Well, I've booked it. 16' Box truck from Budget at Millbrae - so fly in, overnight at an airport hotel, then taxi to the rental company.
It was about $22 per day, and $0.71 per mile. Somewhat cheaper than an RV, and muuch less of a worry about losing the deposit, I figure.
My brother has a house in Livermore, so that's going to be the staging post. Not sure if he'll get a ticket yet, but seems up for helping regardless, e.g. bikes etc from craigslist. Maybe I'll persuade him to help out with the swamp cooler too.
Pick up dry ice and perishables in Reno, overnight there (quite how I'll get to sleep with the excitement I don't know), then up early to go and find the back of the line.
The plan is beginning to take shape.