We Drove 562 Miles!

Saturday, October 17, 2020

It’s difficult for me to finish a blog once we get home. Our RV is stored out of doors so we gotta store anything that freezes in a safe location. The work begins. Clean the coach in and out and empty the refer. Drag our clothes into the house, then winterize the water system. And then yack with our neighbors catching up on two months worth of events. Do about a thousand pounds worth of laundry and start cutting back garden plants and cleaning out the planters. Oh, reconnect with our church, its organizations and some HOA committees that we are on. So now that most of that is in the works or accomplished I can finish this blog…………..

OK, OK, I know what you are thinking. We did drive 562 miles- in three days….. We wouldn’t want to break our string of 150-200 mile days would we? We left Jardonelle State Park on Monday, the twelfth of October and headed a short distance to I-80 then west towards home.

Not long after joining I-80 we are taken through Parley’s Canyon where the interstate resembles a snake slithering to and fro following the canyon walls. The descent towards Salt Lake is fairly steep, requiring trucks, and us to slow the pace to maintain control. We leave the Wasatch Range behind and are now on the wide open flats driving through Salt Lake City. The city itself is not huge at 200,500 souls yet the Salt Lake Metropolitan area is very sizable with a population of over 1.2 million folks. Our timing is pretty good as traffic is pretty heavy compared to what we’ve experienced thus far on the trip but people are driving courteously.

As we pass downtown we catch a glimpse of the beautiful Salt Lake LDS Temple located at the 35 acre Temple Square. The temple took 40 years to build between 1853 and 1893. The temple is sacred to members of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, and is not open for tours, you can stroll around the grounds and stop in the South Visitors’ Center to see a scale model of the temple and its interior. The Temple is undergoing renovation and won’t be open to anyone for several years.

Miss RV Garmin GPS helps us select our escape route from Salt Lake and before we know it we are heading west past the 75 mile long by 35 mile wide Great Salt Lake. The lake is so salty one cannot sink, rather float like a cork. The sand at Bridger Bay Beach consists of a hundred yard wide by two mile expanse of oolitic sand which is formed at the lake. It consists of concentric layers of calcium carbonate. Interestingly most grains are smooth and perfectly round.

The landscape is pretty stark out here. Not exactly barren but not lush with desert plants either. There’s evidence of white minerals along the road- probably salt.

Speaking of salt, we pass the Saltair Resort, now practically abandoned except for the few concerts held there. Its history is extremely interesting.

In 1893 the Mormon church built Saltair on the south shore of the Great Salt Lake, about sixteen miles from downtown Salt Lake City. They also built the railroad connecting the resort with the city. The church owned the resort until 1906, at which time it was sold to a group of private Mormon businessmen. 

In building Saltair the Mormon church had two major objectives: in the words of Mormon apostle Abraham H. Cannon, they wanted to provide “a wholesome place of recreation” under church control for Mormons and their families; and they also intended that Saltair be a “Coney Island of the West” to help demonstrate that Utah was not a strange place of alien people and customs. This was part of a larger movement toward accommodation with American society that had begun in the early 1890s as church leaders made a conscious decision to bring the church into the mainstream of American life. Saltair was to be both a typical American amusement park and a place that provided a safe environment for Mormon patrons.

The resort reached its heyday in the 1920’s but burned to the ground in 1925. It was rebuilt but never regained its former glory. Another fire and a receding lake level left the resort a half mile from the shore didn’t help. The resort struggled during WWII and closed for good in 1958- once again destroyed by fire in 1970.

A new pavilion was built in 1981 but struggled as the lake reached it’s highest level in history in 1984 putting the pavilion’s main floor under five feet of water. The water began to recede in the late 1980’s. It was purchased in 1982, the structure restored and a concert stage added. It reopened in 1993- again with limited success.

The next place of significance is the Bonneville Salt Flats. Seasonal flooding, evaporatation of surface water and then wind create a salt surface so flat one feels that they can see the curvature of the earth here. The flat surface makes an ideal surface on which to race one’s vehicle. At one time a 9 mile long straight and an oval are set up every year. The current land speed record at Bonneville is in excess of 500 miles per hour!

We stopped in West Wendover Nevada which is just across the border from Wendover, Utah (1200 souls). The Utah town is noted for being an station stop on the Western Pacific Railroad (1908), and the transcontinental telephone line was completed there in 1914. During World War II, the nearby Wendover Army Airfield (later known as the Wendover Air Force Base) was a training base for bomber pilots. The Enola Gay and its crew piloted by Paul Tibbets were stationed there. The Enola Gay would drop the first atomic bomb on Hiroshima, Japan. Of course the Nevada side of the border is where all the gambling casinos are located.

The terrain is looking more Nevada like. Most people unfamiliar with Nevada would suspect its just a big, flat desert. In reality the state has numerous mountain ranges with tall peaks that mostly run north/south with the 13,147 foot Boundary Peak being the tallest. Nevada is not all desert as those mountains have trees and lakes just like other mountainous states. In fact the state shares beautiful Lake Tahoe with our neighbors in California.

We stop in Elko for fuel and to stretch at the city park. This city of 18,900 souls is the seat of Elko County. Though Elko lies along the route of the historic California Trail, it wasn’t inhabited until 1868, when it was at the east end of the railroad tracks built by the Central Pacific Railroad (the portion of the First Continental Railroad built from California to Utah). When the railroad crews moved on, Elko remained, serving as a center for ranching, mining, rail freight and general supplies. The Western Folklife Center,Northeastern Nevada Museum and the California Trail Interpretive Center are all nearby. While in town one can enjoy Basque cuisine.

Our overnight stop is in Wells (1292 souls). It was established as a water station by the Central Pacific Railroad in 1869 due to its strategic location at the headwaters of the Humboldt River. The town got its name from the springs and swampy area just west of town. A magnitude 6.0 earthquake significantly damaged its old historic downtown in 2008 and has yet to be rebuilt. The town is located at the junction of US93 and I-80 and gateway to the beautiful Ruby Mountains.

We stayed at Mountain Shadows RV Park which is an OK stay. Nothing fancy but it served our purpose. A couple of blocks away is Archie Smiley Field. The field consists of baseball and softball diamonds with some nice picnic areas thrown in. Our mutzos appreciated the nice green grass and the exercise after a day of travel.

On the last leg home we stopped back at the Silver State RV Park in Winnemucca which happens to be the first place we camped on this trip. We could have driven all the way home but decided to split the 330 miles up, get an early start the next morning and come home arriving before noon. So that’s what we did.

From Winnemucca it’s deja vu as we retrace our route back to the barn. We stop in Lovelock to walk Lover’s Lock Park, drive past the 40 Mile Desert and the city of Fernley, then drive through the Truckee River Canyon spitting out in Sparks. From there its only 10 miles to home sweet home.

The trip brought us to many unintended, interesting places as the COVID virus had changed the rules somewhat. Traveling to places we wanted to visit and staying in places we wanted to stay came to a screeching halt as those places proved to be unbelievably popular with newbies (new to RVing) as well as us old timers. Usually that time period after Labor Day and the first snowfall is not as popular a time to RV giving us retired folk an advantage over working stiffs- but COVID-19 changed that. We had to bypass Yellowstone National Park for the first time ever due to the crowds and lack of RV campsites but were fortunate to find other interesting places to visit in its stead- like Thermopolis and Colorado National Monument. And we got lucky when Jil found a vacancy at the Desert Moon Hotel and RV Park, Thompson Springs, so that we may visit Arches National Park, a place that wasn’t even on our radar when we began this trip.

All in all we had a wonderful time. Hopefully next year won’t be as busy as this year and eventually we’ll be back to pre-COVID normalcy. Until next time- Adios!

6 thoughts on “We Drove 562 Miles!”

  1. Thanks, Mike, for all that you do to write this blog and inform the rest of us who are only “mice in your pocket” while you travel! We love you guys!!!!!

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