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North Vegas

Had to get this pic as I was leaving Page:

Because I'm actually 12.

Slot. Canyon. Hummer. Adventures.

Sign me up!

Anyway, lots of long stretches of nothing today. Nothing, that is, except freaking amazing scenery.

Like this.

Like this.

And this.

And this.

And then, approaching Las Vegas, I saw the city shrouded in mist (okay, it’s probably smog. But I’ll call it mist.)

I'm now *breathing* that stuff.

I’m now *breathing* that stuff.

This afternoon, I found a hotel near a brewery. Though that’s rarely worked out for me before, I’m not one to learn from my mistakes. Fortunately, it’s a good hotel and a good brewery: Tenaya Creek. I was there during a brief visit to Vegas this summer, but it was so good I had to go again.

As an aside, Tenaya Creek doesn’t do food, so first I stopped at a taphouse (even closer to the hotel; both these places are in walking distance) called Aces & Ales. Amazing, absolutely stunning, beer selection – but my primary focus is, of course, visiting actual breweries.

Tenaya Creek does what a lot of places in Vegas do: they have video gambling at the bar. If you’re gambling, your drinks are “free.” I put “free” in quotes because like every other game in Vegas, it’s horribly slanted in favor of the house. And the more you drink, the more money you put into the gambling machine. Science proves this.

So, basically, I had the most expensive beer EVER.

Worth it.

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On a Dark Desert Highway

Well, okay, it wasn’t dark. But U.S. Route 50 through Nevada is billed as “the loneliest road in America.”

I imagine there are worse tracks in Alaska, but until I go there, I’ll accept that description. Deserted (pun intended) or not, I do love the Nevada scenery. I even saw a road runner, and spent part of the drive deciding what to order from Acme Corporation to catch it.

I have no pictures today – though I should be able to work my camera again tomorrow, as my friends near Reno were nice enough to order a replacement battery and charger for me. Haven’t tried them out yet, but the battery seems to be the right type.

So really, I’m only posting so you don’t think I’m stuck along Route 50 somewhere. Car’s fine.

Tomorrow? Nevada mining towns and maybe some breweries. And hopefully, pics.

Ely, Nevada

All day yesterday, on the way to Ogden, it was all I could do to stay awake.

Naturally, last night, in Ogden, I had trouble sleeping.

If I moved to Thailand or something, I’d probably be awake during the day and asleep at night like a normal person. Even the three hour time difference between Eastern and Pacific time (the latter being when I am now) doesn’t quite cut it.

There was one benefit of being up before the sun, this morning: I got treated to an excellent view of the crescent moon and Venus, which I’d totally show you if my camera had been working.

As it is, this is the only camera-phone photo I can post today:

And I wouldn’t put a whole lot of stock in its historical accuracy.

But before I left the Salt Lake area of Utah, I dropped by a Subaru dealer in SLC for some scheduled maintenance – just an oil change, really.

While I waited, I ogled their collection of carefully restored vintage Subarus, which I would totally show you if my camera had been working.

Then the guy came in and said I might have a coolant leak.

A coolant leak is bad enough, but I was about to travel across 250 miles of some of the most sparsely populated areas of the US that aren’t in Alaska. Also, desert. So I let them check it out further.

They found no coolant leak.

So, fully expecting to get stranded somewhere in the wasteland of western Utah or eastern Nevada, I got myself a full tank of gas and took off.

Well, I’ll save you the suspense: nothing happened except all I wanted to do was sleep, again. Only reason I’m posting this later than usual… okay, only two reasons. One, Pacific Time, as I mentioned above. Two, blackjack.

No, I did not visit the brothel, and anyone who tells you otherwise is lying.

But anyway, I still have a maybe-coolant-leak, and tomorrow I get to cross some even less sparsely populated sections of the US so I can visit my friends in Reno. If I get there.

But hey, that’s what adventure is all about, right?

Standin’ on a Corner

I was pretty much forced to abandon my interstate-shunning behavior today, for two reasons: one, the weather was shit; two, if you examine the map below, you’ll see that there is no way to visit Meteor Crater without using either interstates or shitty gravel roads, and due to reason one, I didn’t want to use shitty gravel roads. And I wanted to visit Meteor Crater. I mean, misnamed or not, I’ve been wanting to see it since I was a little kid.

And so, with a two-hour detour to see the big hole in the desert, I made it to Winslow, Arizona at dusk. I’d hoped to go further, but again – weather. And this way I get to put an earworm in everyone’s head: Tomorrow I’m going to find and stand on a corner in Winslow, Arizona.

You know, it would be a lot cooler if Winslow wasn’t using that song as a tourist attraction. Seriously. Listen: as you approach Meteor Crater from Flagstaff, a sign informs you to tune to some AM radio station for crater and Winslow information. This is kind of like when you’re playing Fallout 3 or Fallout:New Vegas, and a new station appears on your Pip-Boy as a recorded message on repeat.  It explains about how to visit the crater, which you expect. But then it urges you to visit Winslow so you can get your picture taken with a girl in a flatbed Ford.

Um… it occurs to me that some of you might not know what I’m talking about here. Sorry. Here:

There. You’re welcome.

Oh. Yeah. Speaking of Fallout:New Vegas, I discovered a while back that many of the places in that game have real-world counterparts, like Goodsprings, Primm, and the Hoover Dam. So, being an utter geek, I decided I had to visit Goodsprings. Now, this next picture won’t make any sense to you unless you’ve played that game, but if you have played it…

I didn't go into the saloon to see if my babe, Sunny Smiles, was in there.

 

I also passed by Sloan, but wasn’t attacked by Deathclaws. Primm really does have a roller coaster; there really is a correctional facility near Jean (which also exists and has an airfield), and while I didn’t go there, Nipton exists, too.

Novac, on the other hand, does not.

There are no Caesar’s Legion encampments near the Hoover Dam, and okay, I’m going to stop geeking out now.

Well, about Fallout, anyway. Meteor Crater is kinda geeky too, what with all the science and shit. Here’s a picture I took of it from the rim. I don’t have a wide enough angle lens to capture the whole thing. One of these days, I’ll get a panoramic stitcher.

Where's all the meat? They said this one was meatier, dammit!

 

And with that, I’m going to get ready to get some rest, here, so tomorrow I’ll be prepared to go runnin’ down the road, tryin’ to loosen my load. Until then, take it easy.

 

(Come on. You knew that was coming.)

Something to Hide

Everybody’s Got Something to Hide Except Me and My Monkey
-Lennon/McCartney

Okay, I wasn’t going to blog about this, because I could think of no good way to do so while avoiding attracting innuendo. But hell, I write comedy, and I figure, “anything for a cheap laugh,” so here goes:

I played with some guy’s monkey yesterday.

That’s not a metaphor, so shut up.

I’m driving through the blink-and-miss-it “town” of Beatty, Nevada (it was on yesterday’s map) when I decide I really need a Rockstar to keep me awake. Next to the convenience store is a t-shirt store, which I go into because some of the t-shirts look amusing. I find a jar of fission-strength hot sauce I want to try, and go up to the counter. The guy behind the counter is talking on the phone, but I can tell he’s wrapping up, so I wait patiently, looking around. Over by the window is a cat carrier. Something’s moving around inside. I assume it’s a cat, until a tiny, dark hand with an opposable thumb pokes out of one of the air holes. I’m like, wtf?

Guy gets off the phone and goes to ring up my purchase.

Me: “Is that… a monkey?”

Him: “Yep. She’s very friendly. Want to say hi?”

Me: “Um, sure.”

Him: “Okay, try not to make any sudden moves. She might grab your hair and any shiny objects.”

So he takes the monkey out of the carrier, telling me she’s a 9-month-old Capuchin monkey named Hannah. I’d never seen a monkey outside a movie or a zoo, let alone had one climbing me like I was a rainforest tree. And the monkey had a hell of a grip.

Him: “Don’t worry; she hasn’t bitten anyone yet.”

Wow, I’m thinking, what a relief. When she opens her mouth, she’s got a little pink tongue and neat rows of teeth that look a lot like ours only maybe a little sharper.

The capuchin, by the way, is the kind of monkey you used to see with organ grinders (hey, there’s another phrase you can make fun of). I think the monkey in Pirates of the Caribbean was one of that species as well. And I understand that lately, they’ve gained some popularity as helper animals for the disabled. Dogs are fine, I suppose, but without the whole opposable thumb thing it’s hard to convince one to open your beer. Point is, these monkeys are intelligent and highly trainable. Also, freaky-looking – they appear just human enough, with their close-set eyes and relatively flat face, to be a bit disconcerting. And then there’s the tail: as long as the rest of the monkey and prehensile, almost a furry tentacle, really.

From what I was able to find with about five minutes of quick internet research, I think the evolutionary lines of new-world monkeys (which include capuchins) and humans diverged something like 30 million years ago. This was long before the chimp-human line divergence of about 7 million years ago. For reference, the dinosaurs went extinct about 65.5 million years ago, and there have been animals on Earth for nearly 600 million years. So yeah, there are striking similarities – and even more striking differences, like the tail thing.

Anyway, I think the dude said he was training Hannah to take money from tourists. Fortunately for me, he had just started the training, so I was only out the price of a bottle of hotter-than-hell sauce – though I found myself checking to make sure my wallet, keys, hot sauce, energy drink, and glasses were all there as I made my way back to the car. The thought of a 15-pound capuchin monkey drinking a whole can of Rockstar is not one I’d like to consider for long.

Now, if you’re wondering why I’m talking about yesterday and not today, and perhaps why there are no pictures or maps, it’s because my sightseeing plans were thwarted by un-desert-ish weather around here. Plus, I didn’t sleep worth a damn last night – the guest bed at my friend’s house near Reno was incredibly comfortable, and after that, a cheap hotel bed is a bit of a letdown. So today, I mostly had a pounding headache (until I got a couple of beers and some tequila in me, this evening) and hung around the casino winning more money.

Tomorrow (Friday) promises to be mild and sunny, so maybe I’ll get some sightseeing done then, if I can fight through the Vegas traffic. I intend to leave early Saturday morning, so I really would like to see something other than blackjack tables before that happens. Now, go ahead and get the “monkey” innuendo out of your system in the comment section. I know you’re dying to say something about shocking, or spanking, or some such.

Vegas, Baby

What happens in Vegas goes on this blog. Well, some of it, anyway.

Yes, this is a late update – that happens when you’re winning at blackjack and lose track of time. Not enough to retire on, but enough to pay for my room. Which is not to say I won’t lose it back tomorrow – though I have some sightseeing goals to meet instead.

Today’s map:

The trip here from Reno is long, and some might consider it dreary, but I think the sere desert mountains of Nevada are pretty awesome. And sometimes there are nice surprises like Walker Lake here:

Seeing a lake in the middle of the desert was a surprise to me, anyway, but I've visited deserts like twice.

 

Then there are the mountains, which are omnipresent on both sides of the road through the whole trip – that is, when you’re not crossing one. As far as I can figure out, on the other side of the mountain in the next picture, a whole lot of atomic bombs have been detonated. I don’t mean that figuratively, either.

And even further beyond that is Area 51.

 

So yeah – long drive, but worth it. Even if I didn’t get to drink any beer today.

Reno, Part 2

It wouldn’t be quite accurate to say that I didn’t go anywhere today – but I didn’t drive anywhere today. My hosts were kind enough to show me some of the sights around Reno. There’s too much there to see in a day, but we got to a few things.

First, there was nearby Lake Tahoe, which involved a brief jaunt back into California.

A small part of this enormous lake.

 

Then it was back to Reno for a visit to the National Automobile Museum, where we saw an amazing collection of classic cars.

And classic hood ornaments.

 

And what visit including me would be complete without a brewpub? My friend and I visited Silver Peak Brewery for dinner, where, since I wasn’t driving, I sampled all 11 of their beers – and 10 of them were exceptionally tasty examples of their various styles (and the 11th wasn’t that bad).

A beer sampler: one of the most beautiful sights on the planet.

 

And so I got through Reno without visiting even one casino, nudie bar, or adult bookstore.

Tomorrow: Vegas, baby.

Reno

Well, actually, Sparks, Nevada, which is pretty much Reno.

I haven’t posted the last few days because I haven’t really gone anywhere, and I got kept busy running around and having a party and such. But this morning, I got back on the road and headed for Sparks, where an old friend lives. Well, she’s not old, being about the same age as I am, but we’ve known each other for a very long time.

After I got to Livermore, my first order of business (other than getting a full night’s sleep) was to get my car serviced – oil change, tire rotation (don’t they do that on their own?) and so on. I’d brought it to the Subaru place back home before I left, and they recommend service every 5,000 miles (look, folks, the “every 3,000 miles” thing was made up by Jiffy Lube to get people to go there more often – follow your car’s recommendations). Astute readers will note that this means that I’ve now driven over 5,000 miles on this trip. Holy shit. And I still have most of the way back to go.

While in Livermore, as planned, I visited a few wineries with my friend, who was awesome enough to drive while I sampled. Some of the places, however, were disappointing – I mean, do you really have to pay $50 for a mediocre bottle of Cabernet Sauvignon? Fortunately, not all the wineries were like that. Two in particular I’ll give a shout out to:

Tesla Vintners, home of the Singing Winemaker. Reasonably priced wines, and Steve’s cool. He even came, with his family, to the party on Saturday.

He really does sing.

And Thomas Coyne – by the time I was there, I was taking blurry and double-visioned pictures (it was the last place we visited), but there are good pics at the link.

Another thing I did was drive up to Stockton to meet someone I’ve known on the internet since about 1999. Odd to finally meet in person after all that time, but glad I did. You hear all these horror stories about people from online meeting, but in my experience people are just people, and once you’ve talked to (or, well, typed to) someone for that long you can be pretty sure what they’re like. At least that was my side of things – I hope she wasn’t disappointed.

Getting back to today: crossing the Sierra Nevada was interesting. Fortunately, the weather stayed nice – it’s called Sierra Nevada for a reason; Nevada means “snowy” or some such. And I got high. Seriously – I think the route through that range tops out at 8,000 feet, with mountains looming on either side.

It might have been psychosomatic, but there were times I was wishing for an oxygen mask.

It starts out lush and green, and as you get higher in elevation, the mountains become more bare, and rocky. Trees become stunted at that height. And then once you’re closer to Nevada, the trees disappear, replaced by desert scrub. And then you descend into the valley and it’s like someone took a rolling pin to it. This is probably old hat to some of you, but I’d never done it before.

And good luck finding a restroom along that route. Sheesh. Some days I’m just glad I’m a guy.

Views like this one, though, made it all worth it:

Of course, it was also about 20 degrees F.

Planning on some sightseeing tomorrow – more pix then.