The Evolving World
Burning Man 2009
After only getting up once in the night, I think I slept about 7 hours. Sunday morning, August 30th, I was up before dawn. My eyes were red when I looked in the bathroom mirror. I showered, packed up, and was out of the roach motel by 6:20 local time. I headed out of town on Highway 93. The air was cool, the mountains were purple. Down the road, I saw where there was indeed an RV park near where the Internet directions had said; Google Maps had steered me the wrong way. I thought well, for about the same price, I had TV and a private shower so nyah.
Highway 93 is a 4-lane road with a wide median for almost a hundred miles. I had the road almost to myself. I passed a roadside store selling “rug’s” and “blanket’s.” Down the road, I spotted what looked like a dog in the road. Upon closer inspection, I saw that it was a coyote. I slowed down as I closed in. I could see two black birds buzzing the coyote, swooping down just over his head like kids playing “Does this bother you? I’m not touching you!” The coyote crossed to the median, then loped back across the road and disappeared into the high grass of the shoulder. The highway went on in a straight line through the Detrital Valley. Mountains passed by my windows like strangers at a party.
To the east, morning haze still clung to the slopes of the Cerbat Mountains. The speed limit lowered as I drove onto the Mead Recreation Area. Seeing those amazing mountains in the morning light was even more impressive than the times I’d come through in the evening. Five minutes before getting to Hoover Dam, the gas light came on. That’s also where traffic slowed to a crawl as everyone was directed through a Border Patrol checkpoint. I stopped at the dam to get some pictures. A group of young Japanese tourists were also parked there, sitting along the railings, talking and smoking. It took just over an hour to get from Kingman to the Nevada side of Hoover Dam, where Pacific Time was the same as not-on-Daylight-Savings-Time Arizona. The first casino I passed after crossing the dam had a sign out front: “Long dam trip?” I passed the turnoff for Boulder Beach, where I’d spent the night in 2008. Up ahead in Boulder City, I stopped to fill up with gas and to pick up some beer. It was 8 AM Nevada time.
 
Going through Las Vegas, a bunch of casinos had the same message on their marquees: “Forever in our Hearts.” Someone famous had just passed away. I double checked my map, which took me from 215 to 15 to 515 to Highway 95. Leaving town, it was 100 miles to Beatty. I set the cruise control for 70. There was lots of dust in the air. The view to the northwest was completely obscured. Alongside the road, I passed a suntanned hitchhiker with dark glasses. Just down the road was a sign warning that a prison was nearby and hitchhiking was prohibited.
 
 Just before 9:30, I went through Indian Springs, home of Creech Air Force Base and an RV park. That’s where a white pickup got behind me on the highway. He stayed about 50 yards behind me for the next hour and a half. Up ahead, a black polo shirt had fallen out of some car and landed in the middle of the highway. A carrion bird checked it out, just in case. I drove past the little town of Mercury. That was where I saw a historical marker for the Nevada Test Site, just north of there on Nellis Air Force Base. Ten minutes later I passed the turnoff for Pahrump.

When I got to Beatty, I stopped at the Space Station RV park and made a reservation for the day Burning Man ended. The lady was very nice, and gave me phone number to call in case I had to cancel my reservation. There was a big casino just next door. As I left town, I passed a couple more RV parks, including the one with the mineral springs I had stayed at. It was still for sale, but looked like it was doing a good business. A red pickup loaded down with bicycles passed me, waving as they went. It was 92 miles to Tonopah. Off the side of the road, a pink Burning Man bus had pulled over. I don’t know if they were having car trouble or what. The dusty haze blotted out any views of the mountains. The road I was on was one I’d traveled before, but this journey seemed different somehow, like I was traveling through new territory. I also had the road pretty much to myself. Sometimes, it was an hour or more between seeing other cars. When I got to the Esmerelda County line, the mile marker signs started over again. I realized they measure the highways by county, not by destinations. The mile markers start over again at every county line. It was really windy, and at times hard to tell if I was making any progress. Just outside of Goldfield, I topped the Goldfield Summit, just down the road from the Goldfield RV park. I was looking for a shady spot to have my lunch when I saw a sign: Goldfield Park. I pulled down Main Street and down a hill past houses and trailers. When I hit gravel I thought the sign was putting me on-- then, there it was.

It was tiny, but with swings and slides and monkey bars for kids. There was a modern pavilion with picnic tables and a stage. Lunch was two hard boiled eggs and an orange. As I ate, a siren went off in town: it was noon. A banner over the pavilion stage commemorated the centennial of the Goldvield Volunteer Fire Dept. in 2005. Goldfield was, at one time, the biggest town in Nevada. The park had a tennis court, barbecues and a shade structure over the merry-go-rounds. There was a plaque to long-time supporter Xniea Loncar "Granny" Baird. Except for the rustle of the wind through the trees, and that one siren in the distance, the park was blissfully silent. I'm glad I found it. Shady spots in Nevada are few and far between. By the time I was on the road to Tonopah, 26 miles away, the air had cleared somewhat. Mountaintops began to appear. It was 88 degrees out when I got to Tonopah, home of the Clown Motel. (I kept imagining someone in the motel saying, “Do these sheets smell… funny?”) I called home; everything was okay. Gasoline was selling for $3.19 a gallon in Tonopah—whoa! Good thing I filled up. That was where a silver pickup full of bicycles and supplies passed me. I topped the Redlich Summit at 1:30 and passed Graffiti Junction down the road.
I was careful going through Luning, where I’d been stopped for speeding before, and passed the local RV park. I was keeping a careful eye on all the speed zones. Cops were everywhere. Outside of Luning, one lonely guy sat in the highway rest area as a golden pickup full of supplies passed by me. I kept seeing burner cars on the roads. I came up against some violent winds at the Lyon county line. The road looked different somehow, but when I passed Tucker Lane outside Yerlington, I knew I’d been this way before. The crazy hard winds were bending trees over. I drove Satori over some bare, arid hills and down into a green valley. Clusters of trees huddled around the banks of a shallow river. The winds were making it hard to control the van. At Yerlington I turned north on 95A past green farms and some fancy ranch houses. I had one last patch of dry hills to cross before I made it to Silver Springs. That was where I turned east and arrived at Lahontan Recreation Area, a state park. Nobody was at the headquarters, so I paid my $10 and headed for Beach 7 (because that’s where the showers were). I found wide, sandy beaches surrounded by tall, gnarly trees. I found a shady spot under one of the trees.
It was just after 4:30, and I’d driven about 508 miles that day. I rearranged stuff in the van to make a proper sleeping area in the back. Supper was an orange, a tuna cup, and the last hard boiled egg. There were about a half dozen vehicles at Beach 7, four of them clustered together in a group camp. I made a voice post to LiveJournal. Winds were really blowing. Sand blew out from under the van, hitting my bare legs. I managed to fix my glasses with duct tape-- that seemed to hold them together better. I took a shower to wash the smell of the road off me. My bottle of body wash and a ten cent disposable razor worked wonders. One tourist brought his dog; he was prancing around with a big grin on his face (the dog, not the tourist). I went for a walk down by the water. The place was huge-- there were folks with boats and jet skis out on the lake. I got out my camp chair and read more of the Ranger handbook. I think it was the radio procedures that had me concerned the most.

I made good time getting to the campsite at Lahontan. The downside was that it took forever for the Sun to go down. I found the water spigot to fill my water jugs from. That would be the last thing I did before leaving in the morning. The wind was crazy wild. As sunset loomed, some of the group took off. I guessed they just got day passes. I had a little more than half of the money I started out with, and that was with buying gas with the credit card. The Sun went down at 7:15 Nevada time. I figured I'd be okay so long as I didn't spend anymore than I would have at home-- and there was a week coming up where I wouldn't spend anything at all. Why did the razors cut my face up when I was a teenager? I thought about finding someone in Fernley to fix my glasses. Darkness fell, and the group started packing up. I watched them from the back of the van, the doors open for ventilation. It looked like at least some of them were spending the night. I found the present I brought for Jenn-- it was in the first aid kit, of all places. I fell asleep about 10:30 Oklahoma time. I woke up about 3 AM when a guy at the group camp was cursing loudly, like he was having a Tourettes moment. After a trip to the bathroom I went back to sleep.

I had lots of dreams that night. There was one where a group of people didn't want to go into space, but then the astronauts brought them beer...
 

  
 
LINKS 
Lahontan Recreation Area 
Goldfield, Nevada 
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Introduction  Day 1  Day 2  Day 3 
Monday  Tuesday  Wednesday  Thursday  Friday  Saturday  Sunday 
Day 11  Day 12  Day 13  Day 14  Day 15  Epilogue