After 15 miles, I reached the rest stop along the interstate and sat at a shaded picnic table under an awning. I watched people come and go in their vehicles and wondered where they were going and what their stories were. One man stood out to me, he had a beat up RV and was traveling alone. His body language told me that he was looking for something and when he noticed me sitting alone I picked up on what it was. He was lonely and wanted someone to interact with. He approached me and asked if I wanted any cereal, the only thing he had to share. Having just eaten my oatmeal, I declined yet I wanted to talk to him and free him from his solidarity. He was searching for human connection, something I was far too familiar with, but I was about to leave and I had gathered the vibe that if I interacted with him he’d become clingy. He left to another picnic table but appeared a few minutes later and asked if I wanted any smokes. I empathized with his attempts to interact and although I couldn’t give him conversation, I tried to be polite and genuine. As I continued walking I told him to “Have a wonderful day,” and disappeared into the distance. I eventually reached my destination and was quite happy with it. It was a bridge perpendicular to the interstate below it and had cement barriers I was able to hide my cart behind. The vehicles zoomed past me unknowing of my existence. As the sun began to set a desert storm began to rally and the harsh winds raised unease within me. Lightning flashed across the sky and caused my thoughts to run wild. “Do bridges work the same as caves when it comes to conductivity?” I didn’t know the science behind it but I determined that having shelter above me was better than being exposed to the elements. My perceived danger was high and I fought to keep calm. Time was my only salvation so I walked up the ramp to the small, flat space under the bridge and prepared for a restless night. The concrete was stained with layers of bird poop so I used my rain fly as a ground cloth. The bridge amplified the sounds of the semi-trucks racing by and that became my terror for the night. No headphones and no music could’ve drowned out that alarming sound but I tried anyway. An attempt to save my sanity. That evening I prayed for my safety from the lightning and then as I stared into the darkness I prayed that morning would come sooner rather than later. The lightning eventually stopped but the roaring of the semi-trucks never ceased.
The terrain drastically changed to the salty wonderland known as the salt flats. It was an exciting day for me, I would see the “Tree of Life” (a giant metal tree sculpture along the interstate) and reach the Bonneville Salt Flats (where the land speed record was broken). I made my way to the Bonneville Rest Stop and as I entered the parking lot a man stood by his car waiting for me. He greeted me with enthusiasm and told me he was an artist/photographer and had seen me as he traveled east three hours before. He shared his stories with me and although I was excited to talk to him my body was weak with dehydration. I had to steady myself with my cart. I walked towards the picnic tables and a woman popped her head from around the corner. “Are you walking? Do you want tea or water or both? Do you need money?” She handed me ice cold tea and water and scavenged a few dollars from her family in the car. The woman’s teenage daughter donated a few dollars from her personal stash and that meant so much to me. It was one of the moments where I felt like I was able to empower and inspire a young woman to face the world and follow her dreams. After that, my world was quiet again and I observed. Families ran and bicycled along the salt flats and couples took pictures together. Individuals heading to Burning Man (artistic festival of self-expression in Nevada) danced in the salt and I admired their kindred spirits. I began to feel a slight longing to share the beautiful landscape with my loved ones yet despite this, there was bliss in the air. The salt flats held a familiarity to me but I wasn’t sure if it was simply from a movie I’d seen or the stories my dad had shared with me from when he traveled on his motorcycle through the areas I was now walking. Regardless, it felt right to be there and I knew one thing: I had to sleep on the salt. As dusk approached I did exactly that, I stepped into the ocean of salt. “How far should I go?” I wondered to myself. I observed car tracks embedded into the salt and I began to fear a car running over me in the middle of the night. I walked for twenty minutes and deemed the spot no better or worse than the rest of the exposed terrain around me. I laid reflectors around my sleeping area hoping any roaming cars would avoid them. Even in this peaceful place I couldn’t avoid deadly thoughts. After all, every night I discover something new that could possibly kill me. I stared at the Milky Way above me and wondered my place in the universe. “How have I made it this far in life?” The stars glittered the sky and the crescent moon maneuvered across the sky as time passed. I let go of my worries while the sound of the interstate became white noise and peace fell over me.
After my first 100 mile stretch without any towns, I finally made it to Wendover. During the twelve miles, I was terribly unfocused and the walking took forever (shocker right?). When I got there I received an email from a gentleman that I’d met a few days prior. He told me he’d found me a place to stay and within the email were instructions. I’d met him when I walked under a bridge and noticed a man taking pictures of me on the road above. I waved hello and he walked down to talk to me. “Are you walking across the country?” he asked. I was extremely excited to have him know what I was doing rather than him thinking I was a stranded woman with a baby. Anyways, the instructions on how to get to the place and find the keys were like a scavenger hunt. Despite the heat, I was excited. I found myself in a part of town at the edge of a small airfield walking past historic hangers where pilots were trained to deliver the atomic bomb. The building that I’d be staying in was an office trailer that had been renovated into a retro living unit. It may have been one of the coolest interiors I’d ever seen. It was a work of art. I took the afternoon to rest and stretch out my muscles. I was at the Nevada state line and knew that I’d have to push myself physically further than I’d ever had before.