Covering ground: out of California, to Nevada, Utah, and Wyoming

posted in: Serendipity, Travel | 7

As I write this, it's time to get home. I've been working, but now I need to get different sorts of work done, and I need to be back in my usual surroundings to do that. I've had to cover another 1100-plus miles (1770+ km).

California, across the Sierra Nevada

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Into the state of Nevada

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There was a drastic change of scenery from the part of California I'd
just left. I've been through all these parts of the world by car
before, but it's been a long time.

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Traversing these places, one becomes a connoisseur of light, vegetation, and rocks: colors, angles, relationships. Also stunned by the thought of coming across these miles and miles and miles on foot or horseback, or by wagon, at times when there were no roads or wayfinding aids. Or cooling breezes. And where the winters can be severe.

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I didn't find the good Japanese restaurant in Carson City.
Unfortunately. And I didn't have time to research vegetarian options
along the route; there probably weren't many.

I've used up my stash of
Luna bars and Larabars and the Annie Chun's dinners I brought along (with the hotpot
to heat the water to prepare them). I've picked up apples and tea and
yogurts and juice at grocery stores along the way, although in
Nevada—for the first time I can remember this has happened—I could only
find good yogurt in quarts, which aren't very practical for traveling. Usually being vegetarian is no problem. It probably wouldn't be in Nevada if I were there long enough to get my bearings.

Cresting a hill into Utah

As diverse as each state's landscape is, the arbitrary political units also end up having geographic identities. I came to the top of a rise, caught the view, and thought, "Yep, that's Utah!" And it was. Not that all of Utah looks like what I saw, but the scene definitely wasn't Nevada any more.

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That white stuff is sand, and it stretched on both sides of the road for as far as I could see. It's very specific sand—the Bonneville Salt Flats, where land speed records are set:

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This is what water looked like in the same area:

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Not so different.

East of Salt Lake City, the colors and topography changed drastically:

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There's a WHOLE lot of road and bridge reconstruction going on in the seven states I've been traversing. Each state has a "Putting America to work" sign near its border, although never in a spot where I can reasonably take its picture. The accomplishments are not busy work: the differences between worked-on and un-worked-on stretches are significant. The old infrastructure was falling apart.

As I drive along, I keep having an unrealistic but engaging (to me) fantasy in which half of the new pavement gets turned over to bikes and other alternative, low-impact modes of transportation. Lots of changes would need to support that shift: differently spaced rest areas and food and sleep resources (which would mean jobs spread across the landscape as well), plus widespread use of CycleTotes for kids and elders (and dogs). (CycleTotes are really easy to haul.)

It'd be a slow way to travel, but nowhere near as slow as a wagon train. We'd need to solve a whole different set of problems than we are currently concentrating on, maybe some more interesting ones, like figuring out ways to temper the effects of heat on the travelers or how to make travel in winter possible (which it isn't in any case in many spots along this route), but I ponder how that could be done . . . clothing? minor redesign of cycles? lots of possibilities.

Buckminster Fuller would have sketched out not only the challenges but a full complement of possible solutions. I think about his calculations of the amount of gas wasted by cars at stoplights. I just have time to form the initial idea and then move on to the next task. . . . Then again, he got along well on four hours of sleep a night!

I've seen many people traveling by bike in certain sections of this trip: Portland, Sierra Nevada, east of Salt Lake City, even in long, hot, dry stretches of I-80 through Wyoming! Anyway, this smooth new pavement would last longer if it were used mostly by bicycles. . . . I know it would take a long time to get places. . . . That might be part of the fun, if we changed our expectations. . . .

If it's windy, it must be Wyoming. . . .

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In the photo, you can't see the little flags flapping away. They were. There were also bison in an adjacent field, with a "bison are dangerous" sign on one fence (the other fence had a sign with "buffalo are dangerous"). But the bison were sleeping on the far side of the field, and I couldn't get a good picture of them.

Back on the road and a little farther east—about 27 miles into Wyoming—I saw a large wind farm, a handy demo of the principles in the interpretive signs at the information center:

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Last year on this route (I-80), we saw some wind farms in the distance, and also turbine blades being trucked across the state. I think those blades have been installed. That wind farm along the horizon is much closer to the road than anything we saw last year. The education center in the first Wyoming photo talks about how to get involved in the wind farming program.

This is the same farm, closer up. I couldn't get a really good photograph. The view of the turbines was great but there was no way to pull off the highway and snap it.

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The Wyoming department of transportation buys signs by the gross that say "High wind possible" and "next five miles" (small rectangle below the high-wind yellow diamond). They're not placed every five miles, but it seems that they are!

I also keep thinking about all the buildings whose roofs could have solar panels on them. When panels are mounted on existing structures, they don't add any elements to the landscape that aren't already there, which I consider a big plus. I wonder what type of reworking of social and economic forces would let everyone who wanted to install solar panels do so. Same thought last year. No solar panels on my house yet.

That's some of the stuff I ponder while driving across hundreds of miles of Western landscape, with relatively few interruptions by towns and other distractions.

I'm writing this in a motel room in Rawlins, Wyoming. By the time it's posted, I should be home and may have managed to unpack the car. I've got a handful of books to edit, one to continue writing, and a pair of socks to finish knitting. . . .

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7 Responses

  1. Amanda

    Welcome back. I hope you had a safe final leg of your journey. It’s good to be able to keep up on your travels – ah the joy of the internet! I’m going to have to try to make it to SnB when you finally get back – which might be another two weeks? I’m just thinking next week is the first and then Labor Day. At any rate, I want to hear more details in person;-)

  2. LynnH

    I love driving cross-country. I’m fond of cities, for some reason, though the speed is not quick.

    Actually, I like cities and interesting surroundings during sunshine, and I like flat, straight, boring surroundings after sunset. It’s me and the stripes on the road, and closer to meditation than anything else I do, even knitting.

    I saw the salt flats when I was 8 and I still remember. My parents had us get out of the car and look at the ground we were driving upon. It really stuck in my mind.

    Welcome home… I started a PGR sample sock from her Ethnic Socks book. Slow going because I don’t sit still and knit alone very often, and I can’t knit this with too much distraction… but it’s very satisfying.

    Toe depth and zigzag intarsia, diamonds up the front. Way cool. Took 2 tries to get my cast on in 2 colors, to have the 2 colors in the right places!!!

    LynnH

  3. Dina

    Hi Deb,
    Just a quick note to thank you for all the amazing photos you’ve shown on this trip. I enjoy them so much.
    Hope things are back to “normal” for you soon!
    Dina

  4. lynne s of oz

    I know what you mean about the food thing – being gluten and dairy free was a challenge in Nevada!
    As for the solar panels on roofs, HOAs have to change their attitude about such things, along with having to have green lawns everywhere (what’s wrong with perennial gardens anyway?). It seems mad to me that we aren’t covering every square foot of roof space with solar hot water/heating/PV even in the places that have freeze/thaw cycles like Co.

  5. Deb Robson

    I specifically bought a house that is *not* in a neighborhood with an HOA. I don’t like to be told what color I can paint my house. I also bought a house with good south-facing roof surfaces. However, I haven’t been able to afford to put panels up.

    The freeze/thaw cycles can be dealt with. I have friends who have bought a house here about 20 years ago that already had solar panels on it. There are better panels now, of course, but those have (in general) been trucking along.

    Let’s not get me started on bluegrass lawns in this climate {wry grin}. . . .

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