Two days later, while passing through Alturas, refueling, and observing a sign in one of the parking lots, the light dawned.
The sign read "Welcome Burners!" I called ahead to Lisa, who was towing the travel trailer with her Big Orange Van. "I figured out why this truck they rented us was so junky, besides the fact that the Salem agency is probably trying to send it back to its home station in Oklahoma. They looked at where we said we were going and assumed that we were going to Burning Man!"
And boy did we see a lot of Burners along the way, at Klamath Falls, Alturas, Fernley (a jumping-off point for Gerlach and the Black Rock Desert) and points in between. Lisa wasn't familiar with the glyph for Burning Man until I pointed it out to her, but she'd certainly observed a lot of odd vehicles, particularly rental trucks like ours towing trailers with a lot of oddball things on them. This afternoon on the way back to Fernley after returning the Budget truck, I pointed at a trailer crammed with bicycles. "Burner Bikes," I said, referring to a story we'd seen in the local paper about the accumulation of bicycles for use at Black Rock.
When we returned that truck, the receiving agent was horrified at the condition of the tires and said they wouldn't let it out again until they were fixed. Lisa was worried the whole trip that I was going to have a blow-out. The truck also had a lot of loose plastic panels, although this wasn't such an obvious problem until after we'd emptied it because when empty it tended to bounce all over the road.