Well, okay, I guess it belongs in here too...
I-80 west, Utah: flat. straight. plain. hot.
No towns, no signs, no hills, no rivers, no trees. No curves in the road. Few other cars. Flat land as far as I can see, some scrub, scattered rocks. An occasional car in the opposite direction. Hours at 85mph with a featureless landscape, watching the oil temperature, and the sun beating down...
Up ahead, Nevada: two large hills on either side of the road, or maybe very small mountains, the road leads through a pass in between them, rain clowds hovering above their crowns. The gateway to Nevada. wham the shade descends. It's still bright but it feels dark, and cool. raindrops. oil temperature back to normal. and out the other side.
Nevada is colored in yellow and brown and black and orange and gray and blue.
Not just the mountains, the sky too - I can't make sense of what I'm seeing.
Gas running low - I probably have a little over 50 miles left on this tank. 50 miles pass with no exits. I get off at a small town with strip malls and several gas stations, fill up the tank, and make a phone call. Someone behind me calls my name, questioningly. I haven't seen him for years. He used to live in Boston, now he's moving, with his wife, from LA to Chicago, and stopped here for gas. He hands me the key to the mystery of the sky: there are brush fires to the west.
Back on the road. In the distance, the land is glowing orange, a vast expanse, hiding between mountains. With each long slow curve I expect to see the fire closer, but the mountains are tricky, there's always another one. Later, the big smoke clouds behind me, smaller fires appear scattered and close enough to see. They're tiny in comparison to the elusive glowing expanse I passed earlier.
At dusk, the fires on the ground and the sky above match each other for brightness, and the smoke columns match the ground. Up ahead, the Burns Brothers travel stop, with a big neon sign. The visual pun compelled me to stop again, to capture it.
Dusk had obscured the person sitting on the side of the road. I stopped close enough that he thought I had stopped for him, but I hadn't seen him. Leaning on my car, photographing the Burns Brothers sign with the desert burning behind it, I turned and saw a dark shape striding towards me. But the dark shape had a guitar strapped to its back, signalling cultural compatibility and lack of danger. Do psycho robber hitch-hikers ever carry guitars on their backs?
He had set out from Colorado that morning, just as I had. He had driven through the flatlands of Utah, under the beating sun. Through the gate, and past the fires, to the Burns Brothers travel stop. There, he stopped, and his car burned. He went inside to buy some snacks, and when he came back out, his car was in flames. So he waited by the side of the highway, for someone to pick him up.
He spent several hours in my car, heading west. His musical hero was Bob Dylan, and I had a live recording of Dan Bern that ceecee had given me - one new Dan Bern fan! Next, live moxy früous from WBRS. Eventually we reached Truckee CA, where I dropped him off to meet a friend and go to Lake Tahoe for Reggae on the River.
Perhaps I should have joined him - it was tempting. Instead I continued on to San Jose. But, later that week, I did see Burning Spear perform in Santa Cruz, and Alpha Blondy in San Francisco, with Majek Fashek and Boukman Eksperyans.