not mojave

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Is this the end of all we know? Will the Mojave now know the wrath of… The TOASTER

For fun I decided to devote a work not to a quest from New Vegas, but instead one particular character: the Toaster. In the Old World Blues DLC, you meet a room filled with sentient appliances ranging from a couple of light switches, a sink, a book chute, and a robot that is obsessed with collecting mugs while at the same time hating them (named Muggy). One of the more colorful characters was the Toaster, which was fitted with a personality that wanted to destroy the world and burn it in nuclear fire, all with the chaotic glee of a supervillain. Other than some fun dialogue, he upgrades a variant of the power-fist for you and has a particularly hilarious ending whether you end on good or evil karma.

While the cover is in no way related to canon, I wanted to depict the Toaster finally achieving world domination while at the same time nodding to a mix of “Planet of the Apes” and “2001: A Space Odyssey”. It’s just a fun bit of work. Hope you’ll like it.

If you would like to see a speed painting of this work, you can check it out through this link on my youtube: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=A5YqY2vZ2aA&feature=youtu.be

Tarantula Hawk Wasp

Not exclusive to the Mojave but very prevalent here and in the Sonoran Desert.

It’s a wasp that mainly eats nectar and fruit juice. They’re very docile with yet black bodies and bright orange wings. 

They spend the majority of their life eating sugary fluids and are pretty easy going. There aren’t too many animals that prey on them, their orange wings are though to serve as a warning to ward off birds from eating them like the Monarch Butterfly. 

However when it’s time to reproduce the male inseminates the female then the female finds a Tarantula and stabs them with her stinger. The venom of the Tarantula Hawk Wasp is the second most painful venom in the animal kingdom just under the Bullet Ant. The venom overloads the Tarantula’s nervous system and puts it in a permanent coma. She digs a burrow or finds a burrow, drags her newly comatose Tarantula into it. Injects them with her eggs and seals it up then flies off. Few weeks later the larva eat their way out  from the inside and the Tarantula is alive until the end. They then become wasps and fly off to repeat the cycle of eating then killing for reproduction.

They can get pretty large but generally are only half this size. This is one of the larger specimens collected. 

Coyote Peterson got stung by one and captured it on youtube.

I’ve also wanted to experience this for about a decade just to see how bad it is. The effect of the venom really only lasts about ten minutes at the most but it pretty much removes your capability to do anything except scream. 

A love story

The sun bleeds out across the sky, its light diffusing across the sand and over the twisted bodies of the Joshua Trees. There’s a coolness in the air; the passive touch of a desert winter. A car pulls up at an almost empty hotel, dispensing 3 Australians before the expanse of the land. So this was Twenty-nine Palms. A road trip through the Mojave and the fleeting day-warmth leaves stomachs empty, but even more so, hearts. Hearts, longing to continue drinking in something beautiful, something comforting; to continue being lulled by sheer experience. And they were not disappointed, for down the bare road lay a true treasure, a bastion of culinary culture and the ultimate classy dining experience: Dennys. And that is the story of how an Australian girl met America. 

They do make a good burger though

Radiation in the real Mojave Wasteland

Before I get into the details you should know that the majority of the radiation that fell across the Mojave is gone by now. However that does not mean there are not still pockets of it left and of course uranium mines and so on. 

Post WWII the US wanted to test as many bombs as possible to see what the effects were in all sorts of conditions, depths, heights and so on. At the time the most sparsely populated place in the US was in Southern Nevada. This was when Las Vegas was just beginning to come into it’s own and I-15 to Los Angeles had not even been constructed yet.

Here is a map of the Nevada Test Range

And here is what the most heavily cratered part of it looks like

The majority of those detonations were underground however the site had been used for above ground and aerial detonation also. 

All of the material blasted into the atmosphere had to go somewhere and one of the biggest air currents in the area goes from the ocean through Los Angeles and into central Utah. It covers the majority of the Mojave desert and of course that material was blown directly into it. 

Here is a map of the three heaviest effected regions in the states of Nevada, Utah and Arizona

My Grandfather was living in St George Utah at the time having retired from the Army post WWII and he, with his wife and five kids were all subjected to the fallout from Nuclear blasts in Nevada. My mother and uncles did not develop problems from it but my Grandmother had lung cancer in her later years and my Grandfather had a variety of health problems from a weak immune system in his 50′s until his death in his 80′s. What they experienced was a very real concern that many people in the area experienced and it was not until the late 1980′s that a real solid investigation on the effects of being down wind of the blasts had. 

The Radioactive Fallout lost the majority of its Radioactivity within a few years but there are hot spots dotting the Mojave where sediment has collected since the testing being washed down river or through floods and they measure a higher radiation than normal. None of them are particularly lethal, you’d have to spend a few months on them to get a high enough dose to matter but it is a concern for the smaller species in the area that do have to deal with it. 

The other problem we face out here are the hundreds of Uranium Mines all over the desert. I’ve talked a lot about them before but many of these mines had no regulation on them and people just dug wherever they could and contaminated the surrounding area. Uranium itself does not have too much Radioactivity unless you detonate it and those fine fallout particles settle however it’s a heavy metal and will leech into the soil and water table like mercury will. I was poisoned by Uranium when I inhaled a lot of fine ore dust over the period of a few hours as I napped on a fine tailings pile of sand. I had to be treated with Iodine and have my system flushed and it took a bit before I was back to normal. I had a representative from Utah’s Mining Regulation tell me that for every known Uranium mine there are probably two they don’t know about. The ones that are particularly dangerous have been sealed off like the one in the photo below. 

It’s just a fact of life out here in the Mojave. The mutation rate from what I have seen is no higher than normal. We do get mutations in animals every so often but you get that all across the US.

So when people say I am only playing at Fallout and I’m obsessed with it they don’t really get that I actually live it. I live in the most heavily nuclear bombed area in the world. At one point just about everyone living down here in the 50′s was exposed to high levels of fallout. I’ve been exposed to Uranium. I also scrap, scavenge, spelunk, hunt, trap and survive off the land. I was doing this long before the Fallout games even existed and They just over exaggerated a part of my life. New Vegas in particular since it takes place in my home region. 

Sometimes reality is just as messed up as fiction. 

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Night sky and campground over Trona Pinnacles, California desert

Yucca - Supermarket in the Desert

The most versatile plant in the desert is the Yucca. It comes in several sub species but all of them are very useful. 

The plant has sword like leaves that grow out with points and a tough outside but inside are thousands of fibers that can be broken down by pounding into fiber for cordage. The stem if it has one and is not dead can be broken off, peeled and eaten or cooked.The Flowers on the stem can be eaten and the fruit that the flowers later on produce can be peeled and eaten also as well as the seeds in the fruit being ground up and used as flour. Lastly the roots can be dug up and eaten or boiled and used to make a mild soap. 

The roots aren’t that bad and cook up decently. They can be made into anything you make out of a potato although they are not as nutritious. 

This is a coil of thin rope made out of Yucca fiber. It’s tough and works very well when braided. I’ve personally used Yucca fiber to patch up my pack and if you bite down on the point of the leaf but not all the way through and pull the point out with your teeth you’ll pull a few fiber strands with you and you have a needle and threat right there to use to fix anything including sewing up a wound.

The Baccata or Banana is edible raw and has disc like seeds in it that can be ground down for flour. All together the plant offers just about everything you need except water.