Sunday, June 12, 2011

Road Trip, Part III - the west under water

Our trip focused on the American west's iconic national parks, and while Utah certainly boasts some beauties, they were too far south for this adventure. We packed up our gear on the last day at our Jackson Village ski resort hostel and trotted down to say good-bye to our gracious host. Only to discover that the road west out of town, shut over two weeks earlier due to a massive slide, had not opened on schedule.

We blinked, blank-faced, as he pulled out his iPad and started giving us our options. They all involved near-blizzard conditions and mandatory chains. We thanked him and sighed before heading out to rearrange the car and pull the chains to where they would be easily accessed.

But, before embarking on the dreaded climb ov
er the pass, we headed into town for a quick breakfast snack and on a whim decided to check the state hiway's website - miracle of miracles, the road had finally been re-opened, just 2 hours earlier.

We flew out of Wyoming across the southwest corner of Idaho and into the eastern farmland of Utah. Like Montana and Wyoming before them, these states had river and lakes looking ready to crest everywhere we looked. Many floodplains were already flooded and we knew from talking to folks in Jackson, where the unseasonably cold, snowy spring was about to break into 80' weather days after we left, that managing unprecedented quantities of water was the topic on everyone's lips. Everywhere we stopped, the conversation centered on the level of the dams, the swelling of the rivers. Moving people and livestock and hoping for the best.

We were looking forward to our second exciting food stop of the trip (the first, 2nd Street Bistro in Livingston, having fallen through with us arriving on a Monday, when they're closed) - Utah State University's famous Aggie Ice Cream shop, only to realize when we were mere miles from the school that it was Sunday and this being Utah, ice cream was unlikely to be available commercially.

Dejected, we gassed up and whipped through Salt Lake Cit
y to emerge on its western edge to seemingly endless water. Water so deep and widespread our little ribbon of highway seemed to be the only thing left unsubmerged and that just barely.

Even the median between the freeway's two directions seemed a long, straight navigable river.

A lot of very little for a very long time, and at last we hit our night's goal. Elko, Nevada. I'll just say...Nevada was everything I expected. And leave it at that.

After checking in at the Thunderbird Motel, I headed over to Albertson's for dinner stuff. Had to txt Mark and let him know that the one-armed bandits in the grocery store had me in their clutches and I'd be pulling a line of credit out of the house before heading back with a loaf of bread.

But, by making it to Elko, we'd chewed up a signficant part of Nevada, after exiting out of Wyoming, cutting across Idaho, and dissecting Utah all in a single day. We slept soundly and headed to California and John Muir's Yosemite the next morning.

Part IV: Yosemite - how badly do you want to see it? And San Francisco!

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