Kevin Standlee (kevin_standlee) wrote,
Kevin Standlee

Crossing Nevada

After stopping for lunch in Winnemucca, Nevada yesterday, Lisa and I set out west again on I-80. This section of freeway runs along the Humboldt River valley, flanked by dusty plains and dry lake beds. In the hot summer sun, we could see small dust devils kicking up here and there. Then we spotted the largest dust devil we've ever seen, and Lisa, who was driving at the time, urged me to get out the camera.

It may not be obvious, but this funnel cloud was several miles away on the other side of the Humboldt River from where we were on I-80. I swapped to video mode and shot this clip of this would-be tornado:

Note that by the time I got the camera out and running, the dust devil had actually gotten smaller as it had moved off of the dry lake bed where it had been shooting dust high into the sky.

We saw several more dust devils as we continued westward, including a smaller one that actually blew right over us on I-80, rattling the van badly but doing no harm. I don't know what it would have been like to have been in the way of this large one, however.

On a more distressing note, however, the Service Engine Soon light came on shortly after we left Winnemucca. It had come on a couple of times during the trip, but in both cases it was when the van was laboring over high mountain passes and would go away when you pulled over, stopped, and "rebooted" the sensor by restarting the car. This time the light would come on and stay on, and would return shortly after a restart. We don't have the tools to read the sensor, but Lisa suspects that the oxygen sensor is failing. The van still runs, but it won't have optimum performance with the O2-sensor not working properly.

We stopped for fuel at Fernley, 30 miles east of Reno, where fuel was even cheaper than Wells. I was happy that the service-engine light stayed off for the rest of the trip to Reno, but I suspect that tomorrow, when we make the final big climb of this trip (Donner Summit), we'll see the light again.

Because of the uncertain state of the van's engine, Lisa agreed to scrub our original idea to go explore some moderately isolated land sites along the California-Nevada border. I just don't like the idea of my van dying out around Flannigan with no easy recovery plan.

With no need to get cracking early today, we took advantage of the two days in Reno to sleep in a bit today. Circus Circus has internet connectivity, but it's $10/24 hours, so I waited until we came back from brunch -- at the Silver Legacy, not the notoriously-bad Circus Circus buffet -- before getting online. There I spent more than an hour answering e-mail and letting myself get drawn into this discussion about the Hugo Awards and Worldcon. I really don't have time for this, even on a light day like today.

Lisa and I are thinking about what to do with the rest of our light day here in Reno. I've spent too much money on travel to afford to gamble much, so we may just go down to the Atlantis hotel-casino and walk around the site of the Reno in 2011 Worldcon bid. Feeling whimsical, I'm wearing my shirt from the Seattle bid today for when we go have a look.

With any luck, nothing worse will happen to us today than being waylaid by an attractive pinball machine again, like happened yesterday at the Red Lion Hotel-Casino in Winnemucca.

Oh, and yesterday's final count of trains spotted was 9. Wildlife (not counting dust devils) was minimal.
Tags: hugo award, lisa, travel, weather, worldcon

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