Road trip notebook: Nevada, Utah, and Wyoming

We left Winnemuca late, just after ten this morning. East of Winnemuca, the scenery is spectacular: wide, flat basins divided from one another by mountain ranges. We stopped briefly in Valmy, Nevada. One building houses the gas station, the restaurant, the convenience store, a few slot machines, the bar, and the U.S. post office. There was a small motel next door, with what looked to be only four units. The whole complex appeared to be for sale. We bought a few postcards — one of the ones I chose showed a dessicated skeleton lying in the dessert, the other showed a jackalope — and mailed them.

Elko is a small relaxed city with broad streets and a mix of older buildings and new buildings. We stopped in at the Western Folklife Center’s gift store. I looked at their books; they had lots of books of cowboy poetry, and quite a few books on Basque culture. I bought a book about a potter who decided to live in the backcountry of Nevada with his wife and school-aged boys. We ate lunch at the Blind Onion, which was mostly empty even though it was one in the afternoon.

We ground up the grade to Pequop summit, 6,967 feet above sea level. New Englander that I am, I couldn’t help thinking that if you rotated the final letter of “Pequop” 180 degrees, you’d get the name of Captain Ahab’s whale ship.

We had to stop at the Great Salt Flats rest stop, just over the border in Utah. While we were wandering over the salt flats, we watched as a west-bound Union Pacific train pulled into a siding while another UP train sped east on the main line.

Carol looking at the mixed freight in the siding.

Climbing out of Salt Lake City, the highway wound up a canyon. After the deserts of northern Nevada, and after the Great Salt Flats, I was amazed at how green everything was in the Wasatch Mountains. We stopped in Park City, Utah, for a break. The beautiful green mountainsides were dotted with pretentious over-done houses, tasteful McMansions winding up the mountainsides below the ski slopes. Upscale malls were everywhere. We stopped to get coffee in a chain store — my decaf tasted burnt and bitter, and I wound up throwing it out — and I read the local paper: a reckless skiing case resulted in a non-context plea; more businesses close on Main Street (we couldn’t find Main Street amongst all the malls, so it’s no wonder); a ribbon-cutting at a housing complex for people who work in support jobs; a woman drove a car (specified as a “BMW 5 series”) into a local reservoir. I found Park City oppressive, and was glad when we drove on.

The spectacular beauty of the Wasatch Mountains blended into the spacious beauty of western Wyoming, with its wide-open skies, purple mountains in the distance, strange rock formations, and farms of huge white spinning wind turbines. The sun set about nine o’clock, and the sky was still a little bit light when we pulled into Rock Springs, Wyoming, at ten. A big full moon lit up the sky.