International Car Forest of The Last Church, Goldfield, Nevada
Buckaroo, I don't know what to say. Lectroids? Planet 10? Nuclear extortion? A girl named "John"?
- President Widmark, The Adventures of Buckaroo Banzai Across the 8th Dimension
Goldfield, Nevada is a tiny, seemingly insignificant accumulation of abandoned buildings between Tonopah and Beatty on US 95, roughly halfway between Reno and Las Vegas. It wasn't always so - in 1906, Goldfield, with over 20,000 residents, was the largest city in Nevada, all focused on extracting high grade gold-bearing ore from Columbia Mountain and the surrounding Goldfield Hills or in supporting the miners in their work. It was arguably the last true mining boom town in Nevada history; when Goldfield went bust, the absurdely optimistic dream of building a mining-based metropolis that would stand the test of time - a dream that littered Nevada with well-built ghost or semi-ghost towns like Virginia City, Austin, Ione, Belmont, Rhyolite, Candelaria and the like - died with it. After Goldfield, later mining towns like Klondike and Divide dispensed with fancy, well built brick hotels, bank buildings and railroad depots and instead opted for wood frame construction or tents to better protect scarce capital when the ore inevitably ran out.
Because of Goldfield's brief moment of prosperity, however, it was able to acquire a few trappings that prevented it from being completely abandoned. First, as one of the few inhabited towns in that part of Nevada, it became a critical way station for Nevada State Route 3 and Nevada State Route 5 in the 1920s (later US 95 in the '40s), providing food, water, fuel and repair services for stranded travelers in the days before Interstate highways, pressurized engine cooling systems, or 200+ mile fuel tanks. Second, and much more importantly, it became a county seat for newly formed Esmeralda County in 1907, a position it has never relinquished; consequently, as long as the county offices are still present, Goldfield will always have some residents living there to staff them. In fact, due to the combination of these two factors - namely, the location of the Esmeralda County Sheriff Department's headquarters in downtown Goldfield and Goldfield's location on US 95, along with the attendant drop in speed limit through town - Goldfield is known to seasoned travelers in Nevada as a moderately notorious speed trap.
Off the main highway through town, however, is an odd and curious attraction, one that is barely noticeable out of the corner of one's eye while driving through the southern edge of Goldfield's modest township boundaries. Rising out of the desert, approximately a mile or so from the highway, hidden by a few small rolling hills and some buildings, are various vehicles standing, lengthwise, rising out of the ground like corn.
If you're attentive enough to notice this odd sight, you've just discovered the International Car Forest of The Last Church, an eccentric art project adopted by Chad Sorg, which bills itself as the "World's Largest National Junk Car Forest":
First, let's touch on the few examples of pre-Eisenhower motoring that dotted the landscape:
You can just make out a "Don't Wear Furs" bumper sticker on the back bumper: