Big Country Little Car Tour II, Day 16: San Francisco, CA to Elko, NV
Couch Baron and I parted ways at around 10:30 AM, he to the airport, I to find a post office that, if it exists, is in a Macy's and I never found it. Back to the room to contain the thermodynamic expansion of my belongings; downstairs to retrieve Campbell from the valet and get restaurant recs from the guy on duty; once again into the breach.
The driving felt different right away. I hadn't thought about it until the temperature started inching up through Oakland, but going east, away from the sun, really helped it feel less oppressive inside the car. (That, and round-filing a hotel banana from four states ago that got over the wall of the cooler, then died a country-song death half-under the passenger seat.)
And I felt less intimidated. I had the same exact forbidding terrain to cover, and in less time — Boulder by Thursday, damn the Campedoes — but this time, it was terrain I had gone through, and not run out of gas in. The unknown is great, except when it operatically is not, and when you drive a cherry with wheels, any widening of the margin of error is welcome.
It was a weekday, so the disordered driving had settled down, and I could enjoy the climb into Tahoe National Forest, then back down into Nevada. I had 500 miles to kill, and I listened to podcasts for a while, and then I tried to finish the Zodiac audiobook but I couldn't keep my mind on it, so I turned off the AC, dropped the windows, and put Halen on as loud as I could stand it, which is pretty loud (Cam has a few issues, but her sound system isn't one of them). Halen, Boston, the Donnas, loud, loud, loud.
The dusk came up. It's my favorite time of day, and northern Nevada does a fine one, but like a lot of things out here, the splendor is in equal proportion to the danger. The western night sky is almost indescribable; ditto the things that go on beneath it, because we can only guess at them (or don't have to guess). A retired trucker named Pat Carnes pulled his car onto an off ramp, locked it up, and walked into thin air with his dog. Nathaniel King's devout "family of origin" seems to think he's near the I-80 corridor, but they haven't heard from him. An older couple vanished near Green River, WY a couple weeks back. Who is the "Secret Witness"? When did "Nathan" start hustling the rest stops? What will lay bare the shallow graves — coyote or flood?
I brought rings with me, a fake engagement setting and wedding band, just in case, but I haven't worn them. I keep forgetting, or I can't get used to them so I take them right off again. I might as well mail them home already; they can't ward off disappearing, and anything they could ward off, I could ward off my own self.
The Budget Inn in Elko looked like a converted dorm. The towels were washed to a t-shirt thinness. The smell of mothballs was appropriately retro, and comforting, but I shoved my suitcase against the door anyway, just in case.
Tags: Big Country Little Car Tour Campbell Couch Baron Nathaniel King Pat Carnes Van Halen