We pulled into Lake Mead last week, our little oasis in the desert. Coming back, I realize how much I loved this place the first time. It’s enchanting. The landscape this unrefined, unfinished sandbox of the gods. Ancient and wrinkled and weathered, scarred with jagged valleys and craggy heights, the lake rests like a gem on a mummified neck uncovered in some primordial tomb.
The “lake” is a man-made reservoir behind Hoover Dam. Not my typical alpine lake haunts. And the construction of it displaced a town or two and engulfed a unique wetlands meandering its way through an otherwise lifeless Nevada landscape.
Hoover Dam and Lake Mead changed that not only for the small corner of Nevada and Arizona but the entire desert southwest. Sixty three percent of the entire state is public land. The fact it’s utterly inhospitable likely has something to do with this.
To get away from it all out here, you never have to drive far. As desolate as this arid land can be though, its amazing in the fall and winter. (And far better than the four feet of snow we’d been predicted to be buried in.)
When we start our migration, I have to get picky about where and how I spend my time. Driving cross-country can be exhausting. The constant teardown and setup of our home, tiresome. Then there’s making sure we have places to camp, doing maintenance, working out any bugs from our previous drive.
This year we forged East from the Sierras ahead of a nasty winter storm. Passes were already closed in anticipation of “historic” snow, ice, and floods. (I wrote a bit about that trip over on Medium.) Because of this, I ended driving three hours out of the way and cutting through Death Valley.
Driving SR 190 down into Panamint Valley and then dropping into the lowest point in North America is not something I’d recommend in a 39 foot motorhome while towing a full-size SUV. It includes one of the steepest, straightest grades I’ve encountered right after some of the narrowest, curviest roads actually approved for rigs my size. Sure, the views were spectacular, but neither you nor your passenger will enjoy them much.
The ten hour driving day to drop out of the Sierras, down below sea level, back up, and down again only to begin another steady climb and rapid descent into Las Vegas was taxing. Driving a large rig is an active pursuit. Inclines and declines require constant interaction with engine brakes, gears, and sparing use of your brake pedal. You keep a close eye on your toad (the vehicle you tow behind you) and other drivers who never seem certain about how to react around a larger vehicle.
That was over a week ago and I think I’m just now recovering.
During all that, I backed off on the Free Fiction posts. Time was a factor, but I’ve also whittled my inventory of short stories down to about half a dozen I want to sit down with and rework.
The free fiction seemed to find a small audience here, but when I tried to post them on Medium, that effort failed pretty miserably. They like articles of the non-fiction variety. Any fiction tends to get lost. The podcast never took off either. Likely, I’ll let both of those projects lie for a bit.
All of these have been bare bones tests. Tossing pebbles in the pond to see what ripples. My articles at Medium have yielded the most, and I’ll focus there for a while.
Also, I got back the proofs for my story with Cohesion Press – looking forward to seeing that one in print later this year. On a re-read with nearly a year’s distance from the initial draft, I can actually see why they liked it.
I’m reading scripts for a contest and finding I like it. Damned if I don’t know a hell of a lot about narrative at this point. I’ve always had an eye for what makes a good story, but until recently, I’m not sure I had the right vocabulary to communicate it well.
Providing constructive criticism has been oddly instructive for me. I’m going to take that same advice and comb through these stories I’ve had sitting around from earlier this year, many that failed to catch an editor’s eye on first sub.
Fresh perspective. Always a useful thing, even when you’re constantly changing the scenery.