Saturday, March 24 , 2018, 6:59 am | Fair 43º


Tim Durnin: What Happened On the Way to Vegas ... Won’t Soon Be Forgotten

Honeymoon journey to Sin City proves to be one of the more outrageous adventures of my life

My family and I are headed to Las Vegas. My brother is celebrating his birthday, and 20 or so folks from the bloodline will be descending on the town that takes no prisoners and tells no secrets, or so the folklore tells it.

I have a tortured relationship with the city. I always love the idea of going to Vegas, but the moment I get there I am immediately homesick. There seems to be something in the air that tells me I don’t belong. Cue a Texas twang: “Get on home,” the city whispers. “There isn’t a place for your kind around here.”

It was just that voice, that whisper that sent me on one of the more outrageous adventures of my life. Eager to leave the city, my wife and I packed up to head north to Lake Tahoe, the second stop on our honeymoon journey.

This was before Google Maps or GPS. We were relying on our coveted AAA maps to guide us from the oppressive heat to the pristine beauty and relative coolness of Lake Tahoe. We were married in August, so as we departed the city I stated cheerily, “Well, at least we’ll beat the heat.”

Now, the folks at AAA had kindly highlighted our route, but on closer inspection had us going well out of our way to reach our destination. Looking at the map with my wife, I pointed out a thin red line that led through the Sierras and dropped us right onto Highway 395. This would give us a straight shot to Tahoe. Throwing caution to the wind, I turned off Interstate 15 and directly into an episode of The Twilight Zone.

My first caution should have been crossing the cattle guard about five miles into our detour. In my wife’s version of the story, she told me to turn around. In my version, I remember no such concern.

The second caution should have come about 15 miles into the detour when the pavement abruptly came to an end. It did not transition into a smooth, neatly grated road but rather a ranch road with all of the requisite pot holes, rocks and erosion channels.

This transitions nicely into the third and final warning, which I stubbornly ignored — obstinate cows. Normal cows move when they are in the road and a car honks its horn. These possessed demons not only didn’t move but actually moved toward the car in some menacing game of chicken. It was a 15-minute standoff that ended only by nudging my bumper ever closer to the cow’s knees.

Heading up the Sierras, the road did return to one narrow lane of blessed pavement. However, the trek over those mountains remains the most treacherous journey of my life. I should probably mention that not one car passed us on the way nor would we see one until reaching the 395.

The drive over the mountains can best be summed up in the numerous times I had to get out of the car to make sure there was still road in front of us. My wife, now agitated, was drawing vivid pictures of the scene when, years from now, the car would be discovered at the bottom of a deep ravine. Lamenting the children we would never have or the relatives we would never see again, it was probably the first and only time she contemplated murder.

We did make it down the mountains and through miles of deserted road. It was 3 a.m., and every road sign taunted me in pretending to be a motel. We did eventually find and stop at a few motels declaring “vacancy” in the 1950s classic neon. Each stop brought an eerie silence and a sign beckoning us to ring the bell. We did while waiting with a mixture of hope and trepidation imagining Norman Bates peering through the door. No one answered at any of them. We finally found and settled into a place at 6 a.m., my wife vowing to never again let me navigate.

The voices of Las Vegas may still whisper and beckon me to leave. But I will never hear them above the rising and definitive voice of who is now in charge.

— Tim Durnin is an independent consultant for nonprofit organizations, schools and small business. He can be reached at .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address). Click here to read his previous columns.

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