A story of near death.
This area is fairly remote, which is one of my favorite parts of getting out there alone. You can still find a bit of solitude. In 2008, after finishing the 9 hour drive to this playa (near the border of Oregon and Nevada) in the mid afternoon I was exhausted... as I tend to be during any hour of the day. Like the Nap Champ I am, I crawled into the back of my SUV and took a 3 hour snooze.
My alarm went off on my then brand new iPhone (the original iPhone... like the first one that ever came out) and I popped up from my thunderous slumber to find thunderous weather had accumulated in the skies. “HELL YEAH!” I glanced at my phone to silence the alarm and noticed I had only 3% battery left. “I should charge this” I thought to myself. I jumped back into the drivers seat of the truck, plugged my phone into the charger, shoved my key into the ignition, twisted my wrist and.... nothing. “Hmmm.” I turned the key again... *clickclickclick* “Oh come the hell on.” Twist *clickclick* Nothing. I quickly assessed the issue and found the problem in about 4 seconds because I’m a talented mechanic... my dumb ass left the headlights on.
Slight panic set in and I quickly went into problem solving mode. Scenario: Dead car battery, a near 24 hour walk to find civilization, enough food to last about 3 hours (36 hours for a normal person), enough water for a day, enough layers to keep warm, a book, and a cell phone with 3% battery left. I established my first priority aloud to myself “screw walking 30 miles in the desert.” So my safety had to come via the rapidly dying cell phone.
Who should I call and explain my scenario to with a battery that might die in 1 minute of talking? Of course 911. The phone call went like this: “911, what’s your emergency?” Me: “my cell battery is about to die, so I’ll be quick. I’m stranded in my vehicle at *insert coordinates I looked up on my in-car GPS* and need a jump start. I’m not injured, I just need a jump start.” She responded “Ummmmmmmm. Well the nearest tow truck company is located 3 hours away, so I can try to cal...” *phone dies* Lovely. So maybe someone will show up or maybe not and I’ll just walk out tomorrow... which is going to really piss me off.
With not much else to do, I decided to grab my camera bag and shoot this image. After sunset, as it started to get dark, there was still no sign of help. I ate my leftover sandwich from earlier in the day, placed a bunch of flashlights on the roof of my truck pointing towards the rarely used dirt road that was a couple miles away, and tucked into my book to kill some time.
9pm, nothing. 11pm, nothing. 1am... “what are those headlights out there?!” Like someone who’d been lost at sea for months, I frantically grabbed one of the flashlights and started waving it wildly at the distant vehicle followed by rapidly covering and uncovering the light to signal the morse code for SOS, which at that point meant “save our stomachs” more than anything else... I was still hungry after my sandwich. Sure enough, the headlights turned toward me, grew closer, and in a couple minutes revealed themselves to be attached to a tow truck.
The driver jumped out. “You that kid with a dead battery?” I happily replied “yeah, didn’t know if anyone was gonna show up!” He shot back “Boy, your coordinates were way off! I've been looking for you 20 miles in the other direction for hours.”
And that, my friends, is the incredibly boring story of how I once paid over $1000 to take a nap in the desert.