elko, the heart of darkness


Our bedside clock started honking loudly at 3:30 this morning. I keep trying to get Dan to allow me to throw it away, but he’s strangely enamored with it. I got it in my sophomore year in college, and perhaps he admires it’s refusal to do the decent thing and simply fall apart.

After showers, we were somewhat more awake, and on our way. We picked up three Marin riders in Larkspur; Dolores, Laura, and Megan. They, along with their several hundred pounds of luggage, bells, drums, and other activist paraphernalia, piled into the car, with Megan (the thinnest of the bunch) squeezing in between the door and a mountain of luggage that threatened to topple and crush her.

We got to the Oakland Macarthur BART stop at 5:30am, and then milled around for a while taking pictures and being enthusiastic about same-sex marriage. A BART cop came along and told me I had to move my bus, which seemed unfair as he didn’t tell the larger bus to move. In any case, move it I did, and then we milled about some more. At 6:30 a politician appeared and gave us a proclamation, and everyone applauded. I guess this is now official Marriage Equality Express Caravan Week in Oakland. It’s not too late to organize a block party!


Dan and I were giving an interview to Channel 5 News outside of the Big Bus. (I hear from our neighbors that I totally dominated the news report, probably because the reporter slept in and Dan and I were the only people outside the bus.) While we were being interviewed, the reporter asked the stinging question “Hey, isn’t that your bus pulling away?” Indeed it was, and Dan and I raced to Francis to catch up. We lost the rest of the group at the first light, however.

I’m driving my VW Vanagon camper Francis because

  • I get car sick in busses, and
  • I really like driving.

After today, however, I’m worried that I may have made a strategic blunder. Boss-lady Davina has set a grueling schedule, and I’m having trouble keeping up with the Big Bus, which apparently cruises along happily at almost 80 MPH. Uphill.

We finally caught up with the rest of the Equality Express in Sacramento. We sang and chanted, and speeches were given. An appreciative crowd of perhaps 100 local folks cheered and signed our protest letter to President Bush, asking him to not fuck with the U.S. Constitution. Then we sang and chanted some more, and everyone got on the bus. I mean, it was more substantive than that, and there were some really emotional moments, but I’m too tired right now to get into it. You’ll have to trust me.

Our second stop of the day was Reno, and thanks to the Sierra Nevada being really high, Dan and I got there about 10 minutes after everyone else. We joined the pack of riders just in time to give our speeches. Dan talked about fighting for understanding in his family, and I spoke about the incredibly positive reaction from the guests at our wedding. It was a bad news/good news sort of speech.

But the surreal part of it all was that we were talking not to a supportive, cheering crowd but to a handful of bored-looking reporters, several of whom were involved in conversations on their cell phones and with one another. When I was using the megaphone, I wanted to ask them to please pay attention. Instead I pretended I was speaking to a rapt audience. My eyes scanned the crowd catching one tearful eye after another. My imaginary audience was silent with rage at the injustice I was describing! I rocked Reno!

Then we chanted and sung and chanted, and then we got on the bus again. And once again, I fell quickly behind, shamed by the power of a really big diesel engine.

From Reno to Elko, Megan rode with me. Interstate 80 through Nevada is one of the most intensely soul-deadening pieces of asphalt in the world. Megan started out oohing and ahhing and taking pictures of clouds, but 3 hours later she just wanted to pee. (This problem was addressed in Winnemucca, whose funny name is the sole highlite of the trip.) We pulled into Elko 40 minutes behind schedule, but just in time to join the group at a casino buffet!

I never fail to be amazed that people would actually come to Nevada to have fun. The flashing lights everywhere give me a headache, people smoke like it’s 1950, and there is not even the slightest bow to good taste. And while Los Vegas has managed to lure a few respectable restaurants, that sure ain’t the case for Elko, Nevada, tonight’s stop.

Our dinner consisted of a buffet that was mostly mush drenched in butter. The roast beast tasted off. I ate a couple of pieces of fried chicken, but I should have emulated the smarter (and thinner) Caravanners who went right for the salad bar.

It’s been a long, long day. 509 miles at an average speed of 59 MPH, and a total driving time of almost 9 hours. I drove the entire thing myself, which was another mistake. (Tomorrow I’ll let Dan drive at least half of the time.)

I’m tired, and I guess a little grumpy. I’m going to curl up with a good book (called Lost in a Good Book) and try to get some sleep.

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