In the Desert, Ch. II
If you haven’t read the first part of this story, what are you doing here? Continuity is important, you dingus.
When I last left off, I had just started orientation for Tesla. Due to certain confidentiality agreements, I have to be very careful about what I tell you. That being said, this is what you need to know:
The Gigafactory. My hill is 10 minutes to the left of here.
Camping the first two nights of the week wasn’t bad at all, even when I woke up to 26 degree weather. I’ve gotten to the point where I can get the tent and my bag set up in less than twenty minutes, and I can break it down in less than ten.
(This is more or less what my tent looks like. Remember this for later.)
One of the cool parts about sleeping outdoors is the fact that you can go to bed at seven or eight at night without feeling like you’re wasting your evening. I have routinely stayed up until one or two AM for the past few years, and if you asked anyone that knows me whether I would voluntarily get up early, they would laugh in your face. However, I’ve been waking up naturally at about three in the morning every day.
The benefit of getting up so early is that I can drive the ten minutes to Planet Fitness, work out, shower, get breakfast somewhere, and then come to the Starbucks down the road and write, all before five or six in the morning. In the past, it was more like wake up at noon and get out of the house around four for a few hours, then come home and watch Netflix until I passed out. Without the luxury of having a living room, I have been forced to be much more productive with my time.
The only privacy I get is driving or camping, everything else is a public space. What’s interesting is that, because the norm for me here is being alone (which is fantastic and I highly recommend it,) I’ve started to enjoy the random interactions I have with people more- chatting with servers in diners, talking to store clerks, and so on. I never used to like that sort of thing, but now that I have as much time to myself as I’d like, it’s become refreshing. Things have been going great, and I’m loving the adventure. That is, until last night.
I never should have gotten out of the tent.
It was unusually warm (almost 50,) which may have had something to do with it. I can’t be sure, I’m neither a meteorologist nor a HAARP scientist. Regardless, something was off. It was too nice out- I even took the extra layer out of my sleeping bag. I went to sleep sometime around 7:30, I think. It didn’t start until midnight.
I know I made a point of talking about how windy it was in the last article. Yes, it was embellished, and maybe this was my punishment for that. I was going for that Gonzo journalism thing, you know? Regardless, let me clarify: when I said it was windy last time, compared to what I am about to describe, it was like a light breeze.
Midnight rolls around and I am awoken by the sounds of the tent whipping in the wind. At this point, it’s about as bad as it was my first night on the hill, so I’m not terribly worried. I hadn’t been staking the tent down very thoroughly, because the stakes I have are totally shit and the hill that I’ve been on is essentially made of gravel and un-stake-able.
Needless to say, the stakes were high.
The tent seemed to be unstaked, but I figured, hey, I can sleep through this. What I didn’t realize immediately was that the wind was coming from the opposite direction this time. I had been putting my duffel bag full of clothes on the windward side, but now that wasn’t helping at all. In my half-asleep state, I started to realize that the side of the tent was lifting up and smacking me in the face. Shrugging it off, I turned myself 180 and put my feet in the corner to hold the tent down.
I can only assume I dozed off, because the next thing I realize is that the crossed arch of the two tent poles has now become something more like the shape of a playground slide, with the high end where my head was and the rest of the tent being molded to my lower body by the wind. By now, the gusts outside are audible and the flapping of the tent is approaching the volume of applause. Undeterred, I brilliantly decided to continue trying to sleep. I flip over to my side and, slowly, the only part of me that’s not covered by tent was my face.
As I rightfully deserved, the tent gave me the camping-equipment-with-no-hands equivalent of a bitch slap. Feeling diminished, I concluded aptly that I’m probably not getting back to sleep tonight. It’s about two at this point, and after a few minutes of frantic searching through the wreck of my tent, I check the weather on my phone. What was a cloudy morning last night was now a 70% chance of rain.
Let me clarify something- I’m all kinds of down to camp and enjoy the outdoors and whatnot, but I’m not doing that in the rain. No way, no sir, not happening.
I fumble for my shoes, now bouncing around the ever-shrinking interior of the tent, and manage to throw some pants on as well. Trying to sit up and put clothes on in a completely unsecured, wildly flapping tent was one of the most awkward and unpleasant experiences I’ve ever had. With my self-esteem dropping steadily, I had no choice but to try and break the tent down. I opened the front flap of the tent and stepped out.
That’s when the night went from good to great.
I don’t know if you’ve caught it from context, but that’s actually not when the night went from good to great. They say it’s hard to convey tone through text, so I want to make sure you know that I’m being facetious here. Shit hit the fan. It was bad. All clear? Cool.
So when I say that shit hit the fan, I mean that “my shit” was hit by “the fan of nature,” or whatever. It’s an imperfect metaphor. Regardless, as soon as I stepped out of the tent, it immediately caught about eight feet of air and flew twenty feet towards the sheer face on the side of the hill. Remember, this is the one tent that I have to live in and it’s containing my sleeping bag and a duffel bag with every article of clothing I have.
I sprint towards the edge of the cliff and grab it. Due to my present superstition about embellishing, I want you to know when I say that I “literally dove through the air and caught the whole 50 pounds of it while hanging from one hand over the 200 foot drop,” that I’m completely lying and that I actually managed to get it before it got too far away. I know, I like the first version better, too.
The hard part, it turned out, wasn’t grabbing the fairly heavy tent full of stuff, it was actually dragging it back to my car. As soon as I started pulling it, the door flap flew open and the whole thing ballooned like a parachute. I’m not huge on doing resistance training or cardio, so I was understandably displeased by this development.
Back at the car, I’m trying to load all of this stuff in my trunk as fast as possible. The wind is so strong that it’s actually blowing over the hood of my car and pushing my hatchback closed. While frustrating, that was actually kind of impressive. I try to appreciate the little things, you know? That momentary appreciation of the power of nature was interrupted by my realizing that both of my tent poles are destroyed. One snapped in half and the other’s elastic inner cord broke and the segments all flew away. Not a great thing to have happen considering that those poles are the frame for my house. Fortunately, my rain cover was miraculously still intact, and I don’t think I lost anything.
Car packed, I got the hell out of Dodge. As I merged onto the highway, it started drizzling. “Perfect timing as always,” I said to myself, trying in vain to restore the ego that had blown off into the night.
I’m not one to give up that easy, so my thought right now is to go build some kind of semi-permanent shelter/wind barrier on the hill. It is my weekend from work, however, so I may just drive down to Lake Tahoe and relax, but where’s the fun in that? Assuming I survive, I’ll let you know.