Thursday, February 9, 2012

The Road to Elko 2012 ~ Day 2

We awaken to find a dusting of fresh snow on the foothills that surround Reno. Cumulus ships of white, black and grey dot the horizon to the East. It's about 300 miles to Elko through the high desert of the Silver State. The posted speed limit is 75 mph, and being a California girl I feel like I'm getting away with something.

It's a wide open sage brush sea, broken only by waves that are a series of mountain ranges. There are surprises in store as you crest each summit. To my great grand elders coming across this openness by horseback and wagon to Genoa it must have seemed an endless journey. I have such unbridled respect for all who came and took on the challenges of settling this land. It isn't an easy existence now, but imagine what it would have been like in the 19th and early 20th centuries?

Sage or Artemisia tridentata is the Nevada state flower. In Greek mythology Artemis is the goddess of the wilderness. Her main vocation was to roam mountain forests and uncultivated lands to help protect the well-being, safety and reproduction of the wild animals. She was, however, a contradictory and vindictive lass, and much like the whims of the desert, always unpredictable.

As we head east it appears that storms are brewing in our path, but as we approach the leaden clouds, the road gently angles away and the squals pass harmlessly to the left or right of where we're headed. A mystical clearing of our trail.

Winnemucca is a little past half way so we stop for lunch. Interstate 80 runs through town and population wise it's about the size of our home town of Sebastopol. We discover a little hole in the wall called "The Griddle". The food and service were excellent, so if you're ever passing through Winnemucca forget the casinos and head there.

Refueled and rehydrated we hit the road for the remaining drive to Elko. We run into a little hail and a sprinkling of snow but no harm, no foul. People out here understand driving in these conditions, unlike our home territory where drivers seem "put their stupid on" at the first rain.

We arrive at the Gold Country Inn about 4pm and commence to unpack ~ everything. We'll be here for 4 nights and want to get the wrinkles out of us and our wearables. The hotel is close to the venues and has comfortable rooms, a good restaurant, a small casino, and bar with live music. About 6:30 we meet up with about a dozen old and new friends downtown at Machi's for dinner and then call it a night.

We head back to the Inn and start planning our first full day. Last years list of activities was in chronological order, regardless of venue, easy to underline shows you had tickets for and then fill in with free shows and workshops as time permitted. For some reason this year's schedule was printed by venue so you had to keep flipping back and forth to check for time conflicts, a total pain the tuckus, but we tackled Thursday's events and took our best shot with a handwritten list.

I got hooked on the National Cowboy Poetry Gathering (henceforth called the Gathering in my posts) because it's a celebration of the west. Through poetry, music, storytelling, film, art and workshops history is kept alive and each year brings new awareness. Cowboy culture and family ranching survives around the world in spite of politics, global warming and governments. These dedicated souls grow our food, raise our meat and respect the land they caretake for future generations.

A full day and we just got here ~ sleep comes quickly and as softly as a fox in the night. Tomorrow the Gathering unfolds.