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July 8, 2008

Road Trip

When I was on my way out to California in the company's Ford F350, my friend Brian, who was to be the recipient of the truck, asked if I wanted to buy his Volvo. He was about to move up to the Alaska office, and had a few things to unload. Well, Brian, funny you should ask. My car died in early January, just before I left for Ethiopia, and I've been borrowing my friend Nancy's car until her daughter turns 16 next month. So come next month, yes, I need a car. So. The price was right, and it sounded like a bit of an adventure. Why not.

On Tuesday, I flew out to Oakland. Andre, another UNAVCO employee, picked me up at the airport, took me to the car, put up with me while I grabbed something to eat--and then, back at the office, helped me check out the car. And proceeded to help me clean it. Andre. What a champ. We wiped it down, vacuumed it out, topped off the tires and the windshield fluid, and cleared out odds and ends Brian had left in the car. And at sometime around 7, after traffic on 80 had cleared a bit (a hay truck had caught on fire, which spread to the adjoining hillside, and the road was closed for a bit), I hit the road.

I had options. My friend Hilary, who moved away from Boulder last fall, was just off I-80 in Nevada City. Erica's brother, Nathan, lives in Reno. But I'd left late. And I didn't have Hilary's new number besides. I called Nathan to introduce myself (Erica had called him just the day before with the idea), and to say thanks but no thanks. I'd be arriving too late. He said to come anyway. Said I'd better. Said he'd be offended if I didn't. What could I do? Besides, turns out it was his birthday. I rolled in just in time to spend the last 15 minutes with him. Thanks, Nathan, for being so cool.

On Wednesday, I hit 50. I love 50.

I had a little bit of time built in for exploring. There were some dunes I'd remembered passing at night on my way out a few weeks ago, and when I saw them in the morning driving east I decided to check them out.

It was a recreation area, and apparently I wasn't the only one attracted to it. I don't even know what these things are, and once I spotted them I wasn't so inclined to get closer to find out.

I first turned off to explore an old Pony Express post, being taken over by the sand, and a short self-guided nature trail.

There were lizards. And a bunny. Okay, a hare. I didn't get a picture of the hare. It was too fast.

After my little walk, I headed over to the dunes. You can leave the dirt/gravel road and drive right up to them, but I opted out. I love the Volvo. The Volvo might not love soft sand. I parked and walked instead.

I'd seen someone on the dunes from my car cruising down the sandy slope. They're sledding, I thought. Sweet. But when I got out, I realized I was wrong. Vrooooooom vroom vroom vroooooooooooooooom. Right. *"Recreation area."*

I walked towards the other part of the dunes, a closer part, where there was a truck parked with what looked like a woman with a camera standing behind it and a little boy running across the dunes nearby.

As I approached, the boy ran back to the truck, they both hopped in, and the engine started. And revved. And revved. She was spinning in the sand. So I headed over, and offered a push. It doesn't seem like all that long ago that we were stuck in the sand in Ethiopia. Multiple times.

But I just wasn't strong enough to do it alone. I told the woman I'd go get some help and come back. There was a couple who, like me, looked like they'd just stopped to check the dunes out a bit. I got to them first, and asked if they had a few minutes. The started heading over, and I continued on. I had a loftier goal: The off-roaders. I figured they were probably strong, had some mechanical skills, and would be willing to show off a bit by helping someone less savvy get out of the sand. Especially a woman. So I knocked on the door of their RV. But no answer. There was a guy cruising around nearby in a dune buggy, but he didn't seem to see me. All the others (how many were there?) were out of sight, on the other side of the dunes. As I began to walk away, however, two of them sped up on their toys. One bike, one quad. Score.

Yep. Young, male, willing.

They agreed to help out, hopped on their quad and headed out, stopping to talk to their buddy on the dune buggy who skidded out to a stop and sent a cloud of grit drifting over me. Nice. But then he pulled a slow turn around and to the side of me, and stopped.

"Want a ride back over there?"

Didn't really have to think too much about that one. "Sure," I said. "I won't say no." I mean, I've never ridden in a dune buggy before.

We'd already put some rocks and wood under the back tires, and they weren't dug in very deep, and with five of us at the back of the truck it was no problem. She got out on the first try, continued on to the road and headed on her merry way.

The tourists turned back to take pictures. The boys on the quad sped off on the quad and the other cruised off in his dune buggy. I began the walk back to the car.

But then the guy on the quad, sans his buddy, made his way back over to me, and stopped just a bit away.

"Wanna go to the top?"

Pause.

"Yeah!"

What would you say? I hitched up my skirt and hopped on. "Hold onto me," he said. "I just poured water on my shirt, so it should be cool. Lock your hands together."

I held on. I locked my hands together.

I was actually a little scared. How would we make it up without falling off?

We did. But I wasn't sure that we would until halfway up. Then I could feel that the momentum would actually carry us, and that I probably would not fall off the back, and a second later somehow the quad felt like it wasn't even touching the sand, that we were just floating up towards the sky.

We slowed and turned a few feet from the top, and dismounted. The guys were prepared: Shoes. I wore Tevas. The sand was hot. Almost ridiculously hot. It must have been around noon. I climbed quickly to the crest of the dune and shook the sand from my sandals, stepped gingerly to stay on the surface.

The view out was indeed pretty impressive. Hard to get a decent picture of it in the mid-day light, but I tried anyway. Out past the dunes, a salt surface where there used to be a lake. Nevada reminds me a lot of Afar, Ethiopia. And, in both places, the Earth's crust is being pulled apart. Not a coincidence.


[My new favorite person in the world, Carter. Chico, the guy in the dune buggy, is my second favorite. Not pictured, unfortunately.]


[It's impossible to get perspective on this, unfortunately, because of the mid-day light, but it's a ways down. And pretty steep in places.]

The rest of the trip was not nearly as exciting. I did stop several more times, but I was mostly ready to get back since I'd be leaving again for the weekend.


[My "new" Volvo.]

I had a late lunch in Austin, one of the four Nevada towns on Highway 50.


[I wasn't sure at first what made it "international," seeing as they served turkey sandwiches and burgers and such. But a sign outside said it was the first permanent building established in Austin--the International Hotel. Not sure what made it international back then, either.]

Just out of Austin, I had to stop to take a shot of these desert poppies. I don't know if they're really called desert poppies, but they look like it.

A ways down the road, when I was getting good and sleepy, I pulled off to check out some petroglyphs.

And wound up in Ely in good time for dinner.

This time, the Italian restaurant was open. (See June 16, 2008.) And it was great. The brothers were there, but looking busy, and I'd had enough excitement for the day, so instead of approaching them I just wrote a note of congratulations and headed on my way.

I didn't study a map after that one--I knew the next town was probably Scipio, Utah, and that seemed like a good enough place to end up, so I went for it. And it took forever. Dark, flat, long drive.

I christened my Volvo by putting down the seats in the back and sleeping in it behind a Chevron station.

Thursday, I was pretty set on just getting home. But I did have to stop to wake up a bit and stretch at a beautiful and familiar rest stop overlooking just another amazing Utah landscape--pretty sure I spent a day there babysitting a GPS instrument years ago.


[I did a little stretching/yoga on this rock. It didn't suck.]


[This was my view.]

And, I had to make my usual pilgrimage to the Devil's Canyon overlook to pay homage. Erica and I got lost down in there somewhere over Easter weekend a few years back.

I've been wanting to spend some more time in western Colorado, and a sign along the road reading “Trail Through Time” had caught my eye every time I'd driven through there. This time, I decided to take a look.

I won't say it was the most fantastic experience of my life, but it was indeed a nice self-guided tour and a nice walk. Plus, there were real dinosaur bones.


[Something died here. A long time ago.]

I had to visit a rest stop for a break somewhere not too far down the road to take a long nap under a tree. It didn't look like I was going to make it back to Boulder in time to play Frisbee that evening. But, I'd arrive alive, and I guess that's better. I guess.

I discovered my sun roof somewhere in the canyon on 6, between I-70 and Golden. Brian had pointed it out when I caught a glimpse of the car after dropping off his F350, but I wasn't really paying attention. I didn't really get sun roofs. I'd grown up without them and never understood the novelty of them.

On 6, though, I decided to check out the sun roof. I opened it. With a mere push of a button. Did I mention that I have electric windows? I have electric windows. Now when someone pulls up beside me on the passenger side to tell me something I don't have to lean across the seat to roll the window down. Such decadence. So I pushed on the button that had an icon with something like a sun roof on a car, and the sun roof opened. It's big. There was a big opening in the top of my car. I could see the sky, and the walls of the canyons. It was cool. And then—and I swear I wouldn't have been able to see this if not for the newly-opened sun roof—as I was exiting the canyon, I saw paragliders playing lazily in an updraft over a hill alongside the road. And that was cool too.

I arrived home before dark. As usual, happy to be here.

Posted by beth at July 8, 2008 7:56 PM

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Comments

Gosh, Beth--

What an interesting life!

Take care,

Tom Horn.

Posted by: Tom Horn at July 17, 2008 11:55 PM

What fun and the sights to see. Your new car looks pretty spiffy too.

mz.em

Posted by: mz. em at July 21, 2008 6:30 PM

Nice, nice!

Happy birthday (late).

Have you seen these volcano pics?

http://www.boston.com/bigpicture/2008/07/recent_volcanic_activity.html

Cheers,

Kevin

Posted by: Kevin at July 28, 2008 9:17 PM

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