To the previous part of the series:
US Roadtrip 2017 - 1: Salt & Light Rail (50 p.)
The video for this series (please set to 1080p quality / full-screen mode):
February 15 2017
We are driving west along I-80 through the Great Salt Lake Desert. These pictures out of the car were taken as before by the "third hand" using a Canon EOS 450D, this pure transfer part of the journey probably will feature the most.
I had scouted a few spots beforehand, but was quite tired and had a cold. Trains were queueing into the other direction, but a movement south was improbable at the moment, so we skipped the view at Lake Point.
At freeway exit 88 to Grantsville I spotted a few cars on the track triangle, we checked them out.
A pair of SD40-2s also was standing there. Usually, traffic is sparse on this section of the former Western Pacific line. One local is supposed to run between Salt Lake City and Wendover, back the next day. Other trains are rare, but due to the blocked line up north things would be different.
Below, another spot I would have visited, a level crossing near interstate-exit 84 on Stansbury Island Road.
Red trucks were our favorites.
The view from the level crossing would have been similar.
Trucks, our constant companions. Compared to Europe it was unusual that they were also often driving near the speed limit.
Giant piles of salt along the tracks.
We had to pass another mountain range before reaching the Bonneville Salt Flats.
A stop at the Grassy Hills rest area - we would not have to worry about nasty critters at these low temperatures.
This telephoto-image shows the dimensions of the landscape - the salt flats are only starting behind the next right-hand corner.
On the road again - an eastbound freight flickered past us in the distance!
The extreme straight across the salt flats was reached. This section between Knolls and Wendover is the longest stretch of the interstate-system without exit: 37.4 miles. The "Metaphor: The Tree of Utah" monument by Swedish artist Karl Momen is located on the salt flats, accompanied by roadside signs "emergency stopping only".
And the next eastbound freight...
In summer people are driving on the salt - now it was flooded, especially after the heavy precipitation of recent months
We approached Wendover ...
... and turned towards the speedway.
A smaller road leads 4 miles back into the salt flats.
Our vehicle on the turning area at the end of the road - at least you could easily find it in parking lots thanks to the roof rack.
Sign of the speedway, right next to a cross. In recent years, the salt crust became too unstable for a long speedway due to heavier rain.
Passing across the interstate, we spotted this hidden pair of locos stabled at Wendover yard.
We had booked the Best Western Wendover, which was reached soon after entering the town. We were satisfied with the room and facilities. After resting a bit, we walked through Wendover, a strangely divided place. Wendover is part of Utah, but transforms suddenly into West Wendover, Nevada. Straight along the border between prudish Utah and Nevada the casinos are starting. Additionally, the line between the Mountain- and Pacific Standard Times is running between my legs in this panorama. ;-)
I love the signs of run-down motels now replaced by the big chains. Equally interesting: messages on boards outside public schools. The following Monday, February 20, would be President's Day (Washington's birthday was on February 22 1732) - the first one under a certain orange gentleman.
We bought some provisions at the local supermarket. After our return to the hotel, the previously empty parking lot was brimming with vehicles from railroad workers.
February 16 2017
I slept a little, but not much longer than the previous night. Every few hours you could hear a train horn. AMTRAK California Zephyr is passing this place at night into both directions, but we would capture it by day elsewhere later on.
Included was a quite good breakfast buffet at the hotel, previously a rare feature in America. As Europeans we just missed fresh bread - which can be found in food markets and bakeries.
Soon after 8 a.m. we were ready to depart, on the parking lot I heard a train at the nearby railroad grade crossing - so it was improbable we would catch another. Still, we drove past the crossing and the airport, where this magnificent view opened up.
I took a closer look - and really, the train we had just heard was still struggling up the grade west of Wendover, fully visible in the curve!
So, I had caught a train in the morning - time to leave the railroad for a while on a road through epic landscapes. We drove on U.S. Route 93 Alternate - from West Wendover to Ely part of the Lincoln Highway, the first road connecting the U.S. coast to coast a hundred years ago.
You could take pictures without pausing all along the way.
We climbed White Horse Pass (6031 feet), Ely even is located at 6437 feet altitude.
Over a hundred miles of nothingness between Wendover and McGill, and shortly behind Ely. It is one of the least populated areas in the U.S. south of Alaska.
We stopped shortly in the fresh air at this altitude.
Finally, the only junction we came across, main U.S. Highway 93 joins our alternate route.
Slightly more traffic - how unusual!
Cattle are often seen outside, far from any settlement.
Proper Wild-West-town McGill was reached.
After arrival at Ely we refueled and visited the food market.
As it still was before noon, we drove a short sightseeing tour through town. Remnants of my second home can be found everywhere...
We did not stay at the "Hotel Nevada" ...
... neither at the "White Pine Motel" ...
... but of course at the "All Aboard Café & Inn" - the depot was located right at the end of the street! Unusually for the area, everything could be reached on foot from here: the food market was located at the highway junction into the other direction, even a café offering proper cappuccino. We first joined quite a few locals eating lunch inside, then moved into our room: the nice landlady especially gave us the one to the left with balcony viewing the railroad. Certainly, rooms were smaller than at standardized hotels, but this was compensated for by the nostalgic atmosphere. The original early 20th century building at this spot had been called "Steptoe Valley Inn" (the long valley we drove through last), it was reconstructed in the 1980s.
The only thing left was for the train to arrive...