Around 8:00 AM on Monday, nephew Hunter picked us up in Squaw and in a marvelous juggle of cars and luggage, drove us to Reno, where we loaded up our rental, a sleek silver Nissan Rogue.
In went instruments, suitcases, bags of shoes and snacks and laptops. Off we set, east and mostly south, through Sparks, Fernley, Fallon, Tonapah and, in between, vast stretches of dun undulating landscape.
Now and again we passed through towns that must once have sprung up around some mining concern or other and which are now dead, nothing by wind passing through—and cars, of course, en route to other places.
A town called Mina (get it?) sported a tiny wooden building called the Hard Rock Café. Hard Rock having a very different meaning out here mining territory.
Outside of Goldfield we paused to change drivers, stretch, and take a closer look at the Dr. Seuss-like trees that during the last hour had started to dot the landscape. Leaves as hard as a book’s hardcover—and you could sew two pieces of canvas together with those thorns.
As the road plunged ever further south the towns grew ever more infrequent. But sometimes, in the midst of just-about-nowhere, we’d pass a long low building set off some distance from the highway, with signs on their roofs announcing
and, further along:
Parked in front of the buildings might be a shining Dodge Ram Pickup , or a dust-covered Chevy. I couldn’t help but wonder about the lives inside those buildings—how in the world the girls might arrive there, what mornings and afternoons might be like, what kind of thoughts might muddle around their lingerie-bedecked bodies as they await customers. Without a car or at least a horse, how would they ever escape, if and when they wanted to?
About two hours from Las Vegas, Maggie unzipped the case that holds her traveling guitar—which means it’s about the size of a mandolin and is played as if you’ve capoed up to the 5th or even 6th fret of a regular guitar. She’s such a wizard that she transposed gaily away, allowing us to practice harmonies as we drove ever south.
I’ve brought maps for every state through which we’ll pass, as I like visualizing the journey and the folding and refolding that indicates progress. Maggie also plugs in the travel info into her phone, and Mrs. Snow, as she and Luke have dubbed the voice in her Android, talks us nasally through our transitions: “In a quarter mile…” When we pause to change drivers, or pull over for gas, she repeats her directions until Maggie says, “Take a break, Mrs. Snow!” and punches down the volume.
But we thank her often, and with her digital help we accomplish the 465 miles from Reno to the vast South Point Hotel and Casino, just south of Las Vegas, where a bit after 6:00, we unload instruments and overnight bags.
The South Point’s lobby is as big as a small town, with about as many restaurants, and the constant ting ting tingapingatingtingting of slot machines; over it all wan muzac thrums. Thanks to Travelocity, I landed an excellent rate for a 16th floor room with two queen beds, a huge bathroom, and an amazing view of desert. Maggie is longing for lamb chops and after strolling around the lobby and inspecting seven different posted menus, we found her some, enjoyed with an excellent bottle of cabernet. We played a bit of music and crawled into our very comfortable beds.
Next: off to Rio Rico! And Concert Number One.