An amber sign up ahead announces from the darkness, “CHAINS REQUIRED NEXT 30 MILES.” It’s the end of May, where everywhere else in the world is luxuriating in the throws of early summer. But Reno, special place that it is, is having a fucking snowstorm.
Micky is behind the wheel when we pull over to the side of the road after being waved over by a man wearing a waterproof-looking suit and heavy rubber boots. Law abiding citizen that I am, I immediately think these guys work for the government in some capacity. As it turns out, they’re just capitalizing on the sign a mile back. After two minutes into a window-side conversation with him, we figure out he’s part of a crew selling and installing chains to the tune of $90. It’s highway robbery…literally.
We ask the man if we can please have a moment to discuss the issue and wind up the window to debate whether or not this is a total scam or its actually worth forking out the cash just so we don’t die early on into the book tour. After deciding that this little roadside setup is 3 parts scam and 1 part legitimate necessity, we err on the side of cheap badasses and decide we’re going to carry on sans chains.
The first mile back on the road seems safe enough; there is snow on the side of the road but nothing our little mini van can’t handle. Soon enough, however, the snow begins to coat all lanes in a thick layer of white. Another amber alert sign up ahead reminds us “CHAINS REQUIRED.” My blood pressure escalates.
Micky and Rubin have switched sides. Rubin is from Kansas. I make a joke about snow in his hometown in regards to his experience driving in it. He assures me he’s had plenty of practice. For some reason, most likely The Wizard of Oz being my only reference point for the state, I didn’t even know it snowed in Kansas. I never even thought about it geographically and connected the dots. His confidence in his driving abilities – in combination with a medium-grade, pervasive neuroses similar to my own – makes me happy he’s behind the wheel.
Dallas turns on the florescent reading lights and commences the sixth round of Trivial Pursuit, which I’ve discovered is a game that just asks ridiculous questions like “What is the subgenre of this subgenre?” or “What type of grandstand music did Lyndon B. Johnson listen to while in the Lincoln Bedroom?” Two times out of ten the answer in the musical category is either a repeat of the question it just asked or “Celine Dion.” I can’t tell if I’m stupid or the game is. I’ll be generous and surmise to guess it’s a little bit of both.
The snow gets thicker as we twenty-five-mile-per-hour our way up the hill, getting passed by gigantic angry semi-trucks and cars with chains. My stomach turns and I know myself well enough to just call a neurotic spade a neurotic spade and put myself to sleep like I do on airplanes. I can’t have panic attacks when I’m sleeping; it’s pretty much the same principle by which anxiety medications work upon – you can’t be anxious when you’re numb to the world. I make the decision between naptime or a heart attack. I take the former.
I close my eyes, leaving the boys with their Trivial Pursuit cards, fall asleep, and wake up in Reno…alive. Imagine that.