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day 1: sand in the place where I live
Thursday, Aug. 26, 2004 | link

Jill and I started out our epic journey with a trip-plotting kickoff session over and through large piles of eggs, potatoes, and cheese at Levon's scenic St. Francis. After perusing Jill's detailed and superstar cross-referenced notes, maps, and charts, I nodded sagely, yes I see, yes, and we yelled "break!" and rolled into the car and onto the road.

The trip begins with a quick photoshoot at breakfast.

I took the first shift and got us as far as Nevada state capital Carson City, home to loose poker slots (Jill: "but I don't even know her") and a disappointing selection of sunglasses. Along the way, we sang Toto's "Africa," Tommy TuTone's "867-5309," Christopher Cross's "Ride Like the Wind," and "Oh Sandy" (a premonition, perhaps?) from Grease (there are a freakish number of billboards for Grease The Musical along The 80 ... Also Targets, so many Targets). We'll also ate triple chocolate chip cookies fresh-baked by Jill's one and only roommate, Colleen (owner and operator of my very favorite "Horses: (n) See 'awesome'." bumper sticker).

Then Jill took over the pilotting and ... traffic. Hours of stop-and-stop traffic. We thought the state-wide fires might have been the culprit, what with the horizon filled with apocalyptic brown clouding, etc., but the whole hold-up turned out to be ... a stop sign? Maybe? It was all very unclear, something I think we'll be experiencing a lot of this trip.

Me: "I wonder what that sweeping beam of light is all about. Look, you see that? How it turns from green to white? What is that, some sort of desert light-house thing?" Jill: "I don't know." Me: "Yeah. Huh."

Me: "What's up with the squares of meshing filled up with rocks, just standing there by the side of the road?" Jill: "Weird." Me: "So many secrets."

We also: saw a DARWIN fish getting eaten by a TRUTH fish; drove down a stretch of road we think may have been the setting of Lois's earthquake death which Superman had to spin the planet backwards to undo; consciously noticed for the first time that Smokey the Bear is totally topless; and came up with a short list of names for tire stores:

- Tire consequences
- Love for tire
- Lifting you tire and tire
- Tire you out
- Tire you up, tire you down
- Black tire affair
- Tire straights
- So very tired

Just before sunset we came upon the magnificent and completely alien Sand Mountain, which is this towering series of fine, fine sand dunes, plop, right in the middle of nowhere (no, wait, right in the middle of the stretch between Fallon and Austin).

It looks like some sort of fairytale hurdle, "bring me a hacky sac made from the sands of Sand Mountain and I will give you the hand of me youngest, freshest princess daughter," with its swirling mists of sand, beautiful rippling patterns, and razor-sharp shadow-and-light edges. With much foodhardiness we casually decided to "climb to the top" and then embarked on a hellish, distanceless ("are we even half-way up? One-third? Almost there?"), stair-servent death march straight upupup through slipping, endless, skin-blasting sand. Just like that scene from The Good, the Bad, and the Ugly! I almost fainted twice. I also almost vomited once. And then we got to the top and it was very gorgeous and precarious.

Escape to Sand Mountain!

Then! We ran down the hill using the most amazing broad and skidding strides, fists pumping for balance. Oh mighty Isis! I think that's actually a demonstration sport at this year's Olympics, Ladies' Hill Descent Broad-Jump Sand Racing.

When we got to the bottom, where the land is firm and the air still and not trying to tear your skin open, it felt like we'd returned from some sort of space-time travel. We also came back with six pounds each of sand in our shoes, ears, cuffs, pockets, cracks, and HEARTS. "Jesus Christ," I was all, "what just happened?"

And then Jill drove us through the still, black, featureless night to Austin (Nevada) and we had dinner and milkshakes (thick and good, with little frozen hunks, vanilla much better than chocolate) at the Toiyabe Cafe, and now we're showered and de-sanded and ready for sugarplummy dreams of Grease and sand and open road.

(PS: My diary has officially moved over to my official evany.com website. Let's meet up over there!)

(PS: My diary has officially moved over to my official evany.com website. Let's meet up over there!)

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