Friday, May 5, 2017

Leaving the Desert to go to the Desert

After two and a half weeks in the Black Rock Desert, it was time to get back on the road.  The airport was all but gone and so were most of the people that had worked there.  In a few days, nothing would remain except for tire tracks and post holes that would be swept away by the wind or filled in by the dust.  That and the giant fenced in perimeter surrounding the entire event.  The DPW folks would be cleaning up for a few more weeks, and that fence wasn't coming down until all loose debris had been secured.  I'm not sure how a corporation like Burning Man is able to convince people to stay and work (more or less) for free in the blazing sun for weeks after the event ends.  It's kind of a cult like that.

My cultish obligations were over for the year, though, so I was free to do as I pleased.  What I pleased to do was return to Utah as quickly as possible for a few more days in the canyons before taking the truck and trailer back to Mississippi.  I still had over 1,300 cycling miles between Jackson and Philadelphia, so while I wasn't in any position to dawdle.  Buuuuut... when you're in that part of the country with an air conditioned truck, you should really take advantage of the situation.  I knew I was going to have to be efficient with my time, so the first thing I did was head west.

Just west of Reno, in the opposite direction of Moab and Mississippi, is one of my favorite vistas in the entire country.  I'd say world, except I've seen more of a percentage of the US than of the world so country carries a bit more weight relatively.  The first time I'd seen it, I was on my bicycle sick as a dog, with gravelly lymph nodes, and a brain swimming in DayQuil.  The second time I'd seen it, I was in the passenger seat of a dusty minivan with the check engine light shining bright on the dash.  This time I was going to see it with a properly functioning body in a properly functioning vehicle, the most ironic way to view the home of one of the most dysfunctional stories of the frontier days.  I'm talking about the Donner Memorial State Park, named for the om nom Donner Party.

A gorgeous spot for a picnic.

The Donner Pass summit sits around 7,000', overlooking Donner Lake and the sometimes green, sometimes brown, always steep walls of the Sierra Nevadas.  There's a little parking lot just beneath the top, and to be able to sit there for a while just looking off into the eastern distance is easily worth the fifty or so miles it adds in each direction.  My good idea for the day was to leave the trailer I'd been hauling back at my hotel parking lot outside of Reno.  Ok, Donner Summit was complete.  No more distractions.

Buuuuut... Nevada is pretty nice when the sun is setting.  To just drive through without stopping to take it all in really seems like at the least a bad idea and at the worst completely sacrilege in a Mother Gaia kind of way.  Did I really need to get back to the concrete of Philadelphia that quickly?

I couldn't not stop, you know?

No.  No, I didn't.  Also, the human bladder can only hold so much fluid, so I had to stop any way, and I may as well stretch the old legs out and take some pictures, right?  Yeah, that's right.  The above photo is what a lot of Nevada looks like.  If you've ever wondered what the bottom of the ocean would look like if it was all dried out and the dead fish all removed, there you go.  Nevada.

It was getting late (nothing to do with the detours), so I pulled off on a big, roadside turnout for the night.  There is no shortage of places to pull a car off the road for a nap in Nevada.  It is not a heavily populated state, and most of the pop density is focused in and around the gambling towns, of which I was nowhere near any.  I was mostly near scorpions and camel spiders, and they took up very little space.  At least after a nice long nap I'd be refreshed and ready to drive the rest of the way to Moab without any distractions.

Well, almost all of the way.  You see, the last time I was in Utah, there was a site I really wanted to visit, but it had been raining on the day I was nearby the aforementioned, unnamed site, and it's not really the place to visit in the rain.  Aside from the roads becoming impassable and walking paths unwalkable, the main fun of this place is that it's full of climbable hoodoos that were carved out of the ocean floor millennia ago, if you believe the Earth is that old.  And said hoodoos are impossible to scale the moment they get even slightly damp, the fine dirt that's ever present turning into a viscous, earthy shortening.  Terrible for walking, terrible for cooking.  But it was nice now, sooo... probably should stop for a while.

This is a place.

Well, that was nice.  Crystal clear day and only one other car parked in the lot.  And I only almost got myself into inescapable danger once.  Good for you, sir.  And now that the final (I swear) detour had be taken, I would be in Moab by the evening, meaning time to grab some beers at City Market before settling in for a night of jigsaw puzzling.  All I had to do was just make sure I didn't get distracted and stop somewhere along the way...

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