Monday, August 8, 2011

Add a Dash of Salt

Before you read about the ride home, did you read about the ride out, the hike and the competition?

I'd already decided as I left Packwood that I didn't want to go home the same way I'd driven out, and the real question on Monday morning was simply how I was going to go about getting to I-80.

Was I going to take I-84 through Boise and meet up with I-80 north of Salt Lake City? Or was I going to take a three-hour detour through Twin Falls, ID and Wells, NV?

I had plenty of time to think about it, as I got on the road and into Idaho. I knew how US 93 was likely to be -- two-lanes, lots of nothing in between Twin Falls and Wells -- and I knew that I-84 was a "safer" bet. But if I didn't make that side trip, it wasn't like I could just decide later on to go back. In the end, I took the detour, even though construction on US-93 made it closer to four hours out of the way. And I don't regret it at all.

The view from the end of Salt Flats Drive.

The salt, close up. It was stickier than usual this year, due to lingering moisture.

I drove out about a half mile, at about 15mph, and put the magnetics on.

It was a beautiful, sunny day.

Nearly four thousand miles since home, and the bug spatter on the front is pretty impressive at this point.

Pointed poignantly towards the west, towards home, looking out at a horizon full of possibilities. I can not describe this picture to you. It is my favorite of all the ones I took.

After spending probably 30-45 minutes out on the salt, I slowly drove back in, parked the car momentarily to clear out some of the salt, then decided it was time for a late lunch.

Just a small amount of the salt packed into the rear fender wells.

My $6 lunch at the Salt Flats Cafe.

I dawdled at the Salt Flats Cafe for a while. I considered heading back into town to throw some money at a blackjack table, but in the end, I opted to get back on the road.

Eight more hours on the road, and I was pulling into Cheyenne, Wyoming, with lightning dancing in the sky. Lots of ball lightning rolling through the clouds, very spectacular with the lack of light pollution from the surrounding areas.

The next morning, I got an early start as Frontier Days were going on, and I didn't want to get caught in any traffic. Western Nebraska was as desolate as I remember, and at one point, I saw a Western Box Turtle on the side of the road. I stopped to either pick it up or move it off the shoulder, and when I got there, I saw that it had a shattered shell and had obviously died a slow death as it dragged itself to the shoulder. It made me quite sad to see.

As I trudged back to the car (it's hard to slow down rapidly from 80mph when you've got an unsecured load of tires in the car!), I saw a small cactus growing by itself in the sandy soil. I carefully pulled it out, and moistened the root with some water on a shop towel, and wrapped it up.
Nebraska cactus, at home in its new pot.

I don't know why I brought it home with me. Maybe to remind me of the turtle I couldn't save.

A few more hours down the road, I see the exit for Gothenburg, along with the notice for the Original Pony Express Station. I've seen this so many times, and wanted to stop every time, so I decide, yes, I'm doing it.

The original station, though not in its original location.

Original lantern outside the entrance

Obligatory pose with car

Back on the road, I make mental notes about the construction zones and such approaching Lincoln, so I can let others know what to expect come late August as they convene for the ProSolo Finale and the Solo Nationals. I see the Missouri River, swollen so much it looks to be a lake, and know that the danger for Omaha and much of Iowa is still very present. Signs tell me that I-680 is closed at the river crossing into Iowa and I-29 in Iowa is closed due to flooding. I make a quick stop just across the river into Iowa, grab another beer for the souvenir collection, and keep pressing on, wanting to make Illinois before sleepy time.
This was quite tasty.

I made it to Morris, IL, before calling it a night, and having hit some nasty construction zones, was wondering about the condition of my suspension the rest of the trip.

The remainder of the journey was uneventful. It was almost a relief on Wednesday to be rolling into Maryland, peaks under 1000ft and all, parking the Subaru in the driveway long enough to throw my hockey equipment into the black Camaro and bolting for hockey class at Kettler. In the space of eight days, I drove through 18 states (MD, PA, OH, IN, IL, WI, MN, SD, MT, ID, WA, OR, NV, UT, WY, NE, IA, VA) and the District of Columbia. Needless to say, I was bushed.

And I was supposed to be in Geneva, NY, in less than 48 hours for the Northeast Divisionals. But that story will have to wait.
Souvenirs : Air Force Bear from Cheyenne, American West recipe book (behind the bear) from Gothenburg, and the beers.

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