I WAS CAMPED on the Alvord dry lake bed. Eighty-four square miles of perfectly flat sunbaked sediment. I was happy. But it started to cloud over, and by evening it looked like it could rain sometime during the night. I checked the forecast. Yup, chance of rain.

I didn’t want to be on the playa when it got wet. The parched earth might be able to soak up the rain with no problem. Or it could turn to 84 square miles of mud. So I moved to higher, firmer, ground by the entrance, just in case.

It was still warm, so I left the back door open. “Just until I start to doze off,” I told myself. But I fell asleep without closing it. I woke a few hours later. Doh. I closed the door. Fortunately, it hadn’t rained. And it didn’t rain the rest of the night. So I returned to the lake bed in the morning.

It clouded up again by early afternoon, and I could see rain falling in the distance. About three seconds after I decided it was time to go, a dust storm blew through. Not haboob proportions, but enough to leave a coating of grit in the van and solidify my decision to leave.

I knew of a free campground with a hot spring and showers, to the west, just inside Nevada. No mud problem there, and I could de-dust-ify myself.

I arrived, found a good site near the pool, and set up camp. Then I went to avail myself of the vault toilet.

Vault toilets have a vent stack designed to draw away the, um, aromas. But if the wind is strong enough, it blows into the stack, down into the vault and up your butt. I was surprised when that happened, but it was curiously refreshing.

Just as I was being air dried by nature, there was the splat-a-pat of fat raindrops on the roof. Then it was like the assault of a firehose. Uh-oh! I had left my van’s side door open! I pulled myself together and ran for my rolling home.

Luckily, the rain was nearly horizontal and the side door was leeward. The van interior remained dry, but I was soaked. I wouldn’t be needing that shower after all.