sand trees salt pit lava lakes trip recap

free week, rented this car, went on this trip! Planned about a day in advance. Used Atlas Obscura to look up a lot of places to go. In between, tried to just pick out any kinda non-interstatey routes.

here’s a map! here’s an image, because links never last!

got these pictures!

I have a lot of thoughts! In the spirit of getting them all out so I can get on with my day, I will just shout em out here.

Bivy camping: it was ok. it’s like a little sleeping bag bag. I guess it’s supposed to come with a little pole that gives it a little height so it’s not just like being inside a plastic bag. Mine was missing that pole. Would have been nice.

I didn’t know they made cars w/o cruise control. Luckily, they all have a USB and a headphone jack, at least.

It is weird how comfortable this trip is. It’s 95 degrees most days, and I don’t even notice.

I have a lot of thoughts while I’m driving. They come and go. This is interesting. Also frustrating: I want to get them down. I know some of them at least are good!

It’s really hard to go completely unplanned. I end up planning roughly a day or two in advance, and I have a goal to get to Butte because there’s a big toxic waste dump near there called the Berkeley Pit. Call it a trip Macguffin - it doesn’t really matter what the Berkeley Pit is, but it gives me a direction to go.

One great thing about traveling: it makes you appreciate your regular life more.

Weird: I got to the campsite at Great Basin and just started hiking. I’m not sure I even wanted to!

Am I driving too much? I mean, maybe? But I kinda enjoy the moving as much as the being there.

Interstates are lame. Everything gets samey; it’s like the suburb of roads. Everything’s easy. There’s more traffic. I had to keep telling Google “give me a less direct route.”

I wish I were like a reporter, like I was good at talking with strangers. That’s usually the most interesting time. But I’m always worried about bothering people, or having nothing to talk about, or ending up trapped in a conversation I don’t want to continue.

Srećan Božić… Maga?

Of COURSE I had to stop in the bar/restaurant in Austin, NV that was apparently called “Serbian Christmas.” I mean, it was also covered in Trump/Pence signs, but… meaningful cultural exchange?
(This might be a good time for a “content note: intense anti-Muslimness.")

There were two people inside. One lady behind the counter, hunched over, eating a piece of pie. One guy sitting at the counter, not doing much of anything. We start talking, I tell them I’m going to Great Basin, that’s cool. I ask about “Serbian Christmas” - are you two Serbian? “He is.” So I tell him about Tati and her family, how they’re from Serbia, we’re talkin' Serb things like where all the big Serbian communities in the US are, and where they’re building a new Serbian orthodox church, and how they have a big fiesta here every Jan 7. I ask where in Serbia he’s from. He names somewhere I don’t remember, and says “The only place the Muslims never conquered.” “Oh.”
He: “Yep, never got there. Everywhere around.”
I: “Huh.”
He: F**king Muslims. They want to impose their own f**king law, you know that?
I: No, I didn’t know that. Are you sure?*
He: Did you know they mutilate their women? They just arrested a bunch of doctors.
I: Hmm. I didn’t hear about that.*
He: Well, most people didn’t. They do it to all of em, young girls…
I: Hm. I thought* it was just the extremists.
He: Huh. Well, I’ve gotta go work now.
(gets up)
He: Here, you can give your wife this pen. (hands me a pen with their restaurant name on it.)
I: Thanks!

* I do this sometimes, when I don’t know how else to have a productive conversation. It seems asinine to let stuff like that slide, but also I want to be as unconfrontational as possible - if we’re ever gonna get anywhere. So I try to play the young newbie. “Hmm! Are you sure?” etc, and argue back in a way that says “I think you might be mistaken” when he says something definitely false, in order to give him a way to rethink his beliefs while saving face. If you have any better ideas for what to do when a guy starts spouting nonsense, let me know.

I mean, he thinks I’m decent enough to give a tiny gift to, apparently. We’ve even got like half a thing in common. But based on things he believes, Muslims are awful, and that’s why this one-time immigrant supports the most virulently anti-immigrant people I’ve ever seen.

Thinking about this later: it’s not really this guy that is the worst. If you thought Group X was moving into your country and establishing their own zones where their own terrible laws apply, you’d want them to get out too. Thing is, that just isn’t happening, certainly not by Muslims. It’s his news sources that are the worst.

Still cursing, but on a brighter note

Met a couple of Air Force guys in Boise. They were like 22, just got there a couple weeks ago after serving in England and Korea. They work on airplanes - maintaining and loading bombs and stuff. Obv I don’t know anything about this, but I could share their enthusiasm. Plus I mentioned how my grandpa was in the Air Force and so we bonded a bit about that. They were so into it! And I kinda get it!

The one guy was telling me about when he was in Turkey, loading up planes that were running missions against ISIS targets. I think. He was talking about how, when he loads up 12 bombs in one of these bombers and sees it come back empty, that’s “the best f**king feeling in the world.” He has such a direct connection to the results of his work. Another time, I guess they had video from helicopters or something? they’ve got some guy they’re targeting, he goes outside, smoking a cigar, and then they can see the bombs hit his building. “Best f**king feeling in the world.”

So, ok, on the one hand this is weird, being so jazzed about killing people. But on the other hand: their targets probably are the bad guys. (I’m pretty ok with killing an ISIS higher-up.) And they’re talking about doing hard work and getting a very tangible result. I respect that, and I’m even a little bit jealous of it. We can hold all these somewhat-conflicting beliefs in our heads.

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