In the summer of 2003, Charlotte and I decided to take a trip across the country by rental car (why a rental? Don't ask--it's complicated, dull, and annoying.), stopping at various friends along the way, seeing the sights, and culminating in our annual visit to the Burningman festival in Nevada. This is the diary we kept along the way.
|25-26||Hot Springs AR|
|?||Oklahoma City OK|
|31||Mesa Verde CO|
|?||Grand Canyon AZ|
|11-13||Los Angeles CA|
|16-24||San Francisco CA|
|24-Sept 1||Black Rock City NV|
|2||Salt Lake City UT|
Heading East from Reno we pass the usual sagebrush covered hills. Hills and Pignon pines, and then the landscape slowly become silvery white flat areas and marshes. Through the Humboldt ranges and ahead of us is the straightest road we have ever seen. Eighty leads ruler-straight directly to the horizon. Utah and the salt flats--an amazing view punctuated by the most unlikely sculpture ever. For miles, everything is flat, but here is a slick, 40 or fifty feet high sculpture. From the distance it looks like a gigant oak tree. Up close it resembles a tree with giant croquet balls as if in imitation of leaf clusters. Later we find out that it is called Metaphor: Tree of Utah.
We camp about half an hour from Salt Lake city. It is possibly the cleanest city I have ever seen. It also has a surprisingly large number of coffee shops. We decide to make time! A quick lunch and some caffeine and we're off. The mountains east of Salt Lake City are beautiful. I see houses which look as if they are lincoln log knock-offs: green rooves and reddish timbered sides. We head through an area which resembles bad lands and then through an area with a lot of green in the soil...copper we speculate. We will check it later.
Along most of route 80 (Eastern Utah and most of Wyoming) are curious fences, six by eight foot, angled at almost 45 degrees, set randomly across fields in short rows of three to about twenty units each and serving no apparent purpose. You can walk around them, they are set on top of hills, in valleys, around washes, and near nothing. Some are of metal and some of wood.
We pass magnificent outcroppings of rocks. The highway leads straight to the horizon and then turns and bends around immense, layers of rocks in reds, browns, gray and beige. The landscape is gorgeous, speckled with black shadows from regularly spaced cumulus clouds. We are accompanied alternatively by Byrne, Hendriix, classical on tuba (some of sebbo's favorites) and a selection of vaguely middle Eastern world music. I practice belly dance chest moves while the wind whips around the car.
We pass bunches of signal towers while not getting any signal for our cell phone. Damn. I start peculating about missile silos, signal towers and how they hide them. When I was in the army, a friend had told me of his time spent guarding them. Now I wish I had asked more questions. It would be neat to be able to spot them. How can you hide the comings and goings of an entire staff? Is it easier to build some sort of cover/fake thing over them (a house or mining operation) or is a manhole in an empty field easier? Perhaps it is easier to have them on BLM land where access is pretty much limited to cows and sheep and the perenially non-curious? Maybe without the Russians it is less of an issue. The conjecture makes for entertainment during an otherwise longish drive.
Continental divide. Hills. More mysterious fencing units. Golden green fields, cows and sheep--no sagebrush here. Distant purply-gray mountains. Rain and a rainbow in the direction of Cheyenne. Horses outlined by the late afternoon sun.
We rant about Covenant trucking's offensive sticker about abortion politics. Sebastian says he should start a trucking company in order to put relativist, anything goes, libertine stickers emphasizing personal freedom on them. "Love is the law, love under will" We say, "If it feels good, do it...as long as it doesn't frighten the horses".
Big Conifers near Laramie. And a really awesome roadcut. Sebastian has been reading McPhee's book Annals of the Former World. Jonathan Gelbord told Sebastian about it. There is a section about the geology of this part of the country (Utah, Nevada) called, basin and range. It is very interesting stuff. McPhee is... like,... you know, uh, articulate.
We reread the section on Wyoming from "Eat your way across the USA" It is great food porn. Lavish descriptions of diners and eateries across the country. Nothing in Cheyenne. Only one major mistake so far, Louis Basque food in Reno is almost 20.00 per person, therefore two dollar signs, not one. We have eaten at almost a dozen of their listed restaurants. Most have been spot- on. Yummm, Meg Lent us the book. Thank you, Meg!!
Wyoming's section of 80 is in good condition. Between Laramie and Cheyenne are rolling hills covered in a pale yellow green stubble, which from a distance resembles slightly worn velvet. Argh, no t-mobile signal near Cheyenne.
A week at Burning man in the mid to high nineties-mild by Burner's standards; the dust storms compensated for the temperatures. This morning we awoke to a dew-covered tent and a brisk 60 degrees. Currently it is 70 degrees. We saw trees turning red and it feels strange to know that summer has passed and we will be returning to ever shorter periods of daylight. Colorado border and twilight. Sweet Dreams.
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