An abandoned shop in Bodie.

An abandoned shop in Bodie.

Only members of my tribe would drive from South Lake Tahoe to Yosemite by way of Bodie and then back in a single day. We were on the road for fourteen hours, logging over 400 miles. Early in the day, Susan made us turn around to see a mountain lion that turned out to be a coyote. That got a few laughs, but the joke of the day turned out to be Bodie. When I realized we were going to drive right past the spur into Bodie, I started making the case for visiting this renowned ghost town. Susan bought me a postcard at a gas station and I told I would treasure it forever. But then everyone’s will power began to wane and the next thing I knew we were headed down a remote, thirteen-mile road (the last three of which is unpaved and wash boarded) to Bodie. It was indeed fascinating – a dusty coffin still sits in the abandoned morgue – but the rest of the day, the jokes kept coming: Could have walked to Yosemite Falls, but we lost that hour in Bodie; Greatest mountain valley in the world, or an old pile of abandoned buildings, and which did we choose?

Speaking of wash-boarded roads, here’s an excerpt from a chapter in FLOM called “The Kangaroo Hour”:


“Christ. I can’t take it anymore.”

            I didn’t bother pulling over to the side of the rutted dirt road. Instead I just stopped and turned off the ignition. We hadn’t seen any sign of human life, let alone another vehicle, since we’d left the pavement two hours earlier at Ravensthorpe to make our way through the Fitzgerald River National Park, a desolate land of green scrub dissected by a single red road in the southwestern corner of Australia. Still it wasn’t the isolation that had me unnerved. Rather, I was desperate to get off the road by the “kangaroo hour,” which was nigh upon us. In hindsight it didn’t matter. The wash-boarded road dictated we drive no faster than ten miles per hour and if we were still in the car when dusk descended, we’d be going slow enough to miss any marsupial – large or small — that made its way into our path.

            “What are we doing?” Mike asked as I got out of the car.

            “I need a shot of wine.”

            I opened the trunk and rummaged in a paper sack for an open bottle of shiraz. I didn’t even bother looking for a plastic cup, although I’d thrown in a couple from the Esperance motel we’d stayed in the night before. I slugged down a big swallow right out of the bottle and breathed deeply.

            “Nice,” Mike said joining me in the cloud of crimson dust settling behind the car. “If you can drink right in the middle of the road, I can have a cigarette.” He pulled a pack out of his shorts pocket..

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