Big Country Little Car Tour, Day 13: Elko, NV to Reno, NV
I stopped at a CVS on the way out of town to restock on sunscreen and snacks — a warehouse-size store with slot machines by the checkout. At ten in the morning, most of the other customers were in the beer aisle.
I had a shorter hop that day, "just" one state, and I dawdled a little and took in the local branding on the way back to the freeway. A place named Ossie's had spaghetti wrestling going on that night; another club-type joint featured a melty-faced fiberglass polar bear installed over the front door. The bear, positioned upright, had stumpy little legs, and gangly arms three times as long. Why wouldn't you send it back, if you paid all that money? "It says right here in the contract — 'customer entitled to full refund if bear looks like Mickey Rooney.'"
But the driving got serious soon enough: hot, hot, hot on the road, and nothing around. In the event of an unplanned pitstop, I'd have had to stack up sagebrush for shelter — and fend off escaped convicts; periodically, signs warned of correctional facilities nearby and ordered us not to pick up hitchhikers. Do people still pick up non-felonious hitchhikers? I thought we all agreed as a society to kibosh hitching as of the early '80s). Near Winnemucca, a billboard informed passersby that "METH IS NOT THE INDIAN WAY."
Strong cross-winds paddleballed us from both sides through western Nevada. I stopped in Lovelock for gas and to unlock my arms and shoulders for a few minutes, and what to my wondering eyes should appear at the off-ramp intersection but a black Smart! How encouraging! "This land is your land, Cam. How about that." Then I saw another Smart at McDonald's — a blue one!
But the Lovelock Smarts got to tool around Lovelock; I had to keep going. I lathered on more sunscreen, not that the half-inch I'd put on an hour before had made much difference — my right arm was turning into jerky. Into the right lane behind a pickup with two dogs in the back. "Let's bring a dog next time," I said to Campbell. "A little one that's good with maps."
Reno, at last. I'd taken a room in a non-casino hotel called the Vagabond Executive Inn, and the job the sun had started on my retinas, the VEI's bedspreads finished — it was like the Saturday Night Fever dance floor in there. I stripped them both off to avoid a stroke, and took a nap before heading to the Peppermill casino complex for three-card poker and dinner.
I was slowing down to enter the parking structure when a guy carrying a two-gallon iced coffee yelled out, "She drove a Smart all the way from New York, ahh mahhh Gahhh!" I waved and smiled (I get this a lot). Fast-forward to twenty minutes later, when I happened to wind up at the same gaming table with the guy. "Hey, are you the Smart girl?" Yes and no. Heh. Soon, the whole table was up to date on my journey.
Dinnertime: a kiddie-pool-sized serving of tortellini and a book about cinema flops, then a walk back to the car that felt like two miles, because it probably was. I've spent enough time in casinos to know that the inconvenience of everything to everything else except the dollar slots is how they work, but I'd forgotten how much people-dodging you have to do. And what's with the strollers in the sports book?
As I was leaving, a family in a minivan was pulling in beside me. The kids couldn't believe their luck: a real live Smart car! I waved and smiled (I get this a lot), and the whole family, including the mom, waved back super-crazy-enthusiastic like they were meeting Minnie Mouse in a Disneyworld ad.
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