Crater Lake To Stanley, Day 6 : Discomfort

I’m in a tiny town called Wagontire that’s really no more than a single residence with a couple of amenities tacked onto it: A cafe, an RV park, and a motel. Even so, it has an entry in Google Maps, so it must be the real thing.

The motel portion consists of one long building, subdivided into a row of six rooms. According to the woman who came out to greet me when I arrived, only the first two rooms in the row are functional and therefore rentable, and the rest are in some state of disrepair.

You can tell that this is the case by looking at the roof of the building. It gets progressively more damaged from one end to the other. When I asked the woman if she had any rooms available, she said that the first two were occupied, but I could stay in the last room on the end, provided I was okay being in a room that didn’t have a toilet or a shower or any running water.

“How much that would run me?”

“Oh hell I wouldn’t charge for that. You can stay in there for free.”

I said that was very nice and then asked her where I could get some water. She had just closed the restaurant (it was only open until about 4:00pm) so she led me around to the front of it to let me in and fill my canteen.

An old couple driving an RV rolled into the parking lot. It was one of those huge RVs, a house on wheels. The engine sounded like it was in poor shape. The old man sat in the cab with the engine running while the old woman came out and asked the lady if they had any good stuff to eat at the restaurant.

“No, I just closed it up. But what did you want?”

“Well, we’d like a cup of coffee if you have that…”

“Oh, why not. I’ve got the door open anyway. Come on in.”

The old man shut off his idling motorhome and he got out. The woman filled my canteen with water and then served the old couple coffee and told me that if I wanted, I could take the five gallon bucket that was already in the last room and fill it with water in the laundry area in back of the restaurant, so that I could pour it into the toilet, making it flush. I told her I hadn’t quite decided whether I was staying the night or whether I was going to press on to the next town, but I would stay in that room on the end if I decided to stay here.

“Alright. The room is unlocked, so just go in. There’s an electric ceiling fan that works.”

She closed up the restaurant again, and I rested outside on one of the wooden benches, looking around at my bike and the RV and the string of motel rooms, wondering what to do. I noticed that my bike was learning against a post with horseshoes nailed to each end that was meant to have horses tied to it, which I thought was appropriate, since it was the thing I had been riding all day.

The old couple went back out to their RV and had considerable trouble starting the thing up. I think they were still getting used to the idea that it had a generator as well as an engine and that the two couldn’t be started at the same time, or something like that. After an entire five minutes of revving and chugging and bangs and ignition noises, he finally got it started, and waved at me, and drove on.

Eventually I decided that since the room had an electric ceiling fan, that meant it had electricity. Perhaps I could go in and charge up the GPS tracker which had nearly run down, and charge up the laptop, and synchronize all my gadgets and whatnot. The only problem was that I had almost no food. I had a bunch of really dry and crappy protein bars and a little fake cardboard milk carton of chewable vitamin-C candy that was disgusting and waxy, and that was all. But since I was feeling tired already, I decided to wheel the bike over to that room at the end of the building and try to make a night of it.

So, here I am in this room.

It has two double beds with mismatching covers and a nightstand between them bearing an ancient electric clock shaped like a soft rectangle, with those 50’s-style soft rectangular numbers on it. For flooring it has a bunch of old peeling vinyl tiles. The peeling is quite bad just inside the door. Whatever color they used to be is unknown; they’re different shades of brown now.

Across from the beds is a wall-mounted gas heater, vertical standing, that is broken or turned off. If you stand near it you can hear the wind whistling through the pipe that leads up from the floor to some vent in the roof. There is a big window occupying the wall between the front door and the corner of the building, broken into multiple panes, with one of them stuck permanently open a few inches. Thick curtains cover the window.

As the wind travels across the roof of the building it enters the vent before it reaches the corner near the window, so you hear the noise in the heater first and then you hear the noise against the corner of the room by the open pane. Sometimes it sounds like a person humming. Other times it sounds like the howl of a coyote, cut short.

To the left of the heater is a door leading into a bathroom. The door doesn’t quite fit in its frame any more and won’t close. If you stand next to it, you can feel unnaturally cool air seeping out from behind the door. The reason for this becomes clear once you actually enter the bathroom and look around.

Inside, there’s a small window which is caked shut, and looks out onto a view of desert scrubland and nothing else. The toilet is filled with a tiny amount of water and dead insects and black specks of mold. Jutting out from the wall next to it is a sink, which is bone dry. The cabinets above the sink are open, and the mirror is covered in dust. There’s a bunch of remodeling hardware scattered on the floor. The shower is one big piece of painted metal and has been ripped out from wall. All the floorboards beneath it have been torn up and removed, and It’s sitting directly on the naked crossbeams under the building. Cool earth-smelling air is constantly streaming up out of this hole and filling the bathroom. It smells and feels like the interior of a gopher hole.

Among the hardware is a plastic bucket, empty except for a collection of lifeless bugs at the bottom. It’s probably the bucket for dumping water into the toilet in order to make it flush, but no one has stayed in this room for a long time, so the bucket is completely dry, and bugs have been wandering over the lip of the bucket and been unable to escape. When I was standing in this room looking around, I tipped the bucket over and several of the beetles dragged themselves out and crawled weakly towards the hole in the floor.

When I went back into the main room and tried to close the door it wouldn’t close all the way, so I wedged it as closed as I could and searched the room for a power socket to plug in my laptop. I found one but it was behind a small beat-up desk, so I hauled the desk along the wall until it was pressed against the bathroom door, holding it shut. My laptop is now sitting on the desk looking extremely out of place with its sleek illuminated keyboard.

Above the desk, at just about ceiling level, is a small pair of stag antlers nailed to the wall. They’re still rooted to a section of the carapace that would have formed the top of the animal’s skull, and there’s still a fringe of dried fur attached to that. The nails holding it to the ceiling have been driven straight through this carapace. This isn’t actually the worst taxidermy I’ve seen on my trip through here but it’s pretty bad. Complimenting the antlers are a half-dozen pictures in frames, hung randomly around the room. One of them is a shiny velvet painting of a family of black bears playing around in front of a cabin. Depending on where you stand, the reflected light makes them look menacing or playful. Are they just passing by? Or have they just emerged from the cabin, after dining on the humans within, like the illustration on the last page of some old-world fairy tale?

The ceiling fan does work but there doesn’t seem to be any way to turn it on without turning on the lights, so it’s off for now. The ticking of the old electric clock is very audible in the room, but I don’t really feel like rooting around behind the dresser to try to unplug it. The bike is here, standing in the middle of the floor. Some of my gear is spread out across one bed and I’m laying on the other.

Right now I’m wondering how I’m going to be able to sleep once all the daylight fades. At 9:00pm the last of the light will be gone and then this room will be in complete darkness, except maybe for my phone, and the screensaver of the laptop. I can see myself napping here during the day and I probably should have tried a little harder to actually nap instead of listening to an audiobook. When night falls I’m not sure what I can do. This room is very strange.

I don’t have to worry about the outside world because the door does lock and the shades do close, and by all appearance there’s nothing here that anyone would want to break in to steal. But the consolation of the lock on the door also brings with it the disturbing condition that I’m sealed inside. I’m tired, my dreams have been very weird lately, it’s almost completely dark, the room has no phone, and I have no cell signal so there’s no one I can call. As a matter of fact there is only one person in the world right now who knows where I am exactly, and that’s the woman who told me about this room.

At about 10:00pm I wake up to the howling of coyotes.

About an hour after that I wake up to the sound of mooing cows. The noises seem to be coming from all around outside the room, as though a hundred cows were on a midnight walk through Wagontire. It’s bizarre but I have no interest in opening the door for a better look. I turn over and claw for a bit more sleep.

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