Who knew? It had been a typical warm and cloudless summer day in the desert southwest. I spit on my finger and stuck it in the air. No hint of any wind or weather problems. So, why shouldn’t we leave our awning out when we went to bed that night?
We were hooked up at one of our favorite parks, the Oasis RV Park at Mesquite, Nev. Mesquite is about 80 miles northeast of Las Vegas on Interstate 15 and your last stop before entering Utah.
It was the late 1990s and the Oasis Resort was going strong. It was one of several resort complexes in this desert town of about 5,000.
Complete with more than 700 room hotel, casino and RV park, assorted golf courses and other nearby amenities, the Oasis was a popular stop for travelers and a convenient getaway for nearby Nevada and Utah residents. The property was born a truck stop in the 1970s, later became the Peppermill and ultimately the Oasis.
With The Great Recession came financial ruin for the Oasis. In 2013, the resort closed and very soon thereafter the axe fell. Most assumed new owners would take charge and re-open the resort but, to the utter surprise of everyone, the Oasis was demolished.
Suddenly it was just not there anymore, the beautiful landscaping gone, the stately palms and well-tended gardens history. Losing the Oasis, where we had had so many good times, was like losing an old friend.
All that remains is the RV park, the foundations of buildings and a few assorted low structures. Walking through the ruins by day, one cannot help but be haunted by the images of a war-torn city. There’s a ghostly feel to the place as if former inhabitants still roam the site.
More than once, while walking among the flattened remains at night, our dog has stopped in her tracks and growled into the darkness as if seeing something unseen by us.
Anyway, here we were, sleeping soundly when suddenly we were awakened by the banging and flapping of our awning which we had left out to deflect the morning sun. It had been calm for days with not even a hint of wind. But, that’s the fickle desert for you.
We were on our feet in a flash. I raced outside, grabbed the awning at the mid-point like a trapeze and held on for dear life, hoping my weight would help keep the awning from ripping off and going airborne. My wife was on crutches with a broken foot and could not help.
So, there I was, barefoot, alone and in nothing more than my pajama shorts, being bounced around like a yo-yo and otherwise thoroughly manhandled by this contraption when, wait! Was that thunder I just heard? And, yes, that was a flash of lightning! Oh boy!
Now I was being pelted by raindrops the size of doorknobs and wondering how long it would be before I was literal toast.
After 20 minutes or so of this, my patience was waning along with my endurance. I was just about to let go and run for cover when something strange happened. Out of the darkness a hooded figure appeared next to me, grabbed hold of the unruly awning and over the raging wind shouted, “You look like you need some help.” I couldn’t see his face, but that didn’t matter.
Struggling to keep it from getting away, we managed to hand-over-hand our way to opposite ends of the awning where we could loosen the hardware and I could raise and lock the awning in place. When all was secured I turned to thank my helper. He was nowhere to be seen. I searched in all directions but he had vanished!
By morning the storm had passed and the day dawned hot and clear. I stepped outside to put the awning out and inspect it for damage. To my amazement it was already deployed and looked to be in even better condition than it had been before the storm. Had my mysterious hooded benefactor of the night before returned for another visit?
A grim footnote: Not far from the entrance to the RV park, a covered pedestrian footbridge once connected the Oasis casino with a four-story parking garage across the street. The garage and the bridge still stand, but the casino is gone.
The steel for this bridge, by the way, was provided by a close friend of ours. On March 10, 1996, motorcycle stunt rider Butch Laswell, before a crowd of thousands, attempted to jump the 38-foot structure and died in the attempt. Many now call it “the bridge to nowhere.”