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Day eleven. (95sep05)

There's lots of nickel slots in Elko. Reno didn't seem to have as many. Elko is good. Scott and I stop in at Gold Country Inn for some hearty gold country slot and blackjack action. NEVADA NICKELS! My two dollars gets chewed up mightily. Scott, who has been playing regulation casino-type Blackjack since he was seven years old, immediately loses $20.
"Ah...so that's how it's done."
It didn't help that the guy playing along with him kept hitting fifteen when the dealer had a six showing.

Just before we leave, Scott and I chunk out a quarter each to four slot machines, and ended up cashing out with seventy-five cents.

down $43.10
Our shopping extravaganza that morning finds us buying tons of tasty snacks, in direct counter to our "eat healthy" manifesto/pipedream. It's a quick jog to the gas station across the street. While Scott's filling up the Exploder, I sneak off and run to the Red Lion Casino, put a dollar in the slot machine right at the front door, lose, and run back, cutting through the service station building. He doesn't suspect a thing. Gambling is a sickness, and I want to be ill. It's a good thing there's nothing like this local to me, like in the Detroit-Windsor area.
down $44.10
Out on I-80 again, our candy cane is windsurfing. It's making scary noises between 55-65 mph and at 71-74 mph. Scott flips a quarter to determine if we're going to stop at Wendover, the town at the Eastern border of Nevada. Of...COURSE we are! YES! This time, however, we've got a (clenched teeth, spitting) SYSTEM.

START: create two buckets, one labelled "wins," one labelled "gambling." Put all the money you want to play in the "gambling" bucket. Duh.

LOOP: 1 coin, 1 coin, 2 coins, 2 coins, 3 coins until WIN or BROKE; do not cash out.

WIN? Go back to Loop.

BROKE? You're a big loser.

When you've gone through entire bucket: cash out. Put 1/2 in wins bucket, 1/2 in gambling bucket. Switch people/machines (for those of you who happen to be pooling your money betwixt two people). Use gambling bucket; do not touch wins bucket.

You think we're joking around, doncha? Go to your local bookstore, and find the gambling section. There are entire BOOKS about gambling. "The Secrets On How To Beat The Slot Machines, Handily." "Riverboat Gambling." "How To Beat Those Damned Slot Machines When You're Completely Plastered On A Creaky Riverboat." "The Secrets On Using A Slot Machine As A Handy Flotation Device." Most of the text for slot machine-beating books reads like this: "1 1 2 2 3 3 2 1 2 1 2...," as if the amount of coins you drop in really matters. The real secret is that slot machines, like any other form of gambling, require MONEY MANAGEMENT. Not skill, or a system, for that matter. Anyway, we're not in Wendover yet. First, the windshield has to be cracked.
Windshield: "SCHMECK!"
Jeff & Scott: "HUH? Uh...oh shit."
The truck in front of us threw up a rock, leaving a nice quarter-size crack in the windshield. There's pleasant, casual discussion on What To Do About This New Development for the next ten miles. Smooth criminals, we are. We decide to get it the crack filled just before we turn in the SUV and hope for the best. "Uhhh, it was there when we got it! Aliens! Moles! Alien moles!"

We arrive in Wendover with a total of seven dollars ready to be devoted to gambling. Big spenders, we are. Two bucks from each of us, and three dollars from our community SUV kitty.

The Silver Smith Casino/State Line Hotel sits on top of the Nevada/Utah border. The entrance to the Silver Smith Casino has a small sign on the door. "No cameras allowed."

Cameras aren't allowed in casinos. At all. There are people here who really don't want to be photographed, if you get my drift. Please put away the camera, sir. Thank you. Freshen your drink?
While Scott's getting change, I spot a stamped/addressed postcard on top of the change machine. No one's around...quickly pocket, analyze later.

Scott's first up on our last slot machine run this trip. We're going with the quarter slots to speed things up. His machine, "Double Cherries," gives us a quick $20 win. Hey! We don't have time for this "winning" nonsense. Two elderly MX Missiles are watching us perform the predescribed Money Management section of Dr. Scott's patented Win Your Ass Off Elixir.

Scott: "Okay, this cup is the bank, and your cup is for gambling."
Jeff: "Okay."
Old lady (to other): "Ooh, they're smart."
My machine, "Stars & Bars," lets loose with 29 big ole' quarters. Switch. Scott's on the wheels of steel, "Midas Touch," a machine created by Universal. Universal? Remember those crappy little colored-plastic overlay video games from the 70's like "Space Panic" with the comically inept joysticks? That Universal. "Mr. Do"? Universal. Twenty years later, we're still giving them our damn quarters. Total zero. Switch, with one quarter left. "Blazing Sevens" gets me a big blazing nothing. We walk out with $19.25. If you plan to do some gambling in the future, study that last sentence. Especially the "walk out with" part. That's the key to Dr. Scott's Patented, Sure-Fire Gambling Salve & Tonic.
down $31.35
IF I hadn't played Roulette, and Scott hadn't played Blackjack, we would have raked it in, my friends.

UTAH: "HAPPY HOUR: 3pm-4pm, JULY 12th, 1997"
2:06 PST->3:06pm MST

We cross the street into Utah for lunch at a small park, next to the State Line Hotel. No more gambling. We examine the postcard.

Dear Bill & Jackie,

We are camped by a beautiful bubbling stream that flows into a cascading river here near Salt Lake City. Our Colorado adventure includes Rocky Mountain National Park and a drive through Denver - Boulder. Tomorrow it will be Elko, Nevada and Wednesday night Reno. This weekend we have our craft stand routine at Honey Bear Ranch. It's Quillows & Bird house time!

See you soon, B & K
PS. Colorado - beautiful!

So, of course, I had to write something on it. I mean, really. What would you do? I almost went to the trouble of getting another postcard, putting postage on it, aping the writing style and writing something totally warped, but hey, I'm on vacation. This job requires a big fun day-glo pink pen.
You know, I don't anything about quillows and bird houses, but we just popped twenty clams out of an ole' Wendover one-armed bandit. We're feeling pretty good.

Have safe sex,
J & S

Scott and I discuss plans for the ultimate slot machine. Slot machines with built-in jukeboxes. Slot machines with juice bars ... vending machines...pay phones. The vending/slot machine idea is really quite evil, because it WOULD work. Nevada would become a state of lethargic blobs with a handshake grip that could choke a horse. I'm going to call Universal when I get home.

Now we're coming up on the Bonneville Salt Flats. Hey, this is a re-run! Maybe, one day, with an agressive training agenda, Scott can beat the world's land speed record. But not now. Failure is familiar to everyone, and each of us deals with it in our own way. I can read the disappointment and pain on Scott's face as he stuffs it full of BBQ potato chips. Perhaps, as his coach, I was the one that failed. But I can't think that way. "It must be him...I mean, I wasn't the one running." I'm sure all coaches must feel this way sometime.

There's some type of tarring operation ocurring on the road ahead. Wisely, the signs direct us onto the freshly-tarred side. We're now coating our wheels with fresh, hot tar. It takes each car in our little convoy about a mile before they move onto the correct side, us included. We're so...trained.

"This can't be right."
"Why would the signs be wrong?"
SUV: "glub glub glub glub glub glub..."
"Sign's wrong."
While we're rolling off the tar, Scott and I have our first (and hopefully last) five minute discourse on Superman's recently diminished powers. I actually read about three different comic books; the rest of the rack looks like a big blur of guys and gals in tights. I am not familiar with Mr. Man's current comical exploits, and I am having a hard time believing this conversation actually took place. There's been a palatable difference between the journey to Burning Man and the return trip. On the way there, we would eat healthy stuff, do the night life thing (to the extent that we could), stop the SUV and roll all around the ground trying to get the best Kodak Moments possible, and discuss metaphysical crap like the Origin of the Universe (our best guess: September 1923), What It All Means (nothing), and Our Place In It (Wall Drug). On the way back, we're cramming junk food into our guts as fast as we can, staying in to watch MISSION: IMPOSSIBLE, taking pictures from inside the SUV, and talking about comic books.
 Don't  adopt-a-highway
 Waste  patrolled by
 Utah   ICBM TEST UNIT (I-80)
  -- road sign
Institute of TERROR
-- building sign within Salt Lake City
The candy cane is making more noise. Starting with Salt Lake City, I start picking up newspapers to capture the local flavor of small towns I really don't give a shit about.
Scott: "Read me Fox Trot!"
Jeff: "Okay..."
[I describe the panels as best I can.]
Jeff: "How about the wily antics of that darn Family Circus?"
Scott: "Okay."
Jeffy: "Alrightee...Billy's in class...and he's whispering to another two classmates while the teacher's writing on the blackboard. 'I'm back from summer vacation, but my mind won't be back for a few weeks.' So, obviously, Billy's getting older, because he's now conscious of his own mind."
Scott: "1995: Billy becomes self-aware."
A routine stop at a Utah rest area reveals that this routine Utah rest area stop sucks. The phone's broke, the place smells, and the metal urinal is ergonomically designed to return as much liquid as possible to YOU! Recycle THIS!

WYOMING: "Stay awhile...stay FOREVER"
6:25pm MST

Our crossing into Wyoming brings with it a strange road sign.

And there's the gates that are used to stop traffic from proceeding on I-80. What's...up with that? Snow? As if that wasn't puzzling enough, now we're scratching our brains on this suite of "Little America" billboards. Little America is the only thing on the Little America exit here in Wyoming. It's a chain of...truck stops? Gas stations? Small towns? All the buildings in Little America are little cute antique colonial things, with weathervanes and such. Trees surround the complex, so you can't get a good eye in. But the billboards ... the first few read like sexual innuendo.
Come clean.
(free showers at Little America.)
Scott and I are getting spooked. Then, right before the Little America exit, a billboard with a smiling Average American Family builds our fears into sheer terror.
We'll be expecting you.
Little America...it's the Village! Who are you? The new pump number two, who was pump number one. You are pump number six!

Back across the Continental divide. More incredible geographic nuttiness; this time it splits into two, so we'll be crossing it one more time on the way back. This confuses me. Scott is thinking ahead to our destination for the night, Laramie.

Scott: "Yeah, we'll end up in Laramie about 11:30 ... just in time."
Jeff: "In time for what? Oh."
In time for MISSION: IMPOSSIBLE, that's what. Scott begins flicking the lock/unlock button repeatedly.
"Hey! Look at the voltmeter!"
It's doing a little dance for us. So is an approaching thunderstorm.
"Boik! Boik!"
Scott stops at a Texaco ("Star of the Amercian Road") in Rawlins. There's awful country music (yeah yeah, what other kind is there) piped outside and in. We shop around for a windshield repair kit. Here's Mudflap Girl. Hey, what gives with the articulated nipples? Did she always have these nipples? Are there nippleless Mudflap Girl variations? Nipples...

On the road to Laramie, we're being pursued by Jesus Trucker, an eighteen wheeler with a glowing cross on the radiator grill. Confess your sins now or be run over by JESUS TRUCKER. Just fifty miles from Laramie, a policeman gets on the freeway just before us, causing Scott to slow down considerably.

Scott: "This cop's going to make me miss MISSION: IMPOSSIBLE!"
Jeff: "Boik!"
Laramie's Best Western Gas Lite (Lite?) is our sleepover stop, since the other two motels we visited wouldn't answer the door. "Open up! We've got a CORRIDOR OF POWER, and we're not afraid to use it!" During our now-nightly MISSION: IMPOSSIBLE ritual, we were inundated with commercials for a contest involving the F/X morning show. Interspersed within the ad were flat little bon-mots ("Yay. Yippee.") by the show's puppet co-host, "Bob." First, annoying. Then, comforting, like being tucked into bed every night by a lifeless droning scumbag piece of felt. This Best Western also has a small amenity for us, a "GUEST TOWEL."
With our compliments...
use this towel to clean your shoes, luggage, windshield, razor or just about anything.
Wow! It's like a REGULAR PAPER TOWEL, except it has this wonderful message! Perhaps Scott and I will have to fight over it! I'm truly flattered by Best Western's thoughtfulness as I stuff real, fluffy bath towels into my luggage bag while the TV desperately tries to descramble/blare HBO's T&A feature for the night, Nude Vampires.

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