And Miles to go Before I Sleep…

I woke up around 10 AM in Salt Lake City, determined to have a view of the lake before I left town. I’ve been to Salt Lake City’s town center several times before, and while it is nice, I don’t find it nearly as impressive as the canyonlands of Utah or even the giant cement factory next to the lake. I know, that’s terrible of me, but there it is. The lake was, as usual, smelly and big and pretty in its way too. The cement factory was just as cool as I remembered, and I learned that next to it is one of the largest open pit copper mines in the world. They have their own box cars lined up for what looks like a quarter mile or more just waiting for product. And I find this more interesting than the tabernacle. I know: I am a heathen.

Did I mention I have found a new cheap hotel that I like? The Microtel. Now, the key here is to bring earplugs, because without that, it’s just terrible. But if you have the earplugs and can sleep with them in, you’re all set. It’s the best $60 hotel you could want. Clean rooms, decent sheets and pillows, free internet, good towels and a blasting shower (because they have not remodeled since water-savers were in vogue). Perfect. The one out by the SLC airport was very good, and the one in Sioux Falls, South Dakota, while not as nice, was still okay.

Now that you’ve heard about my budget find, let’s move on to the open road, shall we? I didn’t have to drive so far this time – only 600 miles or so. I thought about maybe getting all the way to Rapid City, South Dakota, but I gave myself permission to stop at Gillette, Wyoming, if I got too tired. The road today was a new one for me. I have been through Wyoming before, eighteen years ago, but I stayed on I-80 all the way to Cheyenne. Today was a complete departure from the Interstate and I was headed for Wyoming state routes and even county routes. Mind you, I still stopped at I-80’s Little America, the best rest area in Wyoming in my opinion (complete with marble bathrooms), but in Rawlins, it was time to go off the main line. Near as I can tell, my road crisscrossed and paralleled the Continental Divide for a little while. I saw road signs at least three times announcing the Divide, with altitude markers; the highest was 7120 feet above sea level. After that, there was a descent into a vast plain and across into some of the prettiest country I have seen. It was that golden hour of the late afternoon, and there were blue, blue ponds and yellow prairie grass with the occasional antelope grouping. I had a couple hours of that scenery before the land began to change and the sun went down. What a treat. It was gorgeous, especially compared to the land south of the Continental Divide, which was far more barren, less watered.

When it got dark, things got a little tougher for me. Google maps came through, even though I got nervous when it told me to venture onto a one lane road and turn right at a warehouse. I followed directions and found I was on the right road. And it was nine miles before I even saw another car. Wow. In 75 miles, I only saw 5 semi trucks and 16 passenger vehicles, total. That’s an average of one vehicle every 3.5 miles. It was so dark that I stopped to have a look at the stars for a bit, and have a little bathroom break on the shoulder of the road. Yeah, it was that desolate. But hey, when you’re 50 miles from any services, you have to make due. I was beginning to wonder if I was going to need the blanket and pillow I threw in my car before I left home. But finally, the town of Gillette came up on the horizon and my phone knew where the hotels were (again, thank you Google maps!). Alas, there was no Microtel. I settled for the Hampton Inn, and found on arrival in my room that there was a two-person sized Jacuzzi tub next to the bed. Hm. Interesting. Clearly this place was not always a Hampton Inn chain hotel!

I leave you with a few road observations.
–There were only four radio stations that came in through central Nevada. Three of them were reading the bible.
–Just across Nevada/Utah state line: extra-large, multiple warehouse-sized casinos and hotels lighting up the night so bright it looked like daytime. You know which side of the line that was on.
–Just across the Wyoming/Utah state line: extra-large warehouse-sized “adult superstore”. I’ll let you guess about which side of the state line it was.
–In many places in Wyoming and South Dakota there are railroad-style wig-wags that can be lowered across Interstate 80 and other roads to indicate that the road is completely closed to traffic and you must turn back. Fines are very heavy (over $1,000) if you disobey. Probably to offset the cost of the search and rescue team that will have to find your corpse should you try the closed pass in a blizzard.
–The wild pronghorn antelope in Wyoming look a lot like gazelles in the Serengeti. I knew they weren’t gazelles, and they moved too gracefully to be any domesticated animal. I had to look them up when I got to my hotel.
–Driving along the Wyoming state road 220, across the continental divide, is truly beautiful. It was so pretty it brought tears to my eyes.
–The billboards advertising 50 cent ice cream at Little America, WY, start immediately upon entry into Wyoming. Once you have seen them enough times, you’re pretty well committed. I don’t care if you’re a lactose-intolerant diabetic, you’re probably going to stop and get one of these cones by the time you finally do get to Little America sixty miles later. There’s no helping it. Resistance is futile.

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1 Response to And Miles to go Before I Sleep…

  1. OMG woman you crack me up! Those interstate closing gates are all over the midwest. SD especially so because they are slow to clear their roads in a storm, worse yet they only salt and sand SOME roads unlike NE and IA that salt and sand pretty much all of it. SD has no state tax which is great but not great as their roads for one suffer. When it gets bad enough that they close the road not many want to try to pass it anyway. With the open country out there we can get some huge drifts if the plows have been pulled because they closed the road. Its really interesting to hear your perspective on my area of the country. We really take it for granted.

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