Friday, October 19, 2012

The Cat Trip - Day 5 (ilovewyoming)

Day 5 started in Cheyenne, Wyoming very cloudy and overcast; there was still some sporadic rain at first, but it seemed like we had come through the worst. Chief navigator and meteorologist David then informed me via text after finding our hotel on Google maps streetview (which might have been creepy if it was someone besides him) that we were actually at the lead edge of a front headed the direction we were going, so we needed to get in front of it.
Getting on the road quickly is not really an option with 4 cats who are actively interested in not getting back into the crates, but luck was with us and we only had to move some of the furniture to get everybody packed and ready to go.
Let me say that a rainy, grey day in Wyoming is still prettier than a nice day in many other places (i'm looking at you Nebraska):
our first real bit of fall colors
I started with a quick pace (75mph speed limit is soooooo sweet) and was resolved to make it at least 50 miles before our first stop, but then we spotted this up ahead of us:

Is that Lincoln?

Why yes, yes it is Lincoln.
A giant Lincoln head watching the highway with concerned, slightly disapproving eyes.

I-80 is called the Lincoln Highway at this point and here at the highest point was Summit Rest Area,  Museum and Memorial. (ilovewyoming)

There was info about the geology and geography and biology and history and natives of Wyoming. It was a plethora of Wyoming information, had a glass wall overlook and a really well done museum/nature center to boot. They even had a bear:
well, a stuffed bear at least.

I am sad to report that this is the only bear i saw on the whole trip.

They also had some antelope specimens,
which i was very happy to see because i had no idea what american antelopes looked like.
 Every time i thought antelope, as in ...where the deer and the antelope play..., i'd get the mental image of a gazelle which i knew wasn't right. The pronghorn antelope is basically white-tailed deer sized, but with really distinctive horns.
Now i knew what to look for on the side of the road.
We spent quite a bit of time taking in the info and the stunning view, but the road called and we were on our way again.
Unfortunately, the rain had seriously caught up with us and there was an hour or so where i had to drive below speed for safety (boo hiss).
We stopped for gas at a no-name station the top of some mountain that was literally the only thing at that exit and the only choice for miles and miles. It had a strange little convenience store/repair garage attached and i was speechless and somewhat delighted to discover
 an antelope antler mobile in the back window by the soda case
You bet your bippy i bought that bad boy.
I later discovered that there were also antler cribbage boards, but i was already set on the antler mobile being my TCT souvenir.
It was even on sale.
Imagine that.

We did eventually get ahead of the rain and were able to get a good look at Wyoming:
...sigh... so lovely and awesome                     (ilovewyoming)
Look... buttes!

And cool strata.

And more roads to heaven.

Just when you think Wyoming can't surprise you any more, you crest a mountain and see an incredible valley with the highway running right through it laid out in front of you.
Oh Wyoming. I love you.
I-80 through Wyoming is great for the long drive.
There are rest stops every 40 miles or so and each one is filled with information about the state, but decorated completely differently. Some highlighted wildlife, another might be about Native Americans, another might be about cowboys. They were some of the nicest, most interesting rest stops i saw not only on this trip, but ever.
 I mean, they were so cool i took a picture of the stall walls in the ladies' room:
Have you ever seen real stone stall dividers?
Nope, me neither.
We crossed the Continental Divide while in Wyoming.
One thing that took me by surprise were the oil refineries. I don't think i knew that Wyoming was an oil producing state, but Sinclair had a bunch locations peppered by the highway. In fact we were discussing that it was the first state since Ohio where we hadn't seen windmills and that it might be because oil must be such a big industry when we spotted:

Oh Wyoming, is there nothing you can't do?

(ilove wyoming)

You know i have the worst animal-in-the-wild spotting luck ever, but Wyoming was even cool enough to offer up four antelopes for me and at Little America Nancy ran into a bison as well.
His name was Abernathy and he's studying to be a para-legal. but poses for tourist pictures in his spare time to help with tuition.

I was sad to see the end of Wyoming,
 but it was time for a NEW STATE!

Hello Utah.

Our route cut us through just a wee piece of the state as we picked up I-84/I-15 outside of Utah and turned north,
but we did see mountains,

cool red rocks that reminded me of Sedona, AZ,

high desert

and some full-on Autumn.

The only real downside of Utah was that towards the end of the day, in the mountains there were swarms of some sort of tiny insects which you wouldn't think would matter to us inside of our car, but they plastered the Jeep with their wee smooshed bodies
and made it harder and harder to see.
 No matter how much i washed the front window it wouldn't stay clear.
With the rain and the stops we were a bit behind pace, but were both getting pretty tired by sunset. There was a billboard advertising a hotel chain with 2 locations in 20 and 34 miles respectively so we agreed to stop at the latter.
I took this picture of the sun setting over the mountains as it was such a nice ending to a day of two nice states:

Wouldn't it be great if that was the end of the story?
I-15 split off from the road and we passed the exit with the first hotel.
Only 14 miles to go until we could stop.
 After the sun set it got really dark really quick in the Utah mountains.
10 miles...11...12...13...14... no sign of an exit.
It's pitch black, everybody is tired and the windshield is becoming more and more opaque.
Mayhaps i remembered the billboard wrong; i did pass it at dusk, going 80 with a buggy window.
No need to panic.
There is billboard shining in the darkness ahead. Yes! It advertises a hotel 100 miles away and makes reference to the Donner Party. No lie.
It was the last sign we saw.
Miles passed in darkness like midnight.
There would be an exit for a ranch (the signs actually said Ranch Road) every once in a while, but each had a blue sign on the bottom - NO SERVICES.
All i could imagine was that  the second hotel on the billboard i had seen must have been on I-15. It would have been nice if it had indicated that. It would also have been nice if there was some indication at the last exit with civilization that it was indeed the end of civilization.
At this point the mile markers were showing that we were getting closer and closer to the state line and i had no hope that southeast Idaho was going to be any more populous than Utah. I was preparing myself for the probability that i was going to have to make it another 70 miles and trying to decide if i should pull over and find a way to scrub the windows when there was an exit sign without the hated blue NO SERVICES tag.
Snowville, Utah is 4 miles from Idaho.
It has one motel with 8 rooms. The Outsiders Inn had a vacant room with an outside door that was pet friendly. Halleluia!
After getting the Jeep unpacked (around the side of a huge white panel van parked in front of our door, while ignoring our neighbor in his droopy boxers -and nothing else- rummaging through said van), Nancy settled comfortably (her sciatica was really flaring up and unbeknownst to us a UTI was brewing) and the cats released, watered, fed and litter boxed I went out to find some dinner.
Strangely there were two diners right across from each other near the motel.
I opted for Mollie's because it was a closer walk and there was no way i could safely drive the Jeep without cleaning the windows.
It was really nice.
I had a super good patty melt and  hung out with my server Kendra and the cook Jennie until it was time to close the place up tight.
Day 5: Wyoming and Utah, 522 miles

ps - in case you couldn't see through my subtlety, i really liked Wyoming.

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