More dark and dusty roads. This time with a bottle tree in the middle of nowhere. There is some truly weird shit in the middle of nowhere America.
We roll into Wendover (one of the strangest places to drive into at night from the desert) and have a nice chat with the Motel 6 desk clerk about credit cards. Followed up by a 2am text message from said desk clerk with a link to his preferred card. Helpful and also what I imagine to be bullet point one in the “Do Not Do” section of the Motel 6 customer-relations training manual.
The next day we meet up with Trey, another Icarus racer, and basically kind of dick around Wendover for the morning. Breakfast, gambling, attempted motor repair (on his, not mine) and wait for Kester and Dean to roll in.
The Wendover airport is a WWII-era Army Air Base, where the movies Independence Day and ConAir were filmed. It was also the home of the Enola Gay.
Little bit about me: my mother’s family is originally from Hiroshima, Japan. My grandpa went to Japan in the ’60s for a Boy Scout Jamboree and tried to find his relatives, but couldn’t find them.
Little bit about the Enola Gay: It is the aircraft that dropped an atomic bomb on Hiroshima, Japan.
Americans celebrate the awful necessity of this action. Japanese Americans are slightly more conflicted. Seeing all this military celebration was impressive and awful. It rattled me a little.
But we’re not here to talk about racial politics, we’re here to fly some butt fans. So we drive out to the Salt Flats to scout it out for tonight’s flying. It’s beautiful and foreboding. It’s also wet from recent rains, making portions of it, as one fan said, “slicker than greased eel shit.” We find a dry place that should be good to launch from and set up there.
There are no winds, which puts me in a bit of a bind. I’m anxious about my shit landings at these elevations, so I don’t want to fly the Spyder that’s been lent to me because it’s faster than my Kona. BUT the Kona is heavier and tougher to launch in no-wind. The Kona will be prettier above the white salt than the white Spyder though, so that tips it over into the pro column.
On my first attempt, the wing doesn’t quite come up like I want it to, so I kill the motor and prepare to sta–faspapsfdipaoiofdpoia SHIT. My foot finds the one bit of wet salt mud and catches, bringing me and my 60 pounds of motor down on my ankle.
It hurts. But not terribly, and after a minute I feel good enough to stand and give it another go. The wing overflies me this time and with all the rattling that’s been going through me today, I call it for the day.
We set up camp in the middle of the flats and get a fire going to cook some steak and brats from Canyon’s camper stash. (Canyon was originally supposed to be driving the support vehicle with Kester but entered the race last minute – and kicked serious ass until weather parked him in the Utah mountains.)
Now that night was truly magical. Twinkling lights from the highway in one direction, mountains in another, glimmering salt in the other. Campfire, whiskey from a flask, steak grilled in a cast iron skillet over open coals. Heaven.
We woke up to rain and I decided the Salt Flats were destined to be my white whale. I really should actually read that book before I start making poetic references to it. I also woke up to a throbbing ankle that couldn’t support weight, which is not ideal for a sport that requires running to start and running to end the activity.
We retreat to Kolla’s house in Draper for a couple hours in an epsom salt bath, an ankle brace from the weirdest sporting goods store, and most importantly, laundry.
With the ankle feeling less terrible by every minute in ironic salt, I formulate a plan to pick up my route from an ultralight airport just over the mountain. Even if weather wasn’t good, I figured there would be a nice community to chat with and get some local intel.
Sweet summer child, that was a cute idea.