Sunday, February 19, 2012

Travels with Jeff and Mutton

Jeff (Left) and Mutton (Right).
The word “Roadtrip” doesn’t translate well to other languages. Other countries are too small, or their train service is too efficient to really catch the nuance of how we Amuuricans pronounce it: “Roooadtrip.”
There is no phrase more quinessentially American. It immediately conjures up images of good friends, wacky adventures, serendipitous romance, and no doubt vast quantities of illegal substances. Well maybe back in the day, but now I am well into my forties – I even have a retirement plan. So it was the straight and narrow for me this time.

And what could lure a happily married man into a week long solo trek across the blasted wasteland of the American West? Welcome to Boomerville: My aging Mother was in the hospital again and this time……was the time to come on out. 

(*gulp*) Well this is why the good lord made comp time and credit cards. Suddenly my Friday evening would be spent packing, phoning, and searching for the “important papers”.

My immediate problem was transportation. Mom’s little city in Western Colorado does not have a big airport. Indeed, up until last year Grand Junction was still serviced by Walker FIELD, which conjures images of silk scarves trailing from open bi-planes. And my little city on the Central Coast does not have an airport at all.

But, I nevertheless dutifully log-on and find fares for an immediate flight, on a weekend, in high-summer, going from Silicon Valley to a point in fly-over country where indeed, almost everything flies over. The results were charmingly astronomical. If I am going to pay four figures for a roundtrip flight there’d better be an ocean involved, enough leg room to dance the watusi in and a women’s roller derby team to occupy the other recliners.

Sorry Mom, you’ll just have to hang on another day or two.

Jeff, in situ.
Next I check in with Amtrak, and am heartened. Yes, it’s a 27 hour journey because our laughably decrepit train system travels at the same speed as a six year-old on a Big Wheel. But it’s less than $200.00 roundtrip. Yay Government subsidies! Yay lobbyists! Yay short-sighted union paranoia! Oh wait. The train doesn’t leave till Wednesday, 5 days hence. (*sigh*)

Okay, as long as we’re discussing 27 hour trips lets check the bus schedule. 300 bucks gets you a thin, narrow seat, stolen luggage, a bazillion stops in the worst neighborhoods of every town you pass through, meals that a dingo would reject, and your chances of sitting next to someone stinky is 1:1. Bus? PASS.

So Saturday morning at 8am I am at my local Avis rent-a-car, which in my little town means a trailer and a hungover teenager. He pulls up my online reservation for a sub-compact and points me instead to a four-wheel drive station wagon. I resist. He shrugs, looks out the windows of the trailer and points towards a year-old Toyota Corolla sedan. Perfect. I ask him why that car wasn’t offered first. He shrugs blearily and says: “I was supposed to clean the bumper on that one and fill it up, but……” he trailed off, which pretty much illustrated his point.

We strike a deal that I’ll take the dirty car for the lesser rate. Score. I can’t help thinking outloud that I am glad I wasn’t stuck with one of those teeny plastic Chevys. He nods. “The Company likes those” he says, “But most folks are like you.” He laughed then, releasing the unmistakable – and eye watering – combination smell of Red Bull and peppermint Schnapps into the room. I signed the forms quickly and skedaddled.

It's tough to take photos one-handed while driving.
And the first thing I notice is that this car has an in-dash 6 CD changer. Score. I swing by the house and grab a random stack of discs, my grocery sack of mis-matched clothes, the magic credit card, and the all important mascot.

See, I’ve done my share of roadtrips, solo and group, business and bored, and I know that key to the whole enterprise is to have a random fake animal on hand to serve as your protector, confessor, witness and all-around sidekick. Improvising on the fly I grabbed a small, green Lego dragon, who I promptly named Jeff, for no discernible reason.

And, I’m off.

But to where? This was before smart phones and the only maps we had in the house were a small Best Western handout showing all of their motels in California, Nevada and Hawai’i. But you can make out the highway numbers here and there behind the gigantic red stars. So. Interstate 80 until you see a man with 3 wives. Then hang a right. Got it.

Driving through Donner Pass made me hungry for some reason, and so I stopped for lunch in Reno, which reminded me of downtown Vegas. Well downtown Vegas with the Strip plopped down on top of it. It’s really hard to have a gigantic mega hotel/casino/resort/circus/18 buffet/wedding chapel/strip club when the blocks downtown are each about 40 yards square. So the big hotels just expand from block to block and link all of their features by walkways, ‘sky tunnels’, and just plain height and width, obliterating the old town grid in the process. I think Circus Circus was about 8 blocks wide and 10 blocks long, but I was lost so much I never really got a handle on it’s real size. Made 40 bucks at the tables though.

And what I found east of Reno was that I was all alone on the highway. And very soon I found out why. See Nevada is very much like the middle class in America. Upwards of 90% of Americans consider themselves to be “middle class” even though this mammoth chunk of demographics takes in all sorts of incomes and lifestyles. Nevada is built on the same principle: Everyone knows the thing near the upper corner (Lake Tahoe and Reno), the thing at the bottom (Vegas), and the other 90% - 110,000 square miles – is just “the middle part”. And it’s like Mordor, before Sauron moved in.

It reminded me of a quote from a U.S. Soldier in 1846 who had been sent to fight in Mexico, back when "Mexico" included everything from Arkansas to Oregon. After months of fighting from Texas to Arizona he said: “If God made the world in 7 days he must have made this part on Saturday night when he was real tired.”

And my Saturday was getting across the 300 miles of this stuff. And since it was a rental car, I could just floor it with the air conditioning going full blast. And that is why I got into trouble.

I got pulled over for doing 80mph. Now this sounds impressive, but consider that this is in the Autobahn part of the state, and the posted speed limit was 75mph. Being pulled over for 80 in a 75 is like being cited for spitting on the sidewalk. I couldn’t believe it.

But I had two weapons at my disposal. First, I informed Officer Squarehead that I was on a mission to see my Dear Old Mother in the Hospital. I even waved the Will at him. This made him pause, pen hovering over the citation book. And then he asked the magic question that saved my bacon. “Where are you coming from?”
I tried on my best surfer dude smile and said “Santa Cruz”. And his face lit up like Christmas morning. “Santa Cruz? With the Boardwalk and the Aqaurium…..and… and…!”

“…..and the OCEAN.” I finished for him.

“Yeah……the ocean.” He smiled dreamily, head tilted to one side, and I watched the pages of his citation book flutter closed, one copy at a time. “Dolphins and otters and seals….” He babbled on in a sing-song voice. I watched the citation book in his hand drop slowly to his side. The pen, in the other hand was reflexedly returned to his front breast pocket. “And whales, and redwoods” I continued for him. He nodded. “And bikinis.” I finished.

He laughed, adjusted his Smokey the Bear hat, bade me to be careful, and sent me on my way. I putted over the next rise, cranked the air conditioning, and floored it.

And it’s hard to describe Northern Nevada. You can’t make comparisons, because to do so would be to relate one thing that is known to something in Nevada that isn’t known, but there is nothing IN Nevada to make comparisons to. There’s just nothing there. You’d have to compare it to some artificial environment only possible under laboratory conditions. It’s like quantum mechanics. You can measure the wasteland of Nevada but you cannot observe it, for there is simply nothing to observe.

But then, one comparison did come to mind. If I had seen one of the Mars rovers next to me at a gas station, I would have just shrugged.

Battle Mountain

That little structure on the right is basically it.
I stopped for gas in Battle Mountain and popped inside the anonymous milkfoodpopsnacksice store to continue my research into energy drinks that taste like ass. And here is where it first began to sink in that I was in an alien environment.

The candy and sodas were there of course, but also a large and impressive display of hardcore pornography, right at kid height. I saw every kind of liquor known to mankind, in every size bottle. A store length gun rack held types of firearms I’ve only seen in video games. A whole wing was given over to cigarettes, tobacco products and, I guess, ‘lamp parts’. Video poker and slot machines near the bathroom lines (of course). And the entire center of the store was taken up with aisle after aisle of professional-quality-imported-directly-from-China fireworks. It was like Vice-a-Rama!
Battle Mountain Suburbs.
Or maybe this is the Golf Course.

I checked my motel map later to see if Battle Mountain was anywhere near the entrance to Hell, because this was the perfect store to blow your remaining Karma points in. I mean, you’ve been sent down the road to Oblivion, and here is the Last Chance store before the abyss.
Might as well light up, get drunk, gamble, pick up some assault rifles, set off some colorful bombs a mile in the air and read a copy of “Little Japanese Girls with Big Butts Who Like Horses”.

I retreated back to the rental car, my little slice of so-called Liberal-and-yet-apparently-quite-repressed California. And later I found out that Battle Mountain’s two industries have not changed in the last 175 years: Gold mining, and legal prostitution. The designation by Washington Post Magazine as the official “Armpit of America” is recent, however.

On to Wendover

Jeff the Lego dragon and I had long talks that afternoon and sang beautiful harmonies together. The blasted landscape outside was perfect territory for dragons and he was in an upbeat mood. I introduced him to a stuffed lamb plush toy that I had picked up in Reno with some of my winnings. Mutton, as we named him, served the useful function of giving my left elbow a cushy surface to rest on. He wasn’t as good a conversationalist, but this may have been due to the fact that his head had to be stuffed down into the finger well in the side of the door.

Not pictured: The "Fabulous" part.
Elko was coming up and I was excited about seeing it – THAT’S how boring it is to drive across Northern Nevada by yourself. And a quick glance at my laughable Motel map showed a gigantic chunk of the state that did not seem to be serviced by ANY roads. Even the gigantic red stars of the Best Westerns left this part unblemished. Which made me wonder what was down there. I mean you could hide Austria in the part of Nevada that nobody visits. You could set off a nuclear bomb –


Oh. I upped the cruise control and continued on my way.

When does one know when to pack it in for the day? I was watching the sun set behind me and gauging the time and distance. Physically I was fine. But mentally I was starting to take a long, hard look at myself. When I realized I had named my sidekicks ‘Mutton and Jeff’ (for you Old Time Radio fans) I laughed so hard I almost flew off the road.

Wendover looks awesome from this height.
Note: This is not a map: It's a satellite photo.
This is what Nevada actually looks like.
I remember one sequence where I figured out that the Motels were a pretty good band, and Missing Persons was a pretty good band. But wouldn’t it have been great if they had combined forces? Put Terry Bozzio in the drummer chair, and put Martha Davis on vocals (But keep Dale Bozzio around for the album covers). Call it the Motel Persons. And what was disturbing to me was that I was entranced by this idea. Jeff and I were singing “Only the Lonely go Walking in L.A.” when I decided to pull over for the night.


And, as luck would have it, my brain gave out at the same time as the daylight and Nevada. I stopped at West Wendover, the just-across-the-border casino complex that caters to those few Utahans who secretly practice vice, and all the busloads of seniors, who don’t give a shit anymore.

My trip odometer read 660 miles from Santa Cruz - a mere 6 miles short of the Aleister Crowley Century mark. 6 more miles and I would have earned a free 30 round AK-47 clip from the Battle Mountain Vice-a-Rama store. But 11+ hours in the saddle and I was done. My brain was deep-fried toast.

The main drag of Wendover. Emphasis on "Drag". 
I checked into the Wendover Nugget, which is THIS close to being a great prostate joke. Now I was prepared for the financial worst, as it was a Saturday night in Summer in Casinoland. Vegas would have laughed me all the way to Whiskey Pete’s if I had tried to check in anywhere without a reservation. 

At the Wendover though I snagged a room for $50.00, which I suppose means that there is some mighty cheap land on the road to Hell. It took me a moment to register that the nice lady had not said 1-50, or 2-50, or how-much-do-you-have-on-you-50, but just fifty bucks. And, she added, “its a handicapped room.”

I protested. “I don’t want to take your handicapped room.” She gave the kind of conspiritorial smile that showed that she was at the end of a long day too. “Honey, do you know how many handicapped rooms we have here?”

The room was standard, bad art and all. The view was East, across a forest of air conditioners. Beyond that I couldn’t make out much. The sun was setting behind me and all I could see was a valley of white – whatever that was.
"Come see our hundreds of Handicapped rooms!"

I checked-in and noticed the wide doorways and handrails at various points. I checked the map of the Nugget and noted that the main entrance of the place, which in Vegas means the limo and valet parking entrance, was here the Bus drop-off. Bright lights certainly, but nothing too flashy or strobe-like. The doors are always wide, the ramps are always gentle. This is a casino that knows its clientele.

After a shower I took my toys out to dinner. Mutton enjoyed her salad, but Jeff kept sending his steak back to be even MORE well done. My entrée of mystery meatcake stayed with me for the next two days. I lost the winnings I had made in Reno, took the wide elevator up to my room, made some calls, kicked 18 of the 20 pillows off the bed, turned out the lights, and listened to my stomach make repeated assaults on whatever it was I had had for dinner.

Salt Lake to Grand Junction

East Wendover, on the Utah side. Sinclair Gas on left.
Next morning I was up and on the road early. My first stop was a Sinclair gas station, just because it has a cute dinosaur logo. I like the idea that I am running the rental car on ancient, liquified dinosaurs. I also picked up a local newspaper and finally, a decent map; Utah is no place to be lost in.

As I was filling up with Brontosaurus I read that the wife of the Chief of Police of West Wendover had been arrested for selling OxyContin to undercover cops during breaks in her shift as a stripper. And the thrust of the newspaper story was the drug angle and not her job. I say again: Nevada is a State unlike any other.

But now I was in Utah. And there is no sin and vice to be found here. No trees, wildlife or civilization either. Take a look at a map. Anyone can find the Great Salt Lake. It was even easier to find eons ago because the lake was at least twice it’s present size. The part that dried up is now the Great Salt Desert, and they aint kidding. It’s a pure crystalline white-out from horizon to horizon.

Mmmmm.......breakfast is served.
No turns, no exits, no shoulder, no escape. Just the two raised rails of the Interstate, and a big blank as far as the eye can see. And I got to thinking about how all this got here, and my eye happened on the logo of the map I bought: That cute little brontosaurus. See dinosaurs that large spent most of their time in the water, where buoyancy was an ally. And they ate tremendous quantities of plantlife, and they drank even huger quantities of the lake. And they did what came naturally. So it’s entirely possible that I was thundering across a huge valley full of dried dinosaur pee.

A riveting thought to have first thing in the morning.

Luckily some upcoming signs took my mind off of what the Bonneville Salt Flats consists of. The first series was lemon yellow and each sign was approximately the size of that happy Brontosaurus. It said, in 72,000 point type: “DON’T DRIVE DROWSY!” The next ones gave directions on when there would be a shoulder to pull off onto. I guess I did the right thing last night by stopping when I did.
The original name of "Calcified Apatosaurus Urine Flats"
was later shortened to "Bonneville".

The second sign that caught my eye was further on, when actual dirt and hills arrived on the scene. It was standard size, nothing fancy, and it said, simply, “Military Property. No services. Do not leave roadway.” That’s it. Nothing about the name of the place or which branch of the service runs, um, ‘it’. Maybe that’s what they meant by ‘No Services’. And there was no exit to take, nor anything to see. But I was chilled nonetheless.

Because somewhere South of here is where our nation tests it’s biological weapons, and then sells them to other countries. Dugway Proving Ground is also where that UFO is currently being stored, no matter what the Area 51 gift shops claim. I think it would be a hell of a contest between the Dugway bio-goons and the Battle Mountain Vice-a-Rama store. But I wasn’t sticking around to find out.

Don't Drive Drowsy! Just stare at this for hours
and hours but do NOT get drowsy. Don't!
It was a Sunday morning in Salt Lake City, which means I had the road to myself. Well there were truckers of course, always truckers, but the Latter Day Citizens were all busy not doing all of the things that they are not allowed to do. It’s rather eerie to drive through a theocracy.

Just South of town, though, I glimpsed enlightenment. Literally yards from the Salt Lake County line is a double billboard. The right hand side just says “Ex-Mormon” and gives a website. The left hand side advertises a nearby gigantic porn superstore. Let the healing begin!

South of Provo I left Interstate 15 for a short cut. I could save all kinds of time this way, provided I could keep up a good speed. The map showed Highway 6 to be all kinds of curvy, with a couple of serious summits as well. Then I saw all the truckers taking this cut-off, and I knew I would be fine.

The shortcut from Provo to Green River.
Well, fine time-wise. Health-wise I wasn’t so sure. Cruising on the Interstate with the big-rigs was one thing: navigating a two lane slot car track of a road with a bunch of 15 ton behemoths on a time schedule is another.

Throw in some grades that would make good ski runs and more curves than a large order of curly fries and you have a gripping afternoon.

Near the Southern end of this dry waterslide the road flattens out and makes a beeline towards Interstate 70. Unfortunately the passing lanes dry up as well. But I had had enough of the tractor trailer triathalon. I needed to get to Green River and make some Bonneville salt like nobody’s business. A quick glance down the valley showed that I had about 10 clear miles of road ahead. And so I pulled out to pass. By the time I got past all of the barreling brontosaurus’ I was doing well over 100 miles per hour – with the air conditioning going full blast. The things you can do in rental cars.

St. Mary's Hospital in Grand Junction, Colorado.
Green River was indeed quite relieving, and from there it was a no-brainer across the Colorado border and on into Grand Junction, my destination. At the hospital Mom was very happy to see me, and I was very glad to see something that didn’t have a windshield between me and it. Then we were interrupted by someone entering the room, pushing a machine on wheels.

After they left I got caught up on the latest test results, but then we were interrupted by someone pushing a machine on wheels. Mom said she’d be better if she could get some rest, but before she could complete this thought we were interrupted by someone pushing a machine on wheels. We had a lovely 15 minute chat over the next 4 hours this way.

Mount Garfield, overlooking Grand Junction.
I stayed for 80 more machines (or 2 more days) before early leaving on Wednesday. That morning I got a call on the cellphone from Mom. She said she was being discharged and was I still in town? Nope I was 300 miles away pushing my machine on wheels. Still, good news, and since she has been home and not being awakened to take sleeping pills, she is recovering nicely.

Me though, I had decided to try a little experiment and take the Southern route back to the Left Coast. I figured after seeing Reno and Wendover I should complete the trifecta of Nevada and see Las Vegas.

Mutton comes up for air, somewhere in Southern Utah.
Plus, serendipity, the total mileage between Santa Cruz and Grand Junction, via either route, is within 30 miles of each other. So might as well. If I’m gonna be bored on the road, at least let me have some fresh scenery to be bored by.

I had lunch outside of Saint George, Utah. Krispy Kreme doughnuts and Arby’s at the same drive-thru. Wonder no more why truckers are flabby. While barreling down the Virgin River Canyon I did some calculations and found that I was making good time. Too good, if I wanted to justify stopping in Vegas for the night.


Virgin River Canyon.
My best one-handed photo.
I thought about this all the way across the corner of Arizona and on into Nevada, as I snacked on glazed doughnuts with Arby’s sauce. Did I really want a big drive tomorrow and spend tonight in the land of Cirque De Liberace, Siegfried and ¾ of Roy, and gorgeous young Japanese girls with big butts delivered to your hotel room? Or did I want to be sensible, do the majority of the driving today and spend the night in (gulp) Bakersfield?

I resolved to be good, save some money and push on. And I was rewarded for my good intentions. Just West of Vegas I noticed that my shadow had left the rental car. I peeked out and up and sure enough the blasted sun was poised to descend through my windshield. That meant an afternoon with the visor down as me and the Sun raced to the West. Ick.

About that time I also noticed this mirage off to my Left. There was a line of telephone poles running parallel to the highway, but off in the distance they seemed to be bent and curved. Weird. I chalked it up to the 500 miles of the day, the stress of the hospital, and the insane quantities of energy drinks I had been consuming.
Buffalo Bills, surrounded by the Desperado.

How much? Well let’s put it this way: Truckstops now-a-days have Rockstar on tap. My heart at that point was playing a pretty good bossa nova beat. (And I've never had one since.)

The mirage shimmered but seemed to be a bunch of curved pipes, and there was a large building next to it. Weird. Stateline was just Whiskey Pete’s right? And that cardboard castle was on the North side of the Highway. What was this THING on the Southside?

And then the mirage cleared and I was suddenly looking at the biggest god-damned roller coaster that I’ve ever seen. Blinker on!

And I exited into what is now known as Primm. I double-taked. Primm? A hotel/casino in Nevada named Primm? Did someone get their ‘P’s and ‘T’s mixed up?

Just a small section of the Desperado. 
Turns out that Primm, two M’s, is the family name of the folks who built Whiskey Pete’s back in the 70’s. Pete’s is still there, new coat of paint, but across the highway are two new hotels, the Primm Valley Resort, and my destination, Buffalo Bill’s. All three linked by monorail, of course.

Before I parked I drove around the parking lot and charted this behemoth of a roller coaster, which circled the entire hotel, and rose high above it. Mutton was dubious, but Jeff the Lego dragon was all over it.

I found Registration but all of the flip signs were reading check out. Confused, I approached the nearest window and asked the nice little Korean lady where check-in was. She smiled and said “This is check-in. How many nights? You a club-card member?”

The sizable - and empty - casino at Buffalo Bills.
I answered, “1, no, and why does your sign read check-out?”
She gave me the same conspiritorial smile that I got in Wendover. “I am too short to reach the sign.”

I nodded, reached over and twirled it for her. I was then about to ask how come one of her coworkers – but then I noticed that everyone with the red checked shirts, cowhide vests and nametags was also Korean and Hobbit-Sized. I shut my big, American mouth.

She then explained that rooms were 40 bucks and suites were 60.
I took that in. “What’s the difference?”
“Twenty Dollar.”
“Um, No, I meant…..nevermind. Give me a suite.”

1pm was prime time for the maids, all of whom I had noticed were about 6 feet tall and Caucasian. Strange. I had a corner room on the 5th floor of the 16 story hotel, and it was indeed a spacious, two-room suite, done in hilarious shades of tree bark and cowhide.

My "Suite" and no, I could not stop giggling for the
entire time I was in there.
I stripped off all my stinky road clothes and opened the curtains, just as the monorail AND the roller coaster came rolling past my window. Yikes! I peeked out again and saw that directly opposite my window was where the roller coaster had a brief straight to accommodate a mid-ride braking section, before it thundered past the monorail station. Oh MAN…….

Showered and re-dressed, I headed back to the casino, passing another batch of tall, white teenaged maids, one of whom I saw was named ‘Natalia’. Natalia? I shrugged. At that point in the road trip I wasn’t up for any heavy thinking.

I bought my wristband, raced up the ramp and jumped into the front car of the Desperado. Some rowdy teenage boys got in behind me, hats on backwards, cool shades, the whole shebang. There was no else in the remaining cars, and pretty much no one anywhere else either. Midweek at the Oasis.

My room was the top of the 5th floor in the center.
Our attendant, Aleksei, then came by and explained in a heavy accent that hats and glasses cannot be worn on this ride. One of the dudes showed that his glasses were on a cord. Aleksei was having none of it, pointed to a row of cubbyholes, and explained simply: “They’d never make it.”

At that I turned in my harness and seatbelt and looked at the back of the warning sign that I had run past in my haste to get on this thing. Backwards I could only read the big words at the top that had been cut out and they said “Desperado” “highest” “fastest” “longest” and “1996”. And before I could digest that the car lurched forward into darkness.

We emerged into blinding sunlight and triple degree temperatures. And the slow ascent began.


And since I was stupid enough to jump in the front I could see just how far we were climbing. Behind me the college idiots had gone completely silent. I looked to my left and saw a condo village far below me. To my right I looked down at the roof of the 16 story hotel.

Clack clack…..clack……clack………….. clack………………….clack…………………………….

Yeah, It's pretty terrifying.
I had time to register that I must have been dangling about 20 stories in the air when the car suddenly dropped 225 feet straight down and accelerated to 85 miles an hour - into a tunnel. On the next uphill we experienced 4G’s of force, almost a point higher than astronauts experience upon lift off, and then all that left and I was floating in zero-G for several seconds, and then a spiral drop of 155 feet, and then I guess I was screaming for awhile.

When we got to the slowing station that I had earlier seen from my room one of the dudes behind me started gibbering “brakebrakebrakebrakebrakebrake” and when the mechanism kicked in he actually whimpered with relief.

And the Desperado did not let up for close to three minutes. I staggered off the platform with double vision and wobbly legs and I teetered through the casino like I had put my shoes on the wrong feet and my pants on backwards. And I did the dumbest thing I could have done at that moment: I dropped into a chair at a blackjack table.

More hot, Stateline casino ACTION.
Note that this was taken in the afternoon, not 3am.
Can you find any living soul in this photo?
Luckily I happened to collapse in front of the nicest dealer in the world. His name was Ho, and he was, surprise, Korean. He was also the slowest dealer I have ever seen. And this was after my vision cleared. He dealt each card like he wasn’t sure whether the gravity was working or not. It certainly wasn’t operating properly for me, but I was in good hands. Ho told me when to bet and how much and when I was about to make a bad decision he literally took my chips off the betting line and gave them back to me.

I had a nice coke brought to me by a waitress named Olga, who answered my question by stating that they were all Russian students spending the summer in America and living in the condos that I had seen earlier. This didn’t explain why all the higher-ups were Asians, but Nevada is not a place where you ask questions like that. Just enjoy.

And I was. I was winning now, but still marveling how that insane ride had knocked the stuffin’ out of me. And that meant only one thing. I cashed out and I rode that fucker AGAIN.

This time on the ascent I noticed that the pool was shaped like the Buffalo Bills logo. Just the right Northern New York touch for a Wild West hotel/casino populated by South Koreans and Eastern Europeans.

Jeff and Mutton today.
They live on the sill just above my computer screen.
We crept up higher and higher. 
Higher than Donner Pass. 
Higher than the fireworks at the Vice-a-rama store. 
Higher than a Brontosaurus’ eye. 
Higher than the drugs they give old people when they don’t know what’s wrong with them. 
Higher than Rock Star on tap. 
Higher than a little, green plastic dragon can fly.

And the next day I rode that high all the way home.

Angus McMahan
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Note: All photos herein were either taken by me, or I got 'em from Wikipedia commons, or I found 'em on the 'net somewheres. Sorry to be such a slouch about attribution. 

Update (Feb. 11, 2013): West Wendover in the news! Well, at least the 'Featured Article' designation on Wikipedia - and that's something, right? The story is about the 'business loop' through town that lead me to the Wendover Nugget Casino and Prostate Joke. This tiny little slice of road takes you all the way across West Wendover (400 yds.), across the Utah state line (8 in.) and on through Wendover (200 yds.) before rejoining I-80 just before the Salt Flats arrive to rob you of your will to live.

Here's the scoop: It's a fake! 
"The designation (as a business loop) has never been approved, despite signs being posted in both states." in 1982 The Nevada Department of Transportation applied to the American Association of State Highway and Transportation Officials, who said "Fine, thank you, but we have to wait until Utah files its paper work too." 
Still waiting 30 years later, apparently. Thanks, Utah!
But somehow, somewhere, someone said "Let's just get some signs and do the fool job ourselves." So they did. At both ends. In two states. But they're not real.
A clue as to why this mockery is tolerated could be found in the fact that traffic across the state line on the road is down 80% in the last 10 years. So I'm guessing the unofficial word from from the Nevada D.O.T. is "What-the-fuck-ever!"

1 comment:

  1. AbsoLUTELY enjoyed your performance/reading!! Charming, endearing, relatitble!! I can't remember a time when I laughed so hard. I had cramps in my cheeks and stitches in my sides. I am sorry to not have had the opportunity to bid you adieu after this year's Con. Certainly hope to see you next year!! Until then, I'll be practicing my drumming!

    Brightest Blessings,

    Miss Chris