Guest Post by Willis Eschenbach
That was what the sign on the highway outside of Reno said, at any rate. I kept waiting for the corresponding sign saying
Ice May Be Foggy
But I haven’t seen it yet. We escaped from the Nugget Hotel, which was a good thing. They have a “Gilleys” bar there, complete with a Bikini Bullriding Competition. I tried to talk the gorgeous ex-fiancee into entering … she said I didn’t look all that good in a bikini even with a following wind, and I couldn’t argue on that score, so we rolled out to visit our friends in Imlay, Nevada.
The first curious sight was a house a few miles outside Reno. It was a white house, with a lovely green front lawn. It had a small tree in the yard, and a car in the garage, and a white picket fence around the whole thing.
And on all sides of that … nothing but high desert. Sagebrush and scrub and sand. It looked like the tornado from the Wizard of Oz had picked the house up from Illinois with every homey appurtenance, lawn, picket fence and all, and set it down in raw desert in Nevada …
(We’re in Idaho Falls now, staying by the Snake River. I just heard the train whistle and I can feel the rumble … I do love that sound.)
Mostly what we did in Imlay was play music. One of my friends is a drummer, and one plays the guitar/fiddle/harmonica, so with Ellie we had an entire band. The music and the stories rolled on and on. They live up in the hills above the valley floor, the land there looks like this …
There was a curious man, half American Indian and half Dutch, who was known as “Chief Thunder”. He decided to use “white man’s junk” to make a memorial … and what a memorial he made. He called it “excrescence art”, and the building looks like this …
Here’s a closeup of one small section:
The main construction materials appear to be glass bottles, wood, sweat, cement, mud, plaster, chewing gum, and I’m reluctant to ask what else. It is so bizarre I can’t begin to describe it, other than to say that the amount of work and the passion it represents are astounding. People never cease to amaze me.
From there, we went across an endless hot desert landscape. Temperatures were over 100°F (38°C). The most amazing thing was the repeated appearance of the forgotten stepchild of the emergent phenomena that regulate our planet’s surface temperature … the lowly dust devil. We saw big ones, and small ones. We saw ones that lasted only seconds, and a few that lasted many minutes.
Dust devils are one of the many emergent phenomena that appear when the surface is hot compared to the atmosphere. They move an unknown amount of energy from the surface up into the troposphere. As far as I know, there are very few studies of them. We don’t know how many there are, or how much energy they move.
But if you are looking across the desert landscape and you want to know where it is the hottest … that would be where the dust devils are busily at work, cooling the desert surface.
We passed by the valley of the Death Star, and went by a string of no less than 41 giant wind turbines on towers … surprisingly, nine of them were actually turning …
After spending about six weeks going through the desert this afternoon, we finally made it to the Snake River Valley around Twin Falls. The Snake is one of my favorite rivers, in part because some of the time it runs down at the bottom of an outrageous canyon.
It’s a lovely little cabin, built the old-school way, not a kit. Another train is going by. The gorgeous ex-fiancee and I sat out on the picnic table and played guitar as the sun was going down. Life is good.
Tomorrow it’s off to Yellowstone, and then roll we north. The beat goes on … my thanks for the emails and suggestions, I fear I can’t answer them all, but do know that they are much appreciated. I’m tired, it’s 11PM, I’m off to shower and then to sleep.
All the best to all of you,