Feb 29, 2008

Wendover Waffles, Bonneville Speed Flats

Merlin WafflesWaffles or kibble for breakfast…
There's a delightful new trend in motel breakfasts. Fresh pour-your-own-waffle makers are replacing the shrink wrapped danishes with expiration dates in the next decade. Merlin offered to clean my plate before I had a bite. We’d been sharing amaranth biscuits baked by wondrous cook husby, Marty. Merlin embraced the share all food road trip rules. Biscuits for both.

Apparently we awoke in Mountain Time. West Wendover, Nevada hopped into Utah’s time zone in 1999. The daylit terrain didn't have any color, but Merlin met some colorful show dogs staying at the motel during his early morning sniff. They were traveling to a competition in California and we knew they were professional dogs because the afghans had curlers in their hair!

Wendover Air FieldWe swing by historic Wendover Air Field, which in 1943, was the largest military reserve in the world and home of the Manhattan Engineers. Yes, those Manhattan Engineers who developed the atomic bomb and trained B-29 crews to drop it. The Enola Gay departed from Wendover Air Field in 1945 on its way to Hiroshima, Japan.

Merlin at Bonneville Speed FlatsA few minutes from West Wendover, we enter Utah, a new U.S. state for Merlin, named after the Ute Indians. We’re here for the Bonneville Speed Flats, home to the world’s land speed records. It's our first big road trip destination. I had originally planned Wendover as the first night’s stop but Nevada expanded when we drove into it. We exit onto an asphalt road, following signs for the Speed Flats, Danger Cave State Park, Undeveloped,Merlin at Bonneville Speed Flats right and the Barren Desert Silver Island Mountains on the edge of the Newfoundland Evaporation Basin of the Great Salt Lake. Merlin at Bonneville Speed Flats leftGrowing up near Detroit, I have an inbred need for motor speed, and have long admired the mechanic drivers who create turbojet rocket powered land cruisers to break the sound barrier without exploding. We pull off onto salt, imagining Speed Week with the full desert effect. Merlin at Bonneville Speed Flats Winner Merlin explodes from the car, racing around in the wild open salty sand dirt. He circles me, arcing out into an infinity figure eight with me at the cross center. I give chase and Merlin responds by attempting to set the four paw Aussie world land speed waffle powered record. With no competition in sight, I declare him the winner and rightful holder of the title.

Great Salt LakeBack on the Interstate, the official rest stop sports a concrete tower overlook of the Salt Lake desert. There’s a considerate foot wash faucet for salty sand walkers and an arbitrary spit rail enclosure plunked in the sand labeled Pet Area, which Merlin dubiously visits. We brush off salty sand and settle down for the long drive to Salt Lake City, across the Wendover Air Force Auxiliary Field, Dugway Proving Grounds, and Hill Air Force Range, all Restricted, No Travel. A distant train carries double stacked containers, giving it a shimmering crenelated look on the horizon, perhaps similar to what the Indians saw as the pioneer wagon trains pushed westward. Mournful roadside signs lean weathered and blasted blank. One rest stop sign erected bravely in the salt desert says Keep off Grass. Merlin hasn’t seen anything green since the casino lobby. Another sign greets us at the restrooms, telling us to watch for snakes and scorpions. Snake SignWe don’t stop long. The steady wind spits salty sand into our windows for another hour before we follow signs insisting we pull off and take a trucker brake at Skull Valley. Merlin closes his eyes against the biting salt and dirt. I begin to get a headache from the change in attitude, I mean altitude, as we drive across what’s left of the lake into Salt Lake City. The city raises in sunny terraces up the mountainside and Merlin hangs out the window watching the construction traffic. Since neither Merlin nor I would be admitted into the great Mormon temple for religious reasons, we drive on, leaving I-80 to turn south on US-40, climbing towards 7,000 feet and Park City, home of the Sundance Film Festival, and 2002 Winter Olympics. With Pink Floyd's Dark Side of the Moon blasting, we join the parade of jeeps with roof racked snowboards and Foo Fighters blasting out of their speakers. The road funnels through mountain passes and we pause for a stretch sniff snack at the Heber City town square park. Banners proclaim the annual Cowboy Poetry Gathering and Buckaroo Fair. The Main Street movie theater is playing Becoming Jane.

Merlin at Starvation ReservoirThe Uinta Mountains open up into beautiful 5,000 feet high plateaus. We practice high altitude breathing while walking on national forest nature trails and stop for a quick bake beside Starvation Reservoir. BringFido.com locates one of the few dog friendly hotels in this bit of Utah for us. It’s the kind of place that you're glad you brought your own shampoo and hand soap, but there’s plenty of hot water and serious water pressure. We drink lots of water and spread out the maps. I go to sleep dreaming of tomorrow's dinosaurs.

Day Three: West Wendover, Nevada to Vernal, Utah. 314 miles.


L.C.McCabe said...

Ew. A sign saying "Watch for snakes and scorpions." Yikes! That does not sound inviting to me.


I'm sure that sign was made special-to-order.


Lea said...

Look at that puppy go! It was the waffles, I am sure!!!

It was really special spending today with you and Marty... celebrating our Joan... XO

A said...

What a gorgeous guy! And what a fun trip. It's like Travels with Charlie. I live just over the Wasatch Mountains from Salt Lake, in Evanston, Wyoming, and make the drive to San Francisco every few years, and I always have to pull off at the Salt Flats and spin cookies in the dust. Thanks so much for sharing this experience!

Cindy Pavlinac said...

This part of the American West defines Road Trip for me. Open, clear, spacious, endless potential, FREEDOM. All the space and time in the world.