Day 8: Black Rock City to Las Vegas 

Four AM Monday morning: I was on my way to the portable toilets when someone passed by. He slowed down, took a good look at me, and asked if I was okay. Inside, I had this overwhelming sense of peace, joy and harmony... but on the outside I'm sure I must have looked totally stoned. "I'm not getting a warm and fuzzy feeling here," he said, but I assured him I was all right. The stars were as beautiful as I'd ever seen them, glittering like diamonds. When I slept that night, it was with a heart full of content. 

.. Even if the air mattress did deflate sometime in the night. I woke at dawn. It was a nippy 60 degrees on the Black Rock Desert. I breathed deep the fresh, desert air for the last time. It was time to go. I took a couple of pictures, then disconnected the tarp from the bottom of the van. I folded it up and stowed it in its bag, then did the same for the inflatable mattress. It took a ridiculously short time to pack. Once my bike was loaded up, in no time at all I was ready to leave. Physically, anyway. My heart was heavy as I started up Satori's engine and headed out of Black Rock City.  
Even though it was just 7:30 Nevada time, there were already dozens of vehicles lined up to leave. It took me a half hour just to get from the campsite to the highway. Still, I was ready to get back to the world. In Gerlach, the high school had set up car washes to clean the playa dust off departing cars. As I passed one, the van in front of me slowed down, like he was thinking it over, then turned around and went back to it. The roadside vendors were now selling breakfast snacks and coffee. I passed a little red car. Several miles outside Gerlach, traffic came to a stop. There seemed to be an accident up ahead. A car from the Washoe County Sheriff zoomed by with his lights on. When we got moving again, I could see an RV had gone off the road and was stuck straddled across the roadside ditch. Was he trying to turn around?  

I passed Pyramid Lake and it's interesting rock formations, but again I was too intent to stop. I wanted to get far enough down the road that my cellphone would work again. (I may never really see that lake up close.) In Nixon, I stopped for a Pepsi and some Paiute Indian frybread. That really hit the spot. At the big truck stop in Fernley I was finally able to get through to home. Everybody was fine. It had been really raining hard back home. Providence had decided to shine on me: I'd forgotten that Labor Day Weekend crossed the first of the month, so I had a paycheck direct deposed in the bank. I was able to get cash out of the ATM to get home on. I also called a friend to see about the Worldcon vote. She had bad news: LA had beaten Kansas City by about 74 votes! Dang!  

I hit the road again; I was 413 miles from Las Vegas... and my next hot shower. Down the highway at Silver Springs, I stopped for $20 of gas (at $2.15 a gallon, the most expensive gas price my whole trip). There was playa dust inside the little door over my gas cap. As I was filling up, the little red car I had passed earlier went by. I drove through Yerlington again. There's a sign just outside of town challenging people to "Experience Yerlington!" It was a bright, beautiful morning as I drove by Walker Lake, and this time I got to leisurely enjoy the view. The wind really picked up between there and Luning; cloud shadows danced across the wide, open valleys. At Mina, I passed the Wild Kat Ranch again, and noticed it was "Open 24/7." At the junction of Highway 360, there was a group of concrete shapes on the side of the road. Local kids had covered them with grafitti, but the blocks were of such strange shapes I couldn't imagine what kind of building they could have been the foundation for.  

The western part of Nevada is dotted with little mining towns, some ghost towns, other still clinging to life. At the junction of Highway 6, a United States Ranger (that's such a cool name) from the BLM passed me. When a fly got in my car, and I realized it was the first bug I'd seen in days. (I never saw any insects all the time I was at Burning Man.) I made it to Tonopah just after 4 PM. A sign said it was 86 degrees out. That was where I had turned onto Highway 95 from Rachel, but this time I continued down 95. Once again, I was on a road I'd never been down before. I was still 207 miles from Las Vegas. The landscape southeast of Tonopah has some incredible geography, stark and awesome. Goldfield, Nevada had some neat 19th century buildings and a billboard for a bordello down the road. An hour later, the little red car I'd passed outside of Gerlach passed me. I could tell from the playa dust. Many cars on the road were marked with telltale playa dust, silent testimony to where they'd been the past week.  

About 5:30, I pulled into Beatty, Nevada, "Gateway to Death Valley." I passed trees, green fields, and a big pink brothel on the side of a hill. I bought some gas from a surly man at the Eddieworld station. Over a hundred miles to go. Driving through the Amargosa Valley, I saw some amazing limestone mountains, with lots of exposed strata. About an hour out of Vegas, the road turned 4-lane again. Passing Indian Springs, the sun was trying to fall behind the mountains. With the last rays of daylight I made it to Vegas, and even though I couldn't find my map, I was able to figure out where the Motel 6 was.  

As soon as I checked in, I grabbed the nearest, cleanest clothes I could find, peeled out of what I was wearing and jumped in the shower. I turned the water up as hot as I could stand. It was wonderful! The best shower I'd ever had in my life. (Six days of camping–and public toilets–will do that to you.) I shampooed the playa dust out of my hair, then I shampooed again. I must have showered for 15 or 20 minutes. In the navy, I think they call that a Hollywood shower. When I got out, I felt about 10 pounds lighter. In the mirror, I could see I'd been tanned by the desert sun.  

The lady at the desk was kind enough to give me a room just a few doors from the laundry. I grabbed my clothes and started up a load. Some things, like my BDU's, had to be washed by hand, so I filled up the sink in the room to soak them. The water immediately turned beige from playa dust. I hung them up, and as soon as my other clothes were out of the dryer I was ready to eat. The casino next door was the San Remo, which advertised a very seductive dinner special. Once I got inside, I saw they had an impressive buffet, so I chose that. The buffet had turkey breasts–I took four. And a roll, with corn on the side. And a tossed salad. And then I had the vegetable stew. And then another salad. With carrot sticks on the side. The tortellini was excellent, too. I also had water and three glasses of iced tea. After a while, I got the feeling I was wearing out my welcome, so when I got to a stopping point I checked out.  

On my wife's insistence, I took a walk down the Las Vegas Strip. The weather was much nicer than the last time I'd visited. It was all pretty amazing. I looked through New York/New York, and the Tropicana, and the Excalibur, and saw the lions at the MGM. I'd never been much of a gambler, but I had one quarter in my pocket (the rest had gone to the laundry), so I figured what the hell and put it in a slot machine... and I won! I won... one dollar. And what did I do with my winnings? I pissed it all away. I shoulda quit when I was ahead...  Walking back to the Motel 6, I could see lightning in the south, but it looked like it was going around the city. I bought a can of $2 beer, took it back to my room and called it a day. Yea verily, it felt good to be clean again.  

My last sunrise in Black Rock City
Within Satori -- my home at Burning Man
Yearlington, Nevada
Graffiti Junction
Mountains southeast of Tonopah
Lake Mead, from the top of Hoover Dam
Prologue --Day 1 --- Day 2 --- Day 3 --- Day 4 --- Day 5 --- Day 6 --- Day 7 --- Day 8 --- Day 9 --- Day 10 -- Epilogue
Current weather conditions in
Gerlach, Nevada
Last Updated: December, 2003
Send Comments to  All original images copyright (c) 2003 by Tim Frayser