As soon as I turned onto highway 80, a feeling of paranoia took over. My heart raced and my hands gripping the steering wheel became clammy. The road, the mountains, the trailer trash on the side of the highway looked cold and gray; no colors, what was happening. I tried to talk myself down, but I could offer myself little reassurance.
What was happening to me. I glanced over at Sean as sweat seeped from my brow. He had a puzzled look on his face, making it obvious that he had been looking at me for quite some time. “Johnson, I’m really tripping man” I blurted out.
“I know Nate, it’s tough getting out of a co-dependant relationship” he replied. “You’ll get through it, it just takes time.”
“No man, I’m like really tripping, I think that dreadlock chick at Taco Bell slipped a little something into my Gordita.”
“Nate, you’re an idiot. Did you forget you just finished your fifth Red Bull in less than two hours,” he said.
My heart slowed as I called myself an idiot for the fifth time. The rest of the drive from Reno to our destination was nowhere close to as exciting as the first, and overall was filled with nothing more than the occasion tumble weed or Jack Rabbit who dared playing chicken with us.
Seven hours after leaving Tahoe, a Ford pickup and Toyota Four runner pulled into the parking lot of the Pine Lodge, in the town of Lamoille, Nevada. Joel Mahaffey, Elijah Valencia, Sean, Ian Ruhter, and myself unloaded our gear into our rooms and shut the lights off at about midnight. Partially into dream world I was awakened by the other two members of our group, who had decided to take their sweet time traversing Nevada¿enter into my room Mark Gallup and Michele Taggart. By three a.m. I was back asleep and managed to get a solid four hours in before the bastard of the hotel room, my alarm clock, started buzzing.
By the time I’d rolled out of bed, Michele was dressed, packed, and stretching in the other room. I threw on my snowboarding gear, and walked outside. The whole crew was already up, drinking coffee and trying to feed the twenty or so wild deer that had made the lawn of the hotel their winter feeding grounds. As we were dilly dallying around, the owner of Ruby Mountain Heli Ski and our host for the next four days, Joe Royer, pulled up in his van and motivated us to get the show on the road or at least walk down the street to O’carols for some bricks and glue.
As the group devoured the menu, some of the town locals were sticking to a liquid diet, despite the fact that it was only 8 am. Joe Broke out some waivers and began debriefing us about his operation and what to expect from the next couple days. After two more cups of coffee, we hopped in the vehicles and drove down a dirt road in the direction Joe had pointed to. Two minutes later, the helicopter came into site.
At this point, the coffee in my gut started to really rumble, making it difficult for me to concentrate on the sign that read Red’s Ranch, in big, bold, letters. We parked our cars, and gathered next to the heli pad, shaking hands with most of the employees and bro-ing down with Eric, our guide for the day.
A quick rundown of what not to do around a helicopter was in order i.e. it’s not a good idea to stick your hands in the rotors. Next, it was time to do a drill with avalanche transceivers. Gallup took control of the group, and had everyone line up for the search. But despite his knowledge and effort and the fact that Johnson’s transceiver was sending off faulty signals, Ian was the first one to find the device, which was hidden beneath a giant cow paddy, fifty yards in front of the helicopter. Speaking of the helicopter, this bird was sweet. Sure when I first found out I was for sure going on this trip, images from the TV show Riptide and Magnum PI abounded in my head, but TC got nothing on this A Star, nor Bob, the pilot.
The group was divided into smaller crews consisting of four passengers, one guide, and the pilot. I lucked out and was scheduled for the first lift. I asked Gallup for the window seat, but he told me no dice, instead I fought back feelings of claustrophobia as I smiled at Ian and Michelle on my right, and Mark on my left.
The Rotors began to circle above my head and a sound similar to woomf, woomf, woomf, began to echo in my ears. I closed my eyes and took a deep breath, Oh shit, my stomach, oh man I’m feeling faint. I opened my eyes and looked out the window; I’m done for sure. Either I’m going to throw up or black out. Thirty seconds off the ground it happened…
Tune into Part 2 of Ruby Doobie Doo and find out what really happened to Nate and the rest of the adventurers.