Friday, August 2, 2013

No Particular Place To Go

This is part V of an extended version of the yearly road trip writeup. You may wish to visit Parts 1, 2, 3 and 4.

Evanston in the morning is a bit chilly, but I was still a little worried about the weird vibration from the night before. As I was checking out, I asked the hotel clerk if it was going to be a problem for me to be removing a wheel from and possibly working on my car in the hotel parking lot. Her response was, "This is Wyoming. You can pretty much do what you want here." With that blessing, I jacked the car up and pulled the passenger front wheel.

No missing weights, no loose endlinks, nothing I could see to account for the vibration. There were a lot of nasty bugs stuck on the inside of the wheel, but I didn't think they could affect the balance that much. But, on the off chance there was something I couldn't see, I took it to a DIY car wash, where I promptly managed to cut my knuckles on the front license plate and bleed all over. Nice. I considered it a blood sacrifice to make it to Toledo safely, and then got on the road.

There was no drama on the trek towards Green River, so when I saw the sign for Fossil Butte National Monument, I decided to jump off I-80 and head towards Kemmerer. It turns out that it's a lot further from the interstate than I thought, but that was okay, as I had plenty of time to get to Toledo before Wednesday night.
Random railroad crossing
Wish I'd been able to capture a train too.
I went through a cloud of locusts right after I washed the car. This one was still moving 10 minutes later. Ugh.
The colors of the rocks at Fossil Butte are amazing. Maybe they aren't as dramatic as the Yellow Mounds in the Badlands or the Painted Desert, but it's still a sight to see.

The visitor center has an incredible diversity of fossils from the beds -- plants, animals, seeds, embryos! Everything. If you can't visualize what that ecosystem looked like from their collection, you have no imagination.
Mioplosus labracoides, a predatory fish
Paddlefish with Knightia (the small fish)
Knightia meeting a grisly end
Hummelichelys guttata with teeth marks in its shell
Echmatemys with teeth marks
Chisternon undatum, extinct
Soft-shelled Apalone heteroglypta (with Knightia)
This Axestemys byssinus was larger than me! It's another soft-shelled turtle
I didn't take a lot of plant photos, but this frond (and a matching on on the other side of the case) was almost as tall as me!
A horsetail/rush, with several juvenile Knightia

Two different layers; these fish died many years apart

This guy was much more personable than the one at the Badlands.
Heading back towards the highway, I considered hiking the Historic Quarry Trail (2.5 miles roundtrip), but then decided that it might take longer than I wanted. So, it was back on the road, to US30, which I stayed on through Kemmerer and towards Green River until I saw a sign for "Granger Station". I didn't know what it was, but it was only 1/4mi off the road, so I detoured into the tiny town (less than 150 inhabitants) of Granger. The first historic marker I saw took me to a pioneer community graveyard.
Most of the graves here are unmarked and unknown. The last burial was in 1942, and it is mostly infants and children, but that is sadly typical of pioneer cemeteries.

The other historical site in Granger is the Granger Station, first established in 1850 as a wayside for those traveling the Oregon Trail, then later used as a Pony Express Station and as a train station. The railroad coming to town is what allowed Granger to incorporate as a town in 1914.
The main structure is about the same size as the Pony Express station in Gothenburg.
This additional portion may have been stables or something else in the past, but has long since gone into disrepair.
My curiosity got the better of me; I lifted up the boards and found a cobwebby well underneath of them.

The doors were nailed shut, but you could see through the windows the building was empty.
The railroad still passes through Granger to this day.
Another claim to fame is that Mark Twain once stopped at this very station, which I discovered after I'd left.

From Granger, I headed back towards Green River and then I decided to check out the Flaming Gorge. This is another one that I really wish had said how far from the interstate it was, since it was even further. With few paved roads as options across Wyoming, this would mean that I wouldn't get very much past Rock Springs within the first several hours of leaving Evanston! But some of the views were worth it.
It looks barren, but it's teeming with its own diverse lifeforms.
There are also tons of fossils throughout the Green River formations.
Once you get into the northern reaches of Utah, there are signs along the road saying which epoch or age you are at (like the Jurassic or Cambrian age).
Around Sheep Creek Bay, you start to see some of the layers for which Flaming Gorge is named.
Sheep Creek Bay of the Flaming Gorge Reservoir

The road to the overlook
Swett Homestead from the Greendale overlook
I didn't see any. :(
Swett Homestead
Carter Creek Bridge from the Cedar Springs overlook

Carter Creek Bridge
Flaming Gorge Dam from the Visitor Center
They are very, very worried about invasive aquatic species in the Western states. This is from Lake Meade, after just 3-4 days in the water.
Flaming Gorge Dam
A real cowboy, herding cows towards a pond. He seemed amused by me taking a picture of him
Yellow rocks overlooking the Clay Basin
Clay Basin
Eventually, I made my way back to I-80 at Rock Springs, then pushed on towards Cheyenne and Nebraska. I knew my time away from the interstate was going to hurt me, but I was seeing such awesome stuff and meeting interesting people, so I didn't so much care. It was funny at Fossil Butte that one of the women at the Visitor Center saw my Washington Capitals hat and exclaimed how much her son would love to know that a Caps fan had stopped by tiny Kemmerer. Then I told her I was a season ticket holder, and she was extremely amused. But, I guess Caps fans don't venture outside DC too often, or if they do, they don't advertise their hockey affiliation. ;)

I tried finding a hotel in Sidney, Nebraska (home of Cabela's) to no avail, so I ended up driving another 90 long minutes to North Platte. The vibration had stayed away for most all of the day until I'd gotten into Nebraska, and it was still only in right hand sweeping turns at speed. If I was just changing lanes, it wouldn't happen, and if I slowed down to 60-70mph, it didn't happen. I was still perplexed, but I'd hopefully be in Toledo the next evening and PURE Tuning could look at it and hopefully fix it. 

Next up : Bad Vibes

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