Fri Dec 7th, 2007 at 03:10:15 PM EST
So I'm just going about my business the other week, getting ready for Thanksgiving and my then-pending trip to LA, when I get a call from a friend of mine who's going through a bit of a personal crisis. Next thing I know, I'm changing plane tickets and sitting on a cattle ranch in the high desert of northern Nevada.
I don't want to be misleading and keep you in suspense, as though there'll be an actual story here, so I'll say upfront that my friend's crisis was gotten through with a minimum of fuss and that things are fine now. I just wanted to explain why I suddenly found myself at a cattle ranch and show you some pictures.
Some of you know I lived in Nevada for awhile a couple of decades ago, which is how I made friends with the ranchers in the first place. I hadn't been back there in 9 years and, while it would've been preferable to visit for visiting's sake, it was still good to return.
When I left Seattle, it was foggy and drizzling, the whole place extravagant with moisture.
I don't much care for the desert, but I'd forgotten how peaceful it was. The first things that hit you are the dryness and the lack of color. It seems barren. The nearest airport is Reno, not a big city, and the isolation and desolation of the place are immediately apparent.
But the desert has its own sort of beauty -- the wide-open spaces are soothing somehow, the sky ever-changing, beguiling you into its rhythms. After awhile, you realize there are colors, usually subtle.
You adjust, almost relax, into them. If you stay long enough, you start to feel visually assaulted in other more gaudily-colored places, almost a sensory overload. You start to appreciate the texture of light.
We finally arrive at the ranch
The dogs seem happy to see me.
In this part of the desert, the elevation is over 3000 feet and it's really cold in the winter. Every morning we had to toss the ice out of the dogs' water dishes.
And, yes, I was actually up at sunrise a couple of times.
To add insult to injury, the moon was just setting.
The first night, I was in my room talking low on the phone so as not to wake anyone. Suddenly, there was a horribly loud noise which almost gave both me and my LA friend heart failure. I suspect it was this handsome fellow, who strolled past my window quite frequently.
We also went into the town while I was there, but it's not much less isolated than the ranch.
In California, a lot of places have signs which say "No shirt, no shoes, no service." In Nevada, it's a bit different.
Everywhere in Nevada has gambling and I was delighted/horrified to note that the ATM machines not only give you the option of withdrawing money when you're past your account limit, but they also have handy withdrawal options starting at $200 and going up to $3000.
We had breakfast at a wonderfully run-down eatery with delicious food.
I was especially enamored of the pie and cookie displays, complete with Christmas decorations.
But the cook was suspicious. He came out and asked "where you folks from? why you taking so many pictures?" He was quite a character and had hardly any teeth, so after informing him I was from "out of town," I asked if I could take his picture. He was very cooperative and looks almost sweet, although you can see he kept his lips closed.
But all good things must end, so I said my teary farewells to my friends and to the dogs and cows.
Of course, there was one last chance to gamble at the airport. And also at the gate, just in case.
Then it was off to Los Angeles in one of those planes with propellers -- a very bumpy ride -- but as nice as my visit was, I'm glad to be in the city again.