Continuing submitted by
“Yes,” he replies, “Two will drive in in their own vehicles, but one will be flying, I think, it’s not yet been confirmed. If he does arrive on time, he’ll have to go in the field with you in your truck.”
“OK, now I’m a taxi service?” I snicker, “Price of poker’s going up.”
“Yes, right,” he grimaces, “As per your prospectus, you’re running the show out in the field. You have to being you’re the only one fully licensed. “
“This is news?” I asked.
“Well, “he continues, “All of your associates will possess some degree of blasting experience.”
“But none are licensed?” I ask.
“Not as such,” he replies. “Either way, you’re running the show out there. Make certain they all survive and return moderately intact.”
“Always my intention,” I say, “Can I see the list?”
“Certainly,” Harry says, sitting back and lighting up my cigar.
OK, let’s see…”
No doctors, yet. All last-year PhD candidates in either mining or engineering geology. Well, not my absolute first choices, but I guess it’s better than a sharp stick on the eye.
• Albert W. Armstrong. “Al”. University of Missouri, Rolla. Mining geology.
• Charles F. Glaciisto. “Chuck”. New Mexico Tech., Socorro. Mining geology.
•Leonard. R. Paskapää. “Leonard”. Colorado School of Mines. Engineering geology.
“Well, there’s a nice assortment,” I say, “Guess I’ll see them when they get there.”
“Chuck and Al are driving out. Leonard is flying out, I think, and won’t be there for another two weeks.” Harry tells me.
“Fine by me. Hope they boned up and brought all the necessary gear. This is a real job, not a field trip.” I said.
“I agree Rock,” Harry intones, “They have the project prospectus, so there should be few surprises. Well, I’m off to some meetings in DC. I’ll have to catch you for dinner when you return. In the meantime, we have a reservation for you at the Hyatt next door. I’ve also arranged for your trailer and supplies tomorrow at 0600. I knew you’d want to be out on the road early.”
“Fair dinkum, Harry,” I say, “Sounds like a plan. I’ll be in touch. Have a good trip.”
“You too,” he says as we shake hands and depart.
The Hyatt was comfortable, but just another in a long line of chain hotels. Adequate clean room, decent food, ridiculous mini-bar prices. I was up at 0500, showered, and ready to head over to the armory for my Nevada supplies.
I show up at 0545. I was that ready to get back on the road. Surprisingly, all I had time for was an early morning Bear Claw and coffee before everyone showed up.
“Right this way, Rock,” Andy the Armorer told me. “Drive right back to bay 5. I’ll open it up and we’ll have you on your way.”
So, I wheeled back to Bay 5, spun the truck around, and backed right up to the door.
I tootled my horn and the corrugated door began to roll up.
Andy motioned for me to back in, slowly. Using hand signs, I backed in enough for them to close the door again.
I saw my old trailer over in the corner and was thinking it was nice to have a familiar bit of kit.
Then another trailer was rolled out. Fully twice the size of the old trailer, it was painted a ghastly government green, overlain with black and yellow cross stripes. It was plastered with DOD, DOT, DOI, and all the other necessary stickers. There was one large and very prominent sticker on the bumper that proclaimed; “EXPLOSIVES! DANGER! STAY BACK 500 FEET.”
“Oh, that’s nice and unobtrusive,” I said. “No one will give that a second thought.”
Half the trailer was taken up by a cast-iron tub, with hinged lid. It had an electric motor to raise and lower the lid, just the thing for going out in the boonies, I thought. It was made of very stout and thick welded steel and was quite lockable. It also looked bullet, lightning, and nuke-proof.
It also weighed a fucking ton.
The rest of the trailer had several lockable compartments, of varying sizes for the inclusions of all my different blasting equipment, all made of the same stern stuff.
The whole trailer had a resolute fiberglass lid, although the munitions tub still stuck out proclaiming its message of impending doom for all tailgaters to see.
“Is this all really necessary?” I asked Andy.
“Latest DOD, DOT, and DOI specs,” he told me.
“Marvelous,” I muttered.
“Well, let’s get on with the show,” I said. “You have my goodies list? I want to get out on the road.”
“Yes, sir!” he saluted, as he was still military. He barked some orders and suddenly, cart after cart after cart of the fun stuff arrived.
He delighted in showing me that this was a custom trailer. A special compartment in the tub was for binaries, a special section for dynamite, and one for all the other permissibles. The rest of the trailer was marked with cute little lockable cubbies for “Blasting caps,” “Galvanometer,” “Primacord,” “Demolitoin [sic] Wire,” etc.
It was all a very governmental job. Over-designed, over-engineered, and over-wrought.
I came to love it.
The lockbox in my truck was now empty, so I had the opportunity to load up with a few extras. I thought “You can’t go wrong with Primacord,” so 3 extra spools went in there. As did another couple boxes of initiators, pop-drop-forget fuses, a box of Fusees (road flares), delay caps, a couple of pairs of blaster’s pliers, as I kept losing mine, spools of demo wire, and extra batteries and an extra electronic detonator.
Best to be prepared, as I always say.
I was now weighed down with over to a ton of explosives, along with all the ancillary tackle.
Luckily my truck had that big, ol’ turbocharged V-8. We’re going into the mountains dragging the equivalent of a rental company Toy-Auto behind us.
I signed all the paperwork and waited until everyone present had their own notarized copy to lose. I was given two sets of keys, just in case. After I disbursed some thank you cigars, I eased out of the armory, dragging this trailer down that endless black ribbon of highway.
It was chained, wired, and padlocked to my truck. It would be a serious pain in the ass to take it off and park it for the night. Until I hit Reno, I either camp rough or stick to the plastic water glass circuit, that is, truck stops.
“No problem,” I thought. “I’ve done worse.”
Back on the road again, I’m cutting due west towards Arizona. Even with my truck’s big turbo V-8, with all the shit I was carrying and dragging behind, forget rapid acceleration or passing on anything even approximating a stiff grade.
I eased on down the road, out of New Mexico and into Arizona. I resolve to visit Cuba on the return trip.
A simple swing across Arizona and I’m in Nevada. Looks like smooth sailing ahead…
Things are going along swimmingly. I’m making great time on I-40 across Arizona.
Sure, it’s hot out, but there’s not much traffic and I can keep a pretty steady pace. So much so, I’m pointing the truck in a generally westward direction and I busy my long hours away futzing with the CB radio, eavesdropping on truckers on channel 19. Or, I futz with my shortwave trying to find Radio Moscow.
Yeah, even the CWG, car window geology, can pale after miles and miles of miles…
I’m tempted to swing through Winslow, Arizona just because I’m a fan of the Eagles. But the road is humming so nicely, I just decide to ‘Take it Easy’, and continue onwards.
Through Flagstaff, through Ash Fork, through Seligman. I’m blazing along only to have to take a bit a break outside of Kingman to avail myself of the roadside rest area facilities before I make the lane change and head for Vegas.
Or, more accurately, around Vegas. I want no part of dragging over a ton of high explosives down The Strip. Besides, the DOT would hang me by my thumbs, or more tender appendages, if I didn’t take an ‘ODOT’, or ‘Optional Direction Of Travel’.
Got to stay away from agglomerations of those people things.
That won’t be for a while as I head up Highway 93. Through Chloride and Willow Beach, up toward Henderson. I zip over the Colorado River and I’m in my destination state. In the far, far south of the state, and I’m headed to the extreme northwest of the state, but, hey, I’m in the damned state nonetheless.
Up towards Las Vegas, I really want to pull in, grab a suite, and go all Vegas-y. But, duty calls. I resolve to take Esme to Vegas when I get back to Houston and before we make any plans to head to some Middle Eastern sandpit.
I schuss up the 11 right towards Vegas and right on past via 215. I’m now on 160 headed towards one of my favorite cities: Pahrump, Nevada.
Governor Lepetomane: [pointing to a member of his cabinet] “I didn't get a "Pahrump" out of that guy!”
Hedley Lamarr: “Give the Governor a ‘Pahrump’!”
Governor Lepetomane: “You watch your ass.”
Anyways, I continue along in Nevada as the sun slowly slinks down ahead of me. All the hours on the road, all this fresh air, all the cigars…
Shit, I need a drink and a nap.
I’m between Beatty and Bonne Claire, just outside the Mojave Desert when I suddenly felt the urge to pull over, climb in the back of my truck, have a stout drink, and flake out until it cools off some.
There’s really not much out in this part of the world, so I pull off the highway and go off-road some 150 meters or so; parking parallel, but somewhat distant to, the highway. That way, people would think I’m a local, or a camper, but not anyone in trouble. So they’d just flash by and leave me the fuck alone for a while. Plus, I didn’t need to look for a motel, pay for a motel, schlep baggage…oh, fuck, I need a road snooze…
I lock the cab of the truck, pop open the step cap, and climb inside. I couldn’t be arsed to find a proper glass for a cocktail, so I just liberated a frosty beer from the closest cooler.
I rearranged my tack in the back of the truck to make a most serviceable little nest, and pulled down, but didn’t lock, the back window. Just right for a few hours’ kip. I set my .454 next to me, got comfy on my sleeping bag, and was out before I could even start that initial beer.
I awoke suddenly, hearing rather than seeing something prowling around in the impenetrable darkness outside. Of indigenous animals, I possess no fear. But I’ve seen ‘The Hill Have Eyes,” “Texas Chainsaw Massacre” and actually hail from the land that spawned Ed Gein, so I’m a bit, well, ‘alert’.
I spy the glint of something possibly metallic, so it’s official. There’s an ax-wielding serial killer wandering around outside lusting for my giblets. He probably has a hook for a hand and only appears on the roadside on the anniversary of his family’s decapitations in a bloody sweater knitted by his dead wife.
Either that or it’s a silver possum.
Whatever it was, it went up to the front of my truck and seemed to be testing the doors.
I still have on my field boots, loosened, so I tie them as securely as I can manage. I slowly ease open the rear window of the step cap and, silently as a moose, slip out of the truck.
I have my .454 loaded and in defense position. Any small, slow, and stupid beast that turned its back on me was looking for a stomping.
The world went dazzling white as someone, or something shone a very powerful flashlight in my face. Imagine going from the inside of a cavern to the bright side of the sun in the space of 11 milliseconds. Luckily, my firearms training prevented any potential disaster.
Although, it did hurt like hell having one’s iris’ snap shut like that.
“Whoa!” I heard a voice, “Who the fuck are you?”
“Whoa!” I said, “Who the fuck are you?”
“STAND DOWN! NOW!” I heard.
“OK,” I thought, “It’s a cop…”
“Cool out! I’m licensed for CCL. See? Gun going down!” I said, loudly.
“OK, gun on the ground and stand back!” He ordered.
“Absolutely, sir,” I said, “I hear and comply.”
“What the hell is that?” I heard someone ask.
“Umm, Officer?” I asked, “I’m Doctor Rocknocker of Texas. I’m going to Reno to the BLM and DOI. I am licensed for CCL and that, lying there getting dusty, is a custom .454 Casull Magnum.”
“Come forward so I can see your hands and be recognized.” He orders.
“Yes, sir,” I said and complied.
“OK, slowly. Your identification.” He barked as I slowly handed him my wallet.
“OK. Doctor Rocknocker. Right. Texas CCL. OK. Texas Driver’s License. Right. Blaster’s license. OK. Master Blaster’s certificate. Umm. ISEE membership. Yeah. What’s this?” he asks, shining his light on my wallet.
“My Russian Driver’s License,” I reply.
“Um, yeah. OK…” he says and hands back my wallet.
“May I retrieve my sidearm?” I ask.
“Certainly,” he replies.
I grab my Casull and dust it off as best I can before shoving it out of sight, back into its holster.
“What the hell are you doing out here in the middle of nowhere in the middle of the night? He asks.
“Well, I’m a geologist…” I begin.
He holds up a hand and stops me right there.
“That explains it.” he snickers. “You fuckers are nuts.”
“Well, I cannot in good faith argue that point,” I concur.
Officer Westmoreland, as I soon found out, is a Nevada State Trooper. He saw my rig parked, dark, on the side of the road out here on the fringes of the Mojave. He was checking if anyone was around or might be in of need assistance.
I told him my long, sordid tale. I wandered over to my truck and pulled out a cigar. Officer Westmoreland refused my initial offer.
He didn’t resist when I pulled over my larger cooler, grabbed a glass, and poured myself several hands of bourbon over ice.
“Officer, I know you’re on duty, but could I interest you in a cold drink?” I asked. “I have several soft and hard drinks, whatever is your pleasure.”
“Well, Doctor,” he smiled, “I was on my way home and I was actually off duty when I saw your rig and stopped. Got a cold beer?”
“Certainly. Remember, I’m a geologist? Right. Lager? IPA? Stout? Porter? Can? Bottle? Domestic? Import?” I asked.
“Yep. You’re a geologist. Whatever’s handy,” he laughs.
I hand him a cold Spotted Coo from a small brewery way back in the Foam Town state.
I sit down on the tailgate and fire up a Coleman lantern to dispel the gloom. For the first time, I see Officer Westmoreland and he sees me.
“Please, have a seat.” I said, “I’m just trying to get my heart rate back down to normal.”
He does, at the far end of the tailgate. We’re still sniffing each other out.
He looks closely for the first time at my trailer.
“What’s all that about?” he asks.
“Oh, that?” I ask and take a deep draught of Kentucky’s Finest. “That’s just the transport system for over a ton of high explosives.”
He looks at me like I’m joking.
“Ah, it’s empty, right?” he asks.
“Nope. Totally loaded. Want to see the manifests?” I ask.
“You’re not fucking with me, are you, Doctor? Is that really is a ton of high explosives sitting there not 5 feet away…it’s not
empty?” he shudders.
“Nope. It is quite full. See, I’m going to the DOI, pick up some trainees, and some toilet paper in Reno. Then we’ll all head out into the wild and blow the living shit out of some old, abandoned mines.” I reply.
“OH!” he says, relieved, “Wait! I’ve heard of that program. Hey! You’re that crazy guy from Texas, right?”
“I guess,” I replied offhandedly, “If that Texas guy is a geologist and fully licensed blaster.”
“Yeah! You’re him” he laughs, “Good to meet you, sir. It’s about time someone’s doing something about all these old fucking mines. I have to pull corpses out of them two or three times a year. Seal ‘em up, cement ‘em tight, leave bat bars, don’t matter none. Assholes rip it right down and tear it up, go in, fall down a fucking shaft and die. I have better things to do with my time than retrieve bodies, Doctor. I am glad you’re here.”
“I am glad to be here.” I reply, “We’re on a kind of pilot program. Another doctor, Dr. Eva and I, kind of pioneered the process of sealing mines completely or sealing them leaving bat access in the Four Corners area. One thing leads to another and here we are. Sharing a drink, and a smoke, not 1.5 meters away from a ton of high explosives.”
“Well,” Office Westmoreland says, “If you’re cool with it, so am I.” as he lights another Marlboro.
He decides on another quick beer, as he’s never has a Spotted Coo before. We sit and have a really nice chat. He was keen on looking at my .454. I showed him my 10 gauge Mossberg and he was impressed with that. Then I opened my vest to show him the twin 10mm Glocks I was toting.
“Preparing for action?” he asks.
“But failing to prepare, you prepare to fail,” I noted.
“I hear that!” he says and drains his beer.
He hands me the empty as I always carry garbage bags for just such an emergency.
“Pack out your trash” isn’t just a good idea, it’s the law.”
“Well, Doctor,” he says, “Time for me to go on home. Take it easy out here and get a few hours rest before you head out, you’ve had some of the wet stuff.”
“I plan to, Officer Westmoreland,” I assure him, “Thanks, and have a good rest of the night.”
“And watch out for serial killers” He chuckles, as he gets back into his squad car and heads off down the road.
“He was a nice chap. Very affable. Weird sense of humor, though.” I muse.
The next morning, I whip up a quick breakfast of roadside yaws and goiters. I clean up, pack everything back, and am back on the road.
I’ll be on 95 most of the way to Reno. Past Tonopah, Coaldale, and Hawthorne. Heading more or less due north.
The sun is already baking and I strip off my vest and put my Glocks in the lockbox. I am still wearing my Casull because reasons.
I motor past Schurz, and up to Silver Springs. I spend an hour there refueling and availing myself of the facilities.
I made sure to keep everyone happy and park out on the fringes of the truck stop after I gas up.
Now it’s 439 to Clark, Nevada, onto I-80. Headed more westy than northy now, aimed directly for Reno.
I check my DOI prepared itinerary and see I need to find Financial Boulevard in Reno. Very easy as the town’s laid out in a nice, neat grid-like sort of pattern, kind of.
I circle around the area looking for an entrance and spy the Genghis Khan Mongolian restaurant about a quarter-mile from the DOI office. I know where I’m having lunch.
I pull into the Bureau’s parking lot and head for the rear. I show my credentials at the gate as I don’t think I should leave this trailer out front.
I park and wander back into the DOI, weapons all secured in my truck.
Inside, I tell the secretary who I am and that I ‘m here on the Abandoned Mines initiative.
She says “Of course,” and picks up the phone.
Minutes later I am introduced to one Dr. Sam Muleshoe, the director of the DOI around these parts. He walks me back to his office.
“Well, Doctor,” he says, “Welcome to Reno. I trust you had a good trip.”
“Mostly uneventful,” I replied.
“Very good,” he says. “Your associates have not arrived as of yet. Should be here later tonight or early tomorrow. At least two of them will as Leonard won’t be here until the latter part of your project.”
“Fair enough,” I said. “Do we know of their vehicles”? I asked.
“What do you mean?” he says.
“Well, if there are three of us, I can only transport two. I hope one of the vehicles they’re bringing is a four-wheel drive.” I explain.
“I’m not certain.” he relates, “But I can check.”
“No worries,” I reply, “There’s nothing at this point we can do. Best to just wait and see.”
“Right,” he agrees. “Your truck. Is it parked out back?”
“Yes,” I reply.
“Good’, he says, “Let’s go.”
We go out to the back lot and just as I said, my truck and the trailer are sitting there.
“OK, Doctor,” he explains, “While we wait, we’ll get your communications sorted out. We have DOI HF (High Frequency) radios for all outgoing vehicles. We’re on a state-wide government frequency. Plus, we can add a bit of extra kit to your trailer if you like.”
“Such as?” I ask.
“We can add a motorcycle carrier.” he says, “That way, you can take a small dirt bike with you out in the field. If you desire.”
“Oh, fuckin’-A Bubba, hell yeah. I desire”. I think.
“Yes. Yes.,” I agree, “That might just
come in handy.” I agree.
A member of the Bureau’s motor pool comes over and asks for my keys. He’ll handle all the modifications.
I hand over my keys, and we walk back to Sam’s office. We spend a few hours getting acquainted. Technical talk, very prosaic.
Since my associates don’t appear to be arriving that day, Dr. Muleshoe suggests I take a room at the Motel 666 just down the road. My truck will be safe and secure until tomorrow.
I agree and go back to my vehicle to gather a few odds and ends. The front seat looks like a Radio Shack exploded. The mechanics and electricians are having the very Devil’s Grandmother of a time hooking up the DOI radio. Seems I have already taken every fusible link available for my stereo, speakers, and other communications devices.
I stash the Mossberg in the back of the truck, under lock and key. I replace my Glocks under my vest and have my Casull on my hip. I grab my field case full of reprints and such, and a change of duds.
Back in the DOI offices, Dr. Muleshoe remarks that with my sidearms and Stetson, I look like a co-star in some Clint Eastwood flick.
This really blew my mind, the fact that me, an overfed, long-haired leaping gnome should be the star of a Hollywood movie.
But I didn’t Burdon myself with that thought for long. Didn’t want to start a War, now, did I?
A Bureau worker drives me over to the hotel. He drops me off with a directory of Reno BLM and DOI, with phone numbers. He also tells me that although this looks like an unassuming motel, they have delivery service from most of the better restaurants in town and that their Happy Hour should be starting soon.
I thank him and he tells me he’ll pick me up tomorrow at 0900 sharp.
I obtain a room easily as evidently nothing fazes these people out here. I wanted to take some time and fart around downtown Reno. But, I decided to let that go until the job is done.
Besides, I don’t feel like walking all over a new town the first night I’m in.
It was a very nice room, clean, utilitarian and with an in-room safe. I stash my sidearms and lock it up solid. I then get to the phone and make some calls.
I call Esme and let her know of my progress. Everything’s puttering along fine back home. Es is thrilled at the new blades I got for her rock saw and she tells me that the omphacite vase is almost ready. She also tells me that I need to bring back representative examples of Nevada’s oddball geology for her to work on. I assure her I will, profess my undying love, and hang up.
I call Rack and Run with an update. All very routine, the call lasts less than five minutes.
Then I call Harry in Albuquerque. Then I remember he’s in DC at a conference of some kind. I leave a quick message on his machine and hang up.
“Well, now,” I say to no one in particular, as I comb back my long silver hair. “Everything business-related is done and dusted. And I’m dusty.”
Down the hall, down the elevator, and off to Happy Hour.
Two for one drinks and they’ll even serve interlopers dressed in ghastly Hawaiian shirts and cargo shorts. I explain the proper construction methods of my signature cocktail and shortly, two large tumblers full of Rocknocker-cocktail appear as I’m perched upon Mahogany Ridge.
All for the princely sum of US$2.00.
I realize that I really like Reno.
It’s sort of a mini-Vegas, I find. I’ve never really been to Reno before and it really is “The Biggest Little City in the World”. Even in this little unassuming bar in this little unassuming motel, there are a couple of tables for roulette, craps, and blackjack.
And walls full of One-Armed Bandits.
Figuring I already paid my Stupid Tax by purchasing some scratch-off lottery tickets for Esme, and dropping $5 on the “Pick Five,” I could forego paying any more into the state’s coffers.
After several more cocktails, I was already 8 bucks in the hole for drinks and $40 bucks more feeding those infernally blinking, though ineffably inviting machines.
I tried the Blazing 7’s machine.
I tried the Monopoly slots.
I tried the Cash Express.
I came >< this close but still lost.
Disgustapated, I tried one final machine, The Jackpot.
I won $50 bucks.
“Holy shit!” I wowed, “Wow! I broke even!”
I quit immediately and went back to the bar.
I had another couple of drinks and after tipping out the bartender, I realized I had still lost.
I was down $12 dollars.
In other words, I did as well as usual.
Back in my room, I ordered some chow from the Genghis Khan Mongolian restaurant. At least here my luck was changing. It was excellent.
After checking out the next morning, I’m puffing on a cigar, waiting on my driver. He shows up spot on time and I go to snuff my cigar in an outside ashtray.
“That’s OK, Sir’, he tells me, “I don’t mind if you smoke. As long as you don’t mind me.”
“Fair enough,” I tell him, and we sally down the road to the DOI.
Of my three acolytes,
• Albert W. Armstrong. “Al”. University of Missouri, Rolla. Mining geology.
• Charles F. Glaciisto. “Chuck”. New Mexico Tech., Socorro. Mining geology.
• Leonard. R. Paskapää. “Leonard”. Colorado School of Mines. Engineering geology.
Albert and Charles arrived late last night, they drove in. Leonard, as Dr. Muleshoe noted, will arrive later, flying or driving in.
My truck is ready to go as is my trailer. I have my choice of several BLM/DOI motocross and dirt bikes, so I choose a cute little Maico 501, as the bike featured the largest two-stroke single-cylinder engine ever stuffed into a production bike. I figured I’d need all the torque I could get to haul my carcass around.
I receive extra fuel bowsers already pre-mixed with oil for the bike.
I’ve been a rider for years and even though most of my latest motorcycle driving concerns my Indian Super Chief, I’ve ridden dirt for years when I was younger.
I introduce myself to Albert and Charles. We shake hands and they tell me to refer to them as ‘Al’ and ‘Chuck’.
“And you will call me Rock,” I reply.
They were both cool with that.
I ask what vehicles brought them here. Al drove in via a beat-to-shit Volkswagen Van. Chuck drove his International Harvester Super Scout
, also beat to death, or close to it.
“Gentlemen,” I say, assaying their field vehicles. “These will not do.”
They both immediately looked unconformable.
“It’s like this,” I relate to them, “I have my GMC 1-ton. It has room for two people, but not two passengers. I’m also towing a trailer, so I don’t want to be weighed down by all your field gear as well.”
They nodded in agreement.
“Let’s have a chat with Sr. Muleshoe,” I suggested, “He might be able to come up with a solution to our problems.”
So we did. The BLM lent us one of their field-kitted out Land Cruiser, a J-70. A boxy, utilitarian vehicle, with an eight-cylinder petrol engine with a five-speed standard transmission.
“Either you two know how to drive a standard shift?” I asked.
They both replied in the affirmative.
Harrumph. Try that today…
“Well, gents,” I said, “We’re burning daylight. We leave as soon as you two get loaded and figure out who’s doing all the stick and rudder work. You can drive together, or one can ride with me. Either way, we leave ASAP and we’ll do orientations and Q&A once we’re in the field. Chop-chop!”
The haul ass to their respective vehicles. They’ll park their rides in the DOI back parking lot for the duration. I go to get my truck and see if the trailer’s hooked back up.
It is and on the rear of the trailer, right above the warning signs for ill-advised tailgaters, is a well-used but still going to be fun as hell Maico 501 dirt bike.
This mission has suddenly taken on a more wholesome and lighthearted mien.
Al and Chuck decide to make the Land Cruise their vehicle and drive together, at least at the beginning. I have no objection and after dispensing the appropriate maps, itineraries, and other documentation, we do a radio check, as the BLM vehicle already had an HF radio.
With that sorted, we head out into the wilderness.
Once out on the streets of Reno, I ask for them to find us a grocery store so we can obtain field provisions for the next week or so. We’ll be out in the sticks, but there are enough little towns scattered about and with two vehicles, we won’t be as isolated as I first thought. I remember to stock up on Charmin Extra-Fluffy.
I mean, we’re not savages here.
We wheel into BinCo foods and invade the store for supplies. Al and Chuck ask what they should buy, as we all have BLM/DOI credit cards for the duration, and I tell them “whatever you want to make for chow”. I explain that I’ll eat just about anything, and am partial to meat, meat, and more meat. I leave them at that and head over to the liquor store down the street.
I have 5 huge coolers in the back of my truck. Two for drinks of all sorts, and three for food.
I obtain some of the necessary outback fluids and several bags of ice.
I ice down all the drinks and wheel back to the grocery store.
Al and Chuck are just emerging. I whistle them over to my truck as it’s going to be the Chuckwagon, no pun intended, on this tour.
We load their selections into the coolers and ice everything that needs icing down. I go into the store and purchase a few items I note they have missed, and place them in the bed of my truck.
I ask if they have everything necessary for a month out in the boonies, and they look to each other, shrug their shoulders, and reply that they think they do.
“OK,” I say, “Either of you armed?” I ask.
“No,” came the reply.
“You will be,” I reply, and ask if there truck’s gassed up.
At the Bumoco station, we fill our vehicles to the top. I check all fluid levels as my blinker light fluid’s been being used profligately lately.
“OK,” I say, “Last chance. Anything you even think you might have forgotten before we head into the wilds? Chapstick? Bug spray? Aloe?”
“No,” they reply, “We think we’re good.”
“All-righty, then,” I reply. “You have your maps, you have your compasses, and you have your vehicle. We will rendezvous at Pinnate Ridge in four hours. Bye.”
I jump into my truck, fire her up, grab a cigar, crank up some Floyd. I head out of the parking lot, generally south.
Both of them just stand there like guppy fish at feeding time.
They both realize I’m not fucking around and scramble back to their vehicle. The last I saw, they were still trying to get it into first gear.
I made it to Pinnate Ridge in 2.5 hours. It’s really very easy to find, even off the road. There are signs everywhere, even out in the sticks. Its prime desert dune and badland riding area, along with several mines on our agenda that are going to be closing down for good.
I arrive and scope out a likely looking camping spot. Nice flat ground, nicely elevated. A not-too-distant outcrop that will be fine for a latrine area. No running water, no trees, no firewood. I expected as much.
I pull to where my truck acts as a windbreak and set up camp.
Well, my camp at least.
Four hours later, I’m slurping a Grape Nehi sitting in my camping chair. I have a fire pit all set up but without fuel. I’m smoking a large cigar and looking through some of the older Mining News magazines. I haven’t seen another person the whole day since we all went off-grid.
Over a crest, I see the BLM Land Cruiser. Well, better late than never, I suppose.
They finally pull into camp, far too close to my truck, their back wheels in the soft sand.
“Gentlemen,” I say, arising from my chair, “Welcome to your first camp. As for your first test, well, more about that later. Let’s make camp, shall we?”
Wordlessly, they set about pitching tents, getting out sleeping bags and the like.
“Gentlemen,” “I ask, “How’s the weather?”
They look at me with blank expressions.
“You have radios in your vehicle, do you not? I suggest you call for an update for the next few days.” I recommend.
Later, “We did, Rock,” Chuck reports, “No rain, hot, with moderate northwesterly winds.”
“OK, good.” I continue, “What do you think of your campsite?”
They look and proclaim it fit.
“Hmmm,” I say, “Parked to the southeast, back wheels off solid rock and in the sand. What happens if a sandstorm kicks up tonight?”
They look, smack themselves collectively in the head, and reposition their vehicle, nose to tail with mine, forming a good windbreak for the entire camp.
“Gents,” I say, “’ Be prepared’. Get used to these words, you’ll be hearing them a lot from now on.”
“Boy,” I say, “I could sure go for a coffee. There’s the pot, here’s the water, and here’s the coffee. There’s the fire pit…”
“Where’s the wood?” Al asks.
“Oh, you didn’t bring any firewood?” I ask.
“No…,” they both say , sheepishly.
“Good thing I did,” I say, motioning to my truck. “Be prepared.”
Over coffee and cigars; well, a cigar for me, Al smokes a pipe, and Chuck is tweaking over Marlboro Reds, I go over the basics of our project:
- Locate mines.
- Map mines if maps need updating. Some are from the turn of the last century, so yeah, this will almost always be a task.
- Take representative geological samples. This is my own twist on the job.
- Photograph any mine chronological, or unusual, subjects.
- Inspect mines for ‘biologicals’. They’ve already been vetted, but I want to be certain.
- Find and delineate all surficial openings.
- Prepare mine for demolition.
- Wire in, prime, and set charges.
- Run demo wire out of the mine and back to the safety muster area.
- Demolish mine.
- Drink vodka & beer, sleep, repeat.
- There is no #12.
“Any questions?” I ask.
Chuck and Al were so busy taking notes, they didn’t have time to formulate any questions.
“OK, guys. Once you get all that, pencils down,” I say.
They finish writing and I see it’s already getting late in the day.
“OK,” I say, “Dinner if you’re hungry. Shall we eat?” I ask.
I decide on dry sausage and beer, as I’m not terribly peckish.
Chuck and Al get the fire going higher and grill up some hot dogs and beans.
Sitting around the campfire as dusk begins to descend, we sit around with our geological desserts. Beers for the guys and a double Rocknocker for me.
Now the drinking lamp’s been lit, we have a chance to chat and get to know each other.
“You guys are still doing dishes tonight,” I remind them.
“Yes, boss man.” They smile.
“OK,” I say, “There are a few things I need to get clear with you. One, I am the hookin’ bull around here. I say ‘jump’, you say ‘how high?’. I’m not too terribly tyrannical, but when playing around with high explosives, your very life might depend on it. Two, I’m the only one licensed to handle the explosives. You’re in training, but you will not go into the lockbox in the back of my truck nor the trailer until I deem you are ready. Violation of this rule is cause for immediate expulsion. And we’ll keep the vehicles. We green?” To be continued.
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