Easter Sunday dawned bright and a shade too early for myself as I met up with Richard at Terminal 2 Heathrow, at the indecent hour of 8 am. A short hop to Paris saw us checking-in for the long haul to Los Angeles. Two films and two meals later we emerged blinking in the cold light (yes, I did say cold, something you don't see on American imported TV) of Los Angeles. From there we flew to Reno in Nevada and collapsed into our rooms at the Peppermill Casino. It seemed I'd only just got to bed when the alarm went off for an early breakfast with Richard to discuss details of our forthcoming meeting between ourselves, the Bureau of Land Management (BLM) and the Spirit of America team.
We drew up outside the BLM building just as Bill Breedlove (Craig's operations manager and cousin) and Dezho (his crew chief) arrived. We were met at the door by Mike Bilbo who took us through to the conference room where we also met representatives from the paramedic and law enforcement communities. We then spent some 3-4 hours discussing arrangements for September. Each team will be issued with its own running permit subject to an agreed joint operations plan proving acceptable to BLM. The joint plan will be wide ranging covering everything from emergencies to the Trash Plan! Unfortunately, the joint plan must be signed, sealed and delivered in May when our own management load is at a peak because of our deployment to Jordan. Richard submitted the necessary permit application at the end of the meeting.
Richard and I then discussed the next stage of our visit i.e. Gerlach. By now there was heavy snow showers falling and we debated trading-up our hire car for a 4WD. We decided to stick with the Escort since, if the weather worsened in the mountains, we would turn back. However, the snow showers cleared and we had a fast drive up through stunning mountain scenery straight from western films. Pyramid Lake was equally stunning and one could readily appreciate how the country appealed to the explorers of old.
We arrived in Gerlach in daylight and decided to push on into the Black Rock desert itself. We were surprised to find that access to the desert was straight forward and, joy-of-joys, the desert was dry on the west side! It was pedal-to-the-metal as we spread north across polygons of mud playa. We stopped every so often to examine the desert floor but with the wind chill taking temperatures down to 12 degrees below freezing we didn't hang around outside the car! However, the desert was exactly the opposite on the east side where the cars will run. There the wind caused ripples on the desert lake but evidence around the edges suggested a rapid drying out was taking place.
We drove off the desert floor at sought refuge at the famous Bruno's. We were generously welcomed by all the locals and, after a couple of beers, sampled Bruno's culinary skills. From there we renewed Thrust2 friendships with Bev and others in the Miner's Club next door. It was clearly evident to me that the warmth of friendship cemented during the exploits of Thrust2 had endured over the years and there is an eager anticipation to see what the new Thrust team consists of!
The following day we met with Skeekie, Bruno's daughter, to arrange the team's accommodation. I also took the opportunity to contact the military base at Fallon to request storage of our minor explosive items. We then drove south to renew more friendships from the Thrust2 era; this time with the Reviglio family of Western Nevada Supplies. Richard also took the opportunity to download his e-mail which included a very encouraging report from Andy and Jane who had headed east to Jordan to check-out the desert there. Then it was back to the Peppermill Casino and a lengthy meeting to discuss the management work load. Eventually, we thrashed out a Plan of plans allocating tasks to individuals (including the Trash Plan!).
The following morning, after a hearty breakfast free from paperwork, we said good-bye to all we had met in Reno. All that was left was the really long haul back to the relative warmth of the UK.
Question - how do you squeeze a quart into a pint pot?
Answer - let Richard fall asleep in an economy seat!!
The author of this article, Martyn Davidson, is ThrustSSC's Operations Manager and a Squadron Leader in the Royal Air Force. Martyn is an honorary platinum member of the Mach 1 Club.
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