Since We Arrived
Sorry for the radio silence; we’ve been settling in at our temporary Medford, Oregon home and starting our hunt for a permanent place, setting up shop here, recovering from the drive and playing with the kids. But now I’m back :-) And since I didn’t have a decent internet connection at our last night on the road in Winnemucca, NV, this entry covers the last two days of our journey!
The Last Two Days
(each link is to an Instagram photo from @travel_junkie or @alenkadesign)
Before hitting the road, we took some time to check out Salt Lake City. The geography of the place is simply stunning—as we drove in the evening before, we weren’t sure what to expect, but coming through the mountain pass dropping into the city, we were massively impressed by the vista below. A huge valley, or basin, surrounded by snowy mountains (in June!) with the enormous Great Salt Lake in the background is truly breathtaking. It’s easy to see why Brigham Young decided to settle there in 1847!
The big thing to see in SLC is, of course, the Mormon Temple and its surrounding structures. We parked under the Joseph Smith Memorial Building, and once we rose through the parking labyrinth into the building lobby, were immediately struck by the opulence of the place. We actually rode past the lobby on the elevator to the top floor viewing area, but after chatting with the lovely ladies in the sky about the best viewing spots in town, we knew we had higher elevations to ascend to. Back on the ground we toured the building lobby, which was celebrating a 100 year anniversary so was filled with tour guides dressed in old-world clothes extolling the history of the structure. It used to be the Hotel Utah, one of the “finest hotels in the land”, but was ultimately converted to the Memorial Building that it is today. Amazing details in the carpeting, filigree, lighting and more are a feast for the eyes.
The building is celebrating it’s 100 year anniversary, and so the lobby was full of guides in period dress telling visitors about the building’s history.
Tour guide in character, John Smith Memorial Building (formerly Utah Hotel) @ June 2011 | Panasonic Lumix GF-1 & Lumix G 20mm ƒ/1.7 @ ISO 160, ƒ/1.7, 1/30
We toured the grounds and saw a bride and groom posing for photos in front of the Temple. We took an escorted trip to the top of the Church of LDS Business Building for quite possibly the best view in the city (just ask for an escort in the lobby!), where we gazed upon the city some more.
Finally we headed out of the city for our next long drive, passing the Great Salt Lake and heading towards the awesome Salt Flats. We stopped for a stretch and a photo or two, before settling in at the Salt Flats Cafe for lunch. The cafe sits at the entrance to the Bonneville Salt Flats, known as the home of the Bonneville Salt Flats International Speedway. In the summer, the flats are cleared and prepped for speed trials and other such fast-car goodness, but for now people just tear off in their 4x4 vehicles and coat their undercarriage in salts. I was hoping to have a little fun in the Audi, but the salts were quite wet and a storm was coming in as well, so we decided against getting stuck in the muck.
Rain Storm Coming at Bonneville Salt Flats, Utah @ June 2011 | Canon EOS 5D Mk II & 50mm ƒ/1.2L @ ISO 160, ƒ/7.1, 1/1000
With hundreds of miles still to go, we got back on the open road, heading from Utah to Nevada via Beverly Hills (as you do), experiencing the desolate land of northern Nevada, before finally setting in at Winners Casino in Winnemucca, NV (yes, that’s actually where we stayed… why not?!). It’s a town full of desolate things, but also one graced with an abundance of Basque restaurants. Yeah, you read that right. Apparently a handful of Basque sheepherders settled in Winnemucca over a century ago, and never left. We picked one at random and enjoyed a beautiful meal at the Martin Hotel, where you sit at long tables with other guests and are fed entirely too much food! My one tip for this place is GO HUNGRY. Do not visit expecting to just order a starter as your main. The menu is brief, with a handful of options only, and they all include everything else, from salad to appetizers to bread and dessert and even wine. The food was very good — I won’t say amazing, but it was very good — and we enjoyed the ambiance and our neighbors at the table very much.
We finished up the night by throwing away a fortune at the penny slots at Winners. A dingy, smoky, run-down casino and penny slots—fantastic.
The following morning on check-out, I couldn’t resist outing the hotel’s graphic design department (OK, that’s a bad joke… probably a shift manager did this) for their outright theft of a watermarked photo and blatant disregard for taste in graphic design, which got a fun little conversation going on Twitter here, here and here.
The desolate road awaited, and as this was our last day in the car we were anxious to go! The landscape changed dramatically, and when we ultimately entered Oregon we felt, as you might imagine, that this long journey was finally coming to an end. There was an impressive drop into a huge valley along the way, and a gorgeous little lake in the middle of nowhere that begged a quick photo stop. As we got deeper into Oregon, we were met by lush and beautiful forests and the Klamath Lake. The ride from there into Medford, over the Falls Highway on OR-140 was stunning, but being so close to the end we didn’t stop—besides, I see loads of weekends spent up there in our future!
Finally, finally arriving in Medford, after 2,872 miles, 11 states and 8 days, checking into our cute little 1-bedroom furnished cottage that will be home until we find a proper one, was a great relief. The drive was fantastic, but it’s always good to be home—even if you’ve never been there before.