Carolyn and I went out to the Black Rock Desert to partake in the 4th of Juplaya experience. Kent put together (along with Dismal crew) an amazing fireworks show, well worth the trip. We drove out in my old ’79 F250, which is becoming a classic (apparently the 78 and 79 are much desired according to a nice ranger we met), and camped in it.
The show was really great. It was, by far, the best fireworks show I’ve ever seen. The pyrotechnics weren’t necessarily as big as a city-sponsored show, but they were close, “crowd interactive,” and very creative. Photographs, especially with a point-and-shoot digital, do not do justice the experience.
We camped with Nephology/FKO, and had a very nice time with our “neighbors.” Vera and Eric caravanned out with us and we ended up next to Simon and Julia. Between us we had brought a lot of good food and enough cooking apparatus to make very nice meals like citrus marinade for the ribs and chicken and butter lettuce and sides of seared vegetables and yams.
The fourth is a good time to head out – the playa is uncrowded and if you must avoid an impromptu rave that sets up near by you can just drive straight away until the sound fades to zero a mile or two away. By doing so, we slept very soundly in the back of the truck.
On the way out we took a very pretty dirt road that paralleled the paved road between 80 and Gerlach. We ended up driving down it a bit further than anticipated and the GPS told us to take a right at a “road” (as it was named on the GPS map) we could barely discern from the desert.
After an hour of crawling over washouts and flash creeks we found ourselves at a gate and a fork in the road. While waiting for the GPS to figure out which direction led to pavement (the battery died, the cigarette lighter in the truck doesn’t work so it was bare wires against he pins to wake up the GPS)… there was a fairly significant “BOOM” from under the hood and the engine stopped suddenly and a could of steam spurted out…
We were 25 miles or so from the last place we saw a human being and an indeterminate distance from the nearest paved road or even cell service. It was about 1pm. About 105F. Not the best time to be out in the middle of nowhere with the top blown off the radiator.
After inventorying what was in the back of the truck I dug out some ratchet straps, cut down a stick I found by the side of the road with the vestigial saw on my multi-tool, and used the stapler to fabricate a seal from a rag and strapped the radiator back together so it wasn’t blowing out steam fast enough to flood the distributor. I refilled the radiator with drinking water and we were ready to go. We found ourselves walking distance from a ranch where the lovely Annette there let us a refill our water bottles and we managed to drive over the pass and out to the paved road. With a few adjustments and minor events we made it all the way to I80 where the truck finally gave up.
There we met a friendly rattler who kept us company until AAA showed up and took us to Waynes Auto repair in Sparks. They seemed to know F250s pretty well, so they’re doing all the work the truck needs at the moment.
The Cadillac was a surprisingly pleasant and responsive car. It is definitely a heavy thing, and while the V8 seemed quite powerful, it did not jump like a scalded cat… or even a mildly surprised cat when one stomped on the accelerator. However an inattentive foot would easily close on 100 on the highway without any clear indication that excessive speed was being achieved.
The DTS seems like a “sporty” model with firm seats and a suspension that is designed to avoid the cartoonish body roll that exemplifies luxury American cars. But, amusingly, only one axis was identified: while the car handles turns very well, it pitches like a steamer under acceleration; pitching so much that the headlight beams come off the tarmac if you floor it at night.
As rentals go, it is quiet and comfortable and sportier than a Taurus, it is definitely a premium rental with a premium sound system and over the top automation.
- Quiet – Very quiet but the AC’s lowest setting was very loud for such a car.
- Comfortable – very comfortable with an old-person seat-exit setting.
- Engine – a powerful engine but no match for the mass of the car.
- Suspension – pretty good for turning but amusing under acceleration or braking.
- Basic amenities – everything that could possibly be powered is.
- Stereo – very nice sound.
- Security – good, a big private trunk.