On the Road Again – Part 4

My wife and I kicked off the next day by leaving the Promised Land Resort and heading further west in Utah. Our initial plan before the trip called for hitting Salt Lake City, then heading north to Craters of the Moon and then on to the Grand Tetons along our way home. But because of my wife’s hand injury, we shortened our trip by a day and a few miles while hitting another new state in the process. During our stay in Vernal, Utah, we realized that Salt Lake City was only an hour and 45 minutes from the Nevada border. Once we found an attraction near the Utah/Nevada border, our minds were set… we were headed to Nevada! Come along as I share what we saw that day.

Just before hitting the Nevada border, we hit a rest stop… it turned out to be the Bonneville Salt Flats rest stop. What’s crazy about this if you’re driving west on Interstate 80, the rest stop signs are extremely unassuming… no mention of Bonneville. Yes, there’s a Bonneville Salt Flats Speedway sign AFTER you drive past the rest stop, but unless you have to use the facilities, you might very well drive by a missed opportunity.
The salt flats are immense, covering 30,000 acres. In fact, they’re so immense that when some drivers zoom across the flats, they lose their orientation. Which way did you come from? Without a compass, it’d be hard to tell.
The flats are named for Benjamin Bonneville, an army officer, fur trapper, and explorer. Bonneville led a western expedition in 1832. He and his men explored a vast area of land, but it’s unlikely that he ever visited the flats that now bear his name.
Yes, I was still wearing the same Andre the Giant shirt that I wore the day before. Thanks for asking.
Along Iowa’s interstates, we’re accustomed to seeing ditches and fence lines. But in the middle of Utah’s salt flats, you see neither. You can drive right off the road and into the flats pretty much wherever your heart desires. Going 80 on 80 and feel like tearing some donuts into the bright white landscape? Sure, go for it.
Call me crazy, but an Interstate 80 West sign always makes me smile, whether it’s in eastern Iowa, the middle of Nebraska, or in close proximity to the Utah/Nevada border.
The attraction that solidified our decision to hit Nevada isn’t actually in Nevada. It’s the Historic Wendover Airfield in Wendover Utah, right on the border. During World War II, the airfield was the training site for the B-29 unit that dropped atomic bombs on Hiroshima and Nagasaki (that’s a replica of the “Little Boy” bomb in the foreground).
This stained glass depicts a B-17 from the 384th Bomb Group. The original is located in the Church of Saint James the Apostle in Grafton, England, the city where the group was based during their World War II campaign.
“We don’t need leather. Get something better” is an amusing quote from Hap Arnold, especially if you jokingly take it out of context. Arnold was referring to pilot jackets in 1942. His “something better” ended up becoming the B-10, a moisture-repellent jacket that was warmer than the A-2 jacket worn earlier in the war.
Airfield scenes from the movie Independence Day were filmed at Wendover, and it wasn’t until after we left the airfield that we discovered it was also the filming site for several scenes in Con Air, a movie we quote excessively and always in Nicolas Cage’s lovable southern accent. Here’s the Jailbird plane that was used for taxi scenes in the film.
The interior shots in the movie were filmed at a studio, but you can still enter the hollowed-out plane and climb up into the cockpit for some expansive views of the airfield.
After leaving the airfield, we drove into Nevada and the adjoining city of West Wendover. They have a neat project called “Wendover Rocks,” where you can take and/or leave a painted rock.
The Victory Highway monument in Wendover, Nevada marks a roadway used in the early 20th century. As I read the plaques, I was standing on a stretch of the road that was used from 1925 until the 1940s. The original eagle markers were to be placed at each county line, memorializing those who had given their lives in World War I.
The most iconic representation of West Wendover is “Wendover Will,” a 63-foot-tall cowboy who originally towered over the Stateline Casino. The Guinness Book of Records dubbed Will the “world’s largest mechanical cowboy.”
After popping into Nevada, we turned around and headed back east to the Great Salt Lake. It goes without saying that I gave it two thumbs up.
Yes, the lake is salty. Yes, you can float in the water. No, we didn’t test it ourselves.
Look at me adding to a gigantic rock tower! But seriously, I put that rock back down after my wife snapped this photo. No way in hell did I want to be the one who knocked over everyone else’s masterpiece.
I don’t know what people are doing at the Great Salt Lake, but this sign gets salty for those of you who attempt to stand on the toilet.
We stopped at Temple Square in Salt Lake City to see the Mormons’ historical buildings. This is the Salt Lake Assembly Hall, with the Seagull Monument in front of it. Let me add that we enjoyed Salt Lake City. Traffic was light and we found a parking spot right across the street from Temple Square.
The Salt Lake Temple is currently under construction. Once completed, it will be able to withstand a magnitude 7.3 earthquake.
Following Salt Lake City, we began our trek back east on Interstate 80. To paraphrase the Blues Brothers, it’s 1,200 miles to home, we got a full tank of gas, half of a McDonald’s iced coffee, it’s mostly sunny, and we’re wearing sunglasses. Hit it. Stay tuned for the final leg of my photo series, where we train our attention on a few railroad attractions and my wife finds something tasty in a Nebraska antique mall.

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