Friday, July 31, 2009

Utah and the Bonneville Salt Flats

I had a restful stay in Salt Lake City at my buddy Josh's house. He took me out for burritos and ice-cream the night before, and his wife Natalie made me chocolate chip pancakes for breakfast, yummy. I slept in later than usual and then Josh and I went out for lunch. We stopped by his mom's house to see her awesome van, pictures describe it better than my words.


Jerry Garcia's handprint.


Josh and I just as I was about to head out.


I hit the road on I-80 west. It was warm out, in the high 90's. After driving an hour or so, a rest stop provides a cool view of the famous Salt Lake. I had planned on going out for a swim, but I was told it stinks like hell, it's salty like brine and is HOT. I'm already hot, don't need more of that. So I got a nice pic. The reflection makes it look like the distant mountains are floating.


The roads in North Western Utah are long and straight and provide for some beautiful scenery. Looks like some train cars just sitting there with no locomotive.


As you come to the border of Utah and Nevada, just before Wendover, you encounter the Bonneville Salt Flats. Home to the Bonneville Speedway and holy ground to land-speed racers, speed freaks and gear heads. And something I've been dreaming of seeing ever since I got into things that go fast.


It's 5-6 miles just to drive out to the salt.


But when you get there, it's very worth seeing.


There were signs posted all around that said "DO NOT DRIVE ON THE SALT, YOU MAY SINK"..or something like that. And cones that defined an area allowing you to get close-ish to the salt to take a pic. See when it rains, that place becomes a lake of muddy some spots up to 6 feet deep. So you can surely sink.

There were 3-4 cars and about a half dozen cruiser motorcycles all parked taking shots from the end of the access road where the signs were posted. Not good enough. I got off the bike and walked out onto the everybody looked at me like I was going to sink up to my waist at any moment. It seemed to be OK, and partly dry...only sunk in about 3/4 of an inch or so. So, I got back on my bike, fired it up, yelled "You only live once!" out loud into my helmet and sped off the concrete onto the salt. I'm sure the cars and cruisers were telling stories about how I wouldn't make it back. But it was fine, decently dry I thought. Slippery tho...I tried to get up some speed but didn't really feel comfy over about 50 mph or so...too squirrely, it felt like I was driving in mud. Guess it wasn't that dry. After driving out far enough not to be able to see the access road anymore (1-2 miles, I would guess), I got off the bike for a picture. And boy, it was worth it.


Think I'll have to get that first one framed. It's so flat you can actually see the curvature of the earth in the salt. Amazing. I tasted the salt...yep, super salty! Spent a few moments in awe, taking pictures and then headed out.

Stopped for gas in Wendover...that's when I noticed the salt. Everywhere. I walked from the pump over to the side of the station to kick it off my boots and noticed I left big salt foot prints. Oops. It was all over the bike too...I'd have to wash that off real soon.


I headed back to the highway and on towards Nevada. The roads just go on forever, straight as an arrow. This is Hwy 93-A towards Hwy 93 towards Ely, NV.


I drove thru 3 rain showers, but only one of them was enough to totally wet me. It was too hot to wear my rain gear but the cool rain felt good and it evaporated back to 100% dry in about 15 minutes in the dry Nevada air. I saw a couple dust-devils. They are sure cool to watch, just spin beautifully. I kinda wished one was on the road so I could drive thru it but I figured it'd knock me off the bike.


I stayed at the KOA in Ely, NV that night. Very nice, they even let me wash the salt off my bike at the maintenance shed out back. I had to wash it twice!

They put me in an area next to a bunch of other motorcyclists. A group of guys on cruisers headed to Sturgis, and a few other adventure riders headed to various areas of the country. Paul, on a Buell, was headed to Florida via a similar route that I'd taken, just in reverse. One guy had a BMW with a dead battery...we philosophized about how to get him started in the morning and then headed off to sleep. The cruiser guys gave Paul and I the last of their pizza and fried chicken, which was super cool of them.

I slept pretty good that night, going to bed about 9PM. I woke up at 4AM to take this shot of Venus out the front of my tent.


My route for the day, 247 miles.

View Larger Map

My destination for the day is Ely, NV...which you may know as the eastern starting point for HWY 50, the "Loneliest Highway in America".


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