Americaphiles

The Story Of My Fucking Life

Twenty

Posted by ilbebe on December 24, 2008

West Wendover, Nevada, Friday, June 28, 2002. We pulled into town for the Ratfink Weekender in the stankiest new Ford F-150 west of the Mississippi around five and got a room at a motel adjoining The Peppermill, the fanciest hotel/casino in town, for the two-adult rate. Me and Jeremy waited in the truck. We got up to our room and were delighted to discover a little league baseball game occuring in the field behind our hotel, and better still, the hotel was shitty enough that it had windows you could open!

We had Souther Comfort left over from the night before, so we mixed up SoCo and Cokes, yelled insults at ten year-olds, and within twenty mintues, we had to call the front desk for a plunger. Essentially, this was the trip where my friends and I perfected the art of making a place STINKY.

After the SoCo ran out, we went to McDonald’s for dinner. Casey refused to eat on the basis of both principal and a desire to live past the age of forty, a decision that seemed noble at the time. Unfortunately, West Wendover proved to be a town where noble postures quickly faltered. We went to the ballroom where the opening night festivities were being held and quickly upped the count of festival attendees from zero to four. There were about twenty-five vedors, sure, but what the fuck? No one else wanted dollar Bud drafts? It became clear the following day that West Wendover existed solely as a highway rest stop and as the nearest Nevada gambling and debauchery escape for Salt Lake City and the rest of northern Utah, which would have good to know at the beginning of our time there…

The traditional rockabilly band was really good, and they obliged us with the first four bars of Back in Black when we refused to stop requesting it between songs. An hour later, we’d had about six rounds of beers for a grand total of thirty bucks, tip included, and we were ready to go get our free drink from the main casino bar. The bartender laughed at our request for Long Islands, so we settled for whiskey sours, and the events that followed are somewhat blurry, oddly enough. I remember playing blackjack for a long time and holding firm around even, and Shawn coming around at some point with a cup full of quarters that he was rather proud of. Casey and Jeremy had helped the band move some of their equipment back to their room via the guest elevators, and at some point we all headed out to see what else the night had to offer us.

West Wendover, Nevada is across the state line from Wendover, Utah, and I believe we headed back into Utah on foot because I was interested in a restaurant that advertised both tacos and hot dogs, but it was closed. Walking back, I got caught in a deluge of sprinklers that came on with out warning and was so drenched by the time I fought my way back to the sidewalk that I took my shirt off and started waving it around to ward off evil spririts and/or the masses of mosquitos that were menacing us. This distraction is what allowed me to walk at full speed into a street sign and put a satisfying gash in the top of my hea which I had no interest in treating right away.

I recall wandering around casinos some more after the fellas convinced me to put my shirt back on, and Casey split off to eat some humble pie at the McDonalds he had shunned earlier. Somehow I wound up naked under a comforter in the corner of our room, drfting towards sleep while listening to Casey get back in line with his principles by putting the twenty-piece McNugget meal he’d recently eaten back into the West Wendover septic system that it surely must have sprung from.

The next morning, Jeremy and I awoke around eleven and went out to search for Casey and Shawn. The second appealing component of the Ratfink Weekender was a drag race open to all contestants and all vehicles, and Casey had informed us that it was being held out on the Bonneville salt flats, five miles east of West Wendover back in Utah. We drove out to the end of the paved road at the appropriate exit and saw nothing but a big wooden sign explaining the geological events that had created the salt flats eons ago. Strange, I thought, and Jeremy and I decided to go driving around out on the salt to look for the races.

If you’ve never driven on the shining, barren, and seemingly endless expanse of land that is a salt flat, I highly recommend it. We were driving ninety, and with no visual reference points for miles around, I had no idea we were going faster than thirty. Ten minutes later, we hadn’t seen a trace of the drag races, and found ourselves miles from the paved road where we’d entered the salt. I-80 was only about a mile away, however, so it seemed prudent to just hop back on the freeway and head back into town to do some reconnaissance.

Our bright idea was ruined by finding the only fucking soft spot for miles around and sinking the back tires of the truck into the salt about twenty feet from the freeway. One of the several very frustrated attempts to get the truck out involved putting a briefcase under the power tire, and when that failed we hitchhiked back into town with a guy who said “Oh yeah, been there…” He also regaled us with several tales of having to pawn things in order to keep gambling, which gave us a clearer sense of how much crappier Reno could be if only it was closer to Utah…

We got to the hotel that was running a shuttle to the races and were unsurprised that the desk clerk had no idea where the shuttle would take us. The races turned out to be at the abandoned airstrip south of town, where we collected Casey and Shawn and rode the shuttle back to the hotel to consider our options. After discovering that Casey’s AAA coverage didn’t cover bonehead moves like getting your shit stuck in a salt flat, we called for a tow truck, and Casey and Shawn told us the tale of their morning:

They had gone to the hotel that the shuttle was running from around eight and encountered the same unhelpful desk clerk who at that earlier hour couldn’t even confirm that any such shuttle was running, as he was entirely unaware of the Weekender event his hotel was hosting. They elected to take a cab out to the salt flats, and the cab driver seemed totally unnerved by their stated destination. He glanced worriedly into the rearview mirror during the ten minute drive out there, and seemed on the verge of confusion-induced nausea when Casey and Shawn smiled and paid him as he dropped them off in the middle of virtually nowhere as the summer sun continued its merciless mid-morning ascent.

It took them less than half an hour to realize they were fucked, and sulked around the wooden sign at the end of the road, vainly waiting for a car to come and rescue them. After an hour, they started walking back to town, pausing only for Shawn to carve THIS IS WHERE I DIED into the salt with his empty water bottle. Roughly an hour later a car came and drove them back into town, making the tragic ellipsis of our stories that they had only been at the races for less than an hour when Jeremy and I jumped out of the shuttle van yelling We’ve Gotta Get Out Of Here!…

Back in front of the hotel, dehydrated and furious, Jeremy explained the deeply troubling revenge concept known as Glass Rod Theory, I  visited the Arby’s across the street and won five bucks on a nickel slot machine,and finally the tow truck came. An hour and two hundred dollars later, we were back on the road, heading home. The air in the truck was icy though the temperature outside was over a hundred, and conversation was kept to a bare minimum until we reached Battle Mountain, where the purchase of eighty dollars worth of fireworks made us optimistic about life again. Later that day, after an erroneous double-tip at a Denny’s in Sparks, I scattered a huge stack of tourist magazines around the parking lot and Jeremy ran over the curb fleeing the scene, which further helped reassure us that we were in control of our destinies again.

The four of us still have trouble referring to Wendover without prefacing it with the modifier ‘Fucking’.

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