The one thing
worse than driving at high speed through the desert is driving through the desert at high speed alone
. Scrub brush all just whizzes past, blurring together. Flat land and straight roads don't make the car work any harder so the engine and road noise drones on, same as it ever was, monotonous insult upon boring injury
. It's a common thing to fall asleep on roads like this, roads i've driven, roads that drive me into a fuming rage from boredom...I-16 from Macon to Savannah, I-90 through South Dakota, don't even get me started on I-40 in Oklahoma.
But fortunately for me, i wasn't alone. In fact, the car was crammed with people and stuff. Janice was riding shotgun, Mark and Corrine were getting their jollies in the back seat by kicking the front seats. The four of us had left Dillon, Montana, early that afternoon following an entire half hour of debate on a destination. Las Vegas? Of course! We hurriedly threw some random shit in bags and crammed it into the trunk. Janice brought a 24 pack of Budweiser and a bottle of cheap tequila. Mark brought some sammich makings and half an ounce of weed. Corrine brought the potato gun (i think) and a bag of apples. My worldly possessions included a pack of cigarettes, a Nalgene bottle of water and the 200-odd CDs currently occupying Janice's precious legroom. Between the CDs and beer, the normally choice seating position of shotgun was stripped of most of its glory.
This wasn't a two couple roadtrip, far from it. i could barely stand to be around these wankers for very long individually, much less in a group. We had all ended up in Montana by a strange twist of fate. We all worked shit jobs for crap pay and lived in run-down apartments. Mark and Janice worked at a pizza place in town. Corrine waited tables and was putting herself through college. i worked odd jobs on top of part-time farm work and classes. We were all tough, lean and hard as steel. Mark and Corrine were trying to fill a watergun with bong water but ended up spilling most of it on themselves and the upholstery. Janice threw empty Bud cans at 18 wheelers we passed so we could hear truckers cuss us over the CB. Corrine was our spokeswoman, as she had the vocabulary for it. Mark and i both had quite a few decibels on her but her superior ability to put rage into words always made it worthwhile. Her double major in Philosophy and English was going to be a cinch for her.
My 1987 Oldsmobile Cutlass Supreme had seen better days, but it had been beaten up enough to be comfortable and it was paid for. The 305 cubic inch V8 propelled us at some indeterminate speed, as the speedometer stopped working around 65. i had installed a ridiculously large tachometer on the A frame which i used to judge my speed. 4000 RPM should get us to Vegas in another short 4 hours. The exhaust system rumbled away below us while the tires hissed on their steel belts. i made Janice hold the wheel while i checked the map, lit another cigarette and grabbed the tequila bottle. The sun eased out of view to our right, coloring the high desert orange and pink and purple.
Black Flag pounded out of the speakers as Mark and i took a pull from the bottle and drank our beers. Thanks to the wonders of cruise control, i was able to help Mark and Corrine aim the potato gun. A shuddering blast and 12 foot tongue of flame split the purple dusk as a fresh dent and applesauce decorated a road sign.
"YEEEEHAW!" i yelled, smacking the steering wheel. We all laughed until Corrine said she was actually going to piss herself, so i pulled off Highway 93 at some nameless part of Lake Valley. i extinguished a small blaze of starter fluid that dripped down the doorframe from the potato gun. Janice and Corrine went out into the scrub brush while Mark and i made water next to my car. A swirl of wind kicked up dust, weakly showing the two shafts of light illuminating the road ahead.
Nothing ahead, nothing behind, nothing on all sides of us. Four hard-working hooligans having good 'ol redneck fun on a trip to Las Vegas. Too far to go home, too close to stop now.
"So what happens when we get to Vegas?" asked Mark
"i check into a room, y'all come on up. We crash for the night, i hit the Craps tables, get our room comped and we amuse ourselves by propping our muddy feet on the pillows and farting in the Jacuzzi."
"Utter bullshit. We'll lose all our money and have to depend on Janice's emergency stash to get us home." He was always the realist, but i wasn't going to let him piss in my cornflakes.
i had a glorious vision of four friends finally getting to relax and whoop it up, big Vegas style. Wake up at 4pm, steak for breakfast, hit the Craps tables for a few hours and maybe catch a show. Cruise the strip in a rented lowrider and drink Asti out of Corrine's navel. i wanted to taste the good life for a brief, shining moment and then lose most of my winnings gracefully while we downed free drinks. Most of all, i wanted us to have a good time.
Janice and Corrine stumbled back and we all got back into my car, throbbing with a slight lope at idle. Corrine took the wheel as i slid the passenger seat forward so Mark could get in. Damn coupe...if it's got 4 seats, it oughta have 4 doors. i had considered cutting the roof off the vehicle with an acetylene torch, but that would render the vehicle useless in the cruel winters. Not that it made much of a difference to me, as i rode my bicycle all winter long.
"J-Bo! Get yer ass in the car so we can get the fuck outta Dodge!"
Corrine was right. We had miles to go before we could all sleep. i hopped in and stuck my bare feet out the window. Corrine gunned the engine and we took off in a cloud of dust and squeaking from the shoddy suspension. Janice and Mark passed me the bong and a butane lighter.
"Corrine, turn on the overhead light, will ya?"
"Why? You trying to find a CD that doesn't suck quite so much?"
"Ha ha ha. Yeah, i'll change the music. More importantly, i don't want to singe off my eyebrows with this blowtorch Janice calls a lighter."
Janice and Mark giggled and exhaled a large cloud of smoke as Corrine turned the headlight stalk all the way counterclockwise, flooding the interior of the car with light. i put in a Miles Davis CD and took a large hit. Corrine turned out the light and took the bong from me as i exhaled and grabbed the wheel.
The car hurtled on through the quickly fading light, up a small ridge and onto a plateau. One last ray of sunlight cast an orangy-red glow on the asphalt. i had a vision for this weekend, one that was coming ever sharper and focused in the failing light. We drove on, mostly in silence. i lit a cigarette in the darkness, feeling the cool air rushing past my feet out the window and smiled at the small spot of orange light in front of me, guiding the way.