Friday, 6 September 2013

Day 7: Rawlins, WY - Twin Falls, ID

It wasn't a good start.  Well, breakfast was fine (except for the spoons, natch), but it was raining.  Not much, but looking west gave the distinct impression that this was unlikely to remain the case for very long.  As soon as I got onto I-80 there was a fire engine parked on the shoulder, behind an extremely burnt-out truck.  The trailer was pretty bad, but all that was left of the tractor was the chassis, engine, gearbox and wheels.  I suspect the body panels are fibreglass these days.

As expected, the rain came, nearly as heavy as it had been back in New England, and lasting quite a lot longer.  But it gave up eventually, in time to enjoy the descent from the high point of over 2,200 m to about 1,200 at the level of the Great Salt Lake.  Shortly after crossing into Utah I stopped at the Visitor Information Centre.  This notice was stuck in the window:


Normally when in this part of the world I continue down I-80 and through Salt Lake City, with its insane drivers and much shouting from Emily about the fifty "Keep [Left|Right]" instructions required before you escape onto the one hundred most boring miles of road in the world, viz. I-80 between SLC and the Nevada state line.  This time I went right, along I-84, because today I am doing Tourist Things.  Eventually the 84 goes into a sort of codeshare agreement with I-15, which brought out a certain number of loonhouses, but most of them disappeared into Ogden.

A few miles further on, turn off onto UT-83 and follow the signs to the Golden Spike National Historic Site at Promontory.  This is where the two ends of the first transcontinental railway met in 1869, an occasion marked by the use of a special gold spike to secure the final section of rail to a sleeper (it was removed and replaced with a regular steel one once the dignitaries had gone home).

Shiny sleeper marks the spot where the ceremony took place.  It is considered very bad form to stand on it, especially by the (ex-military) ranger.
I was fortunate enough to arrive not only on the right day, but also at the right time, as one of the replica steam locomotives they keep out the back had been fired up and was due to go for a trundle on the short section of track they built for just such a purpose - the original route through Promontory was bypassed early in the 20th century and the rails and other hardware were removed in 1942 and recycled as battleships or something.

Replica of the Union Pacific loco No. 119 goes for a spin
Further train pics on the Flickr site; link at top right.  Back to route 83 and turn right.  Two miles up the road, outside a facility belonging to aerospace and defence suppliers ATK, one finds this lot:

The upright one with a spike on its nose is a Trident while the tall skinny one behind it is a Minuteman, a Cold War-era ICBM whose descendants are still in service today.  The huge bastard at the back is a solid-fuel booster from the Space Shuttle programme; it was the failure of one of these which caused the Challenger disaster, an event memorably described by PJ PO'Rourke as "launching teacher-hazing into the Space Age".

Back north and onto I-84.  It is raining, not where I am, but over the mountains to the south-west.  And doing it with such vigour that the mountains are rapidly rendered invisible.  It was the same yesterday over the Snowy Range, west of Laramie and south of I-80.  Only a few drops actually hit the windscreen, but the temperature plummets to the extent that the windows go up and the heater comes on.  Roll into Twin Falls and pause to take a picture of the bridge across the Snake River for Crinkly Lion.  This is one of the few places where BASE jumping is not only legal but actively encouraged - they've built a platform in the Visitor Centre car park, sticking out over the gorge, to enable people to get a better view of the unstable hurling themselves off the bridge. Anyway, Battle Mountain tomorrow.  Yay!

On license plates: Many US states have a snappy slogan on the number plates of their motor vehicles.  Florida, for example, has "Sunshine State" (due, no doubt, to the hurricanes prevalent in the area).  My New York-registered motorcar has "Empire State", which I'd always thought to be an insurance company.  New Jersey is "Garden State", Arizona "Grand Canyon State", Maine "Vacationland", New Hampshire "Live Free Or Die" and California "Divorce Lawyer State".  Actually, I made the last one up.  I am in Idaho.  Their plates have at the bottom "Famous Potatoes".  I have not the words.

An Apology: Yesterday I remarked as how my bizarre appearance would cause "small children [to] run screaming to their mummies".  Of course, the ladies in question will be USAnian and as such will not be mummies but mommies.  I apologise unreservedly to all the mommies of this splendid country.


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