Category Nevada

Sunburn and Bugs 2016: Vast and Salty

After a night filled with dreams about car crashes (thanks, brain), I awoke to discover that my sore throat was not, in fact, the result of having yelled too much at deer about making poor life choices but was instead the onset of a brutal cold.  It may be worth considering that I’m spending too much time locked in my home away from the world’s germs if every time I spend more than a few days away, I end up succumbing to illness, and that maybe I’d be a little more robustly healthy if I spent just a little more time around other people. Or, I could stay home and play just as much World of Warcraft if I just asked the UPS guy to cough on me every time he delivers something I ordered via Amazon Prime. That’d work, too.

At that point, it was just a bad sore throat, so while Emily and Rachel finished breakfast and packed up their belongings, I struck out across the street in search of throat lozenges and found these totally adorable murals painted on the gas station and grocery store.




Before we left town, I wanted to swing by and see the “giant shopping cart” at Honey’s Marketplace that I saw listed on Roadside America. Because a lot of their content is user-submitted, sometimes I’m rewarded with something truly awesome, and sometimes, well…



My opinion on the shopping cart would have changed a lot if I was able to go sit up in the basket like an oversized toddler, but Honey’s Marketplace evidently doesn’t give a fig about my opinion. What they did have was yet another vehicle from the movie “Cars”, marking the third “Cars” vehicle we’ve seen in Utah. And this one talked.


He also talked about their fine selection of french bread…ooh-la-la, managing to be both funny and creepy at the same time. I’m just jealous that there is no talking anything outside of my local grocery store. 

Kanab is the filming location of over 100 movies and a number of tv series, and I’d tentatively put a stop at Little Hollywood Land on the itinerary, but given that our scheduled endpoint for the day was Boise, Idaho, I didn’t feel as inclined to spend a lot of time in Kanab before we left, knowing that would definitely make for another very late hotel arrival and gas station dinner, and I was still feeling a little bitter about the previous day’s late arrival and gas station dinner. All I wanted was a steak the size of a wagon wheel, Kanab! From a sit down restaurant where I could also get a gin and tonic to help me forget about the terrors of the night cows! Or barring that, some goddamned fries and a frosty! We did pull off shortly to take some photos of the scenery, and when I stopped being struck by the view, I realized that there was an entire group of people behind us firing guns into an embankment, protecting us all from some encroaching dirt or something. ‘Murrica!






I also found it deeply important that we stop at this place with ho-made pie, because I’m the sort of immature person who will always laugh at a sign like this. No one wanted to take a picture with me under a sign indicating that they were a woman both of the evening and of the kitchen for some reason that I can’t begin to fathom.


Then I tied a bandana over my face* and passed out in the backseat for a while.


When I awoke, we had stopped at a gas station in Beaver, Utah, and I’m glad that I woke up, because it’s possible that nothing will ever make me laugh harder than a sign for fresh beaver tacos. Because, again, I am immature.


An hour or more outside the Bonneville Salt Flats, the landscape already was looking seriously salty. As in, the ground looks like it’s covered with snow but it’s actually salt. There were piles of salt so enormous that it was hard to fathom their size, piles of salt so huge they absolutely dwarfed trains and construction equipment. And here I am, paying a couple of bucks for a cannister of salt like a sucker, when I could have brought a bucket with me and filled up a lifetime’s worth of salt for free. Plus the cost of the trip. But that doesn’t count, right?





And then there’s this thing, a erect pole with salty balls.


And finally, we were there–the Bonneville Salt Flats, home of some land speed record runs or something. I was much more interested in taking off my bandana for a little while, breathing in some salty air, and checking out the scenery.


But first, I checked out the flying penis monster on the Bonneville Salt Flats garbage can. Because flying penis monster, obviously that’s where my eyes would go first. It’s like you don’t even know me.


The Bonneville Salt flats are 30,000 acres of nothing but salt and water. Or sometimes just salt I would imagine, since it’s hard to set land speed records in calf deep water. No insects, no plants, one dead tree. They were, in Rachel’s words, “vast and salty”.  And once we’d heard it described that way, it was difficult to find any other words to describe it. Large and salt-filled? Grand and, uh, high salinity? So vast and salty it was and is. Rachel was the only one of us who ventured into the water, and once again using her lyrical magic, described it as “warm and gross”.  So, vast and salty and warm and gross. That’s about the long and short of it. I was surprised at how many families were out playing in the water in swimsuits, and how many dogs they brought up to the edge even with numerous signs prohibiting it. I also briefly considered scooping some up and gargling with it to see if it would benefit my sore throat, but then almost immediately reconsidered it, because every once in a while, I can make a good decision. Not often, not consistently, but every once in a while.










After we’d gandered enough at the vast saltiness, I was feeling well enough to take a shift behind the wheel, and I drove us from the salt flats the rest of the way to Boise, taking us through a corner of the last new state we’d visit on the trip, Nevada. This route took us on a number of two lane roads, which meant I got to recreate some of my favorite scenes from Fury Road and shout “WITNESS ME, I AM AWAITED IN VALHALLA” while passing Sunday drivers on their way to and from spending their pension at the casinos.

We drove into Boise just as the sun was setting, and since we were going west, that meant driving straight into the blinding sun. Straight into the blinding sun as wind shears were grabbing the car. Emily was looking up options for places to go for dinner and telling us about them, and it was right at that moment that my sickness fully set in. In case you’ve never experienced a special moment like this, I’ll do my best to explain. It’s the point where I go from “I think I’m getting sick” to “Oh fuck, I’m sick. I am so sick”. My ears close up, my eyesight goes to tunnel vision, there’s an overwhelming stuffy sensation of being a balloon headed monster in a world that hates balloons. So, to reiterate, I was driving directly into the blinding sun, wind was grabbing and shaking the car, my hearing went from fine to being able to hear very little but the underwater whooshing sound of my blood gravy rushing to my face in a hot sweat and my world has collapsed to that blinding tunnel in front of me. Oh, and for some reason, I also had simultaneous searing gas pain, the kind of fart that rips through your intestines with razor blades, only we’d just had a conversation in the car where I learned that Emily’s husband isn’t even allowed to fart in a room that’s not the bathroom so there was no way I was letting that motherfucker go. My anus was Alcatraz. And my poker face is so goddamn good that I’m pretty certain no one in the car had any idea that any of this was going on, inside of me and outside of me, all at once.  At least until the point where we reached our exit and I snapped that the directions were going to have to be given a lot more loudly because I couldn’t hear anything (and also because I was still holding in The Devil’s Fart and he was angry about his imprisonment). I remember very little from the rest of that night. There wasn’t much to remember for me: as soon as we checked in, I went straight to bed.



*Why the bandana? They say hunting humans is the most dangerous game. I would like to posit that the most dangerous game is trying not to get sick when trapped in a car with a sick person and recirculated air conditioning for fourteen hour days. Considering there were two other people in the car who needed to get back to work and school and not take still more time off for illness, I wanted to do everything I could to keep from infecting anyone else. The bandana was my best option for making sure the worst of my germ goblins stayed with or on my person, even if (when) I fell alseep and wouldn’t be in control of coughs and sneezes. Basically the car version of how I treat Jason when he’s sick. AND IT WORKED.





Nuclear Energy: Our Misunderstood Friend

High on my list of Vegas priorities was a visit to the National Atomic Testing Museum as it was something that I’d intended to visit for the last several Vegas trips and for one reason or another never got to do. I wasn’t entirely sure what to expect, as it is an affiliate of the Smithsonian, but also contains an exhibit exploring the mystery behind Area 51–is it serious? Is it kitsch? The answer is that it’s enough of both to be disconcerting.

We went through the Atomic Testing section of the museum first, and the front portion of it is filled with kitsch from the atomic age–atomic cocktails, atomic fireballs, quotes from Doctor Strangelove, and videos explaining nuclear energy to schoolchildren. In the 1950s, the explosions from the Nevada test site could be seen for 100 miles (including Las Vegas), and tourists flocked to sip cocktails, watch the mushroom clouds, and feel the ground rumble. It was generally believed at that time that atomic energy would pervade every area of people’s lives, from powering their homes to preserving their food, and it was the height of modernity to accept the magic of nuclear power with open arms.

It was in this area of the museum that a curator stopped near our group to tell us that she’d had a friend who worked at the atomic test site for the first test, and that they had no idea what to expect: “When the explosion happened, they thought they’d opened a door to hell.” Further in the museum, they had videos explaining the different protocols involved in launching a nuclear test, and how they prepped soldiers for nuclear warfare with other countries by having them stand out in trenches near the blast zone, literally brushing them off with a broom afterward as if that alone would protect them from the radiation exposure. One of these videos started with a simulation of what it would be like to actually have witnessed an atomic test (from a tourist’s distance)–the ground rumbled, the room filled with light and heat and a gust of wind blew back your hair and clothing. My favorite display was an interactive video reel in which you could see the effects of a nuclear explosion on a house, a stand of trees, a school bus, etc controlled by your finger with a wheel, so you could view it forward and in reverse, and I played with it perhaps a bit longer than was polite when others were waiting to use it– “Roof blows off, roof blows on, branches blow off, branches blow on, bus tips over, bus tips back…” It’s a miracle that I didn’t have to be dragged away from it, kicking and screaming.


  Scientists and soldiers who witnessed atomic tests received certificates; this is the best one I saw. Who wants proof of witnessing an enormous explosion with a drawing of a fat baby on it? That doesn’t scream “Display me in your home for instant sex appeal”! This one does.

The deeper you go into the museum, the stranger and less cohesive it gets. The massive consequences for the nuclear warfare actions of the United States are brushed over like their soldiers after a nuclear test–half-assed, all the while repeating the refrain “Go USA! Go USA! It is our massive display of continued dick-waving that maintains peace! Jesus and eagles and bombs, fuck yeah!” It completely ignores the human tolls for exerting our dominance, which seems short-sighted. There’s no acknowledgement of the consequences suffered by the inhabitants of the Marshall islands; in fact, the museum pretends that these islands were completely uninhabited, which is not the case. (Because how could we justify nuking innocent indigenous peoples for the sake of our warfare? We couldn’t. We can’t. So instead we pretend that they don’t exist.) It shows photographs of the damage taken by dummies at the test sites but talked very little about the negative results of atmospheric testing on the populace, instead portraying everyone who protested atmospheric testing as an overreacting, anti-American, Commie-loving hippie. It also contained a digging drill “like the one that helped free the Chilean miners” (what?) and an entire section about 9/11–a tribute to the firefighters, a piece of the World Trade Center…what does this have to do with atomic testing? You’ll acknowledge death that happens on American soil from non-nuclear causes but completely ignore our responsibility for Hiroshima and Nagasaki AND you’ll sell little replica earrings of “Little Boy” and “Fat Man” in your gift shop–the bombs that killed 300,000 Japanese people, more than ONE HUNDRED TIMES the death toll of 9/11 and for which nukes were directly responsible? What in the ever-bleeding fuck makes you think this is ok? What I’m saying is, it ends on a strange note.

From the atomic portion, we went directly to the separate Area 51 section, which requires that all members of your group enter together and has timed entry so that groups aren’t running into each others’ heels. You usually see timed entry for things like haunted houses where actors have to have time to get back into place after scaring a group. Between that, the sheaf of “secret orders” given to each of us, the lanyards we had to wear outlining our different roles in the group, and the prohibition of photographs, my expectations were set fairly high.

What I learned is that photographs are not allowed because the Area 51 section is so terrible as to nearly defy explanation…but I’ll do my best with my limited language capabilities. At the outset, you are prepped by a video of an FBI agent on a flatscreen television, asking you to investigate the truth of the sightings of “flying discs” observed near Area 51. After he sends you on your mission, you walk down a spooky hallway lined with black garbage bags where you are confronted by…another flatscreen tv! With an alien on it! Who says something all spooky-like before he vanishes!

You then enter a room that has a sparkly piece of garbage stapled to the wall, asking you to consider the idea that the phenomena observed by civilians could be a weather balloon. Frankly, I can’t even believe that the crap that they tacked to the wall is a weather balloon, much less draw any conclusions about what someone else saw blinking at them in a remote desert. The room also contained a rubber alien autopsy with a placard indicating that in the room you could watch a video of the now-infamous alien autopsy hoax from 1995–I don’t know if they couldn’t get the rights or what, but there was no alien autopsy video playing in the room. There were, however, about three more televisions, and they were all playing something different to the point where it was incredibly difficult to focus on any one of them…and while I found this overwhelming to my senses, it was about to get worse. The air inside the exhibit was hot and stifling; sweat prickled out on my forehead as I progressed through. Not only were there battling televisions on the walls, surrounding me with incoherent streams of sound, but the remaining walls were filled with enormous signs printed with small text with strobe lights flashing on them, rendering them nearly impossible to read; the letters swimming in the air in front of me. It was one of the most physically oppressive environments I have ever experienced; the act of writing this is causing me to revisit the experience and I am currently battling waves of nausea and panic while typing.

Some rooms were filled with model aircraft, but everywhere was a cacophony of sound and flashing light and heat, and I could not linger to try to parse anything. As you exit, you are confronted by yet another flatscreen video of the FBI agent telling you to draw your own conclusions from the evidence, and as he turns and walks away, he transforms into the spooky alien you saw earlier! DRAMATIC REVEAL! All I learned from this exhibit was that someone is talented at assembling model airplanes–beyond that, I couldn’t say. If there was evidence presented that we actually could draw conclusions from, it was obscured by the environment of the museum itself. They didn’t even show any videos of the supposed claims we were “investigating”! The lanyards with our mission roles had nothing to do with anything in the entire exhibit, and all in all, it felt like a tacked on piece of crap, the sole purpose of which was to teach me about the vacuum of space sucking another six dollars out of my wallet. It’s not like I expected to walk into that portion of the museum and get some straightforward information about what the military does at Area 51 (what with it being, you know, top secret and all), and I’m not saying that I believe that there’s something spoooooky going on or that there’s some big government conspiracy and we’re all ruled by lizard people from another dimension (even though I used to be deathly afraid of the prospect of aliens coming to abduct me from my bed at night…but I got over that at LEAST a solid week ago), but I expected less bullshit from a museum associated with the Smithsonian. I’ve gotten less bullshit from obvious bullshit places like The Oregon Vortex Mystery Spot, and that is pretty goddamned sad. I’ve felt less robbed playing table games at the casinos down the street. The Atomic Testing Museum is worth a visit if you can stomach its blind patriotism and look past the parts it glosses over, because you can at least see some things from behind the scenes at a point in history that you might never see otherwise. The Area 51 exhibit is only worth a visit if you hate yourself, have thirty minutes to kill, and would like to investigate whether or not you’re prone to seizures.

“Come to think of it, every shift at the cemetery is the graveyard shift.”: The Neon Graveyard in Las Vegas

On our trip to Las Vegas, we made sure we had time to visit the neon boneyard, as it’s something I’ve wanted to do for a few years and kept missing. It will eventually be turned into a full-fledged museum, but at the moment, it’s basically a backlot full of signs out in the blazing Las Vegas heat. I’m not exaggerating: we were told that the 106 degree heat was the hottest tour they’d given this year, and they discourage people from straggling from the group as they’ve actually had issues with people keeling over!

Thankfully, no one keeled over on our visit, though I did learn about some of the more unpleasant ways the body can sweat. The neon boneyard collection contains any and all of the signs they could scavenge from the neighboring casinos, either from when they replaced their signs or went out of business. So, as one might expect, the signs are rusted or otherwise broken. Our tour guide instructed us to please avoid touching them (apparently some people have attempted to lick the signs? I can’t begin to fathom why) as not only are they rusted and full of lead and asbestos, but they are also irreplaceable–they consider the signs their Mona Lisa, and you wouldn’t go and lick the Mona Lisa, would you?

No sooner had she given her instructions than I backed away from the group to take a photo and promptly stumbled backward into a sign–not enough to fall, but enough to give it a kick, which made a terrible clattering sound. My only cover was to disguise my voice and say gruffly “It was an accident!” and then I skittered away. I don’t know if that’s a resume-worthy line: Kicked the Mona Lisa.

That S has tasted my foot.

We were also told that we were not allowed to use any of the photos we took for commercial purposes–when I asked how they would know, they said “Oh, we’re big on the internet.” So I told them that they would probably find my blog, and not to be aghast at the fat Elvis I’d photoshopped in front of a sign. So as not to disappoint: