Tuesday, January 27, 2004

Burning Man 7: Jungoed

Jungoed, or How We Almost Missed Burning Man. Or maybe How We Almost Died In the Desert.

When last we saw our intrepid loonies, they were fiddling about Elko NV. I'm going to skip a bit of the driving, as well as the last Walmart stop (where we took on all the water and did the last of our shopping). I was pretty close to exhausted at this point (that is, I was holding on by my fingernails, mainly because I was sure we were getting close), so I don't remember a lot. I do remember how low the truck was riding BEFORE the water got put on, and my refusal to drive it anymore after we'd loaded it down with several hundred pounds of water. Dan loves his truck, and I wasn't going to be the one to break it.

So, we find ourselves in scenic Winnemucca on Sunday midmorning. Winnemucca serves as the jumping off point for the fabled "shortcut to Burning Man," which apparently takes quite a bit of time off your journey.

Now, the website very explicitly discourages you from taking the shortcut. The version I just linked to has been rewritten a few times to make it seem more dangerous. They're right. The old website had a lot more detail about the Jungo, although even back in 2000 they recommended against taking it.

As far as I know, there are no maps of the Jungo Road. The only reason we were able to even find the entrance was because I'd read the directions five hundred times before we left--but even if I hadn't forgotten my printed matter, there's no map. And there are no directions, either. I suppose you might be able to fiddle around with the net and find enough satellite photos of the area to piece together a route. If that's the case, good luck, but I won't wait up for you at Center Camp.

We entered the Road with a full tank of gas and high spirits, ignoring the CW that says avoid shortcuts, because we knew better. And I still think we know better than most people--but we were outclassed by the sheer expanse of Nevada.

I think the Jungo is really a network of mining roads, which are similar to (but much worse than) oil lease roads here in Oklahoma and Texas. They're gravel where they're not washed out completely, they're washboarded, and they're in the middle of nowhere. There are no maps. There are no signs. The only people you see are miners and guys shooting at jackrabbits, neither of which group looked particularly open to giving us directions.

After an hour or so on the Road, with no appreciable change in scenery, and an alarming number of turn off's and intersections, we decided that this was a bad idea, and that we should probably head back. Ultimately, we decided to turn back when we had half a tank of gas left, just to say we gave it our best shot.

To our credit, we didn't get lost. I still don't think it was a bad idea, on its face, just an idea that didn't have all the facts to inform it. We turned around a little before the halfway point on the gas tank, which was smart, too. And ultimately, we made it almost all the way back to town before disaster struck.

In the form of a flat tire. There was a spare, miraculously, and even more miraculously none of the tire changing implements were buried under a thousand pounds of gear. But it was a back tire, so getting the damn thing jacked up was a two person job. Getting the lug nuts busted off was a 20 minute ordeal, one that had me thinking about how long we could live out here with the food and water (and acid) in the truck, and culminating in a reasonably good Hulk impersonation by Dan (which impersonation finally got the lugnuts off), followed by a 10 minute discussion of tire dimensions and long term effects on the other tires, if the spare wasn't the same size as the other three. Dan was convinced it wasn't, and I don't really know enough about tires to check, and besides I was about to fall down and go to sleep by the side of the road.

For those of you playing the game, it was then Sunday, around 1pm. I had managed no more than four hours of sleep between Friday morning and that final crisis on a rough gravel road three states away. I was running on fumes, and we hadn't even gotten to Burning Man yet.

In fact, there was some worry that we wouldn't make it At All, or at least not on Sunday. Dan didn't want to drive much on the interstate with the tires the way they were, but neither of us were convinced that we could find a tire shop open on Sunday, in Winnemucca. Luckily, and please be aware how hard it is for me to say this, there's a Wal Mart in town, and we had no choice. Dan agonized a bit more about whether to just buy one, or two, or have them rotated, or repaired, or several other things (If you haven't guessed, Dan worries like other people breathe). The tire techs advised him, and I found out later also pointed out that all that was unneccessary, since all the tires were the same size after all. I slept on my feet, leaning against the door Dan would have to leave so he wouldn't forget to wake me up.

Surprisingly enough, we were out of Winnemucca by midafternoon, and I was finally down for the count. I remember very little of that long, tedious drive (frustratingly the opposite direction of where we needed to be), except mountains and the occasional BRRRAPP! whenever Dan slipped off onto the shoulder. He woke me as we were getting off of the interstate, on what would be the last leg of the journey. Sheesh. We're almost there, kids. Is anyone still with me?


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