18 August 2006

The Road is my Favorite Place: Day 2

(Day 1)

18/viii/04: Winnemucca, NV to Nephi, UT
435 miles/700 km

I had heard of Winnemucca before arriving there. Though the Tales of the City series made it out to be a town of whorehouses, it felt more like a smaller scale Reno: casinos, neon lights, spectacle; in the morning light, just a desert town with big signs. Leaning out of my car window, I took a few shots of the Scott Shady and then got back on I-80.
storm skywet roadThe long, open expanses provide a rare opportunity to accurately foretell the weather. A sunny stretch of road gives way to a wall of hazy grey: rain. At a rest area near Pequop Summit (elev. 6967 ft.), I stopped to take a few storm cloud shots. The rain had mostly stopped, but my right knee stiffened up in the cold, a reminder of past injury.

I drove past West Wendover, NV thinking I would stop on the other side of the mountain in Wendover, UT to fill up my tank. Once I was there, however, the Utah exit looked like it backtracked a significant distance before getting to anywhere that might have gas, so I kept driving thinking I would stop at the next exit. FYI, there are no gas stations for the next 109 miles.

Utah highwayIn Utah, I switched to Mountain Time although the land was very flat. Behind me, clouds blanketed the sky and sat on Nevada mountains. There seemed to be a lot of lakes, but it was probably just flooded bits from the passing storm. A couple minutes into a catchy rock tune on the radio, I caught the word "kingdom" in the chorus and cursed myself for falling prey to another Christian rock station; they always managed to have the strongest reception.

Big, orange signs warned drivers repeatedly to pull off the road if they were tired. Snow covered the land on both sides of the road. Then I remembered it was August, so it must be salt. Salt flats. It was white like freshly fallen snow in places and darker like beach sand with debris in others.

Like the other times I'd driven cross-country to move, I felt like part of a loose convoy: jeeps, SUVs, a Miata towing a uHaul thing, all full of personal detritus. Another orange sign admonished me to stop, so I did at the next rest area since all the regular exits boasted "No services." I needed to chow down on some snacks and stretch my legs. As I walked to the restrooms, I noticed a guy sitting on top of a picnic table. He wore a white shirt, tie, slacks, and was smoking. I wondered if he was a Mormon.

Utah roadsideA short trail lead away from the rest stop to the top of a small rocky hill with views of undeveloped land for miles. I hiked up, took some shots, and then got back to the road.

The orange signs kept appearing, a mockery of my increasing tiredness, as the last thing I wanted was to run out of gas by stopping and starting repeatedly when there was no gas to be had. The low fuel light came on, but if my miles per gallon calculations were right, I'd just be able to make it into Salt Lake City.

The city's namesake, the Great Salt Lake, was hard to see since it was about level with the road. At first it just seemed like a mirage, but then I noticed the base of a distant mountain range reflected in it.

At 4:38 PM, I coasted into Tooele, home of the first gas station to appear in 109 miles. Ok, technically, it was the second. The gas prices at the small, dilapidated station in nearby Delle were so high ($2.09/gallon, ha!), I decided to push my luck a bit further. The truck stop in Tooele was huge: rows upon rows of pumps, a restaurant and mini-mart: salvation.

Then I read the sign on the pump that said they were out of unleaded gas. I almost panicked, but when I finished reading the notice I realized they were offering premium at the regular price ($1.81/gal!). With much relief, I filled my tank and then went inside the Country Market Restaurant and Buffet for dinner.

After so long with no or sketchy services, I was surprised to see a phone and internet hookup at my booth. However, later when I was leaving, a voice over the intercom announced, "Shower 749 is open." You don't get much more truck stop than that. The food was passable, but what I remember most was my "Right on" waitress. She was young and friendly and no matter how I responded to the usual travel banter, she said, "Right on." Though it might seem like a canned answer, her usage was quite expressive and varied, and it made me smile.

SLC eagleRejuvenated, I drove the 50 minutes into downtown Salt Lake City and stopped to look around.Tabernacle

"...beautiful but strange," Robert had written to me on a postcard once a couple of years earlier: it was true. Most everyone was wearing business casual black with white or colored shirts. Despite some shirt color variety, it looked like everyone was wearing the same label; except for the tourists and the brides. Temple Square is the place for wedding photos apparently. I snapped a quick shot of a photographer and bride in a flower garden, and then another of a bride and groom walking away from the Tabernacle. Those are the types of moments that make me wish I had a longer lens.
Church of Latter Day Saints Conference Center
After a few more shots of the Tabernacle, I walked over to a very cool looking building which turned out to be the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints Conference Center.
Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints
Climbing the exterior stairs to the top is well worth it for the city views it affords.
Salt Lake City, UT
It started sprinkling, so I headed back to my car as 3 Segway riders wearing helmets passed by. A rainbow arched across the sky as I drove out of the city and into a severe thunderstorm.

Construction narrowed the South-bound highway to one lane and the car behind me was riding up my ass so much, I was driving much, much faster than I cared to in the heavy rain. Except for the minimal illumination coming from headlights, everything was black until thick bolts of lightning would briefly illuminate the surrounding terrain. The thunder was so loud and immediate, it felt like the lightning strikes were falling right next to me. There wasn't much I could do except get past it; the storm was moving in the opposite direction from me and the town at which I intended to stop for the night wasn't much further.

The rain finally let up and I pulled into Nephi. After a quick referral to my AAA guide book and a visual survey of the actual motel, I got a room at Roberta's Cove Motor Inn. It's a fairly standard looking motel, but I liked the name; it was pretty nice actually. I dumped my luggage on the second bed and saw myself in the mirror: pleasantly bedraggled.

There was a Subway across the street, so I walked over to get a late supper. I checked the hours on the door; they were open until 10 and it was only 9:45; I'd just made it. It was all dark inside though, and there was a guy standing out front who looked like he was waiting for a ride; someone had decided to close up early. I walked back to the motel and grabbed my bag of snacks from the car. The staples included: water, saltines, pretzels, Trader Joe's chocolatey cat cookies for people, and Keebler's fudge-striped cookies.

The summer Olympics coincided with my trip, so I watched the competitions every night. Though I'm not a big fan of gymnastics, I really got a kick out of the way the US women's team would yell encouragement during their teammates' parallel bars routines. It was loud: "C'mon _____! You can do it! You got it! Stick it!!!" This ain't no tennis match, they were in it together.


One year ago at TTaT: Furry thing
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  1. I linked here from voixdemichele, on which you had posted a comment.

    First, Claire - great name, it's my daughter's name, and she is getting a degree in English writing, concentration in poetry (I assume that your MFA was in writing too.)

    I absolutely loved this post - great blend of images and words. I was in Salt Lake briefly (one overnight) last January - cannot say I loved it or hated it, I probably did not see enough of it, but had the fun experience of going to a good Mideastern restaurant with two Turkish friends and my boyfriend, and there was a belly dancer. Weird, ain't it? One of my best friend lives there, though, and hates it with a passion. Mormon culture is very hard to take - well for many who aren't Mormons.

  2. Thanks for stopping by and thank you so much for your thoughtful comment, Elisabeth.

    Claire is a good name; I think it suits me. Its growing popularity is still something I'm getting used to, but if the world needs anything, it's more Claires, right? ;)

    My MFA was actually in film production, but I did learn things there that definitely improved my writing.

    As for SLC, hitting a restaurant with a belly dancer sounds like the perfect outing. I doubt that I'd be comfortable living there, but as cities go, SLC's downtown was very clean, well tended, and architecturally interesting.

  3. Film production? Very cool. My boyfriend is a historical documentary producer. But he has no degree in film, he took a bunch of film and film production classes, though. He has M.A.s in History and English, though.

    I picked Claire as a name for my daughter because it worked well both in French and English, and also because I had fallen in love with that name when I was maybe six years old, I had a classmate named Claire.

  4. Film is a strange field; having a degree doesn't make people consider you more qualified most of the time.

    When I saw that you're originally from France, the name choice clicked for me. I was one of the few people in my French class whose name didn't get changed to something else.

  5. I love the picture of the dirt road with the clouds. The warm/cool color contrast is great.

  6. Kev: I like the contrast with the green and sandy dirt in that one too. It's a short hiking trail at a rest area which I thought was pretty cool.