Thursday July 15th
At eight am we were on the road again, destination – the Great Salt Lake. We were told that this lake was second only to the Dead Sea in terms of its salt content. Things like this are good to know when confronted with such an unimpressive sight. It was a grubby, dismal, barren place and the water smelt. I paddled a good half mile into the lake – Keyton's ever-hopeful gene – but the water failed to reach much higher than my knees. Maybe I should be grateful. Much higher and I could have walked out, my cojones dried and salted. I took one final look before boarding the bus. The shoreline swarmed with millions of tiny sand-flies, souls captured by Mormons in their great genealogical quest.
Then on to The Great Salt Desert where we lunched. I hate to use the phrase coming up now. My crit partners would shoot me dead on the spot. But this was awesome, and it was here I momentarily gambled with death. I just wanted to experience utter loneliness, to see what it might be like to get totally and irrevocably lost.
I walked out into the desert.
I walked a good mile, every so often looking back to see the bus, a rapidly diminishing speck. I walked on and on until that speck could barely be seen. And then finally the point was reached where the bus couldn’t be seen at all. Here I kicked a large arrow into the ground, pointing the way back and walked a few paces farther on. Then I spun round like some demented hippy, a dervish on speed, and as suddenly stopped. I looked round, scanning sky, the blistering whiteness and savoured the silence. I stayed until I felt the first trickle of fear and then set about locating my arrow. For a minute or two I panicked, walking faster and faster, wondering where the hell the bus was: And then the welcoming speck, and the promise of bourbon. I’d lived a western dream.
Back on the bus we played cards – Sweaty Betty if I remember – with a slug of bourbon for stakes. We were heading into gambling country.
On crossing the state line into Nevada we were all given a book of vouchers entitling us to free drinks and games in a nearby casino. A most gorgeous, raven haired woman controlled the Black Jack table. She operated without expression like a beautifully efficient automaton. I’d have married her on the spot. Instead I lost dollars on a crap game I never understood. It didn’t matter. It was enough just to watch her face and that little stick of hers moving chips across a long green board.
Wells Campsite was beautiful and lush. Greg, Gary, Roland and myself drove off-site to the nearby town of Wells to buy alcohol for our nightly punch.
Wells is a crossroads in the desert, the gateway to so much endeavour and tragedy in the old west. Times change. Now there was a whole coach-load of Jewish folk in the liquor store – all from New York. Provisions bought we whiled away an hour in a small casino bar where I drank and Greg, with more experience, gambled.