I am 47-years old [Mike] and not once in my life, that I remember, have I ever screamed in uncontrolled terror. Not as a child, not as an adult. I did in Nevada this week.
Highway 50 has lived up to its expectation and is a very lonely and beautiful way across the center of Nevada. The road meanders through mountain passes and valleys one after another. And, the scenery is as stunning as it is desolate. In central Nevada, after the small town of Austin there are some hot springs out in the desert that are little more than GPS coordinates in the middle of nowhere. We followed the Garmin on dirt tracts running off towards the horizon away from highway 50. Ten miles later the GPS said we had arrived. We got off the bikes and saw nothing but crisscrossing dirt tracks through the scrub. We walked to the top of a small hill to get a bearing. Separated by about a tenth of a mile each were patches of green grass that stood out from the brown desert. We drove to a nearby green patch and low and behold a hot pool bubbled from the ground, the perfect size and depth for four or five people to soak.
We had arrived early in the afternoon when the wind was fierce and the heat was intense. It took two of us and all the stakes in the bag to get the tent up. We spent the remaining afternoon huddled in the shade of the tent out of the wind. We had made camp at the pool and had the place to ourselves. The overflow from the hot springs is what caused the small oases of green grass dotting the area.
So, back to the screaming and terror. Night in the high desert is very quiet after the sun goes down and the wind stops. Lying in our tent in complete darkness and silence was a little unnerving. Moths hitting the tent sounded like hailstones and mice in the brush sounded like much larger critters. Shannon fell asleep by 9pm (after our lengthy soak in the hot springs wearing only head lamps).
I was just drifting off myself around 10pm when I heard a vehicle engine many miles away. As I listened for the next ten minutes the vehicle got louder and eventually drove right past our camp. It kept going until I could no longer hear it. When all alone in the desert this kind of encounter can be unnerving (think Breaking Bad). I guess this drive-by put me on heightened awareness as I drifted off to sleep.
11pm and we were both asleep. A 300-pound wild animal walked up to our tent in the black of night and stood, nose to nylon, and verbally attacked…
HEE HAW, HEE HAW……
A wild donkey brayed at the tent door and I snapped awake from a deep sleep screaming uncontrollably in abject terror. I had no idea how loud a donkey can be when it is braying from three feet away. Mind you, it is also pitch black so hearing is in acute overdrive. I scared the donkey half to death and it trotted away into the night braying at me angrily. So much for the guard dog, Ducati never stirred and Shannon only awoke because I was screaming.
After I pulled myself together I went outside the tent with a headlamp to investigate. Shinning back at me from the distance were the eyes of donkeys standing in the brush. They hung around the area all night but gave the psychopath in the tent a wide berth. By morning they were gone and the terrors of the night were replaced by stunning sunrise over our lovely and lonely outpost.
We are currently camped at Bryce Canyon National Park in Utah taking a few days to stay in one spot. We were holed up for an entire night and half the next day in unrelenting rain accompanied by thunderstorms. We are now drying out in the sun and doing touristy things like hikes, email, and laundry.