I fell asleep near the airport of Salt Lake City in a Spring Hill Suites: I stayed up late talking to an old friend into the early morning hours before. It's so often true that I drive myself (literally, in this case) to exhaustion, then stay up to talk for hours. Too much time in the in between hours have taught me the value of keeping communication lines open, of keeping in contact no matter the short-term cost.
As a consequence, I rolled out of bed after five or six hours of sleep slightly more rested than I went into it. The advice of my friend in San Francisco was succinct: "it's raining here. get to Reno while you still can."
In winter and spring, if it's raining in the Bay Area, it's snowing in Donner's Pass and Reno. The forecast showed icy road conditions and snow. I wasn't inclined to get stuck there, or stuck on the road anywhere between Salt Lake City and Reno.
Hell, Nevada is a scary, empty place full of meth, bombing grounds, almost-abandoned ghost towns, and only one road in and out of town. Making it to Reno, or worst case, Fallon, was the best thing I could think of.
I loaded the truck, I fueled the truck. I bought a breakfast of jerky and bottle water, and I hit the road.
The Great Salt Lake and the Bonneville Salt Flats lay immediately beyond, glistening in the late morning sunlight. Out there, the traffic was sparse and the cops sparser. Natasha roared around me as I accelerated easily, effortlessly, to 90-100MPH along the long, straight stretch of I-80. I resolved to come back with something faster, fiercer, and more aerodynamic.
Soon enough, though, it was over, and I was entering Nevada and more curving, hilly road. As if to punctuate leaving the flatlands, the clouds began to roll in towards me over the Sierras. The forecast said snow for Reno. I was determined to get there before that happened.
This determination ran me into my first speeding ticket of the trip outside of Carlin. Luckily, the officer decided to nail me for only 5MPH over - something I wasn't inclined to argue, given my 20-30MPH speeding elsewhere in the state.
Zombie land. Nevada is terrifying in the eastern reaches in ways that have more to do with logistics. I don't like driving around with less than a quarter of a tank in civilization, much less in a place so sparsely populated.
Some towns out there were just the gas station and a few rusting trailers. I'm not kidding. There were some really empty-eyed gas station attendants there. A well pump. A water tower. One ramp on, one ramp off, and no roads leading anywhere. No towns for the surrounding two miles.
Terrifying, in the way that anything that empty is terrifying.
Ticket cherry popped, I drove on through ghost towns, past shuttered truck stops and through towns only large enough for a few small trailers. Desolate is the only word one can apply to eastern and central Nevada - desolate interrupted by tiny, tiny settlements every 20-50 miles, even along the massive I-80 corridor. With most of the population settled in the Reno and Las Vegas metropolitan areas (such as they are), the rest of the state is a depressing and spooky wasteland.
This impression persisted into Reno. I arrived early in the evening to rain, the snow having decided to give the city a pass. High above, in Donner Pass, however, a snowstorm sat squarely where I needed to be. With nothing for it, I checked into an opulent but heavily-discounted room at the Peppermill Casino, called my friends, and made ready for dinner.
I would be stuck in Reno for a total of four days waiting for the snow in the Sierras to pass.
It was a long, wet, windy four days.