It’s a big day for my special lady. I can see her as I walk through the doorway of a dimly lit saloon on this surprisingly chilly October evening. The saloon itself is a little dusty and not all that busy given its size. The company she keeps will fluctuate throughout the night with dead moments and moments where she seems crowded. She’s in comfortable clothing. I pull up the stool next her and order a whiskey cause that’s what she’s sipping on, she wouldn’t be sipping on anything else. The bartender obliges with a healthy pour.
She’s looked a little ragged lately but things are coming around for her recently; her skin is dry and worn. She’s gritty, she always been and probably will never soften. It’s part of her charm, at least to me. Her best light is at dusk or dawn, or under the moon or neon lights; don’t ever judge her based on her appearance in the full desert sun. If you think you are going to be able to pull one over on her, think again. Don’t try to beat her down a Tahoe ski slope or pass her on the 95, you can’t win. She’s been around for as long as I can remember and plenty long before that. As the whiskey flows so do the memories. The common thread in all our times together is certainly adventure, or at least a sense of it and she has no problem making me remember that.
We were just as comfortable together in the Alta Toquima wilderness with nothing but that which could be carried on our backs as we were in the hustle and bustle of the Las Vegas Strip, trying to beat the house just this once. Hours and hours of highway we traveled together through the world’s ninth largest desert. Summit. Valley. Summit. Valley. Town. Summit. Valley. There was no better reminder for us of continuous renewal than a gushing creek through Lamoille Canyon in the spring and we were reminded of everyone’s mortality in the ruins of one ghost town or another.
The bartender pours another and I’m kind of surprised she’s still going. I shouldn’t be. Each time I think I’ve got her figured out, she finds a way to remind me I’ve only scratched the surface. It’s time for me mosey on out out the saloon, so I say my goodbye, knowing full well I’ll see her tomorrow but I wanted to make sure to catch her today. As I head toward the door, the light catches her just right and I’m reminded all over again why I love her so. Happy birthday gal, you look great for 150.
There is a house on top of a hill in Reno. From the outside it might not seem all that special; a single domicile in a cookie cutter 2000s subdivision of housing non-creativity, an extension of the Royal Heights neighborhood in northwest Reno of long ago. The front law is landscaped to minimize water use. A few large shrubs and mostly dirt. As you walk in the front door, there is a room that is intended to be a den immediately to the left. As you continue to walk you hit a front room then a kitchen area complete with laminate floors and what was probably described as some sort of nook…nooks were sexy back in the day. Beyond that was an open room with a sliding glass door to a nice wooden deck and a back yard as absent of grass as the first, instead blending in to the dirt and sage. There was no neighbor adjacent to the back, just a gully that makes me think of my childhood home. Beyond that there was an incredible view of the eastern slope of the Sierras.
If you took a right turn between the front room and the kitchen/nook area you’d find a little hall back to the bedrooms. A master bedroom could be found in the back corner with a great open layout and a bathroom including a shower and tub. Two other bedrooms are in the center of that side of the house, with a bathroom near the door to the garage…oh my, the garage. Some use their garage for storing cars, some use them to store junk. In this house, the garage would become the masterpiece, the keystone of victory and defeat. People would come from miles to see this garage, to experience it.
This damn house on the hill would serve as my residence, my final shelter during my undergrad experience, launching me to law school. The things it would see (and the things I’m going to describe) would turn it from a house to landmark. It hosted magnificent parties, a Governor and presidential candidate, triumphs and tragedies. Sure it was a house but truly it was more than that. The next several posting here will scratch the surface of what became known to the masses as The Rusty Bucket and those more intimate with the occupants as the Royal Sage Manor. My story is incomplete without it and for that purpose, it tales are about to told…
The drive from Salt Lake City to Reno is fairly easy. It’s all on Interstate 80 and the speed limit basically ranges from 75 to 80 MPH. It should be simple for two cars to make their way together across the Great Basin and into the Biggest Little City. Such was not the case.
I lost Travis and Lorena almost immediately as I followed a truck onto the onramp not realizing the light was red. Too bad. So sad. Off I went along I-80, the GPS finally off, the music blasting, my bed waiting for me when I got home. Between Salt Lake City and Wendover there is a long section where you drive through the salt flats. It’s desolate and beautiful.
Along these flats there is an art installation that is for back of a better description balls on a stick. Yes, balls on a stick. It’s real title is the Tree of Utah. It is approximately 90 feet high, with an inscription with the lyrics from Ode to Joy. The State of Utah owns these joyous balls that resemble tennis balls with some shattered on the desert around it. Remember how I was amazed at how poorly the three of us handled our logistics on this last day? Remember the balls are in the middle of nowhere and 90 feet in the air.
My traveling companions missed it. They completely blew past it. They saw my car, parked alongside the road, thought I was a cop and so slowed down to make sure they weren’t pulled over and totally missed the balls in the air. Then they stopped at a rest stop and just short of Wendover, I thought, my lord Wendover is just a few miles up, I can use the bathroom there. I went to the wrong gas station because I went to one in Utah and not Nevada and someone in the group was having a protest against Utah. We finally met up again in Elko. There temporary Michiganders were craving some home style Port of Subs subs and so we ate there.
Our stomach’s filled with Nevada sub goodness we hit the road again. Away we went across Nevada on 80. The towns became specs in the rear view mirror as quickly as they’d come into view…Battle Mountain, Winnemucca, Lovelock, Fernley. A final winding road along the Truckee River and bam…home was there. I stopped by Super Burrito for a welcome home dinner and promptly found my couch, the controller for the TV and called it a trip.
We left our friend in Colorado after one of our most comfortable nights on the road. Back up north to Wyoming and then across westward was our goal. We traveled again over snowy flats and the days’ drive was fairly uneventful. We ate lunch before crossing the Utah border at a BBQ chain that wasn’t half bad. Into Utah we went. With the exception of Colorado, Utah would be the only State I went into twice. The winding highway down the mountains past Park City with its Olympic shine fairly dull and dusty in the summer. We found Salt Lake City, the big temple and downtown. Our hotel was right in the heart of it (maybe like in an artery as opposed to the heart).
By the time we checked in it was time to head toward the baseball stadium. My cousin Tyler goes to BYU and his dad was in town visiting so we ended up making an event of my one night in Salt Lake. We ate a great little burger place just a block or so away from the stadium and then made our way to the gates just before the start of the game. The stadium itself is for the Bees.
We wouldn’t be watching Beeball though, it was the Deseret (my Nevada Bar President would be so proud – vomit) Duel between BYU and the University of Utah. It was great to be back in a baseball stadium. The year I did a bunch of traveling for the Boy Scouts, I visited so many baseball stadiums to watch games that travel and baseball for me go hand in hand. It was quite the game too. BYU maintained a lead throughout and then in the final inning they kind of fell apart and the Utes powered through to win the game in the bottom of the ninth (or maybe the eighth and the Cougars blew the top of the 9th).
Following the end of the game, we meandered back to our hotel. We may gotten a little lost but at least we were all in the same car at that point. We worked to polish off the last of the road trip liquor and we got pretty close. Tomorrow meant home and we were all ready for that.
After leaving the hotel, the three of us had another miscommunication which resulted in basically solo driving for the first several hours of the day. Shortly after meeting back up there was another discrepancy in our GPS systems which led to confusion. We struggled that day to stay together. The snow had not stuck in South Dakota but by the time we got to Wyoming, much of the terrain had a recent dusting of white. It was cold and breezy and there were lots of reminders to not use cruise control on wet roads. White for miles.
Most of our travel that day would be south to Colorado to stay with our friend Mara. She was generous enough to put us up for the night and it had been far too long since I’d seen my campaign 2006 wife.
When we crossed into Colorado we couldn’t help but have the itch to check out the State’s new budding industry. We stopped by a dispensary. It was in a somewhat shady part of town but upon entering the lobby, it was clear this was a professional operation. One door was marked “Medical” and the other door was marked “Recreational”. We checked in at the recreational window and they checked our IDs. In we went. The smell of law school was rampant and the set up was amazing retail. Big candy bars, small candy bars, jars and jars with creative names and a staff knowledgeable about which varieties might provide what type of high. One interesting product was essentially an e-joint. A plastic tube that looks just like an e-cigarette preloaded with a hundred or so hits. The clientele was as diverse as the varieties of marijuana. Old, young, professional, blue collar, men, women, everyone was there and everyone was in high spirits. And the money was flowing. I could definitely see how the state has brought in so much in tax revenue since giving the thumbs up to recreational pot.
Following our sightseeing we headed to my friend’s house. She and her husband provided an incredible meal with wonderful wine. So much catching up was had (crazy campaigns, wedding vomit, college parties, etc) aided by the good food and wine and West Wing drinking games and pie…oh was there pie. We all went to bed well rested from our shorter travel day and the warmth within the walls of Mara’s home.