Wild, colorful dreams… The light of the Sun woke me up about 7 AM,
Tuesday, September 6th. I’d slept for three whole hours. Outside
the van, the skies were clear, the air pleasant and cool. It was after
9 AM in Broken Arrow, so I called home. The Missus told me to be careful:
“Safety first,” she said. A couple of people were washing their clothes
in the park laundry, so I had to wait for a machine to wash mine. I did
a quick load of clothes, then took another hot shower. After two showers,
I still had playa dust on me! It would take time to wear off.
Traffic was busy that morning. I pulled down Taylor Street, onto Highway
95, past Lazy Heart Lane, and headed out of town past the Cock & Bull
Lounge. It was 72 miles to Hawthorne. I crossed the Mineral County line
and saw a shirtless hitchhiker walking along the shoulder. I found a classical
station on the radio. It was about a half hour to Schurz, which appeared
over the crest of a hill as a green patch of life at the bottom of a vast,
dry valley. Smoke from a small grass fire could be seen for miles. I was
on the road not quite two hours when Walker Lake came into view. The surface
was still and pale blue, except where it reflected the purple mountains
in the distance.
||I loaded up the van and took off just after 8:30 Nevada time. The Sun
was bright as I headed east on 50, crossing the Churchill County line.
It was a beautiful day out. It was just before 9 when I rolled into Fallon
(“Home of the Greenwave”), passing the Coast Guard station and a
couple of RV parks. I passed the Walmart, and down the road, I stopped
for gas near the old Walmart, a 100,000 square foot shell of a building
that had sat empty for years. I filled up with gas, paying with the Discover
card, and got a hot dog for breakfast. I had the whole of Nevada to get
across that day, but I wasn’t worried. There’s nothing like a full tank
of gas to give you peace of mind. Plus, I still had more Red Bulls in the
An RV pulling a trailer load of glittery bicycles passed me as I drove
through Hawthorne. I turned east at the El Capitan Casino, which offers
free camping spaces for RVs, but it’s really just a big, empty parking
lot. It was 103 miles to Tonopah, and state law required people to drive
with their headlights on, even during the day. The Desert Lobster Café
in Mina looked open, but there was only one vehicle parked there for breakfast
time. There were no cars at the brothel just outside of town. Well, it
was morning. I nibbled on my box of Triscuits. Every town I passed through
had at least one RV park. Some were nice, with trees, while others were
just bare lots, but still, any port in a storm. I passed Graffiti Junction
just before 11:30, and topped the Redlich Summit a few minutes later. I
watched my speed limit going through Coaldale.
A quarter after noon, I stopped at Miller’s Rest Area. I needed to make
a pit stop and to refill my water bottles. It looked like a few burners
were already there; their vehicles were gone when I came out of the bathroom.
There was shade and a nice breeze, and it felt good to be not moving. A
lady in a nice car pulled up while I was adjusting the bicycle. She and
her two little yappy dogs eyes me suspiciously before they left in a hurry.
I could see cars covered in dust zooming down the highway. The streets
of Tonopah were very busy when I passed through. It was still over 200
miles to Las Vegas. Not far out of town, construction brought traffic to
a complete halt. About a dozen vehicles sat on the lonely asphalt 2-lane
road. Clouds offered a slight relief from the glaring Sun. I ended up back
behind the trailer of glittery bikes. One bicycle was decorated with a
child’s pinwheel, and it lazily turned in the dry breeze. (I started singing
“Starry, starry bike, paint your handgrips red and blue…” I checked my
digital camera, and discovered I’d taken more than 700 pictures since leaving
Oklahoma. More cars lined up behind me. I smelled oil, but it was just
the new asphalt the state workers were laying down. It was a half hour
before we got moving again.
Fields of juniper trees dotted the landscape. There was a big sign for
the Shady Lady Brothel when I went through Goldfield. It was sunny and
bright out, but still reasonably cool. The brothel at the intersection
of Highway 266 was closed, a sad sign for the economy. Traffic got thick
after that, with lots of cars and trucks passing me. About a quarter past
2, I caught up to the RV with the glittery bikes; it pulled off just past
the turnoff for Scotty’s Junction. The landscape got much greener as I
pulled into Beatty about a quarter to 3. That’s where I stopped for
a Dr. Pepper and a cheese snack, and to check the tires and oil levels.
I was feeling beat, so I also chugged a Red Bull. It was 115 miles to Las
Cloud shadows played across the weathered mountains. The stark landscape
of Nevada never gets old to me. Going through Armagosa Valley, I saw that
the Cherry Patch brothel I’d seen on an earlier trip had expanded to create
a Brothel Museum. I wondered, What would be in a brothel museum? Old
mattresses? I stopped again for more construction up ahead, and had
to wait for traffic to clear to go through the 1-lane area.
|Rock Chuck, Jayhuck!
(If you're not from Kansas, you might not get that joke.)
|At 4:10 I stopped to get a picture of the Nevada Test Site, secret
buildings way off in the distance. A bus with a playa-covered bicycle rumbled
past me. Another playa-covered truck, labeled Firewater Hazmat Services,
also passed me. Right outside Indian Springs, driving alongside Creech
Air Force Base, I was thinking of the morning I saw a Predator drone flying
overhead, and son of a gun there was another one! It was flying
parallel to the highway, and I watched it come in for a landing, touch
down, and then take off again into the blue sky. I guess somebody was in
From the truck stop plaza, I turned down the lonely blacktop road that
pointed towards the Muddy Mountains. I almost got seasick on the dippy,
wavy road. A long-eared rabbit bounced across the road in front of me.
I drove on and on, with no other traffic anywhere in sight, as the road
climbed into the mountains. The road plunged into a steep grade.
Suddenly, I was surrounded by high cliffs of red rock. Caves and depressions
in the cliffs looked like the empty eye sockets of staring giants. I came
to a stop at the entrance to Valley of Fire State Park. The Sun was edging
along the horizon, causing long, deep shadows. There was a $20 camping
fee, which I dropped into the barrel in the parking lot. Inside a little
shelter, there was a map showing various campsites in the park. What followed
was an anxious half hour of driving around looking for a place to stop
for the night. For future reference: if you can’t camp at a certain
place, it’s not a “campsite”—it’s a “picnic area.”
||There were more burner vehicles on the highway, with dusty bikes and
trailers of bundles. A state trooper stopped to help out one burner that
had a flat tire. I had the good fortune to make it to Las Vegas just in
time for 5 o’clock traffic. Lucky me. Traffic was fast but not aggressive
as I accelerated down the highway. I found the turnoff for Interstate 15,
and within minutes I was headed back out of town. I pulled off the highway
for a pit stop and to pick up some beer. The truck stop didn’t have any;
I had to go to the convenience store across the big parking lot. After
getting back on I-15, I passed the exit for Nellis Air Force Base.
The Sun was getting low in the sky and very bright by that time. I was
on the Great Basin Highway, which took people to Great Basin National Park.
Forty miles from Las Vegas, at Exit 75, I got off the road and stopped
at a truck stop operated by the local Native American tribe. I got $10
worth of gas.
Above, the waxing Moon was very bright in the southern sky. Just 24 hours
earlier, I was looking at that same Moon from the playa, preparing to leave
for the exodus. It had been a long day, indeed. Before the phone battery
died, I called home to touch base.
|I was writing a nasty note to park officials in my head when I spotted
a campground with many trailers and RVs. That’s where I pulled in for the
night. I parked Satori in the first empty campsite I found, #1, as it happened.
It had a picnic table with shade, a flat place to pitch a tent, a barbecue,
and its own water faucet. After a beer and a can of hot stew in me, I felt
much better. I found the showers—yes! The place was mostly full of RVs,
but the couple in the next campsite had a tent. They even made themselves
a romantic candlelight dinner. Night fell, and it got very quiet. I figured
I’d get at least one good night’s sleep under my belt on my way home. I
looked forward to exploring the park in the morning.
The bright Moon almost washed out the stars, but I could still see the
blinking lights of jet planes as they left Vegas. I’d only gotten 3 hours
of sleep in the past 36, not counting whatever napping I did under the
shade at Hair of the Dog. The Moon really lit up the campsite. It was a
warm night. I sat in the back of Satori with the doors open, listening
to the silence. My eyes ached as I curled up in the back of the van for
the night. I traveled 462 miles that Tuesday. I wrote in my notebook, Was
it only Tuesday night? Wow.
Original content (c)opyright 2011 by Tim Frayser