Sunday, May 04, 2008

I'm in California

My Apple internship starts at 8:15 a.m. tomorrow morning. I was in Utah yesterday morning, and my internship is in California. To fix the disparity, I drove from Utah to California through northern Nevada yesterday. As I drove on I-80, I saw:
  • Salt flats in the Utah desert (which are cool!)
  • A whole lot of nothing in Nevada
  • Winnemucca
  • Reno (which, surprisingly, isn't as ugly and barren as the rest of Nevada)
  • Lake Tahoe (which is beautiful)
I pulled off the road for a minute and drove around on the Bonneville Salt Flats. They're hard and flat areas of salt-crusted dirt. In fact, they're so hard and flat that they have been the site of many land speed records.

Three summers ago, I drove from Utah to California through southern Nevada on US 6 on the way to climb Mt. Whitney. Northern Nevada is pretty desolate, but it doesn't have anything on southern Nevada. If you want to see a whole lot of nothing, stick with US 6.

On the way I listened to a pretty good chunck of A Thousand Splendid Suns (by the same author as The Kite Runner) in audiobook format. The book follows the lives of two Afghan women whose lives intertwine. It kept me from getting super bored on the drive, and it also opened my eyes to the horror of being a woman in a country under fundamentalist Islamic sharia law. I knew it was bad, but not that bad. I haven't done any research to compare the book's fictional account with reality, but if it's anything close to the truth, the truth is horrible.

I filled up my gas tank only once during the trip, in Winnemucca. That's actually not quite true, though. I overestimated my gas mileage (thanks to some unexpected mountains I had to cross), and the gas light turned on a while before I got to Winnemucca. As the needle on the gas gauge plummeted, so did my stomache. The middle of the barren, desolate, and relatively uninhabited Nevada desert didn't strike me as a particularly great place to run out of gas.

As the needle sunk lower and lower, I kept my eyes peeled for somewhere—anywhere—that had a gas station. Over the course of half an hour, the only exit I passed was a rest area. I finally reached a town that had one of those blue signs that said "FOOD GAS LODGING"—except that the GAS part was blanked out, like they used to have a gas station but didn't anymore. Just my luck.

The situation was dire enough that I decided to pull off the freeway anyway. I found myself in the podunk mining town of Golconda, which looked like it had definitely seen better days. I slowly got off the freeway and started looking for somewhere or someone that looked like it might have some gas. A quick scan of the skyline (which means I looked above the roofs of the houses) didn't turn up any signs for gas stations. In fact, it didn't turn up any signs at all.

I slowly drove down the road, wondering what to do, when I spotted a couple of people moving at a house not too far away. I pulled into their yard and got out of my car. A man and his wife were unloading their pickup from a trip to town. I explained my predicament and asked if there was anywhere in town to get gas. "There was a gas station here in 1935", the man said. I was apparently 75 years too late. "We just barely got back from town, though, and we got some gas while we were there", he said.

I asked if I could give him some money for a gallon or so of gas, and he grabbed a big gas can from the back of his truck and started walking to my car. While he was pouring, he told me that he helps a lot of bikers who get stranded in the area without enough gas. When he was done, I tried to give him $10, but he wouldn't take it. I feel blessed that this man whose name I don't even know was in my path. He's an example of what's right with the world.

I'm living in Palo Alto for the summer, and working in Cupertino, about 15 miles away. Housing here costs several time what my apartment in Provo did, but I guess that you have to pay for the nice weather. :) I'll be living with my old roommate Hyrum for the summer, who also has an internship at a tech company in the area.

I live about a mile down the road from Stanford, and I actually go to church right across the street from the university at the Stanford LDS Institute building. I have some old friends here, and I'm excited to meet some new ones.


Marie said...

Bruce! I am so happy that you listened to A Thousand Splendid suns! It is so beautiful, no?

Samantha said...

yay! welcome, brucey!

evans said...

I always wanted to go see the salt flats. I just figure that it's a pretty long trip to see nothing...But it's so much more than nothing. Maybe next time I go to California...

Bruce said...

Marie: It is a beautiful story. Hosseini is great storyteller--both in the sense of weaving an interesting fictional story to read, and in the sense of telling the story of the Afghan people.

Evan: It's totally worth it, and it's only about two hours away from Provo--totally doable on a Saturday or something. It is a really weird, but really cool place.