Sunday, August 29, 2010

Setting their own speed record across the salt flats

The waitstaff at the hotel in Rock Springs, WY was handing out water bottles to all the breakfast diners that morning. The weather reports were for intermittent showers, but the desert was still so dry it was important that travellers stay hydrated. Colleen checked the cooler in the car and reported they had six bottles of water on ice and lots of munchies, so after a quick breakfast, the little band hit the road again.
A good night's sleep did a world of good for Colleen and since she was determined to drive the whole way herself, Mrs. Hall took up the role of navigator again. ("I just don't trust that GPS device; it's steered me wrong in the past, and I swear I hear a touch of exasperation in it's voice when we keep stopping to use the facilities.")
Ten hours of driving a day can get pretty tiresome after a while and Colleen decided she was going to make a little time up today. That was all fine and good going downhill, but in a 1991 Honda Civic stuffed clean plum to the gills, going up the mountains became somewhat more of a challenge. Still, she managed to keep up a fairly steady average of about 85 miles per hour, and with the good fortune of clear weather and light traffic, they crossed into Salt Lake City in no time. They stopped briefly to gaze over the Great Salt Lake vista on the west side of the city, and then pressed on.
"This is going to be the most rugged leg of our trip," advised Mrs. Hall. She insisted they fill up yet again before braving the long stretch of desert ahead of them. In the rearview mirror were rocky outcrops and refineries; ahead lay nothing but miles and miles of barren wasteland.
About halfway through the desert, a sculpture punctuated the flatlands. Here and there a pumping station rose out of the dirt. Then, finally, in the distance could be seen a rest stop and a small gathering of fellow pilgrims. "This is great- I thought we were just going to be going around the Bonneville Salt Flats. We can actually get out and go walk on them!" said Mrs. H.
They pulled over and hopped out of the car. It was peculiar to see water pooled in the desert, but there had been some recent rains and the salt bed was somewhat moist in spots. Colleen started gathering the gritty paste and proceeded to sculpt a salt penguin near the puddle. She went to rinse her hands in the water but as soon as the moisture dried in the breeze, a white brine could be seen all over her hands. After a quick trip to the lavatory on the premises, it was time to get back on their way.
The highway carved a swath along the rivers between the mountains, and where it couldn't go around, it went through. A series of distressingly ominous warning signs went by, proclaiming the need to be wary of high winds, low jet blast, frequent wildlife crossings and the particularly alarming caution: "Fog may be icy."
Mrs. Hall read off the names of the mountain ranges as they went by and occasionally they sang a duet along with the music they brought for the trip. Colleen had downloaded several episodes of "The Dick Van Dyke Show" onto her laptop, and that entertained them for quite a number of miles.
Eventually they began to see signs listing the mileage remaining to Reno. The showers that had followed them through the mountains gave way to sunshine and as they came into the valley of the suburb of Sparks outside of Reno, Mrs. H. pointed out the multitude of lenticular clouds formed over the city. The GPS guided them effortlessly through the hustle and bustle of rush hour traffic and once again, they fell exhausted but elated into the cozy hotel beds. Next episode: The last leg. Stay tuned!

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