I woke up from nightmare sleep on a hot leather couch, stuck to it by my own sweat. I'd dreamt a girl I had left in New York had gotten back together with her exboyfriend. I think I awoke from that nightmare dreamscape as I had left it, tears in my eyes. It's not wise to waste one's water in this desert climate. I had no stillsuit to reclaim it, just black leather. Not good. Precious bodily fluids. Ill portent. POE.
After getting Erica's sister, Nicole's kids off to school, we went to IHOP with David, the guy Erica had been seeing. I treated for breakfast as a thanks for letting me bum off of them. We received lackluster service, even though the waitress had plenty of time to dick around with others from the staff, forgetting my toast and denying me of precious water refills, I always require. I tipped accordingly.
I gave Erica a strong good-bye hug as we dropped her at work, not knowing when I'd see her next. Another year, ten years? It had been six already. Life has a way of doing that.
Back at the house I talked with Nicole after packing my belongings. She seemed like she could be my sister too and we both cared deeply for Erica. David was cleaning the car in the garage. I stood in the doorway telling him it was nice to meet him and to take good care of Erica. Now I was on my way, good-byes said and nothing but more of America ahead of me.
Interstate 10 took me west for nearly 100 miles and past my intended turn-off. I had been talking on my cell phone with the girl from my nightmare (no, not Chani) when I realized I'd gone too far and had to turn around, passing through clefts in mountains that blocked out cell phone signals. Turned around and finding my intended turn-off, I headed north on US-95 toward my destination. I was still driving cautiously slow, only about 5 miles over the speed limit, trying to avoid another moving violation, so I could make sure that ticket from Texas wouldn't show on my record and push up my insurance rate. I couldn't afford such a thing, because my job as adventurer didn't provide income of a financial kind. The only payment I would receive would be to my mind, heart and body.
The sun was falling lower and lower in the sky. I woudn't have much daylight before I got to the London Bridge. I drove along brown bluffs of rock and soil lining what I believed was, or originated as the Colorado River and would wind up in the Gulf of California at its end.
When I finally got into town, the signs for the bridge were very vague so I stopped at a Circle K to ask for directions from a woman with brown weathered skin. Too many years in dry climates with high, hot sun.
At the bridge, there weren't many people around on a Tuesday evening at Summer's quiet end. The monsoon season coming to a close. In like a lion, out like a soft, warm breeze. It seemed like a place that would get lots of weekenders still, or would be busy on weekdays too, during the summer, when the weather was warmer at night. There were tons of quaint shops for T-Shirts and other cheaply made souvenirs for the rubes. A significant amount of bars, with party decks, that would surely be filled on a weekend, by people in their twenties and thirties lined the walkway along the lake. On the other side sat California. I'd be there in a few days more. The place reminded me of the Jersey shore or maybe Lake George in upstate New York during the summer months. A watery getaway for people who didn't want to drive more than a handful of hours.
The scenery was beautiful, but a closer look into the water revealed plastic bags and empty soda cans almost destroying the quaintness of the place. Fat, heavy looking fish lay shallowly submerged like German U-Boats waiting for unsuspecting Allied ships to pass within range. Ducks paddled about, carrying out their daily existence of eating, flying, and mating.
The sun sets peacefully, casting its final yellow rays on the side of the bridge.
At a distance, the sun no more, just its twilight remants.
A young European couple agreed to take my picture.
...is falling down.
After darkness fell, I made for Las Vegas with great haste, driving the pitch black roads of straight-arrow I-40 east and then on US-95 and 93 north, passing atop the Hoover Dam, a great Public Words Project completed in the 1930's.
Several miles before reaching the dam, along snaking roads with speed limits reduced more and more toward a snail's pace, a different sign appeared, one I'd not seen since Sierra Vista. Coming to a stop in an area lit like the finale if Close Encounters I pushed the button to "roll" down my window. It's funny how some word usage keeps even when technology changes the actual act we refer to. A police officer-type asked me if I was a US Citizen, to which I responded in the affirtmative. He then asked me where I was taking the two droids I had in the back seat. I waved my fingers...
I'd heard horror stories of the extraordinary amount of time it takes to get over the dam. Luckily it was nearly eleven at night and there were very few people about, belying what I hear about the daytime trauma of tourists flooding the sidewalks and roadways. Crosswalks lined the road constantly, indicating that the foot traffic must be horrendous at times.
I pulled over to peer hundreds of feet down the retaining wall to see the water below and then crossed the road to see turbines or something which looked like the power generator Obi-Wan shut down in A New Hope so the Millennium Falcon could escape with the stolen plans for the Death Star, Nevada's greatest new casino.
Coming out of the rocky passes, a glow could be seen far on the horizon and before I knew it, a curve around a jutting rock tower brought Nevada's city of shining lights into view. A blade of light from the Luxor cut the night sky. The sprarkling metropolis of win and sin lay before me like a feast laid out for the master returning to his keep. I only ever plan to be temorary master in Las Vegas. That city, much like Phoenix, is much too hot for me. I have never been properly able to express myself in this climate. I could never live there, but I sure as shit could visit the hell out of it, trying to reap rewards from one-armed bandits and spinning wheels of chance, a marble away from winning $35.00 for every chip on the winning spot. Sweet Las Vegas, make me rich, make me rich.
A quick hop up I-515 transformed into a long crawl. There were several lanes closed, funneling us into a narrow line. It took nearly a half hour to drive two miles, allowing me to chow down on the cold Burger King I'd grabbed while at a rest stop some dozens of miles back, left in the darkness of night and afterthought.
Navigating the grid of North Las Vegas took me to my Uncle John's, where I believe I woke him up, apologizing for arriving so late in the night, nearly half past midnight. He set me up in the spare bedroom often used by his mother-in-law where I passed out not much later.