Tuesday, August 26, 2008

On Traveling Through The Mountain West

Took this picture of myself early, early Thursday morning as we loaded up and headed over the front range of the Rockies, leaving Denver behind in civil twilight. I was a little freaked out by the prospect of having 18 hours ahead of me in the Jeep. Not that it hadn't been a great trip so far: a lot of ground still to cover, a lot of different kinds of air to breathe, all on an average of 6 hours of sleep per night. I love fresh air, but 3 days without a top on the Jeep was starting to test me!

Gearing up in gloves and hats for a cold pre-dawn through the Rockies, we started the Radiohead marathon as interstate 70 started to twist and convulse through canyons and mountain passes. Oh, and I got a tasty breakfast burrito and a cup of coffee at Daz Bogs in Silverthorne.

Having been broken down on the side of the road in 1995 nearby, I was somewhat familiar with the area as the last good place for a breakfast stop, so we pulled off just as the sunlight crested the hills. From that point on I knew it was all manifest destiny from there.

The mountains fell apart into sandhills with mutinous boulders, then canyons started appearing as we crossed over into Utah. The sun was kicking it up a notch too, so we were able to jettison our outer layers (much like backpacking!) and made it a practice to fill up on gas every half tank. Distances start to stretch in this country. Mountain ranges bend and wind their ways around gigantic valleys made for Dinosaur commutes. Long gone as they are, along with vegetation, left behind are skeletal remains and oil exploration. The farther we drove into Utah, the denser the air became. As we exited I-70 for Highway 50, it was clear that most of the fresh air we had experienced would be replaced with an arid imitation!

Dust storms kicked up in the distance, we outran them. Trucks kicked up dust clouds in the road, we drove through them. All that dust has to go somewhere! Welcome to Nevada. Rugged, rural beauty. The sun wanted to eat us alive. Meanwhile, my guitars slept packed away, blissfully unawares in the back. Sun, heat, cold: these things are not your guitar's friend! We took every chance we had (roughly every 100 miles) to get out, gas up, reapply sunblock, administer eye drops, and buy water. Note: make sure you eye drop in the shade and NOT looking into the sun!
Range after mountain range; vista after sweeping vista, the sun finally began to disappear into the western horizon. We were left with red earth behind us, and blinding white hot sun ahead. With less fanfare than expected of a desert sunset, twilight had begun.

A coyote scampered across the road oblivious to the speeding hot metallic death that was the Jeep (Patrick swerved deftly to avoid it) and finally day gave up it's grasp of the sky, revealing an infinite canopy of stars that featured the purple-blue ink of the Milky Way. This had me wishing for a blackout once we made Reno.

I was exhausted, and Patrick was willing to stop, though disappointed of only making it a 15 hour day. After a brief discussion, it dawned on me that he had further responsibilities in San Francisco than had been communicated to me. Still willing to stop, I ventured that we should persevere. Wow, this all sounds so civil, but in reality, you have two road-weary/grizzled men with the will to drive themselves sleepless, and the entire contents of central Nevada's famous baked oxygen bottled inside our lungs as perverted laughing gas going straight to our brains. Throw in a disagreement, and you've got volatility. Once our exhausted grievances were out there, there was no pulling them back. Rather, these became fuel (with the assistance of two disgusting Monster Energy Drinks!) for the remainder of the trip. Onward! Outward! Westward! Blistering! (the heater in the Jeep would prove caustic to my right ankle!)

Truckee, CA will never look the same to me!

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