Day Three — Rock Springs WY to Elko NV

[410 miles today; 1569 miles so far. I-80 from Rock Springs WY to Elko NV.]

Weather was the story this morning when I got up. Thunderstorms in southern Utah… in November… before sunrise and the day’s heat. Weird. The weather gurus were figuring this storm to march north, straight up I-15, so I elected not to drop south and try US-50 in a big ol’ storm. So, it was I-80 west yet again today.

When I pulled out of Rock Springs WY this morning just before sunrise, the east horizon was clear, while the west horizon was threatening. The farther west I went, the more interesting the skies were — sun behind me, clouds ahead, and the contrast between the dark skies and well lit landscape was really cool. I could see that the mountains to the south were getting snow, but there was none for me, despite the cold 29 degrees!

There wasn’t much left of Wyoming before hitting the Utah border. This was my first journey into northeastern Utah, and I had high expectations. I was really surprised last year by southern Utah’s beauty, and while northern Utah was pretty, it was no southern Utah. The Big Mountains were mostly to the south, and southern Utah had so much more color in the ground…. well, I guess I just liked southern Utah better. Still, it was a pretty drive through northeast Utah.

With the route plan for today, I knew I would run right alongside the Great Salt Lake. And I did, but had the GPS not been telling me that, it would’ve been hard to know it. The cloud deck was low, the rain was falling, and it really made for lousy conditions coming through Salt Lake City UT. I kept seeing ghostly silhouettes of the mountains through the clouds, but it just wasn’t very pretty. I stopped at one site alongside the Lake, and despite looking hard, there wasn’t much to see. I suspect with a sunny day, my whole view of SLC would’ve been different.

Of course, 30 miles west of SLC, the clouds began to break up, and the sun started bathing the land. With the sun coming out, and the road continuing west, I found myself in the Great Salt Lake Desert. This was a stark landscape, like something from a science fiction film — white, white and more white, all the way up to the base of the mountains. This was a desert comprised of a salty residue, and finished off with signage warning passers-by to keep out of the desert, as the US Government owned it. Despite that, there were many, many, many homages to those folks who had passed down I-80. Within twenty feet of the road were messages made of rocks by passersby. Hundreds of them! There were folks who just left their initials or a word, and a few with big ol’ hearts, professing enternal love with rocks in the salt. Pretty cool stuff!

My last stop in Utah was at the Bonneville Salt Flats (part of the Great Salt Lake Desert). This was a publicly accessible point on the desert, and was amazing. This desert is like no other I’ve seen — it was like walking on or touching slighty damp rock salt, dampened because of the rain. The “surface of the moon” look of this area has made it my favorite of all the stops thus far.

Of course, the Flats are where the land speed records have been pushed, and as a testament to those feats, Goodyear has a sponsored plaque, describing the feats of the fastest men on earth. This was a nice touch, and for me, was the icing on the cake that was this stop.

So I crossed into Nevada. How’d I know that? Well, because the saloons and gambling halls beckoned! As soon as I crossed the border, the lighted signs popped up, and suddenly I was threatened with every manner of buffet, loose slot and table game that you could think of. And all this lasted for about… a mile. 🙂 Then, it was off to the high country again, and finally levelling out in the 5000-6000 foot range.

Since I lost another hour by moving into the Pacific Time Zone, I decided that I would stop a little shorter than I had planned, and get rested some. Rest meant a hotel, and a hotel meant Elko NV. Despite navigating through counter help who was on their second day on the job, I was able to get a nice room, with a good, non-wireless connection, fridge and microwave.

However, when I asked about Thai food in town, I was greeted with a blank stare, and finally the deskhelp’s brain engaged, and she sputtered out, “You want Thai food? In Elko?” Ah, the quaintness of the small towns of the west, eh!