Wednesday, October 06, 2004

Burning Man 2004 7: Drive Home--NV

My plan Tuesday morning was to drive like mad and try to make it through Utah (since you all know Utah freaks me out) before I fell asleep at the wheel. I knew I had one aterol (sp?) in my buzzkit, so it's conceivable that I could have driven almost all the way to Denver without stopping to sleep, but since I was under no time constraints, and I don't really like uppers, I decided to just do what I normally do and slug it out with the highways and mountains. Also, I wanted to keep an eye on the trailer tires, and wasn't sure if I could do that effectively if I was amped.

So, I began the sad retracing of steps back through the wastelands of Nevada. Twin A had lost his CD of "Hail to the Thief" in the van's CD player, and when I got bored I bashed on the stereo til it would play, at least. Great album, but christ, I never want to hear it again.

I stopped in Winnemucca to fill up with gas, rest, and get some gas station food. The parking lot was covered in Burners, and we were all in high spirits, as was the entire staff of the gas station. They'd left open their dumpster doors, so people could drop off trash as they needed to--I'm not one for fiddling with trash when I don't have to, and I knew I had a dumpster available back here (as well as a few asshole employees who I promised the crew I'd make unload all our shit), so I didn't mess with it. Nice of them to give us access, though, so I gave her an extra Black Rock Gazette to while away her hours. Maybe next year she'll make the trip--it seems a sin to me to live so close, yet not participate in what has to be the most amazing thing ever to take place in Nevada, up to and including whatever's going on over in Area 51.

As the afternoon wore on, I slipped into the sort of driving daze that you get when driving through such a desolate area, and I begin to think about nipping into the aterol a bit, just to keep awake. It was a long, long way across Utah, I knew, and pretty soon it would be dark. I felt like I'd be lucky to make it halfway across the state by the time it got dark, and I wasn't looking forward to navigating SLC with little sleep and a growing sense of disconnection from reality.

However, the sun was still out when, just west of Elko NV, I pulled over to fill up with gas, whip on the CD player, and get some more Red Bull...and just for the hell of it checked my trailer tires. The too-big spare was fine. The old tire had developed a major problem, though: half the tread was gone in a 2" band, and while very little cord was showing, something was definitely wrong. Looked like I was stopping in Elko after all.

There's an HST story called "Fear and Loathing in Elko," and there's a Ralph Steadman picture that really evokes the emotions I feel when in that specific municipality. I'm not sure why, but I always get a little walleyed in there.

But this time, I had no trouble at all. The guys in the tire shop were pierced, and seemed pretty deferential to someone who had obviously come from the playa (I was wearing a Node tshirt with the BM logo, and my boots and trousers were covered in white dust, not to mention my wild visage). Unfortunately, it looked like I was going to need a couple of tires, to make sure they matched the two on the other side, to the tune of $200.00. I could have gone somewhere else, which might have had them cheaper, but I didn't really have time, and didn't have the energy to interact with another crew of normals. These guys were all right...

So I secreted my stash in my pocket, grabbed a book (Mailer's _Executioner's Song_, which I like but can't seem to get into, perhaps because it depresses me), and headed back into the waiting room, thinking about how certain places are universal: bus stations, holding cells, and tire shops, to name three. The smell of rubber and linoleum is the same wherever you go, I think, and while I was reading about the perverse and pathetic activities of some Utah reform school graduate in the fifties, I was really thinking about sitting in a tire shop in Altus Oklahoma sometime in the eighties, wondering at all the obscure numbers and letters that defined The Right Tire For Your Needs, while Merle Haggard's nasal voice droned in the office behind the counter.

Turns out, I only needed one tire, because for some reason the tire that was fucked up was TOO SMALL, and the other was JUST RIGHT, so a little over a hundred dollars lighter, and an hour and a half later, I was cruising down the main drag in Elko, looking for a way back on to I80.

The drive from Elko (really, from Winnemucca) to the Utah line is one of the longest stretches of road in the world, I think--not least because you really want it to be over with, just because you know at the end of it you still have to deal with All Of Utah, which is a daunting proposition when you're as superstitious and weird and punchy as I was...and the whole "are we there yet" feeling of the entire drive from Elko probably had a lot to do with why cresting the hills above Wendover, Nevada is such a magical thing. I'd spent a couple of hours trying to avoid looking at the grays and browns and whites of what I consider a desert landscape (dude, I'm a fucking landscape guy; cut me some slack), and as I breast the hill, the sun has sunk behind the mountains, leaving Wendover in a deep shadow. This means that the omnipresent neon glow is doubly (or triply) brilliant and enticing, which was exactly what the people of Wendover wanted it to be, for people coming from Utah. But for me, descending on the place fresh from Burning Man and a totally innocent sense of beauty and aesthetics, I didn't think "GAMBLE AND DRINK!" I thought "PRETTY LIGHTS!" It wasn't unreasonable to say that this was the most ethereal and magical sight I'd seen since, well, my first night on the playa, when the (nearly) full moon came up directly behind the blue light of the Man.

Which wasn't enough to lure me into Wendover, actually, because I know it's just a gravel pit edged by casinos, really. So all you boosters of Elko who are preparing to hit "send" on unpleasant missives about how I could possibly think Elko is a fucking armpit when Wendover is plainly much worse, stow it. I grew up in Lawton, Oklahoma, which has one advantage over both cities in that it has things like grass and trees, but one major drawback of a huge military base, with all the crime and bad architecture that results.

But never mind that.

OK, bubba, I should probably slug on through this, but I've been at it for a while and I'm only just getting to Utah, and I'd really like to rest for a bit to try and convey somehow the sense of beauty and repulsion Utah tends to send shrieking through my nerve endings like TS Eliot on bad crank...but I just remembered the TRAFFIC in SLC, and I'm definitely going to need my strength for that one, plus it appears I'm almost out of beer and I smell bad, too. I'll try and write more tomorrow night, or DAY, if it rains or those bloodsucking bastards will let me alone long enough to spit something worthwhile out during work hours. But quien sabes? Certainly not me...


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