Square State Tour

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Day 3
Price is right

Mon, Oct 1, 2007

8:15 am
720 miles from home

Wells, Nevada

For the second time in two days, we open the door to the outside world and greet the day with "Jesus Christ!"

Today, it's because our car is covered in ice (!). At some point during the night, all the rain clouds left and the cold moved in and all the rain which had covered our car is now frozen solid. And we can see snow on a nearby mountain.

We're thinking maybe Nevada doesn't like us. So we leave.

Ice! On our car! (Wells, UT)

Ice! On our car!

43 channels of laundry!

The fabulous 4 Way Cafe (note snow on mountains in distance)

Just outside of Wells is a "Parking Area" along the freeway. This is an area where you pull off the freeway and park your car or truck. There's no bathroom or scenic view or picnic tables. You just park.

Nevada is weird.

8:35 am
742 miles

We reach Pequop Summit, elevation 6,964 feet. We've mostly been about a mile high since Eastern Oregon (in fact, last night Laura got a touch of altitude sickness—nasty headache).

9:36 am
780 miles

We enter Utah, once again changing time zones (back to Mountain Time—at least this time we can see the mountains the time zone is named after).

We've heard about the "salt flats" but never actually seen them. Imagine every salt shaker in the world poured out on the ground and then raked very smooth. That's sort of what the salt flats look like.

White and flat as far as you can see into the distance. Even farther away you can see mountains that seem to float on pools of water—"Cool! A mirage! Just like in the movies!" says Robert.

Great Salt Shaker sprung a leak  Mirror, mirror in the mountain

The great salt flats are mighty flat! (Note mirrored mountain mirage on second photograph.)

This area was crossed by pioneer people on the Oregon Trail. We can imagine their feelings, "This? This is what we're risking our lives for?"

Robert is careful to note that his ancestors stayed put in Detroit and waited until cars were invented and roads were paved before they headed west. Laura's were even more sensible and stayed outside the US altogether until they had radio.

10:00 am
809 miles

We see Metaphor, The Tree of Life up ahead! This is an art installation placed alongside the freeway in 1986. It consists of a large coat rack looking thing, with large colored balls on it. The artist (a Swedish guy named Momen) said it was dedicated as "A hymn to our universe whose glory and dimension is beyond all myth and imagination."

We only know this stuff from on-line research because LAURA REFUSED TO PULL OVER ON A BUSY FREEWAY so we could check it out (it doesn't have an off-ramp or pull-off area). Sure, she had some lame excuse about "large semi-truck inches from my bumper at 75 mph," but come on—this is a giant coat rack thingy!

Robert snaps a couple of quick pictures at 75 mph, but it's no substitute for being able to pose next to it. With a toothbrush.

Metaphor, Tree of Life, Nowhere Utah  Metaphor, Tree of Life, Nowhere Utah

A few quick snaps of the Tree of Life—hope it's not a metaphor for our lives!

10:18 am
834 miles

We've finally passed out of the salt flats. It's still very flat, but it's brown now, and there's some bushes trying to grow in it. We pull off at a rest area and discover a sign that says "Watch for Snakes and Scorpions" (!).

We are very vigilant, although Laura vetoes Robert's suggestion that we stock up on a couple of shotguns for protection.

If they do attack, at least they'll have clean teeth!

Robert's ready for any attacking snakes or scorpions

Utah mountains in the distance

No more salt flats. Just brown mountains.

12:05 pm
885 miles

We take a wrong turn ("I went EXACTLY the way you told me to," points out Laura) and see a weird, mosque looking thing in the distance. Thinking to ourselves, "this might be a good place to pee" we head over to check it out.

Turns out to be a place call "Saltair" and it's right on the edge of the Great Salt Lake, although the water part of the lake is about a half-mile away. Inside, it's a great big empty space (with a gift shop, of course) that holds concerts from time to time.

The parking lot of Saltair

The parking lot of Saltair

A grand staircase

Saltair interior: bands can make a grand entrance!

What an earlier version looked like, once upon a time

Laura Gregg in front of Saltair

Laura stands in back of the current Saltair

The Great Salt Lake salt beach

Robert proudly presents: The Great Salt Lake (somewhere off in the distance)

Great Salt Lake

You can just see the Great Salt Lake way off in the distance

A little on-line research reveals that this is actually the third Saltair to occupy this spot. The first one (built 1893) burned down, so they built a second one (1926) which also burned down.

Apparently owned by stubborn folk, this third version was built in 1982. After a while, this one—you guessed it! It flooded! Which led to its being closed for most of the 1980's. Reopened in the 90's, it now serves mostly as a concert venue for bands we've never heard of (which means they're probably wildly popular with young folks and so loud that they need to play at a location five miles from the next nearest thing).

1:10 pm
911 miles

After a few wrong turns ("I went EXACTLY...") we finally find the entrance to the World's Largest Man-made Hole. This is the Kennecott Copper Pit Mine just southwest of Salt Lake City in a town called "Copperton."

To be able to see this large hole, you first have to stop at a guard gate and pay $5 per car. You are then given a security card and told NO STOPPING and to follow the signs that lead to the visitor's center.

This is a working copper mine, so you pass all kinds of heavy equipment and large holes on the way to the Visitors Center where you get to see the REALLY large hole.

At one point—over 100 years ago—there was a mountain here. Now there's sort of a negative mountain. The hole is about 3/4 of a mile deep (if you put the Sears Tower in the hole, it would only reach halfway up, the company literature helpfully informs us). It still produces over 800 tons of refined copper every day.

To do this, they first blow up bunches of rock, load them into trucks which take them over to a crusher (there's dozens of these trucks moving all along the bottom of the pit like busy little ants). After being crushed, the rock is moved by pipeline to another place 12 miles away where it gets concentrated and then smelted and stuff.

Although this rock is "rich" in copper, that's sort of a relative term. For every ton (2,000 pounds) of rock they remove, they get about 12 pounds of copper.

Still, they move so damn much ore that a great huge bunch of copper comes out of this hole. Robert takes out his pennies and shows them the mothership where they probably came from.

The Visitors Center reminds us of all the good things that Kennecott does and how fabulous copper is and how many things in our homes come from the ground and how totally screwed we'd be if they weren't digging up this mountain. Why, copper is even used in golf trophies!

Call us short-sighted Luddites, but we think we'd rather have the mountain. Especially as we drive past all the hills of tailings stretching for miles around the pit.

Remains of the mountain  A mountain by the tail(ings)

Those aren't hills—they're tailings (piles of leftover mountain)

Laura Gregg and the Big Hole

Yup, that's a big hole! (Note the itty-bitty trucks on the road)

Robert Gidley and the World's Biggest Cavity

Robert and his toothbrush next to the world's largest hole

The circle of metalurgical life

Robert shows his penny where it came from

Metals you don't use come from a different place

How to make pennies: start with a BIG hole...

Or have a satellite dish under your desk

Copper and the modern office--why you couldn't even send mail without copper!

12 ft 6 inches tall; 10,183 pounds and they cost $25,000 each!

Those itty-bitty trucks have tires THIS huge!

3:40 pm
980 miles

Green River, UT

We pass through Green River which is yet another of the little towns in Utah. It's pretty deserted once we leave the Salt Lake City/Provo area, but it's nothing like Eastern Oregon which was Serious Nothing.

There's towns (and facilities) every 10 or 20 miles. It's been sunny all day and we're happy to see it. We're now starting into the strange red rock and weird rock formations featured in Road Runner cartoons.

Road runner/coyote country

Meep meep! Looks like the coyote plans to use that square block to squish the road runner

4:40 pm
1,045 miles

Price, UT

We reach Price, Utah which is a middling sized town. We're about three hours from Moab, and decide that it's not really worth trying to make it the rest of the way. Plus, there's a paleontology museum here we'd like to see that's closed right now, but will be open in the morning.

We find a RV camping area that'll let us pitch our tent (and provides wireless internet, showers, toilets, and ice for our drinks). They charge $30 per night, which is half of what the cheapest motel has charged us.

Laura's the camping expert, so Robert watches her pitch the tent and then wanders off to befriend the local cat population. He also comes back with a new pal, "T-Man, the Tumbleweed." Tumbleweeds are actually stickery dead things, but they still look cool.

Robert enjoys a Rum & Coke™ with his new pal, T-Man

7:44 pm

We just returned from dinner in Price at one of the handful of sit-down places. We—morons that we are—picked the Chinese place. Apparently, we thought, "Hey—we're in Utah, land of white people. AND we're in a tiny little town in Utah. Surely they'll have good Chinese Food!"

We're not sure how they managed to make every single dish come out so tasteless (how do you make sweet-and-sour pork taste like nothing much?), but they did.

Our advice to people visiting Price, Utah and looking for a good place to eat: keep driving.

We settle into our tent, all bundled up in our coats and gloves because it's supposed to get down to 31 degrees tonight. Laura puts a bright face on it, "If we can survive camping in these conditions, we're gonna LOVE camping when it's warm!"

Robert replies, "This better not suck."

Laura and our fabulous campsite

Tomorrow: Moab fer shur!

Robert & Laura
Square State Tour

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