Price is right
Mon, Oct 1, 2007
720 miles from home
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!
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.
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).
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!"
The great salt flats are mighty flat! (Note mirrored mountain mirage on
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.
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.
A few quick snaps of the Tree of Life—hope it's not a metaphor for our
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.
Robert's ready for any attacking snakes or scorpions
No more salt flats. Just brown mountains.
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
Saltair interior: bands can make a grand entrance!
What an earlier version looked like, once upon a time
Laura stands in back of the current Saltair
Robert proudly presents: The Great Salt Lake (somewhere off in the distance)
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).
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
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.
Those aren't hills—they're tailings (piles of leftover mountain)
Yup, that's a big hole! (Note the itty-bitty trucks on the road)
Robert and his toothbrush next to the world's largest hole
Robert shows his penny where it came from
How to make pennies: start with a BIG hole...
Copper and the modern office--why you couldn't even send mail without
Those itty-bitty trucks have tires THIS huge!
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.
Meep meep! Looks like the coyote plans to use that square block to
squish the road runner
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
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
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