed up in Anaheim, to await the start of BlizzCon proper. It's been a pretty entertaining road trip, but I can't wait for the real show to begin. Hopefully we'll be seeing some of you out here for BlizzCon 2014 as well!


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