It took us a day and a half just to pack the van. Barry had bolted additional 2-by-4’s onto the roof rack, and while I sorted and packed clothes and food and toys and cmping gear, he was strapping a room-sized piece of carpet, our mizzen sail, and a collection of conduit and PVC on the top.
Then we carefully went through the boat, stowing our fiberglass tools and boatyard-skanky clothes and our dorm-sized refrigerator inside. We removed all loose items from the deck and the area around our jackstands, set off a bug bomb inside to eradicate the palmetto bugs, and locked the companionway. The last thing we did was take down the ladder.
And then I turned the key, and the Squid Wagon did not start.
How is it that an inanimate object, a simple dumb non-sentient vehicle, can know that we are about to ask it to drive 6000 miles? Whoever heard of a lazy van?
But Squidley knew that we were about to head on a cross-country road trip, and instead of a giant diesel-sized roar, there was just a tiny whimper.
Luckily, Kenny Bock keeps a portable charger for such emergencies, which probably occur every few days around boats. We got the van started, I got hugs from all my favorite guys in the yard (that’s Randy, Larry, and Dale) and we headed west.
In truth, we’d simply run the batteries down with the dome lights while doing all that packing. Once Squidley realized that we really were heading all the way to Nevada with a deconstructed port-a-potty strapped on top, he decided to cooperate.
As I write this, we’re driving across Utah on I-80. The sunshine on the Great Salt Lake is achingly beautiful, and there are many sailboats out there.
The sails don’t tempt us at all. We continue on, away from the water and toward the Nevada desert.
Our first encounter with other pilgrims was in the middle of Nebraska, in a Cabela’s parking lot. When we came out, we found a note on our windshield: “We shall see you at the gates of heaven.” It was in response to one we’d left on a New York van on our way into the store: “See you at home!” We never actually saw them, only their vehicle, which featured mountain bikes and (the dead giveaway) a large Burning Man logo.
Our next encounter was on I-80, somewhere in Wyoming. At the Squid Wagon’s usual 60 mph, we rarely pass anyone, but some Burners travel even slower, laden with art and gas cans and misshapen trailers of curious gear. Last night, we honked and waved as we slowly passed a converted shool bus with dozens of hula-hoops strapped to the back.
We’re all excited and happy to be going to Black Rock City, that amazing temporary city of 50,000 people, where Burning Man is held. We come from all over the world, from Australia and Scotland and New York and San Francisco and Seattle and, of course, North Carolina. We bring art and costumes and food and drink to share, and we bring a spirit of freedom and generosity not found anywhere else in the world.
As usual, our voyage across the country to this amazing event included a lot of stops along the way. We started with my brother in North Carolina, then detoured to Ohio to see a whole passel of friends, siblings, in-laws, and nephews. This was followed by a stop with my aunts, where we stayed in a convent crammed into a twin bed (there’s no reason for a double bed in a convent, evidently).
Best of all was the shopping, which started during a rendezvous with Margaret’s Dad in South Carolina and ended during a rendezvous with Barry’s Mom and Dad in Nevada. The list included Lucite platform shoes, pink knee-high boots, inflatable aliens, and 8 packages of tofu. We’ll have to write more about that — and the port-a-potty on our roof, and the original Tin Roof Sundae, and the tag-team oil change — later, when we emerge from our week-long communications blackout.
Through it all, Squidley has started each day with a giant roar and that diesel rumble that sounds like a UPS truck. I think that van has a sense of humor, and has been laughing at us all the way across the country.