I couldn’t have been happier to put Rawlins, Wyoming in the rear view, and even though my lungs and eyes burned from so much exposure to all that hell-sent nicotine stink, the shower did what it could to get it off and I was feeling good to be back in the fresh air. Wyoming provides a fantastic, gorgeous driving experience, and eastern Utah is even better. It feels like you’re driving through a postcard and each subsequent turn in the highway seemed to bring some new sight to make you appreciate not being in the Ohio to Nebraska corridor.
The fourth day of the move to Reno started strong as soon as I exited the Holiday Inn. I took Darwin out for his morning walk and saw some other hotel guests standing in the distance and taking pictures of what appeared to be the highway. When I passed a large pile of sand I could see that they were actually taking pictures of a pair of pronghorn antelope that had wandered within a few hundred yards of the hotel. Pronghorns are gorgeous animals; they look like small deer of brown amber and white. I wanted to get closer to get a better look, but I was worried that Darwin might spook them. I needn’t have worried. It turns out that when Darwin is all worked up with excitement and anxiety from being someplace new, he only “sees” with his nose. He looked right at the pronghorn and didn’t even see them. Now, they were maybe a 100 yards away from us, but he routinely sees rabbits or cats at this distance, so he should have seen the much larger pronghorns, but he didn’t, which was great news for the people standing around taking pictures of them.
Darwin is an incredibly curious dog. He likes nothing better than to go someplace new, and when we’re out for a walk, he’s constantly on the lookout for rabbits, lizards, and open doors. If he passes a house with an open garage door, he thinks the door is open just so he can go exploring. When he enters a new room, he wants to smell every nook, every cranny, and every person he comes across. Curiosity is a good trait but when he’s constantly going to new places he can burn himself out. That’s what was happening on the Reno Move – every second of every day was presenting him with new smells and new sights and new experiences and by Day 4, he was in some kind of hyper-sensitized crazy zone where he couldn’t settle himself down and relax. The day was all out curiosity overload and then we’d get to a hotel room and he’d crash soon after dinner, disturbed only by loud noises from the hallway.
At the first rest area of the day (another of these glorified outhouse stops the Midwest had perfected), there was some kind of chirping prairie dog sticking its body out of a hole in the ground, and again Darwin didn’t even see or hear it. His nose was too busy with all the new scents of sage brush and sand, and while he stuck his snout down a dog hole or two, he didn’t see the one that stood topside.
The drive out of Wyoming and into Utah was peaceful and gentle, and we cruised comfortably at the speed limit. After the previous night, I was thankful for an uneventful day of meandering highway driving through eyeball pleasing scenery. It was a perfect travel day, and I-80 through Utah is a great drive if you get the chance.
At least, it’s a great drive until you hit Salt Lake City. Brigham Young was a massive polygamist, did his best to kick black folk out of the church, decreed that miscegenation was grounds for death, almost burned SLC to the ground in a temper tantrum, and was involved (to some extent) in the Mountain Meadows Massacre, but he picked the right place to set up a kingdom. The area to the east of Salt Lake City is stunningly beautiful and if I had been leading my people west to escape persecution, I would probably think God had put this area here just for us to inhabit.
It’s that beautiful, full of vibrant browns and greens, high rocky walls and lush green valleys.
Unfortunately, Interstate 80 runs right near Salt Lake City, and what had been a scenic drive turned into a NASCAR race as multiple lanes of traffic began buzzing and humming all around us. Darwin picked up on the change of pace and started spending too much time in the front, causing me to yell at him to get back to Darwin Row for one of the few times on the trip. At some point in SLC, the highway starts winding down, down, down, and it never seems to stop. The descent is ungodly steep and with four lanes of accelerating cars and trucks zipping down the slope, it felt like I was one of 500 bobsleds perilously hurtling down the same track. Turn right, turn left, sweep right, sweep left … I half-wondered if I was going to glance to my left to see Gandalf and a Balrog falling through the Earth.
It was honestly a bit unnerving because it was so steep, so long, so fast, and so grooved. They were doing road work, I guess, and the highway was all rutted up, which made cars shift and slide all over the place. If I was in a sports car, it would have been awesome, but in a fully-crammed SUV, with a dog who would not sit down unless he was yelled at, on a jammed highway, on the fourth day of a cross-country move, it massively sucked.
When the descent finally ended, the terrain shortly stopped being awesome, too, as the dramatic hills were replaced with the bland, monotonous salt flats. There was a viewing area where you could get out and go down and walk out onto the flats that I wanted to experience, but we were close to our stop for the night and I didn’t know what effect the salt flats would have on Darwin’s paws (and leaving him in the car must be done sparingly) so I just drove on past the viewing area to the small border town of Wendover, Utah.
We’d driven over 1,200 miles the first two days of travel, so I only needed to average a comfortable 400 each of the last two days. A friend told me that Wendover was dog friendly, and I didn’t see any reason to slide past it, so when the exit came up, we stopped at our second border town in three nights.
Wendover sits on the Utah half of the line, while West Wendover resides on the Nevada side. What this means is that there’s a line in the middle of the street designating the state line, and seemingly mere feet from the line sits a casino. We stayed at a Days Inn, which was clean and friendly if not new, and apart from the less-than-stellar air conditioning, I didn’t have any complaints about this location.
I ate my standard Subway turkey/bacon/chipotle dinner, Darwin was now so used to hotels that he slept soundly, and I fell asleep watching Pawn Stars, which was enjoyable enough entertainment but did nothing to make me think I needed to start paying for cable again. The excitement of the move had reached its lowest point – the excitement of leaving was gone and the excitement of arriving had yet to arrive.