Waking Mark usually requires a screw driver and a lot of patience so I was quite surprised to find Mark up well before me - in fact at the crack of dawn. He quickly pointed out the ice on his tent, his summer sleeping bag and his urgent desire to get in the car and drive. We broke camp (yes broke - the fly's were solid) and headed for the scenic vista to see the volcano. After some camera frustration (I was learning to use my C330) we drove to the top of the mountain. I was frustrated to not find my light meter in the car so after some swearing we drove 20 minuets back to where we took the earlier photos. I had left the light meter on the lid of the trunk and was found it lying 50 feet from where we parked, in the middle of the road, in pieces. Damn.
We drove back over the mountain and onto to the geysers (I had no idea they were there) which was a highlight. The day was warming up, and I was glad to be on the open road.
We stopped at a Burger King in Susanville for lunch. Susanville is on the edge between the forests of California and the desert of Nevada, but Burger King is firmly planted in meatatarians. Fries and onion rings for lunch, 8 hours of driving to go. Great.
Desert driving is something else. Most roads in British Columbia are winding around mountains, rivers or built to follow some old horse track that is flat but twisted. The Desert driving (the days I saw of it) is starting at the top of a ridge, driving at least 20 miles across the Valley in a dead straight line until you reach to top of the next ridge, gently turn at most 30 degrees, repeat process. The road speeds get fast (I put cruise control on at 140 Km/H) and at some points go insane (I was passed and then left in the dust).
We drove to Reno where we stopped for gas. Missing the obvious Texaco exit, we stopped at a BP truck stop/casino. The pump didn't recognize my Canadian visa so I had to go in to get it pre approved. Opening the door, the sound of the slot machines washed over me like the sound of slot machines. (You never forget the sound).
After the confusion at the BP we got back on the road and headed toward Los Vegas. The highway narrowed from three lanes to two to one lane each way and the desert surrounded us. The Desert looks like large open plains with blue tinged small mountains in every direction. Traffic had thinned to one car every 5 Km and speeds rose.
the Hawthorne munitions plant was quite a surprise. First Walker lake just shows up out of no where (and it's a big lake), and then the valley in front of you is covered by some strange regular structures you can't make out. Each structure is a bunker that houses munitions, explosives, alien ships and other government goodies. We stopped at Mcdonalds (Mmmm Fries), and hit the road again. Our next stop wasn't for a few hours until we reached Tonopah.
While our car could go for 8 hours on a full tank of gas, I wanted to ensure we always had at least half a tank. Tonopah is a town perched at the top of Tonopah pass and seems to be there for no reason other than selling fuel. Even with a steady stream of customers (we had to wait for a pump and it was off season) and the higher than usual prices, the equipment was still out of date - no pay at the pump. I'm sure it's a nice town to live in, but I couldn't picture me part of it. Fully fueled we continued on our desert trek.
Where I live anything left outside disappears under foliage in a year or two and the dissolves a few years later. In the desert, junk sits as an eyesore forever. Dead gas stations, broken mobile homes, car wrecking lots just sit waiting for Nevada to become ocean front property.
Sunset was great. The low mountains give long a sunset and a great gradient of colors. I stopped three times to shoot (by the second stop, Mark decided to stay in the car to guard against desert raiders ;>) and then continued into the night. Passing the dark became the next bit of fun.
The desert highway is unlit and in some places has no markers or reflectors. Driving at 150 Km/H we would come up behind trucks and want to pass but I really didn't know how far away that oncoming traffic was so I had to learn to gage distances by how far apart the lights seemed. Truck lights are farther apart so they seem closer than they really are - no problem, Motor bikes driving tandem - problem. We didn't get hit (if we had less than 5 seconds after the pass before the oncoming car passed I gaged the pass as too close) so I was happy.
Getting off the single lane highway was nice - no more measured passing and the crazy people could pass as fast as they wanted. We stopped at a rest stop in Indian Springs (a dark dark stop) and then completed the last leg in Las Vegas. I had been to Las Vegas a year and half ago and we walked/cab/bus'd it so I had some sense of the area. After some twists and turns we got onto the strip (Mark was only impressed with huge screens, the glowing neon reminded him of Japan) and then stopped at the Luxor. It was 9:30 and we had been driving for 12+ hours.
I thought the Luxor would be cheap - it's at the end of the strip and while newish, was no longer a huge attraction. We got our room for $69.00, had a shower (get all that lassen dirt off) and then headed for dinner. The buffet was closing so we went to the casino restaurant and had a nice meal. I slept well that night.