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From Vegas to Mono Lake
riot girl

An absolutely beautiful drive over from the Gaudy Caves (thank you Mr Gates for the accurate descriptor) to where I'm currently typing at Mono Lake. We set off through the desert, nothing for miles but cacti, yucca and sage brush, putting us both in mind of the Tom Lehrer song “Mid the yucca and the thistles, I'll watch the guided missiles, while the old FBI watches me....”

As it happens things haven't moved all that far on since he wrote that, because as we drove down the highway we saw a drone. A real one. We were driving past the training centre where the US army chaps learn to pilot them from warehouses out in the Nevada desert, not far from the Cold Creek Correctional Center where big signs warn “Prison area – no hitchhiking.” All in all, not just a hostile climate but a hostile feel to the locality. This is Uncle Sam's evil twin.

Shortly after that we pulled over to the Area 51 Alien Store, which was a cute little store selling various merchandise with grinning aliens on, and also had a much-needed loo. Slightly less cute, it boasts the “Alien Cathouse,” which in case you were in any doubt, was preceded by a sign about twenty foot high reading “BROTHEL. Hot sauce, pictures, souvenirs.” The spotty teenager at the desk informed us that the girls have their own prices (maybe we looked like we were there for a hot, dusty, unsatisfying sexual experience before 11am, we didn't ask for the information) and we got a postcard with an outline of the services offered, including, I'm delighted to report, an “alien abduction / probing.”

There were a number of signposted brothels as we progressed down the highway, each sadder looking and grottier than the last. The Shady Lady at Petticoat Junction, which I've read about for its ACLU challenges, has certainly passed well over into the shade – from the road, it looked like a grim collection of disused RVs outside a shack which wouldn't look out of place in the developing world. The ensuing discussion about sex work, choice and options took us most of the way out of the desert and we began climbing up into the mountains.

The mountain roads were spectacularly lovely. We were in the Sierras, trapping country, and could only really imagine what it would have been like to try to do this without the benefit of an air conditioned car and a smooth road.

We stopped at a gas station for a coffee and a slice of pie before carrying on the last bit of mountain road, through the National Forest, as far as Lee Vining where we are staying by the Mono Lake. I managed to get a couple of history books from the tourist information centre and we got a comprehensive route for tomorrow from the man behind the counter.

A quick look around the shops – and the advance purchase of a plush brown bear for Zydrate – and we sat with a lemonade for me and a Becks Blue for C on a bench overlooking the lake until it felt like dinner time. I've just eaten most of one of those American sandwiches that you can't open your mouth wide enough to fit in, and “assisted” C with a butterscotch sundae. We're planning to leave mega early tomorrow in order to get to the Yosemite valley and make it to San Francisco before nightfall.

[Footnote: we got to San Francisco - there wasn't enough wifi to post this update yesterday!]