August 11, 2010

Summer Road Trip - Drving to Salt Lake City

Last view of Redfish Lake
Rose had set the alarm for 8am, so we awoke at a more reasonable hour than the other mornings. It was another beautiful Idaho morning. We packed up our camp, I had to go through some of my stuff and make sure I was packed properly for my flight for New York that night. We left the camp at 9:20am and drove the short distance to the lake beach park where we took some departing photos. Then we drove down the street to the tiny gas station/convenience store/laundromat/showers. After fishing out $2 in quarters, I picked a shower stall and showered in the somewhat miserable spray of water. The water was hot, the shower clean and I hadn't showered in three days so it was wonderful. Unfortunately, 5 minutes for a shower is not long enough when you have long, thick hair that smells strongly of campfire, so when my time ran out, the hot water stopped and the flow of water slowed to a heavy trickle, which was still good enough to finish rinsing. I felt confident that whoever was sitting next to my on my red-eye out of Salt Lake City would not be offended by strong camping odors.
We both drove into Stanley and parked on the dirt road downtown for breakfast at Stanley Banking Company. We sat on the porch where the Idaho sun was beginning to warm up the day. We had the last of our chats for this trip as we ate sourdough pankcakes and drank good coffee.
Rose. At the beginning of May, this year, Paul and I were in Bend, Oregon for a workshop. It was there that I first met Rose. There was a continuation of this workshop, with a small group of eleven people in Bend, Oregon. It included myself and Rose. Our workshop group has met a couple of times this summer, so we have gotten to know each other although, not the details. After the last meeting, we were talking by our cars at night and I mentioned this trip and it was then that the idea of Rose going with me was born. Rose is a chef, raised on Maui and living in Bend, Oregon with her boyfriend Stephen. Rose and I are the same age. Rose is nice. I don't mean that in the polite way, I mean it in the real way, she is a nice person. Rose is fun and funny. She is interesting and smart and honest and real. She is thoughtful and efficient. Rose has traveled and adventured widely. I could not have asked for a better traveling companion. I am grateful for her company. Now, she is going back to Bend and I am driving to Salt Lake City. We are parting ways.
Rose has been listening to the audiobook, The Swan Thieves, while driving in her Eurovan. On our stops she would hand me a CD she had finished in the 18 CD series. She gives me CDs 4 through 9 to listen to on the rest of my road trip. We say goodbye and hug. I get in my purple Honda and drive down the dirt road of downtown. I turn right on Highway 21. A minute later I see Rose in her Eurovan in my rear view mirror, she makes a left onto Highway 21 and then disappears out of view. I am sad to be leaving Stanley, such an amazingly beautiful place, but I feel fortunate at the same time.
START: 1016 miles.
At Highway 75 I turn right to go south. As I go, I stop a few places to take some photographs. The moutnains and trees start to thin a little. After about 30 minutes an antelope crosses the street in front of me. I stop the car. I back the car up into a gravel area off the road. I get out and attempt to get some pictures of the herd of antelope but by this time they had kind of run off. The road heads up and up and near the top I can see the valley I had just driven through, below me.

The Valley Below
Downtown Ketchum
After all the uphill driving, the road begins to wind and turn downhill and I pass many bicyclists. I notice there are many game crossing signs, which worry me a bit after my near run-in with the antelope. After many miles I reach the town of Ketchum. This ski town seems lively, charming, drier and much bigger than Stanley, in fact, it has at least three stop lights, but it is hard to compete with Stanley. After Ketchum, the road descends into Sun Valley, which is dry and expansive and becomes more and more remote. There are farms the extend towards the brown mountains which move further and further away. The trees change from pine to some other kind of silvery green tree. I pass through the town of Belleview which has a Western feel, quaint and empty. The Main Street is wide, four lanes wide, and is also empty. I think maybe Main Streets should be narrower, encouraging people to walk, creating a community.
I continue on Highway 75 further and further from human occupation. I start to get a little worried that maybe I somehow missed Interstate 84, which I am supposed to get onto eventually. I pull off and consult my road map and all still seems to be well, so I continue on the road, which travels through a lava field. The road stretches on and on and seems to be going nowhere. I still have 1/3 tank of gas, but now I am getting a little nervous. There is very little traffic, no services and it is very, very hot and dusty. The road flattens further and becomes more desolate and desert-like. Eventually, the desert ends and farmland spreads out before me, golden and green fields.
Dry Open Road
Lava Field
I am excited to see signs for Interstate 84 and once I get on the highway, I get off to fill up on gas. This is Magic Valley. I pull into a covered gas station and enjoy the shade relief from the intense sun. Despite the dryness, the air smells fresh, probably from the golden hay/straw field next to the gas station. There is even a mild breeze which feels nice after being so sweaty in the car.  I feel a little silly bent over in my car making a sandwich from what's left in my cooler, but I will have to throw all perishable foods out once I get to Salt Lake City and I don't want to eat any gas station food. The stop from driving, in a way, stops the thought stream in my mind, watching the passing landscape. Instead, I feel like a kid on an adventure, even scrubbing my windshield and making a sandwich, aiding my adventure is kind of exciting. 
Dust Storm
I get back on Interstate 84, which travels through a few farm areas and then flattens out long and wide in front of me. The hills spread out and become less brown, more golden, less dusty. Along the highway are signs for deer migration and game crossing, which seems odd to have these along an interstate but it is getting very, remote. The sky field of brilliant blue and puffy clouds is huge and sweeps down to the earth pastel with yellow, orange, light green and brown. The light is different here, brighter. The wind picks up and I see a dust storm alongside the road.
This land reminds me, that there is something bigger than myself that is flowing and I am not watching it, I am in it, we are all in it, but now I see that I am in it, flowing with it. Instead it throws me out of  this dingy corner that claims to be it and feels untrue. A road trip washes my windshield and I get clear again and when I get home it gets dirty. Often, when I am home, I am not always flowing with it, I am fighting it, this is why I like road trips, they can help you see.
At 1,254 miles into my road trip, I cross into Utah in the middle of nowhere, a sign and a change in the pavement tell me this. After quite some time, the vastness closes up as the mountains crop up larger and closer and I see rocky mountains ahead and I hope I am close to Salt Lake City. Below me, a valley flattens out amongst the rocky mountains with houses, farm fields and streets neatly lined, nothing is dirty or messy or cluttered. The air smells perfumey like wildflowers, but I don't see any, only the farm crops in their neat rows. A large body of water appears to my right, the beginning of the Salt Lake. At a rest stop, I call my friend Mandy to let her know I am running a little late. She is going to feed her kids dinner before I arrive. I hope I won't hit too much rush hour traffic. I continue on.
Nearing Salt Lake City
Salt Lake City
Driving into Salt Lake City, the rocky mountains have turned more into green, but not all they way to the top. At the top of the mountains is an electric blue with a long fluffy layer of puffy clouds and between them they reach toward each other, the clouds melting into electric blue, every few minutes I see lightning. The sky becomes dark and in the distance is the dark silhouette of the mountains that surround Salt Lake City.
I get to Mandy's house and meet her husband and four kids. She has some dinner for me, tacos, and we sit and talk while she keeps an eye on her one-year old, Elinor. The other kids are older and are good at entertaining themselves. Mandy and I went to high school together and were good friends, our lives are very different from each other's now. It is good to see her, she seems the same and that is nice. I organize things in my car, throwing away some food and getting my bags together. Mandy's mother comes over and it is nice to see her too. I always liked her. We talk in the garage as it begins to rain while the sun is going down and a rainbow appears in the pink sky.
Mandy drives me to the airport. We say goodbye. I check in and get to my gate and find a power outlet. There is much grumbling around me, I guess the thunderstorms had caused the cancellation or delay of many flights. A skinny, older man with a funny, pointed moustache complains to me about his canceled flight to Boise. He must go there to help his 90 year-old mother with her ranch. A woman with her teenage daughter, returning from a trip to Alaska, is trying to strike up a conversation with anyone around. She is alert and listening, eavesdropping, ready to comment or question at any opportunity that she can. She is nice and maybe, she is lonely. She lives in Albuquerque. The boy next to me is in eleventh grade and his father is a commercial pilot for Delta so he gets to fly all the time. He is returning from a trip to Portland where he was there for one day, to pick blackberries. He helps me connect my Mac to the internet, since I haven't yet figured out how to work it properly. They all swap stories about how they are stranded in the airport and soon realize that I may be the only one amongst them getting out of town on time.
There seems to be something lost between thought and speaking. Things that sound eloquent in your mind, in your thoughts, sound less so when spoken or written. Maybe this is why I like photography, it is so much easier for me to catch a glimpse as I saw it, for a moment or how I imagined it. 
END: 1384 miles.

Stanley, ID to Salt Lake City, UT:

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  1. I love how the rainbow picture came out. You really capture things beautifully in both pictures and in words. Thanks for the kind words about me too. :) So great to see a friend so instrumental in my teenage years. I hope it isn't 15 years before we can visit again!

  2. Cool Travelogue. That is a weird word, so I capitalized it. Sounds like a great trip. I like the photos and surprise there. The picture is worth a thousand words, but somehow not as valuable without the words.