In The Desert, Ch. I

I recently moved to Reno, Nevada to start working at the Tesla Gigafactory (it’s worth a Google.) It was a seventeen hour drive from where I had been living in Pueblo, Colorado, although it didn’t feel that long. On the way, I passed through Salt Lake City and learned that there is, in fact, a lake there. I don’t know, I had always thought that it was just salt. Go figure.

If you ever get the chance, I highly recommend you go see the salt flats, they’re incredibly beautiful.

Salty in the Desert

(Image credit and link to full article.)

After you get through the salt flats, it’s essentially just miles of the Nevada desert. I personally love the desert. I’m originally from Camp Pendleton in Oceanside, CA, and we had tumbleweeds that would blow by my elementary school, to give you an idea of the climate.

Speaking of tumbleweeds, I managed to hit one with my car at ~95 mph in the desert. On the bright side, they weigh virtually nothing and the only evidence that I hit one was a stick lodged in my car’s grille. On the other hand, hitting anything at ~95 mph is a decidedly unpleasant experience and I wouldn’t recommend it. Moral of the story, tumbleweeds are dangerous and they’re coming for you. (Or something like that.)

The only other notable part of the drive was the pizza I got in Elko. I could not think of any other reason for you to stop in the town of Elko unless your car is going to explode, because it’s boring as hell. However, if you are anywhere near it, stop what you’re doing and relocate yourself immediately to the PizzaBarn there. I am not exaggerating, world’s greatest pizza. It almost makes sense that they hid it in a restaurant that I actually regretted walking into immediately. Keeps the rabble out, I think.

I got into Reno on Friday afternoon, and proceeded to immediately pass out in a hotel room. However, I only had the hotel for the first night, after that, it was just me, my tent and I.

One interesting thing that I learned in the past few days is that 67% of the state of Nevada is actually designated Bureau of Land Management (BLM) land. This matters because, unless there’s a conflicting law, you can camp anywhere you want on the land (allegedly for a period of 14 days, then you have to find a new spot and wait a certain amount of time before you come back.) That means that two-thirds of the state is fair game to live on. You can shoot wherever you want on BLM land, too, as long as it’s not considered a “congested area.”

BLM land in the desert

(The yellow areas are BLM land)

Much to my chagrin, I learned yesterday that because of Nevada gun laws, I won’t be able to buy my own peacemaker. Damn. If I get attacked by a swarm of homeless people or some sort of desert moose, I want you all to know that it’s the government’s fault. On an unrelated note, if you know of a store in the greater Reno area that sells Mad Max-style baseball bats with the nails and barbed wire on them, let me know. Or a machete, I can deal with that. Again, totally unrelated.

I spent a few hours the first afternoon trying to find a place in the area to camp, but most of the BLM land is hard to access or unsuitable for camping. The sun had gone down and it was getting darker by the minute, so I decided on an easy camping spot called Moon Rocks. I didn’t know this at the time, but nowadays, the phrase “moon rocks” doesn’t mean what you’d think it does. Blissfully unaware as I was, I asked some dude at a gas station where I could find Moon Rocks and he tried to sell me some weed. At this point, I remembered that this is why God invented Google Maps.

Moon Rocks was about 45 minutes north of Reno, and it turned out that the last ten miles were all offroad. I drive an Acura RSX Type S, and as much as I love my car, by the time I got there I was physically shaken. She’s a beautiful, fast little car, but not built for dirt roads. I wish I had learned something from all those country songs I never listened to. Thanks for nothing, Kenny Chesney.

Somehow, my car managed, and I got there as the night settled in. The spot was pretty busy, and there were at least twenty people parked in various spots around the area. There was a wagon fort of RVs set up in a semicircle around the eponymous rocks, and someone was projecting what I believe was Blazing Saddles onto the face of the formation. The setup was complete with impressively good surround sound. This was all very cool until I tried to go to sleep, at which point I realized that the score to a 70’s western comedy was, in fact, not something conducive to sleep. Welcome to the West.

I set up my tent for the first time, which fortunately was very simple, and the tent proved to be very windproof. (Remember that, this is foreshadowing.) The only two other camping accessories I got were a nice flannel lined sleeping bag, rated at 30 degrees, and a small foam mat that rolls up. These two things and the tent only set me back about $100, and they’ve definitely been worth every penny so far.

It was around 8:00 PM when I went to sleep, and right about 3:00 AM when I woke up. I felt fantastic, a camping first for me. As a number of my friends from NC State are well aware, I have not historically had very good luck with camping. That is a story for another time, however.

That day, I again spent a few hours searching for some BLM land to camp on, and I finally found a spot. The upside was that it’s exactly halfway between the Tesla factory and the Planet Fitness where I’ve been showering (Protip: it’s only ~$20 a month to get a membership to every PF location, meaning a shower in nearly every city in America.) The downside was that it was on top of a large hill with a flat top, and the winds were upwards of 30mph.

If you’re the kind of person that’s ever flown a kite, and I feel like you are, you’ll understand that a tent is a lot like a kite. They’re similar in the sense that the material is almost the same, if you have the $15 kite and not the crappy $5 kite. If you have the crappy $5 kite, I’m sorry your parents didn’t love you enough. Tough luck. Anyways, much like a (very large) kite, a tent on top of a mountain has the surprising tendency to catch wind and want to fly. Unlike a kite, you (presumably) don’t want the tent to fly.

Kite like my tent in the desert

(Image included for reference)

What ensued was about 45 minutes of wrestling with something that only the night before took 10 minutes to set up. Oh, what a difference a day makes. Eventually, after a degree of emasculation that I did not know it was possible to receive from a large sheet and two poles, I put nearly everything in my car in the tent as ballast and managed to stake it down. With my masculinity restored, I proceeded to check the weather.

It was projected to get down to just below freezing, so I added another layer to my sleeping bag and proceeded to pass out. Despite the weather, I slept even better than the first day. As I write this, it’s about an hour before my orientation for work, so this will have to be where I leave you all for now.

Until next time!

Read Ch. II here.

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