Sunday, August 16, 2015

Twelve Monkeys

Day One : Here We Go Again
Day Four : Venturing Fourth
Days 5-6 : Pleading the Fifth
Days 7-8 : Lucky Seven
Days 9-10 : Niner Niner
Day 11 : These Go To Eleven

I pretty much couldn't wait to get out of Lovelock. The RV park we'd settled for was rundown and sketchy, complete with a creeper sitting outside of his "motel room" that would just watch you walk to the keycode-protected restroom. We got on the road early, and stopped briefly in Battle Mountain to pick up some groceries.

Since we were still on our way to the next planned destination -- Wendover -- and it was a few hours distant, when we saw a sign for the California Trail Interpretative Center, I suggested we stop. If nothing else, we could stretch our legs.

The center is a Bureau of Land Management facility, and when I saw the National Parks Passport books for sale in the gift shop, I figured that meant they had a stamp. Sure enough, the stamping station was near the entrance to the exhibits, so I jogged back out to the RV to grab mom's book.

The exhibits focus on the hardships encountered by those traveling west, concentrating on the California Trail, but also the Oregon Trail. Of course, the infamous Donner Party disaster is covered in depth, including placing the blame on the Emigrant's Guide to Oregon and California trail book writer, Lansford Hastings. His supposed shortcut, the so-called "Hastings Cutoff" actually added a significant distance to an already arduous journey, and led at least in part to the Donner Party debacle.

Hiking around the west end of the Hastings Cutoff
Back on the road, we were less than an hour from Wendover and the salt flats! Soon, we could see the white landscape in the foreground.

While we were checking out the Victory Highway, we saw four or five helicopters coming in from the west. When we went over to the Wendover Historic Airfield, we saw the helicopters and their crew gathered around.

The airfield's museum doubles as an office/airfield operations, which was interesting. We watched a short film about the history of the airfield, and it dawned on me.

It was August 6th. The 70th anniversary of the bombing of Hiroshima.

A model of the Enola Gay
A dummy bomb used in training. This one was a version of Little Boy, the bomb dropped by the Enola Gay
The hangar we used to lean on during impound at the Wendover ProSolos. It also housed the Enola Gay before it went to the Philippines, and from there, Japan.
We drove back through town, looking at some of the historic structures. There have been improvements to some of them since the last time I was here, and certainly since the last ProSolo that I attended, in 2008. It's amazing to know that at its height, Wendover was the home to over 20,000 military and civilians. Many of the old dormitories have fallen down, but there are active restorations going on at the air base. Maybe, just maybe, they'll achieve a National Historic Park status and federal funds will help with some of it.

From Wendover proper, we headed over to the Salt Flats Cafe for lunch before going to the salt flats themselves. Mom was impressed by the food, both the quality and the cost. While there, I looked at the SCTA/BNI website to see what would have been going on if Speed Week hadn't been cancelled. We knew before stopping here that the salt was deemed too wet and they hadn't been able to find a continuous area for the land speed trials, and August 6th would have been tech day.

The salt was certainly sticky, which meant it had a lot of moisture still in it. In any event, at least it wasn't an ocean like the last time I came by.

It seemed weird to not be driving out on it in my own car. I knew this would be the case, which is one reason why I brought the diecast Camaro with me.
It's not quite the same.
I also brought two diecast GT40s. And after consulting with mom, we decided it was time for another "deposit," though the airfield probably would have been a more appropriate area.

A photo posted by Karen (@kiirenza) on
It was really hard to see. Between the tears, and the sun reflecting off the salt, I may as well have been blind.

Back on the road, we were supposed to be going to some Pony Express sites south of Salt Lake City to wrap up the day. However, the Garmin Nuvi directed us straight to a strip mall in South Jordan. Traffic around SLC had been terrible, and I was not in the mood to turn around and just drive through it again. Trying to find either Camp Floyd or Simpson Springs at that point showed we should have cut down from I-80 before even getting to SLC.

Mom suggested Timpanogos Cave in American Fork, so I keep going south on I-15. Then she changes her mind because the visitor center closed at 6PM, and the cave tours were long done for the day. I was flustered; at this point, I'm starting to be concerned about finding an RV site that isn't as downtrodden as the one in Lovelock. I suggest staying in the area and going to the cave first thing in the morning.

Finally, she says she has one, and it's over an hour south of American Fork. I shrug and keep driving. For some reason, she keeps looking for a place, and finally says she has something better. I'm a good forty miles south of American Fork at this point, and when I ask, "Where?" her response is "Park City."

I was floored. Park City was completely in the wrong direction. Besides the two Pony Express sites that I already knew were out of the question, the next thing on the itinerary was the Spiral Jetty, and that was north of SLC. Park City was east. And it also meant the cave was not happening.

I literally didn't say anything for the rest of the trip to Park City. Going up the mountain on I-80 outside of SLC was at a miserable 45mph, so that the RV's motor wasn't screaming at 5000rpm to try to maintain a more traffic-friendly speed. The exit finally came up, and after one wrong turn, we found the RV park and I got backed into our space. The showers were at least nice, even if the restroom for the lower-side RV people was a bit dumpy.

Fortunately, we were both still fairly full from lunch, so dinner wasn't necessary. I pulled out the road atlas, my cell phone, a notepad and a pen, and went to work plotting out exactly where we were going, approximately how much time it would take to get to each place, and finished with a list of prospective RV parks (and phone numbers) that I found via Google. I no longer wanted to deal with last minute-oh-my-god-there-isn't-anything-in-a-two-hour-radius-with-electricity. I hadn't done this previously because when I was working on the itinerary, mom had assured me that finding a place wasn't a big deal, citing her experiences during the trips with dad.

Lesson learned.

So, the next morning, we headed off to Promontory to see the Spiral Jetty. We had to drive past the Golden Spike Historic Site, where the road becomes unpaved, and continue for another fifteen miles. It was a rough going, as the RV felt more stiffly sprung than my WRX on the ASTs, but we finally arrived. To our surprise, there was actually someone else already there.
It doesn't look like the pictures when the water level is down
The structure actually is very large
I wasn't expecting such a huge structure. I walked down to it, but couldn't really take a picture that showed what I wanted.

Before we left, I remembered mom saying something about adjusting the air shocks on the RV after the tire installation, so I suggested softening them up. She seemed skeptical, but after dropping the pressures, the ride back to the Golden Spike site was immensely easier.

A receation of the scene
The Golden Spike visitor center is about the joining of two rail lines in Promontory after a Congressional push for a transcontinental railroad. What I learned is that because it was a Congressional push, there was government money involved, and so there was a bit of a money grab. The two railroad companies were paid by the mile, and actually passed each other by quite a distance before Congress put a halt to it and said that the lines should meet in Promontory.

A special laurel tie and four special spikes -- 3 of them golden, and one silver -- marked the site
Original piece of rail from the event
HO scale diorama
It was also at this visitor center that I broke down and got my own National Parks Passport. Of course, I got the "explorer" version, where you can add more pages as necessary, after seeing mom and dad's "three volume set" and mom always trying to figure out which book had room in which region.

Our next destination was Fossil Butte, which was about three hours away via US89 and some state roads. That actually made me happy, as I did not want to have to deal with I-80 outside Park City again, much less the more gradual hill heading into Wyoming.

A hawk outside the Golden Spike site
Rick's Spring, in the Cache National Forest
Some flowers near Rick's Spring
After driving through the Cache National Forest and around Bear Lake, we enter Wyoming and find ourselves on US30. We're maybe ten minutes from Fossil Butte, when I see a green sign that says SAGE with an arrow to the right. I hit the brakes hard enough that a six pack of beer that was sitting on the floor next to the beds slides up almost beside me.

It's a ghost town.

Talk about depressing.

We pressed on to Fossil Butte National Monument.
A Chisternon undatum juvenile 

An awesome diorama showing what the Fossil Butte area must have looked like millions of years ago
Since mom wasn't up for any of the hikes in the area, we rolled down US30 to Granger.
Rabbits in the pioneer cemetery
The South Bend stage station, which has new interpretative panels
The remains of a blacksmith shop
As we prepared to leave, a man came down the street to thank us for stopping by. He shed some light on the fallen structure (that it was the blacksmith shop), and told us that the interpretive panels had been installed just this past spring. He also asked how we found the site, so I told him that I was actually revisiting, but the first time was due to the brown informational sign on US30 on the way from Kemmerer. Maybe they are trying to entice more people to visit?

It looked like camping in the Green River area was out of the question, so we made our way to Rawlins for the night. It was more of a trailer park with a handful of RV spots, but it was a clean place to stay, and we had a spot right up front. There was even a strong enough wifi signal that I could backup some of the myriad photos I'd taken on my phone.

But first, I did the same thing I'd done the night before, and plotted out a detailed itinerary with times and possible RV sites.

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