The Desert in the Off Season

We were greeted at our camp site by a ten foot tall neon green penis that sprayed a light, refreshing mist during the day, and shot fire from its tip in the evenings. We piled out of the Lincoln Town Car I rented to shuttle us to, from, and around the desert, and set up a camp of tents, shoddy 2×4 supporting structures, and an old parachute. It was Black Rock Desert, but there was no organization okaying our presence, no expensive tickets, no large-scale art or upsettingly large stacks of speakers pumping out garbled untz noises at 5am, and no rules.

After being there a couple hours my friend asked, “Hey are you cool with me taking the trunk off of that Town Car so we can fit more people in it?”

“If you feel confident that you can get it back on, then yes, absolutely!” He was a mechanic, so I felt confident in his abilities, and I also loved the idea. We were now able to (somewhat) comfortably transport up to 13 people at a time, meaning we¬†were the party wherever we showed up.

When I wasn’t building or tinkering, I spent most of the daytime hours in the open desert teaching people how to do donuts in the Town Car, and lounging around at or near Frog Pond (ponds, really – it was a collection of small hot springs) in varying amounts of clothes. My particularly eccentric Ukrainian friend liked gathering the small fish or tadpoles inhabiting the pond into his mouth, then spitting them onto anybody who asked why his cheeks were puffed out. It was hilarious.

The evening rolled around, and my friend said, “Would you like any of the liquid acid I brought?” I feel like you can all guess what my answer was. “How many drops do you want?”

“I dunno. Three? Four? That sounds reasonable.”

“Okay, tilt your head back and open your mouth. One… Two… Thr- OOPS!”

“Throops?! How many is throops?!”

“Uh… Maybe like… Eight to ten?”

Great. Clearly it was time to load up into the Town Car and head out into the desert. There were thousands of people spread out over the vast expanse of public land (you were only legally allowed to have so many people at each campsite, which seemed to be the only rule people were interested in following), so you just had to drive toward the lights to find a group partying. For some reason, I was still elected to be the driver, and we may or may not have spent 30 minutes following around a car with a flashing light on it, and we must have visited upwards of ten different locations.

My friend that throopsed me and I stood watching a group burn a five-foot high wooden man, and they neglected to tell us that they filled it with fireworks. One of them zipped right between our heads; neither of us moved. We turned slowly to each other and I said, “Well that was close, huh?” Then we laughed until it was time to move on to the next place.

When we’d had our fill of nonsense, we headed back through the pitch black desert to our camp. I was still driving, but my passenger was dictating all of my wheel turns, as I could not see. “Okay, straight. Left… LEFT! MORE LEFT!” We narrowly avoided a large muddy patch that the car would have sunken into, and I finally decided I had had enough of the driving thing, stopped, and made my passenger drive, which he was basically already doing. When we got back, I did that cartoon thing Homer Simpson does where you spin around in circles on the ground saying, “WOOOOOP, WOOP-WOOP-WOOP-WOOP-WOOP!” until I got tired and went to bed.

The finale of the event comes in the form of a 30-foot tall frog with vampire teeth and bat wings, made primarily from wood and propane tanks, constructed at the far end of the shooting range (there was a shooting range). I took my shotgun and lined up with about 40 to 50 other naked or nearly naked people with guns, then someone yelled, “Holy shit, it’s a Frog Bat!” And everyone opened fire.

The explosions reverberated through your bones, and the thing went up in a glorious mushroom cloud of smoke, fire, and Frog Bat bits. Having slain the beast, there was nothing to do but pack up, put the trunk back on, and head home – tired, hungover, sunburnt, and victorious.

Uneventful Nudity and Farmland

I always expect my time with nudists to be a little crazier than it ends up being. Largely, it’s a group of retirees who either live on the ranch, or have been there for the past couple months. Many are wearing crosses around their necks, and I had to describe what polyamory was to the young naked woman next to me in the hot tub this morning.

I woke up to silence around 8am, used their workout space, baked cinnamon rolls in the communal kitchen (the extras went to the ranch staff), and made an ass of myself to a nice gentleman who was on his way to the dentist. he introduced himself, I went to shake his hand, then he lifted up the sleeve of his robe to show that he was paralyzed on the right side. I don’t know if it was that or the fact that his robe was open, but I was thrown, reached out, and shook the limp hand. He said, “I’m still working on that one – try this one,” as he extended his left hand for a proper handshake. I said it was nice to meet him, and I made some lame excuse to walk away from my embarrassment.

It’s good that I did though, because it started to drizzle, so I needed to take my tent down quickly. I got it down and into the car just before it started raining heavily. Luckily though, my clothes didn’t soak through because I wasn’t wearing any. I hung out in the hot tub until the rain stopped, then got on the road.

Presently I’m in the middle of a very long stretch of farmland, using voice to text to write to you from my driver seat – where I have been for the last four hours, and where I will be for the next four. Woe be unto Omaha, whose bars will bear the brunt of my restlessness.

Let Your Mind (and other parts) Run Free

I went into last night not sure what to do about the rest of my trip. Las Vegas had strippered me out of the vast majority of what I had intended to spend while traveling, but I still wanted to make the trip memorable, and entertaining. Do I just go straight to Chicago? I’ve got plenty of experience being poor in just one city. Do I soldier on through each planned waypoint in the face of my poverty? I couldn’t decide.

With all that on my mind, I had forgotten (on purpose) to write down which campsite I was occupying on my registration card. Honestly, I didn’t think anyone would check, but I’m glad the attendant did, because in our overly-long-you-clearly-don’t-have-many-people-to-talk-to-and-neither-do-I conversation, he mentioned that there was a hot spring not too far off. He warned me that it could be fairly “hippie-dippy,” I pointed out the “The Dude Abides,” shirt I was wearing, and assured him I’d be fine.

This morning, I started walking more or less right when I woke up, having learned a heat-related lesson from the Grand Canyon. Audiobook of choice for today: Theft By Finding by David Sedaris. After walking for two hours and some change, I was about to turn around when I saw a hat bobbing in the distance. I yelled out, “Hey, do you know where the hot springs are?”

After a moment of confusion, she finally spotted me and told me they were right below us. After convincing their dog, Dixie, that I was not a danger to her family, the male of the younger couple pointed out exactly where I could climb down, and which hot spring was the warmest. Ya know, my initial assumption was that they were a parents/children grouping, but they just as easily could have been swingers with a large age gap.

I made my way down the hill, then made sure that Dixie and the swingers had left, then cracked open a beer and disrobed (pictures upon request). While standing there in the glory of nature I thought, you know what’s cheap? Nudist resorts are cheap! With a new sense of purpose, I put my clothes back on, and headed for my vehicle. I caught up with and passed the swingers, but having confused and startled the older woman for a second time, I chose not to ask any clarifying questions as to the nature of their relationship.

I write to you from a resort just south of Denver, my tent set up, and my clothes in my car. Next stop: another spot recommended to me by the older couple (they’re all older couples) near Kansas City. More to come!