Day 3.5 – Las Vegas to Ely

After waking up, checking out of the Motel 6 (I was hoping for a glimpse of my noisy neighbors but no such luck), I headed out to find breakfast. I found it at the MGM Grand Buffet. So good.

First plate: bacon, potatoes, blintzes, sausage, coffee and a mimosa.

Second plate: pancakes with blueberries and whipped cream, corn beef hash, more bacon and sausage, and fresh pineapple.

I so wanted to have a third plateful, but I just couldn’t. Also, they were closing up in preparation for lunch.

Why did everyone around me keep asking to borrow my catsup? Couldn’t they just get their own? I guess I only cared because it was older guys asking me. If they had been female I wouldn’t have cared.

Waddling away from the trough, I did a little shopping, trinkets for my friends. I considered buying some Las Vegas-themed “decorative glassware” for my favorite dancer, Sharai… but ended up getting her a Vegas-decorated cigarette case instead. I hope she hasn’t quit smoking since I’ve last seen her…

And just like that, I was pretty much done with Vegas. I hadn’t done everything I’d wanted to, but I was tired of doing the stuff that I’d done, if you can follow that. I wanted to be on the open road, and just like that, I was driving north on I15, with not much of a plan.

Teh Google says that the shortest route from Vegas to Portland is north on US 93, to Boise, then west along I84. Since that route would take me back along a route I had driven before, but then veer off into fresh territory, I decided to go home that way. Bonus was that it would add another state to the trip. I figured I’d stop somewhere around Ely, or maybe Elko, then do the rest of the drive the next day or two.

That stretch of highways has terrible cell phone coverage, by the way. While I was out of cell phone range, Tracy was falling out of love, and I felt like a bad friend for not being there for her.

What I did get to do was think, mostly. I thought about all sorts of things. I thought about my passivity. Although that’s not entirely an accurate description of myself. I can be passive, but then I’ll suddenly burst forth and do something all at once. I’m kinda like tectonic plates: I’ll slowly build up pressure along a fault line, then release all that energy in one burst. Often (but not always) destructive. Is there a way for me to moderate those internal pressures, or at least release them in smaller events?

Who knows? The downside of being an over-thinker is that there is no end to the questions or the thinking. It just goes on and on. In fact, the other-thinking may be the slow grinding that builds up pressure over time. It’s just… it’s just what I do.

I stopped in Rachel, Nevada, home of Little A’Le’Inn, so called because Rachel is right on the edge of the Nevada Air Force Flight Test Center, more popularly known as Area 51. Other than the cheesy souvenirs, I saw no aliens or alien space craft in Rachel, nor along the Extraterrestrial Highway.

And, once again, I found myself driving near Lunar Crater, a feature that’s about 9 miles off the main highway, via a dirt road. It feels about as remote as any other place I’ve ever been; though how remote could it be if there’s a bench there? Still, standing on the rim of the crater, I felt like I could see for miles and miles in all directions, and I saw nothing but myself and the desert. It was hot (the car told me it was 110° F), the sky was blue, the ground was tan, the mountains brown.

Weighing on my mind for this segment of the drive was what I would call in someone else a spiritual urge – the desire to submit myself to something greater than myself, as a way of bringing myself into balance, or maybe accord, with everything around me. Not believing in anything other than the material universe, though, my options for submission were limited. I didn’t trust very many other humans, for instance, and most certainly not those who have, by hook or by crook, been given authority over others. They’re just humans like me, weak and strong in the same measure, and not much greater (or lesser). Ah… but the universe itself, and the forces and processes that have brought me to this point, looking into a very real abyss… A wind would come and go, and when it was there it was as loud as any music I listen to; and when it went, there was an absolute silence broken only by myself.

So alone. Just me, and the crater.

Almost without thinking about it, I set down my camera, sat down on the bench, and pulled off my shoes and socks. The sand was hot, very hot, but bearable. My feet are tough, though softened by civilization they still retain their adaptive thick skin. I stood. I pulled off my hat and my sunglasses, and I could still see without their protection. My head felt better, actually, without the hot felt fedora. I reached up and pulled off my t-shirt, exposing my hairy chubby chest to the warm sun and occasional wind. I unbuckled my pants and pulled them off. I was naked.

I was naked, on the rim of a lonely crater, in the hot desert. I looked around, sure that someone would come around the trail, or up the dirt road on the side of the feature. There was no one there. I was as alone in reality as I often felt in my head. I was as naked in reality as I often felt among others.

I danced.

At first I felt silly, but then I realized that no one could see me, and if they couldn’t see, they couldn’t care one way or another. If anyone approached I would see or hear them long before they reached me. Slowly, to the music in my head at first, and then to the music of the desert, I danced.

I stopped long enough to put my hat on, and take a picture. A private picture, just for me, no one else, to remind me what I can do when no one is around. Character, you see, is what you are in the dark. What do you do when no one is watching, when you have nothing to prove and you are your own question and your own answer?

My answer is that I dance, naked, on the rim of the abyss. Metaphor made very literal, and documented for no one but myself.

After a time, I have no idea how long, 5 minutes or an hour, I dressed again, got back in the car, and, worriedly, drove back to the highway, concerned again that the rental would crash, or break, or get a flat tire or something. How silly those worries are, and yet so real in the moment.

I drove north, to Ely, a town I’ve been in before. I saw several “No Vacancy” signs, just like last time, and I saw a lot of motorcycles, but not as many as last time. The Motel 6 was sold out, but the girl at the counter suggested there were rooms available in the Ramada Inn.

The Ramada Inn and Copper Queen Casino is, without a doubt, the cheesiest hotel I’ve ever stayed in. Lacquered wood panelling inside, a casino with an indoor swimming pool, mining equipment for decor… it just feels silly to me. And it was, without a doubt, the most expensive hotel of my trip, for just one room, single occupancy, for one night. But I paid the price happily. I was on vacation. What did it matter?

Oh, and the fact that it was, apparently, the last room available in town? That had nothing to do with anything.

That night my sister texted me, asking about Vegas. I replied that Vegas was fun but I wasn’t there anymore. She asked me if I planned to come to the family beach house in Lincoln City that week. I checked the calendar, and realized that today was Monday – and I was supposed to return the rental tomorrow, Tuesday! How had I lost such track of time? Or rather, why had I underestimated how long it takes to drive to Vegas and back when I’m by myself? I told my sister that I would not be back in time for the Fourth of July, my apologies, and then I set my mind to make the drive back in one day. 800+ miles, straight through, only stopping if I have to. I could do it. It would be fun…