Subject: WanderRockies 3 - Green River, Utah
Date: Thu, 20 Jul 2000 20:29:45 -0700
"Oh boy. I get to get up an hour earlier on 'vacation' than I do for work."
Sarcasm can be so rich in the morning, but once the
truth is out in the open it is much easier to deal with. Rebecca is not
an early grouch, but the joy in her voice this day was unavoidable. Fun
awaits! I mean, how can a day go bad that starts with six large heads of
Tennessee Ernie Ford staring at you from all angles? And the next thing
you see when stepping out of the elevator is a full-blown casino ca-chinging
away. Ely is a place like no other. Thank goodness.
She got a nickel change from a purchase and said 'what the heck, may as well leave it here' in a slot ... ca-CHING! Nickels to go.
How bad can a day be that starts with breakfast in a flower shop? Uh-huh. The Espresso/latte and pastry is on the left side, and on the right are the wedding/funeral bouquets . . . Ely is a place like no other.
Now on US 50 east of Ely, the Loneliest Road is indeed
lonely, but it is lovely too. Going downslope into the Great Basin we follow
one dry wash after another, and I comment later that you can't get more
old west than this. As I lean into each curve, I not only look ahead for
nonexistent traffic, I keep an eye out for a stagecoach lurching out of
the hills. Let yourself accept the desert will be hot, and the scenery
can be startling. Yes, even after as many traversals as I have made.
But hot is relative. The air temperature is around 100, give or take a few. Preferring warm over cool, I remain comfortable in my flannel shirt - which I *always* wear, even here. (Laugh all you want. Flannel holds sweat and evaporates well. It feels better to me when traveling in hostile climates than a T-shirt.) Rebecca, on the other hand, has been known to say "no human alive should have to suffer temperature over 78 degrees". Ahem.
In preparation for this, I convinced her to buy a MiraCool Cool Vest. It is bright orange "state road" worker vest with a series of ribs filled with water absorbing gel. When they swell, they hold what felt like a gallon of water - to be slowly evaporated in the wind. A swamp cooler. It soaked in the tub before we left, then it soaked her for several hours. She is still alive and congenial, so it must have worked!
Our now normal routine of riding for an hour then
stopping for a 'knee break' is stymied by Utah. Between the border and
Delta there is a hundred miles of ... nothing. The stop beside the road
in an alkali flat at Skull Rock Pass is incredible in two aspects. The
air temperature is noticeably hotter near the ground. Wave a hand in a
circle above your head and below your waist, you can feel a 10 degree difference
easily. The other aspect is the silence. With no wind, the heat seems to
close your ears. Nothing moves. Nothing lives. Let's get outta here!
Delta is a green crescent in central Utah, with fields seeming out of place. The water from the blue puddle in the middle of the drying white lake is called the Sevier River. Undoubtedly the crops are salt tolerant. So must be the local residents, who all appear 'scrubbed' and robust and healthy.
Our course takes us over a break in the Wasatch Plateau and the shimmering heat plays tricks with mirages. On one long rise there is a notch in the hill ahead. The thermal refraction of the mirage catches the cloudless azure sky and it appears the road climbs directly to heaven - earth and ether indistinguishable beyond the mountain. But of course, it never gets closer. And eventually it falls away to the San Rafael Reef - a vast arid erosion of impossible shapes and neck twisting vistas. Travel by motorcycle is special for what it exposes that you might never otherwise notice.
Rebecca's observations for the day: It seemed like we went downhill for 30 miles when we got on I70. (She is right, but the drop was only about 3,000 feet.) You have to be much more alert when leading. (She spent a lot of the day in front and realized that lane positioning, traffic awareness, and road surface scanning is more than just casual involvement.) Riding a motorcycle is more work than driving, but it is more rewarding in kind.
From New York City to Hartford, Connecticut, is approximately
Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, to Washington, DC, is about 109 miles.
Salina, Utah, to Green River, Utah, is 109 miles.
All three routes are served by a direct Interstate road. But at the entrance to I70 in Salina is a simple sign: NO SERVICES next 109 miles. Not a gas station, not even a house, only sand and stone and wind and sun. And strata of rock formations that are impossible to believe. This is the area of Utah just above the canyonlands. It is a few hundred million years shy of being spectacular. It is only incredible.
Ely US50 I70 Green River
Sam Lepore, San Francisco