Red Flag 22-3, July 17-20, 2022
by Joe Buchman

Was in Vegas for another conference and, as I've done for the past 25 years, after the conference was over I decided to take the "long way" home by detoring to Rachel in my 1998 RoadTrek 190V campervan/RV. It was first there in May of 1998 with my wife and our four children on a long cross-country trip (Utah, Disney, Golden Gate - I-80 out to the Statue of Liberty, up to Kitchener Ontario where the van was converted into an RV, Devil's Tower, etc, and home). Now it has 371,000 miles on it, almost all driven by me. Had a breakdown before getting to Las Vegas (Nevada) in Las Vegas New Mexico - broken, lower, passenger side ball joint. Got that repaired in Las Vegas New Mexico and was concerned from then on about the front end/stability, especially in high winds.

The conference was terrific, had dinner with a good friend in Las Vegas (Nevada) and headed north. When I hit HWY 375, I thought another ball joint was failing - just a terrible sense of stability.

July 17 - camped at the hidden campsite just off of HWY 375 (probably my 60th or so night there over the past 25 years). Chuck Clark had first told me about it back when the van was new, and Joe Travis was still behind the bar at the Little A Le Inn.

In the past I've cleaned up debris there - one time there were dozens to hundreds of shell casings. This time I noticed someone had built a second fire ring, perhaps for cooking, and perhaps concerned about the debris in the existing fire ring? The cooking grate I had left there some years ago was still there. Most trips I leave a few logs behind for the fire. Very quiet night, although I am, perhaps, the worst sky observer. Once it gets cold, or I get sleepy, I'm out like a light. Even though the RV is 25 years old, and I've spent perhaps 2,000 nights in that bed, it's still too comfortable to ignore.

July 18 - Had arranged to meet Joerg in Rachel, but was now very concerned that something was wrong with the van. Drove slowly, stopped a couple of times to check the tires, and became increasingly aware of how unstable things felt. Once I was off of HWY 375, things felt much better. After talking with Joerg, I was fairly sure that his analysis was correct. HWY 375 is in very poor condition, the road has buckled and is making that drive harder on everyone. It needs to be repaved, soon.

We headed up to Coyote Summit to observe Red Flag, but heard on the scanner that they were cancelling for the day due to weather. But before that, we caught a very odd radio exchange. If I remember correctly someone called out: "US Military Aircraft, turn East immediately or you will be shot down." With a reply, "I am an American Military Aircraft in lawful Space on a lawful mission." And the response, "depart immediately." I quickly turned on the voice recorded on my cell phone, but they did not repeat that kind of exchange. What I did record was, "depart immediately . . . Day-2 FOX, 52 Plus . . . Kill B52, pull high 247 60, 21,000. MIG-1, SPLASH-1 B-52, Copy That." Noticed other observers atop the hills just to the north and to the south of 375.

Spent the afternoon and early evening at the Little A Le Inn using their wifi to do some work, and then the night in the open lot across from their parking lot (where the wifi also worked!). High winds and amazing lightning storm early that night, and then quiet.

July 19 - Drove to the Rachel gas station to check the tire pressure and used their portable compressor to top off one of the tires. The clerk there said they would be getting diesel fuel to sell soon. Also bought an ice cream bar. Feeling better about the van, I drove up to Coyote Summit early, Joerg arrived about an hour later. Heard jets above the clouds Saw one jet below the clouds and a couple of helicopters. Once the exercises were over I decided to drive home rather than stay for another day. Just as I was pulling out onto 375 another Roadtrek passed by. We met up at the US 6, NV 375 junction. A grandmother was driving with two of her grandchildren and heading to the Redwoods. I told her I was surprised she did not stop in Rachel at the Little A Le Inn - turns out she had never heard of it.

Also highway 375 is in MUCH better shape once you cross over into Nye county.

Wound up spending the night at the truck stop on the reservation near Ely, and got home the next day. Looking forward to my next visit, camping near Reveille Peak again, and perhaps trying to summit it.

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