Written October 29+
Dear Family and Friends,
This is the story of our America Trip - Road-Trip-#1 edition.
On Sunday (October 28th) we headed out of Longmont, Colorado, for Rock
Springs, Wyoming. Mapquest estimated it as a five-hour drive. In
the end, it took us 60% more due to a breakfast in Fort Collins, gas in
Laramie, and a wrong turn just after that. Half the trip was on
regular state highways and half on Interstate 80. While the highways
offered more curves and close-up views, interstate-driving covers
ground more quickly and there was a lot of ground to cover.
One concept of this trip had been to pause along the way and
see sights, but on this first day nothing called out to us to stop.
Grand views, yes, but seeing them from the car window seemed OK
enough. The eight-hour drive was long enough without side trips!
We did pass through Laramie and we drove through most of Rock Springs,
but neither town seemed interesting enough to make our top-ten tourist
destination list. Pretty dusty and grim, in fact. Maybe
that's why we have no pictures.
|Route, on map and from satellite
Our first road trip day. Pretty empty.
drove down to Salt
Lake City on Tuesday, a shorter drive, but still saw nothing to draw us
off the Interstate. There are plenty of scenic areas in the region, but just
not good for quick stops.
In Salt Lake, our first stop was the Mormon Temple Square. With the
current presidential candidate, we felt we need a better understanding
of the Church of Later Day Saints (LDS). Temple Square is the
Vatican of the Mormon church and it offers extensive visitor facilities
that give a quick overview of the LDS history and beliefs.
After Temple Square, we checked into the Wildflowers Bed and
Breakfast. The four-room B&B is in an 18th Century house, and
was pleasant, albeit a bit more dusty than we would prefer. Maybe
that was part of an authentic historic treatment. In any event,
Cilla, one of the owners, was most accommodating and left us with a
The center-piece of the square is the temple. The building is not
open to visitors, although there is a detailed model available in the
South Visitor's Center. Of course we have seen plenty of European
cathedrals and this building is as impressive as any, in part due to
its elegant, simple, lines.
On the left is the model of the inside of the temple. Note that
the building is more of a collection of meeting areas than a
church. Temple Square also has the hall used by the Mormon
Tabernacle Choir, famous for its acoustics. There is also an old
"Assembly Hall", built
from "leftover stones" from temple construction, which does look more
The visitor centers told the story of the founding of the LDS Church,
including the belief in an "American" part of the bible, called the
Book of Mormon. The centers also described the mid-19th Century
Mormon movement, on foot, dragging carts, from their homes in the East
and Mid-West to Salt Lake City.
So, what did we learn? The Church of Later Day Saints does offer
unique additions to the standard Christian belief system. It is
a highly-structured organization, with specific roles for various
layers of church members. Some of the roles seem more appropriate to
the 19th Century than the 21st, but that is an impression based on a
very brief afternoon exposure.
On Tuesday, we had our
longest drive, over 500 miles to Reno, Nevada. We spent nine
hours on the road, not as bad as I had worried about. Our stops
were limited to a quick view of the Great Salt Lake, a cafe lunch, and
a fuel stop. Out the car windows we "enjoyed" hours of
Western scenery, maybe too much of a good thing.
By 4:00 pm, Pacific Daylight Time, we had checked into the Circus
Circus Hotel-Casino. It's a relatively old Reno landmark.
We spent the rest of the evening wandering through various casinos, but
not playing. I don't know that we will, as it's not something I
have ever done before. We'll see. We did have one of the
famous casino buffets at the Eldorado, very good food at very
reasonable prices. A good introduction to the town.
Salt Lake -- A morning drive and a stop at "Saltair", a bath house just
across the freeway from a factory of some sort. Both were
mysterious in the early light.
Window Scenes -- Mostly it was flat, straight, and level.
Attractions -- Lunch spot, barren desert, memories of earlier travelers, and an assortment of hills
there, it was a search for breakfast and, after wandering around a bit, we
settled again on a casino, the Siena as I recall, but no more
buffets. They just tempt us to far more food than we should have!
On Wednesday, we were awake at dawn and were treated to a nice view from our Circus Circus window.
Our first tourist stop was the National Auto Museum,
which houses the remnants of the old Bill Harrah car collection.
Nowadays, the display is just a part of the pioneering casino
developer's original inventory, but it is amazing nonetheless. I took
many more pictures than needed, because it was an excuse to take
time really looking at the treasures. Something that doesn't show
from the pictures is that every car had an individual story, either as
a unique contribution to the development of automobiles, or a unique
story specific to the individual car or, in several cases, stories
specific to famous owners, including many move stars. We spent
a few hours, but I could have done many more.
After all these cars, I owed Marianne "an art fix" so we headed over to the Nevada Museum of Art and to a small gallery next door, whose name I forget. Folks in the
gallery gave us some background to the art world in Reno,
something completely separate from the casino and ski worlds that
everyone associates with the area. The Museum itself had three
floors of relatively modern art, mostly from artists of the American
West. It was a good collection, but I'm afraid we were a bit too
worn out too fully appreciate all floors.
Reportedly, every car is operational, even those from the early
1900's. I don't know about that, but they look as bright and
shiny as they could have been new. Note the second picture: an
electric car from over 100 years ago. And the red one lower left
is a Stanley Steamer.
Cars from the 20's and 30's filled an entire building. The most
unusual may have been this Rolls Royce with copper bodywork and details.
Like the license said: "Awesome"
Later cars were unique, whether because Lana Turner drove it or if it was just a monster Dusenberg.
The red MG TC reminded me of my first car, an MG TD.
This car had completed the first Around the World Race -- in
1908. The story of the 167 days was fascinating and the display
even included mud on the tires. Original mud?
Pictures were possible only from the roof and of a small collection of neon signs from old Reno.
Lunch (early dinner, actually) was a barbecue brisket and beer at Men Wielding Fire,
a cute name and good food. From there we wandered around a little
more and concluded that downtown Reno is still a work in
progress. We wish them well.
On Thursday, we were up
early, headed toward California and two more grandkids. The climb
up and over Donner Pass was pleasant enough, but clouds and drizzle hid
the real scenery. At least there was no snow on the road!
We met Gabby and the two kids, Ava and Sam, in Los Gatos at exactly
1:00 pm, the appointed lunch time. This was the start of
the next chapter of these diaries.
Our path and two road shots -- not a nice, sunny day.
Overall impression of the
drive. The American West offers days and days of drives through
wide, open spaces. That's both the good news and the bad.
We enjoyed our passage, but will not be eager to repeat the trip
anytime soon (although we do need to drive back from California to
Colorado in December. I wonder how that will go.)
John and Marianne