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Day six. (95aug31)

The next morning, Scott and I both discover that we remembered our dreams. This is weird; I haven't remembered a dream I had in about three or four years. Scott also doesn't usually remember them. His dreams, not mine.
Scott: "I dreamt of winning 40,000 quarters..."
Jeff: "I dreamt of old machines, before computer chips existed...the really pretty mechanical do-jobbies..."
The sickness has begun. We trundle down to the Val-U complimentary breakfast buffet. I grab some orange juice from one of those automated orange juice dispensers.
Scott and I kick each other again for not bringing a tape recorder. We're on the road after strafing the Val-U complimentary breakfast buffet a few more times; a pathetic check-out time of 9:46am, but hey, our tummies are filled with donuts and such. Can't see if the McDonald's PlayPlace down the street has any slots.
Trip-tik: I-80 is a good route crossing mountainous desert country on grades and good alignment. Flat and boring, with slots.
There's a cloud on the horizon. It looks...wrong.
"Is that pollution, or a cloud?"
"It's a cloud."
[10 minutes later]
"It's pollution."
It might be a fire, it might be a strip-mining operation. The air is chalky. It smells like rotting summer squash [.53 SLI]. There are more rocks that have migrated to form English phrases, surely miracles in their own right.
We pass by the official Burning Man exit at 11:25; we'll be returning in a few days.
Maximum stay in this
rest area 18 hours
-- rest area sign
A standard rest room stop reveals a rich mine of graffiti: I've never seen the adjective "hotty hot" used in such a manner or at all.

We've just reached one of those horizon mountain ranges. Grass and mesh-fence covered rock comingle. The occasional one-wire telephone line crawls over the range. Mountains are rough bush-covered affairs. Scott takes pause at the sighting of a road sign.


Scott: "I guess so. I guess I could handle that, scientifically."

A big hello to Reno at 11:56am. The city is laid out like a grid, unless there were curving roads. It's details like these that put you RIGHT THERE on the 50-yard-line of our road trip adventure. We didn't stop in this time; I just took down some quick billboard notes as Scott barrelled through.
Careful! That quarter could be worth $1,600,000.
-- Casino billboard (hand inserting quarter into parking meter)

Lunch and Dinner
The Men's Club

Free dice instruction
Triple Diamond Progressive Slots
-- Nugget electronic billboard

Who says gaming isn't pretty
-- Peppermill billboard (w/woman)

As we leave Reno, it occurs to Scott that he hasn't spent 24 hours in any one place since New Jersey. We'll be staying at our next destination, San Francisco, for two nights, but first, we've got a border to cross and one more mountain range to conquer. The brakes start acting up, making noises, not really acting like brakes as such. We are concerned, but it's a rental!

CALIFORNIA: "The land of fruits and vegetables"
12:13pm PST

We immediately stop for the mandatory California Agricultural Inspection. Terrorist fruit is of prime concern to our West coast friends.

Inspector: "Any fruit or vegetables?"
Scott: "Just carrots."
Inspector: "Any plants?"
Scott: "Nope."
Inspector: "Thanks, guys."
Haha! We hid the squash in the glove compartment. During our continuous ascent and descent through the California hills and valleys, Scott notices something wrong with the brakes. The noise coming from the tires during braking manuevers is scary enough for both of us to ponder going to a mechanic before we ended up pitching over an embankment. Pondering, you understand, is a long way from action, which in this case would probably have been agreed upon in mid-air.
Welcome to Grass Valley,
the heart of the gold industry.
-- storeside sign
Our intermediate destination is Unnamed Business, where Shaun works. Shaun's been writing for X Magazine for about three years now, sometimes without our knowledge. We wander around the grounds in a daze. Two employees notice our SUV and our confusion.
"Hey, strangers from Michigan."
"Uhhhh, yeah!"
"Who are you looking for?"
"Shaun ..."
"Shaun? You mean he didn't tell you?"
We gently segue into a supposed Shaun-type tragedy as we traipse to his cube. Scott and I had formed similar mental pictures of what he would look like. "A short FBI agent with black hair addicted to Dep" was our common image. Shaun is about 6'5" with blonde hair. Oops. He shows us around the place; U.B. is involved with post-production TV work, designing the control boards TV stations use to create those saucy graphics you love so much. Shaun demonstrates a machine that enables him to manipulate a live TV signal (analog-to-digital-back-to-analog); this is no small feat. There are many, many buttons here.

We have Thai dinner with Shaun, his girlfriend Michelle, and their friend, Mike. The dinner was kind of eerie, because it felt like we were still moving. I mean, with 2000+ miles of inertia behind us, staying this long in one place feels abnormal. At the end of dinner, Scott almost calls me "Kathy," the name of his wife.

Jeff: "Uh-oh. I don't want to know. I'm taking a plane home."
We say our goodbyes to Shaun & Co., and head out on the road again. Everything's going by so fast now, I feel like we're shortchanging ourselves of actually experiencing things properly. We need to call someone to make sure we're all set for tonight.
Jeff: "There's a phone there in Safeway. With a booth..."
Scott: "That's a water dispenser!"
Jeff: "Oops. 'Hello? Aieeeee!'"
After finding a proper phone, I speak with Will, who lives in San Francisco. He'll be putting us up for the night, bless him. Will is an electrical engineer and Scott's former housemate who works insane hours. Just really, really freaking insane. He also makes insanely great waffles.
Incredible Universe
-- Sacramento mall sign

"Roll by the Oscar Mayer Weinermobile to see if your kid has what it takes -- "
-- California State Fair radio ad

We arrive at Will's at 11:00pm, making oddly quick time from Grass Valley. Will lives in a 3rd floor walk-up in the Soma (South of Market Street) district. As we're walking up to Will's apartment, a man down the street yells: "Ayy! Help! Ayyy! Help!" I wish people would be a little more specific, like "Help! Gun!" or "Help! Pants caught in door of moving car!" so you can ease your conscience about deciding whether or not to get involved. A woman in the first-floor apartment is cross-legged, doing the mantra thing. But really, really fast - "bow na na naa naa naa naaa" - sounds like techno breathing exercises.
"Ayy! Ayy!"
"Bow naa naa! naa naa naa..."
We move all of our equipment into his apartment (except for remnants of the sad, lonely CORRIDOR OF POWER). A half-hour later, he makes an announcement.
Will: "Well, I'm going to be heading in to work now..."
Jeff: "Uhhhh...what? It's midnight!"
Will: "I know, I know..."
While Will's gone, we watch "MISSION: IMPOSSIBLE" on cable TV. Why don't they make shows like this anymore? In this episode, the IM force creates a full-scale mock-up of a submarine to trick someone into revealing the number of a Swiss bank account. Greedy bastards.

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