Thursday, October 22, 2015

Final Leg Home, Without My SUV

Uh oh, "Low Oil Pressure"!
After a breakdown on Friday and a diagnosis by a mobile mechanic on Saturday, it was time to drive from Salt Lake City, Utah back to Topaz Lake, in the Eastern Sierra on the California/Nevada border.  We reserved a rental full size SUV at one agency to fit our gear in, but it was unavailable when we showed up.  They tried to pawn off a RAV4 as full size, then substitute a pickup truck at 2X the price, but we eventually found a minivan elsewhere at a much more reasonable rate.

From our refuge at the Courtyard Marriott near the airport, we were on the highway west in minutes.  Crossing the rest of Utah and all but the last few feet of Nevada would be a trip of over 550 miles, about 8 hours.  First you pass south of the Great Salt Lake.  We had to pull off near a Morton Salt facility due to a very loud whistling sound, caused by the weather stripping on both sides of the minivan windshield.  Copious amounts of gaffers' tape later, the musical vibrating minivan was silenced.

Next you cross the Bonneville Salt Flats, for about an hour.  Near the far end is where the Bonneville Speedway is, where drag races are held, land speed records are broken, and many car commercials are filmed.  This week none of that would be happening, since a heavy rain had left standing water on much of the salt flats, and water-softened rock salt elsewhere.  There were reflections in the water and mirage reflections int he distance, and it was impossible to tell the difference between the two until you were close to the area that you thought had been flooded from a distance.

From the Nevada border to Wells there were some interesting mountains.the Toano Range and the Pequop Mountains. From Wells you can see the colorful aspen-decorated Humboldt Range, where I've camped at Angel Lake in the past.

Immediately after Wells was the exit for Deeth, where I encountered interesting and chaotic weather on a photography trip to the Rocky Mountains in the fall of 2006.

Next you can see the Ruby Mountains, where aspen appeared to be in peak color.  It was tempting to look towards Nevada's best-known leaf-peeping site or Lamoile Canyon and consider the trip out and back from Elko, but the drive today would be long enough without adding side trips to it.
The center of the state tends to be pretty dry and uninhabited, which is either beautiful or barren, or both.  It's not hard to see in the middle of the state how important mining is to the economy, as you pass mining machinery for sale, roads with names like Newmont Mine Road, and the mines themselves, with mountains of tailings growing toward the sky.  The boom and bust cycles as people chase one resource or another also tend to leave some interesting abandoned towns and facilities that can be interesting to explore.

We exited US-80 by Fernley, home to a large Amazon.com warehouse, and continued through Yerington, where we were treated to a moonrise during sunset.  The following evening the moon would rise entering a total eclipse.

The trip started September 7 with Lassen Volcanic National Park, passed through the Olympic Peninsula, to the Canadian Rockies, then down the Rocky Mountains to Grand Teton National Park.  It ended September 26 with the return from Salt lake City.  I was hoping to add a week-long extension to Colorado to enjoy fall colors there, but life is what happens while you're busy making other plans.

Returning early would give me time to prepare for my two-night photography workshop in Bodie State Historic Park.  Besides, if I'd have to be replacing my SUV, I had that unplanned expense to deal with... good thing I didn't have the breakdown another 600 miles further from home.  But if you do take long trips, I can't say enough for roadside assistance plans which give you the protection of a tow up to 200 miles!

I'm going to post the story of this trip on my blogs in installments, in reverse order, so that once they are all posted, they can be read straight through in chronological order to the end, no matter what section new readers may arrive in.  Here's the new post describing the prior day, leading up to the loss of my SUV: http://activesole.blogspot.com/2015/10/end-of-line-explorer-road-trip-September-2015.html

Total lunar eclipse, as seen from home at Topaz Lake on September 27, 2015