I checked Satori’s oil level—it was okay. I pulled out of the campground at 8:37 (CT). Local farms had stacks of hay bales the size of shipping containers waiting in the fields. One farm had new bales of hay sitting in rows like soldiers on parade, waiting to be picked up and stacked. I stopped at the Conoco station in Loma, just outside Fruita. I had to move the van when I accidentally parked next to the diesel pumps. A guy filling up his speedboat said it was a beautiful day. “Might get some rain later on,” he added. I filled up Satori’s tank on Visa. It looked like when the gas gauge read one quarter tank, it really only had one gallon left. Beside the little road, a boy in a striped shirt waited for the school bus. In many communities, the school year had already begun. I got on Interstate 70 and headed west. Signs announced a “music event” up ahead. I could see cars and tents off to the north. I remembered seeing a couple of guys with EVENT STAFF t-shirts back at the gas station. One section of road was adopted by “Friends of Coffee Mugger.”
It was way down the road when I realized: I forgot to pay that extra day use fee at the park. Oh, gee.
|Just outside of town, I took Exit 157 and headed northwest on Highway 6. Salt Lake City was 180 miles away. Highway 6 was a wide 2-lane road, with comfortable shoulders. It was familiar territory. I’d been this way before, just going the opposite direction. A car and a truck followed close to my tail for 10 miles until we came to a section with a passing lane. A ferret-like creature skittered across the road in front of me. The skies were mostly clear. I passed a big RV and accelerated to put some distance between us; I didn’t like the idea of something big like that tailgating me.|
Just after noon, I finally climbed out of the canyon about Mile Marker 221. The highway widens into a comfortable 4-lane road when it passes the exit for Scofield State Park, then goes back to being a 2-lane road again. It was 50 miles to Provo when a police car got behind me and followed me for a mile before pulling off the road. Right as I got to Soldier Summit (elevation 7,477 feet), Satori clicked over 261,000 miles. She was a trooper. I pulled over at the Summit Station, a little convenience store right at the summit. A sign said the phone lines were down, so they were only taking cash purchases. I bought a Dr. Pepper. Out front, a biker sat in the shade next to his motorcycle, trying to check things on his smartphone. (I would've taken a picture, but he was kinda scary.) I was able to check my messages, too. A friend responded to the problems Satori had getting over the Rockies. He posted that the van’s computer would eventually compensate for the altitude. The Sun was bright, and the air was very cool.
There was lots of construction going through Provo. Traffic was also tied up because of an accident up ahead. I got passed by an emergency vehicle labeled INCIDENT RESPONSE. A sign advertised the “world’s largest dodgeball game” coming up September 16th. I saw some fancy miniature golf courses, each with miniature versions of famous landmarks. The name of the Salt Lake City minor league baseball team really was the Bees. It was just before 2 PM when I got to Salt Lake. Traffic was kind of scary. I was almost out of the city when I thought, it would be a shame to go through and not see anything. So, I pulled off the interstate and drove around. I couldn’t find any parking places, which was good, because it meant the downtown area was doing a lot of business. I drove past the old Union Station and saw some of the vintage architecture.
It was a quarter after 3 when I pulled off the interstate at Exit 365, and headed west on Promontory Road. That took me through the sleepy little town of Corinne, where the speed limit was 40 MPH. The Bear River Country Store was doing a good business. That was where I got on Highway 83; a sign told me I was 29 miles from the Golden Spike. I drove past a big Walmart distribution center, and then found myself surrounded by farmland. The lonely 2-lane asphalt road took me by some salt marshes and small lakes. A signed warned that there were no services ahead. Except for a pokey pickup which I easily passed, I was alone on the road.
About 20 miles from Corinne, I turned off onto a desolate black top road, which led off into the distance. I made a stop at the Big Fill, one of the last projects before the completion of the Transcontinental Railroad. From the picture below, you can see how even the top of the hill is: the natural dip of the landscape was filled-in, to make a flat, even grade for the railroad tracks to lay on.
|At this point, I want to explain something that will forever change
When engineers build railroads and highways, they sometimes build bridges and dig tunnels, but most of the changes they do to the landscape can be explained as cuts and fills. A cut is when the earth is cut away to allow an even grade. A fill is when earth is filled into a space to allow for an even grade. Every highway has cuts and fills.
|Inside, it was wonderfully cool, and exhibits told the story of the Transcontinental Railroad. I was glad they told the story of the workers, and not just glorified the railroad bosses that profited so much from the venture. There were memorials to the Chinese and to the Irish that helped build the railroad, which many consider the greatest engineering feat of the 19th century.|
|It turned out that years after the Golden Spike was laid, both engines were sold for scrap and torn apart. They even pulled up the railroad tracks for the metal. It wasn’t until the 1970s that somebody figured out it was a historic event that needed to be commemorated. So, they put back the tracks (which they had to make in 19th century style, since tracks had changed since 1869) and rebuilt the locomotives from scratch, down to the smallest detail. I imagined they must have been fun to build.|
It was just after 5 PM when I got on Interstate 84 headed north. It was 91 miles to Burley. Construction near the Blue Creek exit slowed traffic down for three miles. Off to the side, a distant tractor kicked up a cloud of dust. Acres of wild sunflowers made the hillsides golden. I didn’t stop in Snowflake, but I noticed that gasoline was 10 cents cheaper a gallon that it was in Colorado.
I was keeping an eye on the gas gauge, but I figured I had enough to get me to Burley, 72 miles away. At 5:41, I crossed the border into Idaho for the first time. A rest area at Mile Marker 270 also featured a geological site. Idaho reminded me of northern Nevada: vast expanses, but carpeted with grass and brush. In the western sky, clouds obscured the Sun. Right before 6 PM, I topped Sweetzer Summit, elevation 5,520 feet. Down the road was the exit for City of Rocks State Park (not to be confused with New Mexico’s City of Rocks). A gas station in the middle of nowhere looked like it was charging over $4 per gallon. Of course, where else were cars out of gas gonna go? Down the road, I passed a van and trailer I’d passed way back in Colorado (Washington tags).
|I took the next exit and pulled into a gas station. By coincidence, it was Village of the Trees RV Resort, where I had also thought about spending the night. It was a pool, a laundry, showers, a hot tub and lots of shade, but it also looked really crowded. It was also $32 a night. If I was on my return trip from Burning Man, it would’ve been way more appealing to me. A church group was ahead of me in line, checking in.|
I pulled out the propane stove and cooked up a can of tomato and pasta soup. Flies and bugs were everywhere. I kept swatting at them as I ate. As the Sun went down, the mosquito attacks got worse. Everything cooled down when darkness fell. It got very quiet in the campsite—and very dark. There did not seem to be any lights anywhere. On my smartphone, I looked up the weather forecast for Gerlach that week: highs in the 90s, lows in the 60s. I drove 490 miles that Friday. (Google Maps had said it would be 456.)