Oh yeah – so, on the Monday (now more than a week ago!) we got up super early and put everything in the car, refilled all our water bottles with tasty (no, really!) tap water, and started to drive. And drive. We drove and drove all day long back the same way we’d come. Through the Sierras, through dusty dry Nevada, stopping in Winnemucca for gas and lunch meat. We decided beforehand on a definite stop at the rest stop in the Utah salt flats, talked up by Leah and Simon. We actually had a specific purpose in mind, a particular reason for stopping in the middle of the weird alien landscape.
Picture this: Christmas, 2006. It was a Thanksgiving-in-California, Christmas-in-Denver year, so we planned a quick trip to California for early January. Anyhow, my uncle, who has a history of giving strange, odd, or unusual Christmas presents to his siblings and nieces, bestowed upon everyone a weird Santa doll/statue/thingy. They were all different, and all bizarre. So when we went to California in January, my mom had the weird Santa waiting there for us to bring back to Denver. However, since we were flying (and didn’t really want it) we brought it back down to the Bay Area where we stayed at QIR’s the night before we flew home. We had intended to put Santa out on the curb in QIR’s neighborhood and hope someone could love him, but in the early-morning bleariness we forgot to put him outside, so he lived at QIR’s for a while. She moved in April and tried to leave Santa behind, but her landlord thoughtfully packed him up for her and he ended up at her new place. While we were out on this trip, QIR told us that Santa had to go. So we put him in the car, all 18 inches of strangeness, and when we got to the rest stop at the Salt Flats in Utah, we pulled him out, snapped a couple of photos, and left him there. I do hope someone decided to take pity on him – or perhaps he’ll become the mascot of the rest stop – people stopping just to view the weird awesomeness that is the Salt Flats Santa. He’s even white to blend in (better to catch prey with, I’m sure).
After we left Santa behind, the car’s mileage got a little worse, and worse after we went through Salt Lake and up over the mountains. We stopped in Evanston to add oil and poke around under the hood, ate dinner at a low-rent Denny’s (though it was actually better than it could have been), and continued on. I got sleepy and napped a bit, and when I woke up the weather had gotten worse – it was raining. Then it was snowing. Then it was blizzarding, and the only vehicles left on the road were semis which barrelled through the weather despite the danger and covered our car in water for a minute each time one zoomed by. The wipers on highest speed did nothing to improve visibility, and things just got worse when fog started rising up like ghosts in the middle of the road. Our visibility at that point was about 10 feet in front of the car, we’d been driving for about 16 hours and Dan was exhausted, and we were going about 30 mph because of the horrible conditions. So I made a command decision, and we pulled off the highway at the next exit, we found a spot in a dirt lot under a street lamp, and we pulled the sleeping bags out of the car and slept for a few hours in our seats.
Awakening at 6:30 AM, we discovered that the weather had cleared, and our mileage had significantly improved. I called work when I got a bit of a signal and left a message saying I’d be in later than expected, and we made it to Denver by 11 AM. I pulled all the plants out of the tub (we’d bought plants for the garden, hadn’t had time to put them in the ground, and were worried it would be hot and they’d dry out and die), and took an extraordinarily-needed shower (seriously, I stunk!). Then, I went to work in a weird fugue state and was cracked out all day and didn’t even get through all 180 of the emails in my inbox. But we were home, and sleeping in our own bed that night was heavenly.