Tuesday, June 28, 2016

The Loneliest Road in America.

There's not a whole lot to say about today. I drove for nearly 6 hours on Highway 50 from Ely, Nevada to South Lake Tahoe. Around three hours in I started to lose my mind a little bit. My eyes got all funny and I felt dizzy. It's just too hard to drive so straight for so long with no distraction or anything. As much as I enjoyed not having traffic I don't think I will ever go on Highway 50 again.

One more night and then I go home. I wish I could leave early but I have an interview tomorrow online. Wish me luck.

Highway 50 the loneliest Road in America

I left my Hotel in Salt Lake City at noon. Usually, I wake up early and get on the road as soon as possible, but I knew it would take me four and a half hours to get to Ely, Nevada via Highway 50, so I would take my time in the morning. 

I had breakfast and coffee, I watch TV (Star Trek the Next Generation) and I just generally relaxed. It felt luxurious at the time. 

However, once I got on the road, I regretted my choice almost immediately. It was 96 degrees out and got up to 102 when I was out in the desert. My air conditioning was pretty much full blast all day. The road mirages were very long. It was like I was driving on a mirror. I had a makeshift curtain out of my flannel shirt, ensuring that I didn't get completely burnt and/or too hot. Also, because I was so lazy in the morning, I felt sluggish when I got in the car rather than alert. 

There was a lot of traffic in downtown Salt Lake City and on the first two highways, but as soon as I turned off onto Highway 15 I felt so much better. "This is more like it," I thought. A two lane road, one lane going in each direction. Then I turned onto Highway 50 and within four miles I thought, "I get it. I get why this is The Loneliest Road in America." It is a two lane desert road that stretches on for eternity. There was no one in front of me as far as I could see and only a tiny speck of a person behind me. 

I voice recorded this while driving, "I have 142 miles to go on this road. A two hour drive. I feel like its Interstate 5 going from the Bay Area to LA. Straight as an arrow. I could see someone of a different personality feeling anxious about this drive. The monotony, the desolation might make someone a little loopy. But it's 101 degrees out and I couldn't be happier for the road I've chosen. I added an hour to my trip to go this way and I accept every minute of it graciously." I appreciated not having anyone else on the road with me because I could set my cruise control and just do that. Cruise. It was very nice. Every hour or so you come across a big hill. The speed limit changes to 35 miles an hour and becomes curvy. That is also nice. It breaks up the monotony. 

I stopped at a gas station right on the Utah/Nevada border. It was the only thing I'd seen for at least 60 miles. It was plopped in the middle of the desert. I thought it was just a gas station and then I walked in to pay. I was in the middle of a convenience store then there was a casino and a restaurant and a hotel. Crazy little place. I sort of felt like I was in the Twilight Zone.

And then I hit the final stretch to Ely. It was just like the last however many miles. Straight, desert, hot, little bit boring. But when I got to Ely, the hotel more than made up for it. It is a quirky little place and I love a bit of that.

The next five pictures are in the Business Center

Monday, June 27, 2016

Westward Wyoming and Salt Lake City Utah

I have to say, now that this trip has turned around, literally, the feeling has changed entirely. On my way east, I had places I wanted to visit. For example, Boise Idaho, Yellowstone and Mount Rushmore. All the things you've already seen in his blog. I had no plans for the way back, other than to travel a different path then I had gone east.

I have no particular sites in mind for the return trip home, however, I would like to avoid highway 80 (which I am currently on). While traveling east, the road got better and better for me. There were fewer and fewer cars, I could focus on the scenery, the landscape. I could travel at 70 or 80 miles an hour, depending on the speed limit, and focus on what was out the side windows. While I was traveling west in Wyoming, there were still only a few cars and, though the scenery was a little monotonous, it was very nice traveling.

At some point, I ended up on Highway 80. Highway 80 travels across the country from coast to coast which means any trucker or civilian trying to make good time is on Highway 80, a two-lane Highway. Instead of scenery, I have to look at traffic and adjust my speed according to the truckers who are playing a slow game of leap frog.

This is not very fun, not as enjoyable as it has been. And the dread of knowing that Highway 80 could take me straight home (the quickest route possible) makes me a little bummed out. I would love to be home sooner than later but more than that I really want this to be an enjoyable three days. So, yesterday I went online to figure alternative routes. My plan is to take Highway 50, The Loneliest Road in America, to South Lake Tahoe. I contemplated driving to Yosemite but the length of time in the car was long and the hotel prices were too high. Even though I was just in South Lake Tahoe recently...the farther west I go the fewer new places there are for me to visit.

Speaking of which, I am now in Salt Lake City Utah.

I'd like to talk about the state line situation. I have crossed quite a few state lines on this trip and what baffles me every time is that the landscape, the climate, seems to change at the state line. I drove in Wyoming for 5 hours yesterday with the feeling of prairie and plains but as soon as I crossed into Utah everything became lush green, hilly, frankly beautiful. This happened when heading into Idaho, out of Idaho, into South Dakota. It happened more than I was expecting. I wonder if it was intentional when breaking up the states.

Anyway, I am in SLC. I came here once in my early twenties for a long weekend and communicated with locals and ex-Mormons. I learned a lot about the area and the culture. I walked around Temple Square and drove to local mountains to see how beautiful Utah is. I drank the low percentage beer and feel like I have a good understanding of the area. So, rather than look at the sights of where I am, I decided to sleep in, watch TV (a Star Trek The Next Generation marathon) and generally spoil myself. It feels so luxurious to just sit on a couch in my hotel room and not rush out the door.

Last night I booked my final two hotel rooms for this trip so I know exactly where I'm going and how long it will take me to get there. This means I can relax in the morning and not worry about getting on the road super early. I know it's going to take me 4 1/2 hours to get to Ely, Nevada. I will probably leave at noon.

I feel like this blog is going to peter out over the next couple of days because my focus has changed. I'm not taking as many pictures and I'm not as excited about what I'm seeing. This is not to say that what I'm traveling through isn't beautiful. I just think that each person has a certain capacity for what they can take in, how many hours or days in a row they can maintain excitement about scenery. When I was in Europe last year, I burnt out on it. I didn't care if I ever saw another castle or church or famous painting of Jesus. It was how I felt at the end of Yellowstone when I didn't stop at Mammoth Hot Springs. I am a little overloaded and just want to focus on the drive. The goal is to get to the next hotel, so I can lay down and recover from the drive itself.

Sunday, June 26, 2016

Mount Rushmore, Devil's Tower and...fire?

I woke up in Deadwood, South Dakota and enjoyed that claw foot tub before getting in the car and driving down to Mount Rushmore. Note: Mark, from the hotel bar/restaurant in Livingston, Wyoming told me, "Mount Rushmore is like seeing a postcard. Just buy the postcard and don't go." He then told me how to get to a waterfall in the area, "Follow the kids, they know where to jump in from." I decided to go to Mount Rushmore.

The drive itself was gorgeous. Winding through the Black Hills, there were very few cars on the road with me. I did see motorcyclists because it was Saturday, warm, beautiful and this was motorcycle country. 

As I approached Mount Rushmore, there was a pull off where you could take pictures from the side of the road. I did so and was impressed. That is a crazy amount of work and a crazy idea. And it does look amazing. But the idea of paying to park and walking into a visitor center to learn more about the guy with the crazy idea did not appeal to me in any way, so I kept driving...past the parking lot. Around the corner, there was another pull off where you could take a profile picture of George Washington. I did this too. And that was the extent of my trip to Mount Rushmore. 

From the road (on my iPhone...a little too far for the zoom)


Getting to Mount Rushmore was my big, extended goal for this trip overall. I had managed to achieve it within a week and now it was time to drive west rather than east. Homeward bound!

When I was in the hotel in Deadwood, the manager came to my room to change a light bulb. She was very nice and started talking to me about how she raised her daughter to be a traveler. She said her daughter currently lives in Sydney, so we had something to talk about for a little bit. She asked me if I went to Devil's Tower and I said, "What's that?" She explained that it was the spot from Close Encounters of the Third Kind. I looked it up, realized it wasn't far and in a westerly direction, so I made a point to hit it up on the way back. 

As I was driving Highway 90 towards 14, I saw smoke ahead of me. The day before, I heard on the radio that there would be some terrible weather coming in. Very dry and highly prone to fires. Well the night before, when I was watching the Calamity Jane Shootout in the streets of Deadwood, a thunderstorm came through. Lightning from this storm started a massive (5,000 acre) fire in Wyoming / South Dakota. 

I saw the smoke and kept driving on Highway 90. It got a little thicker and a little thicker and I reached out to Krista. My internet was spotty, so Krista helped me out. She told me exactly where the fires were, that I would be okay to go to Devil's Tower. 

The smoke was getting so thick I had thought about turning around. I'm so glad Krista helped me because 10 minutes later the sky was bright blue, clear and the rest of the drive to Devil's Tower was a breeze. 

Who feels like mashed potatoes?

At Devil's Tower, I had lunch. A buffalo burger. I also shopped in their gift shop which was very cute and had many Huckleberry flavored things. I bought my parents a little something and walked across the parking lot to the Devil's Tower Wyoming Post Office where I mailed the gift to them. 

I walked around and took more pictures before heading east. Again back to Highway 90 but on the other side of the fire. My route was smooth sailing and clear all the way to Casper, Wyoming. 

Rather than drive the quickest route to Casper from Devil's Tower I decided to take a 25-minute detour through grasslands because TripAdvisor said there were a lot of antelope there. Boy were there! 

Where the deer and the antelope play!

I had such a great time keeping an eye out for antelope and deer. It was a long day of driving, so I stopped at a pull off to have a nap before heading on. As the Aussies say: Stop, Revive, Survive.

Not 20 seconds down the road I saw this.  

A mama and two babies!
Aw babies!

Um, excuse me...a little privacy please.
When I finally made it to Casper, I checked into my hotel, dropped off my stuff and walked to Outback Steakhouse because the other choice was Applebee's and I knew Outback would at least have vegetables. 

After a large glass of wine and yesterday's blog, I ended up sleeping for 10 hours. It was amazing. The best night's sleep I've had on this trip yet and I needed it, because the next day's travel would also be a long one...

Two quick side notes:
1) While driving through the grasslands, I was next to a train. I passed him and while ahead of him, I stopped to take photos of antelope. As I started driving again, I saw that I was next to the train. I pointed my video camera at him and he tooted his SUPER LOUD train horn at me! It was so fun and lovely. I put down my camera and waved a thank you. The conductor gave me a "toot toot" in response and off I drove with a huge smile on my face.

2)  One of the best parts about being on the open road for so long is that you see random stuff. Like the Open Range...or a Flinstone Themed Hotel?