Just outta Bridgeport, there's some hot springs up a dirt track behind the ranger office.
Real nice spot. Great views over the mountains of the Hoover Wilderness, the jiggered peaks of Sawtooth Ridge. The gateway to the Incredible Hulk.
Our first taste of hot springs, the week before near Mammoth, punctured my vision of an idyll. I pictured gurgling crystal pools, smooth rock rinsed in an endless deep clean cycle from the earth's boiler. Even though the Mammoth climbing guidebook cautioned against bacteria (and scalding, and crazed perverts) in the tubs. Well sure enough, it was a deflation into soft white mud and little floaters of algae. You hope, algae. There's a load of baked cattle shit around too. But it's fine, got to be, everyone does it.
So we rocked up with modified expectations to this place outside Bridgeport. Must be a sign of squeamishness, that I want to conflate the bubbly trickles of heat loving algae and raw minerals where the water seeps through with the imagined effluent of the grim pit toilet in the parking lot. The landscape here has the hurt look of a mining operation, the ground chewed up by wheels and hydraulics, feet and shovels, to show its white bones. You've got to see past the ick, stop thinking the earth mother's been hassled til she pissed herself, let the warm water lubricate your mind's inhibitions. Look at that view.
The parking lot has only one other car in it. Just as well, it doesn't take much for a tub to feel crowded. Well wandered paths weave into a maze of sticking-out ribs of rough rock. Where the springs actually are is not apparent. There is one neat little concreted tub right next to the parking. Ferdia has disappeared somewhere, and I ease my unincredible hulk, beaten up from the previous day's exertions, into this.
A rumble and bump announces the arrival of a deluxe RV, which parks to fill up my peripheral vision. From it emerges a lady, an older lady, an ample lady, in a white dressing gown, sunglasses and sandals.
With the chocolate-smooth assurance of an older ample American lady, she instructs me, by way of greeting: "You're wearing far too many clothes."
I'm wearing swimming shorts and a visor. "Oh right..."
"You should get naked. It's much better. Everyone gets naked in the tub."
With the presence of a ship she glides past my tub, leaving in her wake a second gift of corrective advice. "You should come down to the other tubs. They're much better."
So I follow her in the direction of the better tubs, not like a spaniel on her heels but at a cool distance. These tubs are indeed better, with a view over the mountains instead of a dirt parking lot, and the water sputtering in from the rocks above like the a bath tap left on forever. In one tub there are two other women, not naked, and in another Ferdia, also not naked. The other two women, although not naked, are wearing bikinis that conceal and reveal their massive fake boobs, and their conversation, from what I hear, seems to revolve mostly around the getting of these. The woman has ditched her robe and sandals and slid into Ferdia's tub. She makes appreciative noises about the water and the view. She admonishes Ferdia, who is wearing a bikini.
"You're also wearing far too many clothes."
I'm usually not mad keen for getting naked, but in rebellion against my own reticence and because when in Rome, I take my clothes off. I feel skinny and pale, Gollum in a red visor. I slide in next to Ferdia, opposite the woman.
"Can I suggest you sit facing this way? You're missing out on the view."
There's no nice way of saying that to sit facing that way would mean squeezing in next to her, with her giant breasts floating in front like a pair of wrinkled buoys, so we mumble something about not minding missing the view as we were in it yesterday. She doesn't seem to take this in. She asks where we're from, gives our answer a cursory listen, and tells us about herself. She's driven down from Reno. It's only a couple of hours, which out here in the West makes her local. Seems like a long way to drive just for a soak in the springs.
"I just love to come down to the tubs. It's so beautiful. I just get in the RV and come down here. I've got kitties at home, but I just bring em with me. I've got six of em in the RV. They're my babies. I love kitties."
Feeling short on common ground to further the conversation, I climb out to check out a third and smaller tub next to us. Somehow this one is much hotter, almost scalding, a challenge. The honey purr continues.
"Have you ever heard of Burning Man? It's our festival out in the desert. I love Burning Man. I run a drumming workshop there, every year. I love playing the drums. It's my passion, what's your passion?"
Ferdia says rock climbing but might as well say anything. I'm making tactical advances on the scalding tub, immersing a little more of my legs each time before withdrawing to let the heat subside. She's looking at me through her sunglasses, white and naked as a lizard on the rock.
"Once again, you're missing out on the view."
"Yeah, we don't mind. It's very nice, but we've seen it quite a lot." Does she want me to sit beside her? Her eyes are eating me.
"And once again," to Ferdia, "you're still wearing far too many clothes."
"I don't mind wearing clothes," says Ferdia.
"Yep." says Ferdia.
She wiggles her toes out of the water. "See this tattoo on my shoulder? That's from Burning Man. Everyone gets a tattoo who goes to Burning Man. Sometimes I give tattoos. Guys get em on their ass. When I get a cute guy lying on the couch, like him...I say, I'm gonna give you a blowjob, and I blow on their ass."
There's no good way for me to respond to being talked about like this, so I act like I haven't heard. I'm starting to feel dirty, as though I'm trying to be provocative by sitting here naked outside the tub. I wish I had some clothes on.
"Just a joke," she simmers."It's so funny. They think I'm gonna give em a blowjob, but I just blow on their ass."
Unfortunately, despite my best attempts to acclimatize, the heat of this tub is too much. I can't just keep sitting here, white hipped and willy out in front of the view. I'm forced to go back to the other tub. In the cloudy water I submerge my nakedness. The women in the other tub are reliving, with relish, a horror story about someone else's boob job that went wrong.
That sumptuous, suggestive American elongation of the little word so.
"Are you two together?"
She left after about half an hour, to drive back to Reno with her kitties. I put my clothes back on.