Friday, July 18, 2008

The Long Road Home

Due to the vagaries of working the overnight shift at the WSOP, and a doctor's appointment on Friday I couldn't get out of, my stay at the WSOP ended a few hours earlier than many of my co-workers. It was just after noon on Monday, just as the field started being trimmed from 27 to nine, that I departed.

I was melancholy, a bit depressed, more because of the anticlimactic nature of the proceedings than anything else. I'd picked up on it about Day 4 or so, as the teardown process began and the poker trappings were stripped away, that we'd done all this work and wouldn't know who the winner was anyhow. By the end I'd reached the point of not caring much anyway; the last two players I gave a hoot about were Alex Outhred and Matt Lessinger, and they both went out during Day 6 play.

I don't see much of a need at present for me to return in November to help cover the final table, so this was it for me. I spent a lot of that morning packing at the Gold Coast. I can tolerate it, even if living in a casino hotel for seven weeks does get a bit trying. Sure, I was a whole lot lonely at the end, because working the overnights meant a lot less interaction with my co-workers. But griping about this as if it were the world's worst gig? Nah. No thanks to that. Things could be a lot worse, and I'll skip the ten-penny drama. Lots of people don't even the chance to dream about doing the things I've done, and it has nothing to with skill sets. It's more just about the hands that life deals you. I'm not an overly religious person in the strict sense, but I believe that God or whoever deals out life's challenges in accordance to what each person can handle. It's not that each person does handle those challenges, but that they can.

Life goes on, at that.

So I bailed out of Vegas, a bit past noon, for the surprisingly enjoyable desert drive that waited. It's a bit blah over to Mesquite, but from there the short bit of I-15 that's in Arizona is a truly beautiful drive up the Virgin River gorge. Southern Utah is nice, too, meaning the St. George and Cedar City areas. Wouldn't mind doing the tourist thing in this region some day. Odd thing: except for when I was in the gorge itself, the Vegas radio station my car was somehow tuned to when I started it up was doing live coverage of the WSOP from the Amazon Room, so I was still following it. I couldn't quite turn it off, and only when the signal went away did I spin the dial.

The drive turns desolate further north, especially where I-70 begins and turns east toward Colorado. It's an immediate climb up into the Fishkill National Forest, which is a bit of a misnomer in that there ain't no trees. Lots of hilly grades, nesas and steep curves, though, and then it's a drop back down into that isolated Utah valley where a Richfield and Salina and a dozen other hamlets sit, sheltered from the rest of the world. No stopping here for me this night, though.

Between Salina and the Colorado border is the truly desolate stretch of the drive, with the famed pioneer outpost of Green River the only real civilization for nigh on 200 miles. Most of the drive is just an up-and-down winding through badlands, interspersed with occasional scenic views -- Devil's Canyon, Ghost Rock, etc. --- and roads to other natural attractions. Badlands, all of it. I remembered to have a gallon jug of water in the back of the car and thought about how cushy I had it, zipping along, compared to how it was 150 years ago. Not much for radio stations out there in the wilderness, but hey, you can't have everything.

Civilization picks up not long after one crosses into Colorado, even if the scenery is much the same. I believe it's at Fruita, maybe 20 miles in, that I-70 meets the Colorado River, and the freeway follows it for much of the ensuing drive east. It's only another ten minutes or so from Fruita to Grand Junction, though, and it was late and I picked the first half-decent place that offered wireless internet. I'd been up most of the overnight and then done a nine-hour drive through the desert, and I was beat.

You know, it wasn't a bad day after all. The next one would be worse.

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