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It was going to end tonight, I decided.* We had only to cross over Utah and Nevada to reach California, a journey of 800 miles, 14 hours. Tonight I would sleep in California. Even if it meant driving all night.
Emily demurred. Why didn’t we just do the reasonable thing? Why not stop somewhere in Nevada? But even she knew that Nevada was a debased and befouled place. It was unworthy of us. I resolved, in secret, to take the initiative and soldier into California that very night, reason be damned.
We stopped in Provo, land of sporty Mormons in fleeces and ski jackets, for bad tex mex. We passed SLC, with its smelly lake. O’er the Great Salt Lake Desert — a vast and terrifying salt flat, west of the lake, that lasts until the Nevada border.
In the ancient Roman Republic, if a distinguished dictator defeated a foreign army and ended a war, he would be allowed to enter the great city as a vir triumphalis, so long as the Senate voted to accord him the honor. It was the greatest of the military honors, one that linked the recipient with Hercules and Alexander and implied the immortality of his victory. The General would enter the city gates, bereft of arms, at the end of a long and glorious parade. Before him marched the Senate, carts filled with the spoils of his conquest, prisoners of war and kings of fallen barbarian hordes, bulls for sacrifice. Trumpeters sang of the Conqueror’s glory. The General followed the procession, with his face painted red. He wore an ornate toga. Behind him, a slave held a golden wreath above his head. In the General’s ear, the slave would whisper a warning. The exact words are a mystery, but some believe he said: “Look behind you, remember you too are mortal.”
That would be me. I would march into California as conqueror of the known world. Emily was growing weary. But I was confident. We had survived the Mormon stronghold! Now we need only navigate the sinful Scilla and Charybdis (yes, I understand that is Greek not Roman) of Nevada and we would be at our new home. I targeted Lake Tahoe for our triumphal entrance.
As we raced across the endless scrub desert of Nevada, the sun slowly descended. Onward we drove. Through Winnemucca and Battle Mountain. Past Lovelock. As we neared the border, Emily took the iPhone to make a hotel reservation in Lake Tahoe. She had broken down, and knew we could not stop until we reached the Golden State. She called the hotel, made the reservation. She plugged in the address for the Lake Tahoe hotel.
She looked up from the phone. Stuttered. “I’ve made a mistake…”
“What kind of mistake,” I answered, still chipper driving through the dark.
“Um…I’m really really sorry…but…I booked the hotel room in South Lake Tahoe…NEVADA!”
I sat silently, staring at the road. My dreams of triumph shattered. I was not a victorious Roman general. I had been vanquished by the barbarian hordes of Nevada. I would sleep tonight in Nevada.
*Some Iron Maiden songs to listen to while you read this entry: “Aces High,” “Flight of Icarus,” “To Tame a Land” (BONUS: It’s about DUNE!), “2 Minutes to Midnight,” “The Trooper.”
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