Under a Mildly Amusing Moon
A voyeuristic account of Greasehopper’s annual journey through
The RedNek Decompression Chamber
a.k.a. NotX 2013, XbaN 2013, Slopped my Dripper 2013
Any similarities to actual persons, places or non-events, alive or dead, real or fictional is merely coincidental and the product of a failing memory. Many of the names have been changed to protect the innocent… and not-so innocent.
Rewind to April 2012
As handshakes and hugs make their way through the throng of departing NabX 2012 participants, words of fondness and appreciation fill the air. The scene carries a slightly melancholy note that is offset by the unspoken understanding that, come hell or high water we WILL do this again next year. That was the plan!
The most important thing about having a plan is one now has something to deviate from… Fast forward to March 2013 as we all track the deviations, many in positions of flexibility adapt with vigor while other are apprehensive to invest heavily in something that appears so tenuous. Admittedly those fears are not without merit; however the strength of our bond to the desert playa and our playa family prevailed in astounding measure this year making Spring Break Buggy Bash 2013, The Reunion Tour, a smashing success. Well, I for one thought it was the Mutz Nutz but then again, I’m easily amused.
Thursday afternoon, March 28th
As I pilot a truck and trailer loaded with enough provisions to feed and provide solace to a small army onto the flat, dry surface of Red Lake north of Kingman, AZ., I breathe a sigh of relief to see the Skinner’s motorhome surrounded by rental RV’s, camp trailers and other sundry modes of shelter. I feel as though I’m finally returning from an arduous journey through tedious work related and personal struggles, endless months, weeks, days, hours, minutes of anticipation. For the first time since my February trip to Ivanpah, I truly feel at home. Better still, the winds are toying, my trusted FlexiFoil mount, Scout Buggly has passenger cramps and my PL Core’s are clawing at the sides of the bag to come out and play on the dragon’s tail for a while. Alas, they will have to wait a few moments longer for I have greetings to exchange first.
The camps are scattered in a bit of a row facing east toward a 5 mile by 5 mile expanse of buggy-able terrain with a sizeable open area to the west between camp and the nearest foliage. The FlexiFoil riders, Sparkles and Stoopid Dave are busy preparing bits and assembling their kit. Ginga is nowhere to be seen and my heart sinks a bit. A playa season without Ginga Snaps is gonna be tough but I’ll muddle through somehow. Gillian, Thrash and Josh are milling about down the way and Penny Whistle Jim is holding forth at the southern extreme with several land sailors as they go about preparing their land yachts. I find that Hank is enroute back to camp from the airport with the Dodd-ness and Bazzer. The Browns are still enroute crossing through New Mexico and our dear Kite Killer has run amok of trailer troubles yet again. In a word, Normal… Ah, it’s good to be home again.
BRC Laura is setting up her gear in anticipation of some serious Hula Hoop photo ops and Tammy from Colorado is apprehensively sorting gear getting ready to venture out onto the playa for the first time. Darren and Susan are lounging comfortable in the shade of their sumptuous digs but there is no dearth of activity as the wind continues to tease and torment our primal urges to become one with nature’s indomitable forces once again.
- Greetings exchanged. Check.
- Briefing on life altering events. Check.
- Gear sufficiently prepared for when the sucker winds firm up toward sunset. Check.
- Methinks it’s toddy time !!!
“Martini anyone? I have Gordon’s, Very Dry Vermouth, a cocktail shaker and some very plump green olives… ?”
So goes the afternoon, lounging, chatting, sipping, waiting for the Skinner’s recycled table cloth tattletale to make up its mind which direction will be downwind this evening. Off in the distance a mile or so north of camp where the lake bed touches the highway, a cloud of dust begins to form, a dust devil perhaps? As the cloud of playa soot reaches ever higher, one becomes burningly aware that this is no natural phenomenon but rather the contrail of a vehicle with dust boiling from the fender wells in such volumes as to defy explanation. Like a scene only the icon of Gonzo journalism could portray adequately, a sedan laden with travel bags stacked to the ceiling, terrified passengers clutching at grab handles and a crazed teenage out for a joy ride in Grandma’s Buick behind the wheel comes to a dusty, e-brake induced, broadside stop just feet from camp. As the dust settles over camp, Bazzer emerges from the passenger door pulling the buff down from over his face to reveal a grin that can only be described as giddy. The Dodd-ness, still trembling, pries himself with Bazzer’s assistance, from the cramped back seat where he has been entombed by luggage. And then there’s Hank… the pilot of this unguided missile, this caravel ride of death on street tires. With the fiendish grin of a little girl with a fresh pinched lolly, Hank announces his arrival… again.
“Hey everybody, we’re back from the airport run.”
No sooner has the dust cleared than Darren’s tattletale strikes a pose and the 10 minute clock begins. Several iterations and 45 minutes later, a nice breeze from the west develops, locks in and it’s an all hands drill to fill the air with wings and sails. There is a fence, rusty, jagged and nearly invisible to a buggier at speed, approximately a mile south of camp running east-west with a couple of navigable opening near the center of its five mile course across the playa. Just so ya know…
The winds are bumpy and unpredictable but buggying and sailing continues well into dusk. The nearly imperceptible fence line starts to rattle my groove so I decide it’s time for a snack while I wait for the moon and the gentle zephyrs that usually accompany it. Back at camp, as dusk turns to dark, several are preparing their nosh of choice and Thrash has been so kind as to render his fire tub and wood supply available for all to enjoy.
Pre-event in its proper form is a gathering of the well initiated who understand the importance of being completely self-reliant and self-sufficient while ensuring none go hungry, cold or lonely. For many, it’s an opportunity to take their bond with nature to the next level by incorporating a social aspect into what is usually an exercise in solitude and reflection. Of utmost importance is respect for one another and for the environment we inhabit… right up until the battle of the RV stereos begins. Oh My GAWD !!! Somewhere in the midst of A/C-D/C’s Back In Black, the unce, unce, unce of a Burning Man techno track and the melodic iterations of Bach, I begin seeking refuge in the liquor bin only to find the battle subsides and a peaceful quiet descends upon camp punctuated by laughter as fireside yarns are woven.
As twilight turns inky black, we sit about a low rolling fire eagerly anticipating the impending lunar ascension and begin to speculate on the character of the moon this evening and what breezes might develop. Eloquent term such as “winged beacon of life”, “timid bordering on tame” and “mildly amusing” are tossed about and tortured by Bazzer into a soliloquy fit for performance by any Shakespearian troupe. Alas, “copious cloud cover” hath entrained with our precious “mildly amusing moon” and its “cherub-like zephyrs” are “timid bordering on tame”.
As we muse on, Susan spots the lights of a vehicle on the highway that seems to be circling like a raptor on the hunt. After a few moments she decides to run a rescue mission in the tow-along and I think it appropriate that she identify her efforts with a beacon on the roof of the car. I spark up a trusty; albeit obnoxious, mag mount LED strobe and off we go to the rescue. Soon our hapless traveler sees the beacon and initiates one of his own in answer. We’re almost certain our flotsam is Kite Killer as we speed toward the entrance he missed by mere yards before coming about. Our guidon proves effective and before we can reach the entrance, our traveler pops down off the highway and begins to make his way toward us on the lake bed. We are coming about and heading toward camp and suddenly Susan realizes we have no idea who we’re dragging in to our happy little scene. This could be the beginnings of a sad and horrid tale of debauchery and mass murder. The fright of it all begins to full us with angst until we realize it’s just the Limoncello at work. None the less, we keep our distance until we see Kite Killer’s signature smile and realize there will be no drama tonight. Welcome home, Kite Killer.
As is typical with Kite Killer, his journey has been fraught with exercises in futility, collapsing timelines and dealings with convoluted confidence men. The yarns go on for more than an hour and his delivery is somewhere between melancholy and riotously humorous. Ya just gotta love this guy, he so freakin’ precious.
Well, enough with the jocularity, my abdomen can’t take much more of this. I suppose it’s off to my snuggly little tent/cot for a nap. Good night, all.
It’s all a blur. Too much Limoncello… need medicine… Thrash? A Bloody Mary, for me, here in the desert? Why, you are a saint, my good man! I want to bear your children! What is that thunderous buzzing? Oh, it’s Gillian and Kite Killer playing with RC gliders this morning. I could have sworn it was a Pearl Harbor re-enactment. In fact, it is a Pearl Harbor re-enactment. There’s a full size single engine plane doing a wing wag over my tiny little wig-wam with wheels down. What the… Mmmm, this celery is so cold and crisp. Oh, bad head… worse dreams… need more veggies… no wind… must be nap time. Perhaps this is a good time to cruise the playa for obstructions.
It’s a bit after noon when Mr. Dickel and RevFlyer arrive. Tough journey for those two driving straight through, swapping driving tasks and sleeper berth alternately. RevFlyer was in eleventh hour thrash mode trying to get the underside to the fifth wheel sorted and sealed. Fortunately, the spot they chose to park creates a nice wind break for me. NICE !!! Topher arrives not far behind them with a new face, Jeese. What a nice little village we have forming up here in the middle of nowhere. Still no wind to speak of; methinks it’s time to put together a pot full of nosh.
Late morning and there’s still no wind. Hank wants to borrow the truck. It appears Stoopid Dave has developed a plan to analyze decay times of buggys towed at set speeds down to zero. Fiendishly clever, this one. He has enlisted the help of Topher in his Libre and Kite Killer in Hank’s NABX buggy as control factors. Sparkles is navigating with Bazzer, Laura and RevFlyer as on-board safety crew. It may not be NHRA Safety Safari but they’ll do nicely. Good Luck !
The term “Yarded” doesn’t do justice to what transpired on the southeast end of the lake bed this afternoon. After hours of refitting a ridged spar wing with reinforced hardware while waiting for the evening breezes to settle, one of our riders met with an unexpected terrain feature. A 15 foot wide wash out in the surface gobbled up a buggy. Then the playa on the other side proceeded to perform a most exquisite derm abrasion imaginable on the pilot’s exposed hide. That’s gonna leave a scar… several in fact. It hurts just thinking about it. I think I need an adult beverage now too.
Off to Sin City to gather up nocando. Really ? It’s 4:00AM. What was I thinking committed to meet him at 7:00AM ? Sometimes I astonish even myself with my foolishness.
Right, several hours later, after realizing the folly of being an Electronic Neanderthal and having to pestering Bobby mercilessly for pointing data as we circle Henderson like lost tourists, I’m certain we are piquing the interest of every police vehicle in a 3 mile radius as they could easily assume we were prospecting for houses to burglarize. I need to start poppin’ for maps or something because this urban navigation thing just doesn’t work for me. In any case, nocando’s buggy and gear are loaded and we’re on our way back to Red Lake with a stop off at the Hoover for a photo op.
Sunday late afternoon:
Back at Red Lake and half of Buggy Camp is on the move headed to Ivanpah. Too bad for them because the winds are ROCKIN’ ! Fortunate for us as Sparkles wants to shoot some video of a FlexiFoil LEI and a Blade in action, side by side… from a GoPro on the bumper of the truck… at speed… in close quarters… six feet or less off the rear wheel… Good GAWD ! Please don’t let me kill anyone today. Hang on nocando, here we go. WEeeeeee…
Okay, wait a minute Stoopid Dave, let me see if I understand this properly. You are going to do a suicide at terminal speed and you want me to stay right on your rear wheel all the way around. Is that it ? That’s all you want. You do realize we’re all gonna die trying this, right ? Okay, wind her up and let’s do this. (Now I know why they call him Stoopid. He freakin’ rocks and we’re all still here to talk about it.)
Late Sunday night:
After braving the journey to Ivanpah through the mountain passes to Dolan Springs, Laughlin and Nipton, I need a sammich, a hot shower and an adult beverage, not necessarily in that order. The truck didn’t mind it but the trailer wasn’t happy about the 6 extra buggies I piled on it.
Monday 1st April:
Buffalo Bill’s is a heavenly oasis to the soiled, weary buggier and Pre-Event is most certainly not for the uninitiated. Three blissful nights sleeping in the cool evening air at Red Lake could not compensate for the exhaustion of afternoons spent hooning about at uncomfortably high speeds in my tiny, high ground clearance, freestyle buggy set up for bush whacking through the thorny underbrush of the Sonoran Desert. Enduring a constant “switched on” state had sapped me of anything resembling mental acuity. That notwithstanding the insane hilarity of evening confabs around the fire pit and a thoroughly abused liver; I was nearly broken and useless until the scalding hot water of the shower reefed me back from the abyss. Oh, heavenly waters, so cathartic and soothing. Soon sleep would be upon me like a stealthy cat. One moment I’m studying the late edition news and the next I’m waking to a glint of sun peeking through the curtains to greet me. In a moment it all came rushing back to me in floods, memories of the last three and one half days were suddenly crystalizing into photo frames, cells that could be arranged in chronological order again. That really was an epic adventure in spite of the fact that I was on autopilot for the greater portion of the duration. But now the task at hand was to follow through on my promise to retrieve The Ramp from storage, a mere cakewalk in comparison… or so one might assume.
When we arrived on Ivanpah the night before, in our haste to seek comfort we had unlimbered the trailer at the typical meeting place where the large, white tent from the NALSA event is still standing. Here in the light of day, and thinking we will eventually make camp somewhere nearby, we unceremoniously pitch my cache of toys and provisions onto the deck and make for the locker on the outskirts of Henderson. The 45 minute drive was entirely uneventful and I’m glad of it. I only wish the same could be said of storage locker fiasco that would ensue. I have witnessed and participated in exhibitions of precision drill were discipline, teamwork and repetition meld together a group of disparate individuals into one cohesive and spectacularly uniform mechanism. There would be none of that seen here today. The terms Fuster Cluck and Herding Snakes come to mind… Thank GAWD we had some bona fide Roadies in the mix. Soon the trailer was stacked with plywood, timbers, buggys, tires, the ubiquitous burn barrel and other bits of flotsam and jetsam in a fashion closely resembling the opening scene of Beverly Hillbillys, sans Granny’s rocking chair, of course. Although, had there been one, I’m certain demonstrations of combative skill that would ensue for the right to seek purchase upon such a throne for the return trip and it would surely be appallingly brutal and grotesque. You know how competitive some lads can be.
Upon our return to Ivanpah, it becomes obvious that recent arrivals have decided the traditional site is not the choicest location for what will become our tiny enclave in the desert. Like chaff on the breeze, the beginnings of camps and piles of gear are scattered along the shoreline. As this is most certainly not an organized event and everyone holds personal use permits, the options are manifold and magnificent. It is decided that we should set camp far south of the DWMA line near Coffee Bush where the surface is smoother. Many of the locals frequent this location as it provides for much better lines of attack (and is also where the events used to be held) when winds change direction as they do so frequently on Ivanpah. We scurry along south to Coffee Bush, disgorge the contents of the trailer and truck bed, place the bits for the ramp in a suitable location and head back to retrieve my kit… and perhaps a cold adult beverage or three.
Having survived the Storage Adventure, barely, and having just reloaded and unlimbered the trailer yet again, this time near Coffee Bush, I feel disinclined to go through the motions of setting camp. Then again, it might just be the suds my liver is soaking in presently. None of that is important right now as the evening breeze is turning fresh and I think the Flexi Boys are about to put the reconstituted Ramp to the test. SUIT UP lads, it’s time to BUGGY !
As we make our way around Ring Road to the playa entrance, we spot one of the rental RV’s in the Fashion outlet parking lot. Time for a drive-by looking, methinks. As we slowly circle the RV, nocando and I start loudly voicing the Jaws theme and form dorsal fins with our hands on our heads. Hank appears in the doorway with a perplexed expression and we stop, put the truck in reverse and start backing around in the other direction. Hank’s expression turns to disgust with a tinge of resignation as he re-enters the RV for he realizes there is no escaping the inevitable. He will be eaten… bit by bit… before the week is done. I think you’re gonna need a bigger boat, Hank.
Finally we relent and succumb to the overwhelming urge to let bygones be bygones. What is family if not forgiving? As we dismount we are greeted with warm smiles, friendly handshakes and Spring Break Buggy Bash memorabilia. Nice shirt!
As we make our way south some two miles or more below the DWMA line, what appear to be several small brushes on the horizon develop into clusters of vehicles, trailers, camp equipment, shades and wind toys. By Jove, I think we’ve found Buggy Town ! Eureka !!! Now the question is where to down gear and set camp?
Others have arrived before us and as their numbers increase, there is a prevalent theme developing whereby buggy camp is nearly a half mile long with huge gaps between clusters of camp sites and gear piles. There seemed to be a peculiar sort of stratification taking place which I personally find disconcerting. This scene lacks the sense of community and togetherness I have become so accustom to in the past. My traditional morning walks are developing into excursions that one large cup of coffee simply will not support. Worse yet, if I get a late start for some reason, it is entirely possible that my desire to spread good spirit and kind words may be overwhelmed by some shiny object on the horizon and I might forget what I was on about. ADHD can be a real be-atch sometimes. I knew I should have thrown in the bicycle. DRAT !
It appears that the DOTA crew occupies the first camp we come upon. Hands shaken, hugs dispensed, greeting exchanged, great folks and dear friends, one and all but I’m just not feelin’ it yet. You know, that vibe, that energy that sumpin’ sumpin’ that says this is Home, at least for the next week anyway. A bit further, perhaps? That’s Texas Joe’s shade and vehicle but he’s nowhere to be found. I real like that guy, he’s so mellow and relaxing to be around. By the same token, he has sort of selected a spot with some buffer and I would hate to jam his groove unannounced. Yeah, that would be rude, now wouldn’t it? Mr. Dickel and RevFlyer have set camp with the Skinners creating a happy little court yard complete with an assortment of lawn furnishings surrounding the fire pit and large sections of carpet that pull double duty as dust abatement and small parts recovery mat whilst wooden fabrications and mechanical iterations take place. Such an industrious lot and such a happy little village scene, this; I would hate to visit upon them the disorganized and voluminous cluster that is my gear pile.
We stop to talk with RevFlyer and discuss his healing process from wounds earned at Red Lake. Four huge, weeping raspberry patches have developed on each outer calf and forearm. He states that though the weeping is tedious and messy, the pain they produce is surprisingly manageable except when lying down for the night and when getting up to pee in the middle of the night. The throbbing of varied blood pressure induced by elevation change relative to the heart is particularly exquisite and disorienting. My GAWD this is a tough man for I know I would be crying like a little girl at even a faint movement of air across these gigantic patches of raw, abraded hide. Yet RevFlyer is not only sanguine but eager to engage in flight as soon as the winds ready themselves for his assault; simply astounding and worthy of military honors in my humble opinion. A kind and gentle warrior through and through, such is the character of RevFlyer. But, it’s time to move on and so we do.
There’s Brian’s trailer and bits of his gear but no Brian, later perhaps after his workday is done. Dino !!! Need I say more ? He is so warm and friendly one would never suspect the brilliantly mischievous nature of this man from outward appearances. His vehicle, with its cubist interpretation outline seems even move curious with the Apex rack on the roof. And Bobby is holding forth under Dino’s tent with his PTW masterpiece, the HERO BUG, performing due diligence and attention to detail tasks so critical to this man‘s ability to cut lines across the play like no other and perform maneuvers at rocket like speeds. His warm southern charm, soft spoken manner and willingness to suffer a “non-city drivin’ fool” such as I, would never belie the fact that Bobby is nothing if not thorough and intent on perfection.
Ah Ha ! This might be a fortuitous moment. I see Topher’s party palace / rental RV and it appears he has positioned it in such a way as to create shade and wind block from every conceivable angle. And look, beside it is the signature silver HQ tent. We really must enquire within. Besides, I got Jeese’s buggy here safely for them. (All part of my fiendishly clever plan, wink, wink, nudge, nudge, say no more… ) Well, well, look who’s on the other side of Topher. It’s Ofer and Salva. I’ve been meaning to spend more time with those two anyway. Yes, this will do just fine. By adding nocando to the mix we will found The International Camp. I like it !
Morning turns to afternoon, the skies are dotted with elegant single line toys, sport kites, stacks of buzzing stunters, zero wind contraptions, gliders and robotic copters. Every form and fashion of wind toy is being deployed and recovered as the winds build, die and change direction. Bazzer and I revisit the concept of hooning by moonlight. I had so hoped there would be at least one night of clear skies, radiant moonlight and gentle zephyrs to ride the playa. It’s just so peaceful and serene. Perhaps tonight will be the one. For now, the breeze has freshened and we’re on the 10 minute clock again. Perhaps this will be our wind for the evening… Nope, not yet.
Well, that was refreshing. The breezes are starting to die off just as twilight sets. Just enough time to break out the gas grill and cook up some of these 20lbs of Carne Asada. It should go nicely with that gallon of fresh, homemade salsa and some shredded cheese. There is nothing better than a fresh cooked meal on the playa in the evening. What’s this ? Salva, Ofer, Glenn and Jeese pitching in to help… and a bottle of ice cold, golden cactus squeezin’ for desert ? I love these people and I love this place !
First order of business today is a Wal-Mart run for pool noodles, don’t ask… Suffice to say my urban navigation skills have not improved in the least and having a talkative co-pilot can be a bit distracting occasionally. I finally broke down and purchased a map albeit a skeletonized, single page of the arterial streets and some fluff about Casino Row and Fremont St. In any case, we found what we needed and a bit more, had a delightful meal at Omelet House near Sam Boyd Park, stopped by Kent’s shop for a bit and managed to burn 5 hours windless hours without incident. A great morning by any measure.
Back on the playa I hear stories of sucker wind victims marooned along the gas line. At this point on the lake bed that constitutes a mile or more walk back to camp. I’m sure glad we made that run this morning otherwise I would surely be counted among the missing, presumed silly. This seems like a good time for a snack. Some cold, well-seasoned, thinly sliced tri-tip roast, cheese and crackers with a nice cold beer sound delicious right now.
Another addition to the International Enclave, the Hough’s , a lovely family from the UK have just joined us. A delightful lot and so pleasant to be with, Nigel and Chris are avid supporters of their son Josh who sports Flysurfer gear. Better still, the entire family buggys with style and panache. And it would appear they are just in time for the evening flow. The winds are kicking up early this afternoon and it appears that it’s becoming and all hands drill again in a hurry. Time to suit up and get busy.
The winds continue well past dark and I begin to fear the gasline apparatus may seek me out and devour me in the darkness so it’s time to err on the side of safety and wait for the moon to rise. Snacks and beverages make their way around the group until we decide to give the Carne another go and again. With all hands pitching in, we soon have a suitable feast prepared and it is a crowd pleaser to be sure. Then again, after several hours of flying in punchy, turbulent winds, parboiled shoe leather would look appetizing. But that is far from the case this evening.
The winds continue and begin to smooth but the moon seem recalcitrant in making an appearance. As we study the night sky, Bazzer begins to identify constellations and points of interest in the stars.
“The one I’m talking about is… See that bright one… Well next to that is a red one. Now if you go five to the right there is a swirly pattern…. Do not look at that, go right about 7″ then down 2 stars……. Now we’re getting close to the star I’m going to talk about.”
Oh my GAWD !!! I don’t know whether wind my watch or soil myself from the laughter. Bazzer is such a brilliantly entertaining soul. As the Siren’s Song of clean bed sheets taunts nocando and libations take their toll on my resolve to buggy under a mildly amusing moon, we succumb to the better part of reason and head toward sanctuary for the night.
I think Hank effectively sums up Bazzer when he says, “Only a man of substance casts a shadow of this nature. This man, who can fly 4 kites with one pinky, who can ride three kite buggies with one knee on the ground, while sipping rum, phoning his buddies, and saying good night to his wife, Bazzer is just such a man. A man amongst men!”
Having sussed out the Laundromat and the only convenience store I’ve ever seen with a reasonable selection of quality beer, block ice, real groceries and freshies under one roof, I am thoroughly convinced the Primm Valley Resort Casinos complex is not the Purgatory on the outskirts of Narvana I had once deemed it to be. Now, nocando and I have sufficient clean socks to make it through to Thursday next when he departs for the journey back to OZ. And yes, that does mean there is a Part IV to the story.
It appears we are not the only ones with a laundry dilemma for as we round the corner near the Fashion Outlet, we see an improvised laundry line strung between the SBBB RV and G’s sedan roof rack. On display for all to see are Hank’s unmentionables and hoof warmers with the occasional kiting logo-ed “T” thrown in for appeal. And here I thought I was the only RedNek in residence… I feel confident the Fashion Outlet management found this less than amusing but no rent-a-cops were dispatched to the scene so I think they recognized it for what it was.
Compa’s signature red truck is there and a divine bamboo framed bicycle leans against the front of the RV. With so many distractions and attractions, nocando and I are drawn to the scene like moths to a flame. As we admire the design excellence and workmanship of the bicycle, in his uniquely distinguished albeit slightly flamboyant style, Darren’s evil twin, Scott emerges from the RV. New faces as well in Ron, Phillip and Ray, each rather delightful chaps in their own rite, the welcoming committee doth grow each day.
Without the huge evening gatherings to punctuate them, the next three days are remarkably similar in character and nearly indistinguishable from each other in spite of Dog’s appearance on the playa and sumptuous gourmet styling’s at various places and times throughout. Suffice to say none went hungry for lack of a delicious, hot, freshly prepared meal as only Dog can do it. At this point I will deviate from the day-by-day format heretofore and only try to relate the interesting bits that stand out in my feeble memory.
Each morning proceeds as one might expect. As the winds toy with our patience, pieces of rip-stop laundry of every description fill the air and luff to the ground in fits and spurts. I set off to inspect the lower 40, the southern extreme of Buggy Town where a sizable number of land sailors are congregated stopping along the way to exchange greetings and kibitz here and there.
Occasionally Robo-Drone, multi-rotor copters hunt their video-graphic prey from on high, in close, under shade structures and into the most unlikely of places all under the watchful eye and skillful hand of their pilots often a ¼ to ½ mile away in a shocking display of artful grace. Eerie harbingers of T3-Rise of the Machines… It’s all too much to bare, I need a drink.
Geokite has shown up and in his typical minimalist style, his camp is compact and tidy. The scene is almost a perfect image of his digs at Red Lake and I being to experience a bit of Vu-ja-de’ pondering for a moment where I really am. But the moment is brief as I see Screwy and his Dad shaking out bits and wrenching away. Screwy has sold that sexy little aluminum creation of his and these will be some of its last voyages with Screwy at the helm.
In typical fashion, Tsune, Miki, Double Manta Dave and CoreyKite are lounging comfortably under camo netting enjoying the view from the porch swing. The latest addition to their camp, Ben the German Shepard, seems to be at odds with my presence. Perhaps it’s best if I move along before the teeth, claws and other edged weapons come into play and Ben has to run in fear for his life. Admittedly, I was in a state of shock and bewilderment the first time I came to such a gathering so his edginess doesn’t really surprise me all that much. He’s just a bit overwhelmed and I’m told my arrogance can be a bit overwhelming as well.
MDK is fidgeting a bit with the Playa Bug and that sexy new Viper. Popeye never ceases to amaze me with his distinctive yet simple designs. As I study and admire these works of art, I recall adventures from ’11 and ’12 and only wish he and his lovely bride could be here. Fortunately for me, MDK and his wife are really quite darling people as well and we chat for a time about Ivanpah and Alvord and other goings on.
Dave and Jim, two locals from LV are next stop. Jim is nowhere to be found but Dave and his wife Kim are lounging comfortably in their cute-as-a-bug’s-ear toy hauler surfing the web on cell phones for weather prognostications. Kim is a quiet lady with a kind heart and a very “crafty” side while Dave is the reserved sort but a warm, friendly gent once he gets to know you and he tells tales in the most delightful way. We laugh as we trade sagas of our journeys since our last meeting in February.
At the far southern extent I find Tammy from Colorado hanging out with Penny Whistle Jim and two of the land sailors who joined us at Red Lake. She seems to have settled into the buggy thing rather well and is simply brimming with questions and observations. A quick study, this one, she’ll be hooning about and holding her own with the hard chargers in no time, I’m sure of it.
Somewhere in the mix, we are joined by Fanny Dranck, a former PL team rider from way back in the day when Peter insisted his riders bunk on the compound and attend 10am meetings each day. Now an engineer living in SoCal and personal friends with Ofer and Salva, he makes our little scene just that much more entertaining and interesting. To see the joy on his face as he returns from what must be the first time he has buggied in decades, is such a profound moment to behold.
The Houghs having been sorting gear and changing flat tires almost daily seek solace from the late morning sun under Ofer and Salva’s freeform Lycra shade. And a rather bohemian couple from Pahrump with their delightfully precocious children joins us as well. Witty and insightful yet earthy and open, these folks make another fine and entertaining addition as well.
Always up for a competition to pass the time, occasionally Topher would break out with a small bag of Hacky-Sack like woven balls and incite a strange form of Bocce Ball. Not so much the game itself as the relentless jeering between opponents made sport into a spectacle with a band of roving fans cheering on their chosen favorite as play proceeded.
The only real dilemma each day is what to fly when the winds decide on a direction and firm up around 4 or 5pm. Base speeds vary from day to day but the gusts are completely unpredictable and the dust devils are aberrant at best. I find myself digging out less and less kite until I’ve finally reach the point where my manhood is being insulted as others zing by me in the river. There is only one thing left for me to do, I must beg, borrow or steal something with a wider, lower stance if I am to ever feel worthy of breathing air again. My trusted companion, my double tough Scout Buggly must ride the pine on the shore line for a while so I can really loose the hounds and feel the treacherous, exhilarating thrill of riding the Dragons Tail on Ivanpah at least once. Fortunately, nocando offers up his highly modified PL XL+ for the task and I seize the opportunity to unfurl one of my 5m fixed bridles to power it. I know it will be too much wing but I just don’t care anymore. If I must convalesce in a body case for months on end so be it. I’m fixin’ ta git busy all up in dis shibit even if it kills me. And just like that, the Dragon flies off toward the setting sun taking his tail with him and the winds die off to an over grown gnat’s fart. Good GAWD !!! I suppose it’s time to go watch the Flexi Boy’s and Josh boost some big air with their giant Sky Tractors and start drinking heavily to soothe the pain of humiliation.
Moments where shared, accounts of the days trials and tribulations made their way around evening fires. Food and beverage flowed in every camp. Just as we had so many times before, we laughed until we nearly cried and laughed some more, fun was had by all. And somewhere in the back of every mind was the gnawing sense that soon we must part company. But for tonight, we would fulfill our promises to ourselves and our friends to do it again THIS year!
As the most loathed time of all draws near, bags are being packed, buggies disassembled, bits of kit are being chased across the playa as the winds torment and tease. Soon, all too soon, we must bid our playa family members farewell and return to our other homes, our daily grind and our own special little hells we have generated for ourselves. As Ofer and Salva had an early departure time this Sunday morning, they sorted and packed their gear last night by headlamp with Fanny Dranck’s help and I did the only thing I could to show them how much I enjoyed our time together, I made them Israeli coffee. I had watched intently as they prepared this heavenly brew for our group time and time again through the week and felt now was the proper time to test the skills I had acquired through their excellent tutelage. I’ll never know if it was “proper coffee” because Ofer, Salva and Fanny Dranck are far too kind but it held special significance for me. Today I fear I will suffer those same mixed emotions again and again as others depart and the torment is almost more than I can bear.
I know it sounds melodramatic but don’t be too eager to judge. I’ve traversed an awful lot of rough terrain before finally learning the value of comfortable shoes. My footgear of choice has always been tall, lace-up leather boots of one form or fashion ever since I can remember, even for Sunday Golf. I still alternate pairs daily but at least they are made by Rebok these days. That’s a big deal on my planet. Suffice to say this is going to be a tough day for a crusty curmudgeon who has spent a lifetime hiding from his emotions.
Sunday 7th morning:
Nocando is sleeping in a bit today and it looks like I may get a hall pass from the emotional tumult I fear so much. Hank wants to make a storage run to stow the cook gear, spare buggies and other sundries utilizing the new shelving system Hank and Mr. Dickel engineered several days ago. With the required bits loaded neatly on the trailer and Mr. Dickel’s cherished assortment of tools on board, we make for town. This time there seems to be an order and reason to the drill. Dog, Bazzer and the Dodd-ness are giving yeomen’s service to the task and perhaps more importantly, Hank seems to have a plan that works. Will wonders never cease? I feel this bodes well for the future of the “club” and its members. Right now it’s time to find a car wash and help Dog de-funk-ify the grill that’s still on the trailer. Scrub-a-dub-dub! Besides, I need some time to bond with Dog a little. He works so damn hard to make sure we all have a good time. Perhaps this is my opportunity to give back a little.
Done and done! Ofer’s and Salav’s gear are neatly stowed, there’s plenty of room for the Ramp and all the other buggies that need to find a home until next season, the Dodd-ness is dropping Dog at the airport and no one seems the worse for wear. Now all we have to do is rendezvous with Mr. Dickel to return his tools as he and RevFlyer are preparing to get on their way back east. But, it appears that is much easier said than done. Several phone calls later Hank, Bazzer and I find ourselves in traffic purgatory between Jean and Primm. After watching the lines of traffic headed for L.A. on Sunday so many times before, I suppose I should have followed Hank’s direction to just jump the median, double back to Jean and take our chances that the road past Roach was passible. But, I’ve grown quite fond of my little trailer of late and we still have bits to haul to storage so, here we sit… rotting in the sun… rolling along at a snail’s pace… wishing for tasty delights and teasing Hank’s tiny bladder to embarrass him in front of GAWD and everyone.
The winds are up but the Ramp is disassembled and the camps are dwindling and I’m an absolute mess on the inside, not even remotely interested in flogging the skies with rip-stop and dyneema. The Flexi Boys leaving about did me in, so much so that I resort to adult beverages shortly after that episode. Nocando made his way onto the playa but he looks like he’s had a rough go of it and Fanny Dranck just showed up in camp. Fanny has all the wide eyed enthusiasm for the game that I wish I could muster right now. Methinks it’s time to set him up with some proper gear and enjoy the show.
As I rummage through the dry box and ice chest for some snacky treats to gnaw on, the die-hards are making their last passes on what’s left of the breeze. Brian has been making preparations for the powerful blow that the weather guessers predict for tomorrow and the few remaining camps are breaking down their gear. It’s about to get really lonely around here, something I usually crave on my visits to this wonderland of peace and solace from the troubles of the world, but today, not so much.
Monday 8th way too early:
The weather guessers nailed it! It’s kickin’ like a two dollar mule out there and Hank just made me aware of a potential problem that needs to be addressed. Besides, this is the day we return the bits to storage and organize the locker while we’re at it. It’s certain to be a busy day so we might as well get to it… as soon as I can muster up nocando…
Monday late morning:
Having gathered up nocando from a sleep of dead, efficiently policed up the errant bits the winds have scattered about the playa, loaded up the Ramp bits and made our way to the locker without incident, it’s time to organize and stow things. This time Nocando, Phillip and Dodd-ness are working together like a well-oiled machine, Hank is executing his plan and improvising brilliantly and I am in awe of it all.
Done and done! The lads are on their way to catch their flights, the last rental RV is being turned in and nocando and I are having a snack before we venture back out onto the playa. The wind is rockin’ but all the way back from storage, we encountered isolated drizzle and the skies are looking mighty unfriendly at the moment. Perhaps it would be wise to bale up our kit soon, before things get ugly.
As we go about the business of loading the trailer, we stop occasionally to watch Brian make a pass in the Speed Buggy on a 7m Fury LEI and Steve, a local who has been day-tripping down all week from LV, is making treacherous two wheel passes on his Manta at break-neck speeds. Marty and his fuzzy little navigator, Buddy, who have been with us since the start at Red Lake, are throwing in the towel as the conditions become increasingly insane. We take note of Marty’s lead and redouble our efforts to load out the gear. And none too soon for just as we start policing up the shade, the last and most difficult bit to stow in these winds, a crack of thunder sounds and Gaia starts slingin’ pea sized hail stones at us with the force of a major league fastballer. AND THEN THE RAINS CAME… !
Within seconds the whole place is transformed into a skating rink as the once hard, abrasive surface becomes slimy mucilage. I grow ½ inch taller with each step I take as the goo accumulates on the soles of my boots. Looks like its Playa Soup for dinner, boys. As we mount up, Brian is still flogging the sky with that L.E.I., Marty is hooking up to his trailer and Steve has miraculously managed to break down and trailer his Manta in a matter of seconds. NASCAR crews could take lessons from this guy. Brian’s ground crew scan the horizon as his kite fades behind walls of water only to appear again. I’m truly concerned about Brian but I’m more concerned about becoming mired in this goo so we slowly make for the gravel edge and come about to look for Brian’s sail. It’s useless as now the wipers can barely keep up and things are getting uglier by the second. Suddenly there is Steve on our six, Marty is rolling too, albeit tentatively and I realize we’d best get off the playa before the entrance becomes impassible. We stay on the gravel up to the DWMA line and to the east of the pylons all the way out where our wheel tracks are faint at best. I’m honestly trying not to sling mud but it’s a lost cause. In spite of the mud flaps on the truck, the tires sling bits of goo and gravel all over which is laminating the gear on the trailer with the most hideous shade of pink snot. Oh, this is gonna suck out loud come “field day”. Ya know, every time I’ve been here it’s always been an adventure with an interesting twist of some sort. This one I can do without, thank you.
The rains begin to abate as we move further north and we are just about at the BloKart camp when Steve comes to an abrupt halt. His field expedient lashings have come undone. We stop and walk back to help but he has things well in hand. We look south for sign of Marty and fear he may have run afoul somewhere along the way but think it best to stay the course as the skies to the west are still looking foul and ominous. The last 500 feet, the entrance road is firm and only lightly damp. It appears the storm is concentrated over Coffee Bush. We pull into the Fashion Outlet parking lot and come about to watch for sign of the others. As we stand watch for Marty and Brian, nocando looks like a wet, beaten dog and one can clearly see the signs of fatigue and dejection on his face. Notwithstanding the savage throbbing in his melon, he is seeing his extra two or three days of playa play become a slimy mess and he is visibly saddened by it all. Steve is braving the drizzle as he starts to properly secure his gear for the trip home when his phone rings. It’s Marty, he and Buddy are nearing of BloKart camp and he reports he has spoken with Brian’s crew. Brian had to cut the Fury loose and abandon the Speed Buggy near the gas line as the surface became too slick to navigate but he is safely back at his trailer now. As we wait for Marty to make it to the hardstand, the weather continues to clear over Ivanpah but there are still signs of foul wetness to the west. Steve and Marty head for the casa, I drop nocando off for some much needed rest and head back to Coffee Bush to check on Brian.
By now the surface is as hard as ever but there is no dust and the surface of the road is clearly pock marked as the loose bits that filled a now immeasurable number of cavities have been scoured away by the winds. The ride is a bit rougher but nothing for concern. When I arrive at Coffee Brush, Brian and his ground crew are gathering their gear and formulating a plan to recover the Speed Buggy. Fortunately the Fury was chased down and rescued just before it encountered the brush line. Brian asks how difficult it is to drop my trailer. No sooner has he finished his query than the trailer is unlimbered and we set off toward the gas line. Nearly a mile from camp we find the craft, lash it to the tailgate and roll it back to shore. The skies are becoming more hospitable but the light is dying now and this is about all the excitement I want for one day. As Brian and his crew makes ready to head home, I bid them all farewell and head out toward a hot shower and clean linens.
Tuesday 9th morning:
Being in no particular rush today, nocando and I have a leisurely breakfast and ponder the possibilities. As I relay the experiences of late yesterday and the condition of the playa at that time, nocando seems encouraged that his previous assumption might be faulty, perhaps all is not lost after all. We decide to wander out onto the playa and have a look at the surface… after some more coffee. As we make our way to BloKart camp the surface looks pristine but when we stop for a closer examination the winds are very punchy and unsettling so we decide to carry on in hopes that it’s just a localize phenomenon. Just south of the DWMA line I feel my heart sink a bit. Where once the horizon was dotted with camps and kites and activity of all sorts there is nothingness. Oh the countless many times I have dreamt fondly of such a scene, today it seems unsettlingly sad. And the winds are no less twitchy and wicked here than above. We discuss and agree for two of our skill and ability, flying in such conditions would be madness and a recipe for disaster. I know the shade and other fabric bits on the trailer are bound to need a good shaking out, nocando has some errands to run in the Fashion Outlet and with any luck the winds will mellow as the remnants of this storm from clear out this afternoon. It’s decided then, we’ll give due diligence to other matters and try again in the afternoon.
As I tend to the gear and make a feeble effort to chip away the now crusty pinkish snot balls from the contents of the trailer, nocando returns from his foray into consumerism heaven with prizes for loved ones a world away. Just as we begin comparing notes our congress is interrupted by the whine of a rental car engine bumping the rev limited, the screech of tires pressed well beyond their friction limitations and the stench of tire smoke and burning brake linings. You guessed it! Hank is making an entrance… again… this time with the Dodd-ness as his navigator. At some point someone simply must pony up to send this silly man to driving school to get this crap out of his system or at least teach him how to do it properly. Jeeesh !!!
Dodd-ness is on the next plane eastbound out of McCarran and Hank is not far behind him. We chat and jeer and poke each other with stick as only true friends can do… and get away with it. As they have flights to catch, our time together is brief and soon handshakes and hugs are exchanged along with promises to do it all again next year. Then away they go leaving the foul stench of tire smoke in the air once again. Ya really gotta love these guys… otherwise ya’d shoot ‘em and leave ‘em for coyote bait.
Once the foul smoke clears, nocando and I continued to recount our deeds done and discussed dining options for lunch. As neither has sampled the cuisine of The Mad Geek (intentional misspelling, Mr. Editor, thank you very much) we decide to partake of said establishment.
It is said that an establishment is best judged by its clientele and in the case of eateries, utility trucks in the parking lot and the presence of workingmen with robust waistlines is usually a good measure. Both were absent on our arrival but then again, we were a bit early to the feed bag as it were. When in Rome… I would have the Gyro and a double espresso while nocando ordered up something I had never heard of and a cappuccino. As we waited for our feast to be prepared and gauge the winds as they toss the palm trees outside, I am more than pleased to see an entire fleet of Gas Line rigs and Boom Trucks filter into the parking lot where upon several portly gentlemen in work uniforms adorned with various logos and strikingly similar name patches sashayed through the doors. Suddenly the room filled with conversations.
“What are you gonna have, Bob ?”
“Well, I’m not real sure Bob, what are you gonna have ?”
I haven’t decided yet. How about you, Jim ? No, not you Jim. I already know what you’ll have. I meant the other Jim.”
Why I’m not sure either, Bob. I’ll just wait to see what the other Bob orders and maybe I’ll have of that too.”
This sort of mind numbing banter went on and on with each successive wave of Bobs and Jims until there was little space felt to breath much less eat in peace. It was maddening I tell ya, simply maddening but soon it would subside as orders where places and faces where stuffed with a seemingly endless array of culinary delights.
Nocando only makes it halfway through his selection before he pushes it aside. I on other hand find the gyro very much to my liking and the double espresso, while seemingly microscopic in portion, is tasty and served with a stir stick encrusted with rock candy, something I have not seen since my days in Deutschland and a very nice touch if I must say so… which I must. So, as determined by the counsel of one, The Mad Geek has earned a place on the list of eateries I would frequent in the thriving megalopolis of Primm, NV. sheerly for its entertainment value… but only if you like that sort of thing.
Seriously, it’s just gut wash. Wha-duh-ya expect ? Alice’s Restaurant in three part harmony and a Knish? Git-out-da-heeya…
It was time to investigate our options anyway so we were off to the playa to reconnoiter. We decided to roll down to Coffee Brush and work our way back up as needed this time. Much to our surprise, Steve has shown up and is scootin’ right along on two wheels in his freshly laundered double Manta. The winds are still a bit punchy but far better than before and Coffee Bush is not such a lonely place anymore. We decide to give it a go. Nocando is concerned about being overpowered by his racy 3.5m PL Viper-S in the gusts and I understand completely so I loan him my 2m Ozone Flow just to get out and try it. Soon he is off and rockin’ across the playa. I, on the other hand, have something else in mind as I had wanted to toy with buggying backward all week but never gotten around to it. Today seems like the perfect day to put up something smallish and just play for a change. After an hour or so the winds smooth out but increase instead of the decrease we have become accustom to. I have my hands full with the tiny Imp I’m playing with and know nocando must have his has full with that Flow out in the river without a harness. As I begin to pack my rig down my suspicions are confirmed as I see nocando out of the buggy and walking downwind briskly. Damn the bad luck! Steve comes zinging by and stops to tell me he checked on nocando and all is well but it’s howlin’ out there and it’s time for a tow line. Soon they both return and nocando is happy to pack his gear down and sit for a spell. We pass the afternoon in the lee of the trailer tail gate enjoying a beverage or three and watching Steve make pass after pass at blistering speeds up on two wheels the length of the lake bed. As dusk starts to creep in and the winds develop an icy bite, Steve decides to call it a day and we help him pack down the Manta.
Back at the hotel we have a nice meal and discussed tomorrow’s disposition as the forecast is lack luster at best. We decide to give it a shot in the morning and fail that we will hop on up to LV and Silver Bowl park to sort nocando’s gear Bar-B-Que some for the snackables in the ice chest, visit Kent’s shop and get him checked into his hotel as his flight is scheduled for early Thursday morning. A couple of cocktails and a few yarns later we call it a day.
The one time I want the weather guessers to be wrong they nail it to the wall with railroad spikes, those bastards! The winds are crap with a touch of crap and a small bowl of crap on the side. CRAP ! Looks like it’s off to Sin City for us.
When we arrive at Sam Boyd Park the scene is beautiful. The park is HUGE with lamp poles here and there but tons of room to fly and play and the breezes are shifty but completely manageable. The RC track is being pressed into service and the ubiquitous healthy specimen captures ones eye from time to time throughout the area. We get nocando’s gear dusted off and I have a fly on his Viper-S, a very nice piece, that. While he disassembles his buggy, I make some noshables and we watch RC car drag race through the parking lot at incredible speeds. We load up and stop by Kent’s shop to mail off some beer seedlings to Ray in Louisiana then off the secure nocando a room down the street from Hooter. I tell him they have some excellent wait staff there and he seems to believe me with earnest. (hehehehehe I’m kinda evil like that, ya know?) We say our goodbyes and I really don’t want to go but it’s a long drive back to Yuma and the day must draw to a close for us. I’m so glad we had some time to relax and just hang out before he leaves because he really is a kind and thoughtful soul.
Just a parting note on the hotel registration codes for Buffalo Bill’s. The Monday and Tuesday rate for me was $87 a night in the same room that cost me $30 and some change the week of our meeting in Primm. Numbers don’t lie and it was worth every penny to have a little extra time with my “other” family.
I know I’ve missed some of you in this missive and I don’t want you to feel slighted in the least. I’m getting old and my brain doesn’t work nearly as well as it once did so suffice to say I love you all and I promise, come hell or high water we WILL do this again next year… perhaps even Under a Mildy Amusing Moon.