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Wyoming, Utah, and Nevada

October 28-31
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!
Route, on map and from satellite
Our first road trip day.  Pretty empty.
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.

We 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.
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 traditional 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 church-like.
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.
d121030_04_Wildflowers.jpg 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 positive impression.

d121030_02_TrackToReno.jpgOn 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.
Great 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

d121031_01_Sign.jpg d121031_02_Night.jpgBy 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.

On Wednesday, we were awake at dawn and were treated to a nice view from our Circus Circus window.
  d121031_00_track.jpgFrom 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!

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.
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?
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.

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!

Our path and two road shots -- not a nice, sunny day.

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.

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


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