San Francisco—Salt Lake City—Wendover—Brigham City
Planned a short trip to Utah to check out some earthworks (and various other attractions around the great salt lake) and brought along our pal Jesse as he’s generally game for a good adventure. Plus he manages to make us look nice even after 10 hours on Amtrak (see above). Twenty hours on a train can get a bit weary if you’re not in the proper mindset and its always nice to have someone to drink with and beat at cards.
Once the train reached Salt lake City our plan was to rent a car from the airport and head west to Wendover. Somehow the train came in an hour before schedule and as we’d forgotten to factor in the time change our 5 a.m. arrival was more like 2:30 a.m.
At least we got to see the sunrise over the salt flats. Made our way out to the Bonneville Speedway only to find a camera crew filming a car commercial. Sort of anti-climactic so we headed up the road to find an old bomb crater. Our directions were eerily similar to those used to summon the Invisible Swordsman, but eventually we spotted the ruins of an old bunker and from there located the two ruts that had once been a road leading to our coveted hole in the ground.
You would never guess it was there, which was probably the point as this area is all public lands aka not supposed to be used for crater making. The information we had said this little guy was probably from the 50′s and that there were likely unexploded ordinances in the area. We didn’t wander far.
Saw some bighorn sheep while we were out there, then headed on to old Wendover air base, home to one segment of The Center For Land Use Interpretation. CLUI may be one of the greatest things ever.
Radio tower. The fast food station was the best.
Wandered around the semi-abandoned base.
This hanger was home to the Enola Gay.
Tried to find the southern end of the road leading to Lucin so we wouldn’t have to drive the highway all the way around. Looked like this guy had been there for a while.
Found our road and headed north. Thought if we averaged about 40 mph we’d make it to the Sun Tunnels with plenty of daylight to spare. Only slid out once and managed not to ditch it. Luckily we’ve got years of practice with this sort of thing.
Followed our gut and there we were. So great.
The dark started coming so we set off once again. Continued north to the highway and then east towards Ogden, stopping at Crystal Hot Springs for a much needed de-dusting and loosening of limbs.
Made it as far as Brigham City, which must be the drive-in restaurant capitol of Utah. This didn’t strike us as a bad thing.
Twin beds and a nightcap.
Brigham City—Great Salt Lake—Huntsville—Salt Lake City—San Francisco
Awoke to rain, which is never a good thing when you’re planning on driving 15 miles of dirt roads in a rented Saturn. Figured we’d try it anyway and headed west towards the Golden Spike, where the Union Pacific and the Central Pacific railways first met (at least where they met ceremonially, the true meeting place is debatable. Also, in actuality Leland Stanford missed the ceremonial spike he was supposed to drive in, but apparently as one of the the Big Four we overlook that sort of thing).
Saw a missile display along the way. Reminded us of Little Boy.
The rain continued, but we managed to slide our way down the muddy road to one of our favorite things in the whole world, Robert Smithson’s Spiral Jetty.
First fell in love with Smithson’s work while visiting the Dia:Beacon about 3 years ago. Made a solo trek out to the Jetty shortly thereafter and that was that. Can’t honestly explain how amazing it is to turn a random corner on a dirt road and see this. Its just so beautiful and haunting out there all by itself, giving you this feeling that its not there for anybody but you. In a way its true, since there’s no buying or selling involved in this art, its just a creation for the sake of creating.
Apparently other people like it too.
On the first Jetty trip the whole lake was covered with snow, but this time it was earlier in the season and as we got closer the whole lake looked bright pink. Due to the high salinity the water is nearly uninhabitable, tiny pink brine shrimp being the only aquatic animals able to stand it.
It was very cold.
Sort of how we’d imagine exploring the arctic or maybe the moon.
Sometimes you forget you’re walking on an inland sea. Back in the car we headed for the highway, passing our first fellow travelers in hours creeping their way along the rutted and sticky road. Somehow our rental managed to be sturdier than it was ugly and our slide outs weren’t life threatening. Heading southeast we set our sites on Huntsville, home to the Shooting Star Saloon (the oldest still operating bar in Utah), which in turn is home to one of the top 5 hamburgers in the United States as well as the mounted head of the former holder of the title World’s Largest Dog. There is no picture to do him justice, but suffice to say that a grizzly bear mount was used to stuff his enormous St. Bernard head when he passed away (weighing in at 300 lbs) in the late 1950′s. He seemed extremely content overseeing the goings on of the bar, with his well-groomed fur and slightly protruding tongue, though we secretly wished he wore a barrel around his neck (shouldn’t they all?). Go pay him a visit, his name is Buck and, yes the burgers are amazing.
Just don’t forget the beers in Utah are only 3.2 percent.
Even sobriety doesn’t help Jesse with rummy.
Or bowling. At least he can stand being continuously beaten by a girl without throwing a fit.
Back in Salt Lake City we played a few games while waiting for our midnight train. Twenty hours later and we were back over the bay listening to a woman in sweat pants tell some New Zealand tourists that San Francisco was crazy and her new home state of Ohio had plenty of big cities “like Columbus, which might even be the capitol” where there were factories that made tv dinners. There’s no place quite like the one you come home to.
Still interested? Check out a copy of Mike Davis’ book Dead Cities from the library then poke around in the Land Use Database on clui.org. We also found two CLUI publications Points of Interest around the Old Wendover Airfield and Points of Interest in the Great Salt Lake Desert Region to be extremely helpful.