Endless miles of crumbling car-clogged veins weave around farms, sprawling cities, quaint towns, rest stops, and state lines—always vanishing in the rear-view mirrors like a mist, a final breath.
Camping is now formally referred to as Eco-therapy, and we needed plenty of it. But we were worried that the cool forest air and desert mountain switchbacks wouldn’t be all the medicine so we brought our own: aspirin, acetaminophen, Benadryl, Methylenedioxymethamphetamine, ibuprofen, Lysergic acid diethylamide 25, Xanax, and DayQuil.
We escaped Portland, OR an hour after lunch and vastly underestimated how long it would take to buy groceries, fuel up, and eat C & D’s famous Bozo burger. Massacre Rock welcomed us at midnight. We had just enough energy to build a fire and eat before dosing off to the low rumble of cars chasing the moon.
With only an hour of overtime at the wheel, we arrived in Zion National Park. We had two days before continuing to Las Vegas. The fillet of salmon I’d smashed in the cooler two days ago was finally thawed and begging me to decorate it in dill, dress it in foil, and throw it on the fire.
The day started with a brief thunderstorm that evaporated as fast as it fell. We drove to Springdale for breakfast and firewood. Wildcat Willies has an edible albeit chewy chicken fried streak and the local tap tastes like Pine Sol—not Willies fault, just something that sucks for those who haven’t acquired the taste.
After spoiling the gods of tourism we returned to our site and pulled tabs off our respective pieces of dancing bear decorated blotter paper. After an hour or so of anxious chit-chat, the world ended, and we began.
Up, up, up, and over the highest crest, cruising the velvet roller coaster of elation. I drank a beer and giggled under the passing clouds, constantly rent asunder, fiber by fiber, and then reborn again as the mountains inhaled the gold desert air in every manner of Monet’s brush.
We planted ourselves by a little stream for most of the day. Home to tiny fish, children, screaming adolescents, tadpoles, the oily film of sunscreen, and drunk middle-aged divorcees seeking engorged mucous membrane tissues that haven’t been 86ed from the cardiovascular system from years of work related stress and cheeseburger consumption.
Use caution when playing with stones or bugs or bits of plants around other adults. The combination of dilated pupils and neural crossfire makes every dull thing fatally compelling, and you won’t give two fucks who’s watching.
Our aquatic playground was eventually overrun so we returned to our site and waited for dinner. I was deeply immersed in the ceaseless black hole expanding between my ears. I couldn’t help but think that all my thoughts, purpose, and possessions were all quite pointless.
We made our way back to the river and it was, as we had hoped, empty, save one mother trying to hide her nervousness as she searched for her daughter. By sunset my chakras, chi, flesh, and frequency had come out on the musical end of the cosmic flute and brought to the faint low hum that calls us to dream.
I woke covered in nylon from my decaying sleeping bag, mildly sweaty, mainly thirsty, but cozy atop the dark blue air mattress I shared with Jamie. Our tent only has one door which means I wake her up every time I leave to pee, so I try, fully aware of the pointlessness of putting off the inevitable, but that’s how I define love.
Bat country was drier than ever and still retained some ominous feeling, but that was probably the patrol drones. Jamie blazed down I-15 and up the loose ass of Vegas while Maya and I shared a joint. Despite its spaghetti roads, steaming from the marinara of distraction, the city isn’t impossible to navigate.
We booked a room on the top floor of Treasure Island and wafted along the neon maze in a cautious twirl with the cigarette smoke in constant pour from the veiny kettle noses of buzzed old women as they leaned closer and closer toward the whirling reel of fortune.
None of us had bathed since we’d left Portland. We took a vote and decided Jamie should bath first, then Maya, and lastly myself. I passed time by jumping on the bed. If you ever happen to be in the last room on the right, reaching for the ceiling, look towards the overhang and you’ll find the crackly brittle remains of someone’s spliff.
Tobacco is terrible. It’s a slow suicide, a genuine sin, so we bought a pack of Nat Shermans—the classy way to die. Oddly enough, the smoke store at the Paris is located right beside a seemingly posh bar. We ordered martinis made with egg and various worldly ingredients I normally wouldn’t drink save this particular fantastic occasion. Beside me, leathery men met their escorts, our waitress admitted she was at the end of a l-o-n-g 12 hour day, and more men joined the pool around us like ants at a sugar pile. Midwest dressed, graying hair, and calloused stubby hands pinching Marlboros, chafed, from thumbing through Gideon’s bible after furiously masturbating in the shower.
Birds substantially outnumber people at the TI pool and will peck at your breakfast if you leave it unattended. We spent the day chasing cash through casinos and getting to know cab drivers. Eventually, we settled in about half way up the Stratosphere where we watched reruns of Full House while I measured out MDMA on a scale that shut off every eight seconds.
We took a brass paneled double-deck elevator up to the overlook. I noticed my planet-sized pupils in the foggy reflection gazing back at my bright gelatin face. The wind outside was searing. I lasted seconds before I turned around and joined Jamie, who’d decided to make a complete 360 in the rotating door. We drifted to ground level and searched the labyrinth for our moneyed minotaur. I bled 86 dollars out of its triple cherry heart.
Our second day began with brunch at Roxy’s Diner. An ode to the golden days when a man could simply come home drunk, beat his wife, and go to bed, only to wake the next day to bacon, eggs, hash browns, and microscopic gluten-free pancakes for Maya. She consumed them happily and booked our tickets to Love (it was the only Cirque du Soleil available).
I ordered a strawberry margarita and dipped my feet in the rooftop pool. I would have gone swimming but Jamie was the only one who remembered to bring a bathing suit, so I relished the view of sandstone kingdom, eroding behind every shade of sunbather.
All it took was one confident exhibitionist ditching her top and women all around the pool thought wonderful idea. Breasts cluster at the strip like bees on artichoke blossoms. They’re on cups, cozies, and the business cards immigrants distribute for on-call love-makers. They’re surgically enhanced, photoshopped, and packed into tens of thousands of poorly sized pushup bras.
We had thirty minutes to stuff ourselves with as much buffet and unlimited drink as reasonably possible without any of us puking in route to Love. After the performance we headed to Fremont street, old Vegas. Paved the same year The Great Gatsby was published, and John Scopes was arrested for teaching science. It has the same overhead light show and bands, but with modern upgrades such as zip lines, topless-tourist-spanking nuns, and a man who insists you kick his balls.
The flesh cloud of intoxicated people quickly engulfed us. I watched a man drink beer out of his shoe and considered taking the next cab out. But we pressed onward, to a strip club where a man, who better resembled a Redwood, politely explained that we’d each have to spend a substantial minimum amount of money upon entering. A lot of pressure considering our home is peppered in full nude clubs that far outnumber America’s capital for letting loose.
I’d always imagined myself speeding out of that doomed oasis in some glazed over brain-damaged stupor, screaming like someone’s ungodly two-year-old at an uncaring existence, but we were statues. Marble faces fixed on the continuing expanse of narrow state roads.
Some of the towns surrounding Lake Tahoe have nearly every luxury of Vegas, minus the enourmous portion of prostitutes, but with the bonus of being much cooler and next to a pristine pine-wrapped lake. We set up our tents just after sundown and watched the trees glare at us as we tossed their mangled brothers and sisters into the burn pit.
Railroad tracks disappear into the great lake and I expected Pecos Bill to come blasting out on a screaming ghost train, whipping his lasso, and roping us into some watery tourist trap. I planted myself in my dingy red camp chair and skipped stones until I looked like tomato bisque holding a beer. There were only five hours of pavement between us and our final stop at Klamath Falls.
I tried to build a fire for nearly two hours, somewhat capable of staving off the unexpected near freezing temperature, but the logs and kindling were too damp. None of us brought a coat or even a spare blanket. When morning came I felt like I’d been cracked out of God’s ice-tray and puréed into a Forest Frappuccino.
We made it back safely to the heart that pumped us out. Ego reduction and Eco-therapy dulled the timeless scythe, and we were ready for the next beat.