“Here we are,” said Bill, as I pulled my Jeep slowly into the junkyard. Row after row of derelict cars, trucks and buses formed a dense, metallic covering over this corner of California’s Owens Valley. Somewhere amid these rusting creatures I was going to find a campsite and settle down for the evening. Bill leaned over and cautioned, “You’ve got a tent or something to keep out the rats, right?” Suddenly, his offer of tent space didn’t seem as attractive as it did a half-hour ago.
Bill had been transporting a series of crippled vehicles to his salvage yard when the final car’s transmission gave out. I rescued him from the highway because I needed to reciprocate for the 75 hitchhiking rides I’d received this summer in Norway and Iceland. Camping in a junkyard sounded unique, but after dropping off Bill and finding a suitable site among the wreckage, I made an unpleasant discovery: the area was plagued by not only rats, but mosquitoes as well.
Since I had already explored eight miles of mosquito-infested territory on the edge of Yosemite National Park earlier that day, I was keen on preparing dinner without any further loss of blood. So I reluctantly abandoned the junkyard and took myself to a dirt road on the Nevada border, where the only things that disturbed my meal were the lightning-like flashes emanating from the Tonopah Missile Test Range.