USA Trip: Day 17 –  Utah The Beautiful, Bertha The Smelly

USA Trip: Day 17 – Utah The Beautiful, Bertha The Smelly

Salt Lake City -> Idaho

We’d never been to a planetarium and there was a huge one in downtown Salt Lake City. Planetariums aren’t really done in the UK and both Emma and I are big Space geeks so it was the first thing on our to do list downtown. We turned up a few minutes after it opened and found it was already jammed with schoolkids on a day out. They were quite young and reasonably well behaved as they were being giving a talk about the moon. We started looking at the exhibitions and reading the information. This place is a space geeks heaven. They have meteorites you can grope and lots of weather related simulations you can try. My favourite was creating mini smoke tornadoes.


This is when the 4th graders came in. The 10 year olds basically ruined any fun that anyone else was having in the planetarium. We were on the Tornado machine (one of four available) and a 10 year old walked over and pressed all the buttons ruined it, and walked off without even acknowledging we were there. After a while of not being able to do or see anything without it being ruined by unruly children we went to a black hole simulator which is basically the seaside money maker where you roll the coin around the cone and it speeds up as it gets towards the ‘black hole’. I’ve always loved those cones and how the tightness at the end speeds up the coins rotation. One boy watched us and Emma offered him a coin, nothing big probably two cents. This started a swarm, over the course of about a minute we gave out about three dollars worth of change. The final straw come when a kid reached into the purse and pulled out a quarter. They were not orderly, quite the opposite, there was a fair amount of aggression and snatching and not one child said please or thank you. Every kid said “Can I have one?” then walked away without saying a word of thanks when they got a coin. When the money dried up there was lots of tuts and displeasure from the kids that didn’t get one, so they just kept stealing coins from their classmates who were rolling theirs around the cone. This meant nobody had any fun. I wanted to find out where their teacher was, maybe even grab the parents who were supervising the trip and ask them if any of their children had been taught any fucking manners. (*) Not one please or thank you and those who have read all our posts will have read before about how rued mannerless Americans can be. After this episode we distanced ourselves and went over to the row of TV screens where you could choose which video to watch about a certain subject. Without fail halfway though a show some little shit would rock up and change what is being displayed and walk off. (*) We sought a quiet area of the planetarium and found a two story Rude Goldberg machine. It was spectacular and the best part about it was there were a number of levers and handles so you could also take part and change the balls course.

(*)= Sorry for swearing in this post but it is hard to describe how much people with no manners or public decency annoy me. If a child of three can say please and thank you, it is disappointing not to it when dishing out free money to a class of 20.


Upstairs we spent a lot of time looking at the exhibits and I managed to fly to Mars and back in a matter of seconds.This cheered me up a bit more and with a bit of time spare Emma suggested me should take a look at the IMAX showings. One of the films on show was Hubble 3D and I hadn’t been in an IMAX in years. We bought two tickets for the 12pm showing which gave us 20 minutes to try and find some food. Despite being downtown nowhere was open. There was a big shopping mall next to it and the only place open was a sit down restaurant. We rushed back and bought three bin bags worth of popcorn to graze on and a barrel of Coke. When we got to the door the girl took our tickets and told us we were the only people in there so we sat in the middle of screen halfway up and took it in. It was phenomenal, everyone should try and see an IMAX film with no one else in the cinema. Being the only people in there did make us conscious to take all of our rubbish with us as they would know who left all the crap behind!




Bonneville Salt Flats

The 90 minute drive to Bonneville was pretty boring if I am honest. The landscape was pretty sparse with not a lot of action going on. We were back in the basin and heading towards the famous Bonneville Speedway. Once it was clear we were on the salt flats we pulled in at a rest area and went for a walk. The salt flats themselves are very strange.  The crunchy noise noise and sensation is like walking on non-slippery ice mixed with cornflakes. It’s hard to describe how white it is, and as far as the eye can see it appears frozen when in fact it is just salt. The salt flats were formed when an ancient lake dried up leaving quite a thick salt and mineral layer behind. Every year the basin fills with rain water and a small amount is redeposited and when the rain evapourates away it leaves it all smooth again. During the evaporation same ridges are formed, this is what crunches underfoot. In recent years mining of the salt has reduced the flats down to 30,000 acres just a third of their original size.



The racing had been cancelled so there wasn’t really any rush to get into the speedway part of the salt flats. Having survived only on popcorn we filled up Bertha and headed next door to the Mexican restaurant. What could go wrong? We walked in to find it pretty empty but the tables full of plates. The guys milling around the bar and kitchen didn’t look like food safety freaks but a hunger mist had descended and we didn’t car. I ordered the fajitas and Emma enchiladas and we looked around the place while we waited for a dirty glass of lemonade. Like with many iconic American places people insist on signing money and gluing it to the walls which I never quite understand. The food was alright, nothing special, tasted a bit weird if I’m honest but it hit the spot. We spoke to the petrol station attendant about the cancellation of the speed events and he said that it had affected business badly. I didn’t talk to him too much about it as spending the day watching vehicles race across the flats was one of the things I was most looking forward to.  We drove the four mile access r




We came to the end of the road and the sign indicating the speedway ahead. This is where you bump down onto the salt. Du to the heavy rains in the weeks before combined with the weight of Bertha we decided not to take her for a spin. Bonneville has been used as a speedway for over 100 years with multiple land speed records being set on the salt. The most famous is by Sir Malcolm Campbell when he bust through the 300mph barrier in the Blue Bird. The most recent record to go was in 2012 when the first production electric motorcycle topped 100mph. We had the speedway to ourselves for a bit until these two guys turned up in one of the most beautiful cars I have ever seen. Their names were Rick and Tim and they were rolling around in a 1961 Ferrari 250 GT SWB California Spyder. This meant nothing to me at the time apart from the fact it was a lovely looking car and looked cool surrounded by the flats with the mountains in the background. It was only when I got back and Googled the car did I see that it is a $10 million car. You read that right. I went on a forum to ask for help identifying it and came away thoroughly embarrassed:

“You’ve photographed the holy grail, those cars and the racing 250 GTOs are true collectors items. Seeing one in the salt flats is kind of astounding, most of them will live out their lives under dust cloths, hidden away underground for none to enjoy”

Before leaving the two guys spread the ashes of a friend and said a few words before speeding off back towards civilisation.



We didn’t hang around too much after that as there was a 4.5 hour drive to our campsite for the night. We were going to Yellowstone tomorrow and wanted to get there early so we wanted to get to Idaho before camping. With my newly aquired 64 oz cup full of mountain dew I breezed the 26 mile journey. It was dark by time we got to the campsite and the stars were out in force. Emma rustled us up some cheese and tomato pizza and added some vegetables and salami to it while I set up the camera in the dark for a timelapse of Bertha. The timelapse came out great and the pizza was delicious, our night was soon to be ruined though two different ways. I checked the new and decided now was the time to tell Emma about the Shutdown. I won’t go into the reasons behind the shutdown as I am sure you either don’t care or already know, but part of the shutdown is that all non essential government projects were to be closed if the budget was not agreed upon by midnight. Non essential projects include the National Parks Service, the people that run access to Yellowstone. No Parks Service, no Yellowstone. Talks had failed and in less than three hours Yellowstone’s gates would be shut. She took it better than I thought she would and was just angry like me. The whole road trip was planned around seeing Yellowstone in Autumn and sitting just 160 miles away we were going to be denied access. If the shutdown had occurred just 24 hours later we could have got in and seen everything we wanted to see. We broke open our emergency bottle of Truchard wine bought in Napa Valley and drowned our sorrows while I hastily replotted our route across America. We decided that we had lots to do in South Dakota and if we weren’t going to Yellowstone then we would hot foot it across Wyoming in a day. It is the least populated state in America anyway. Emma checked the weather and saw a snowstorm was coming in over the next 48 hours and that cemented the plan. Tomorrow would be spent on the road ignoring Wyoming crying into a 64oz cup.

At 3am I woke with incredible stomach pain. I will not divulge the details but the Mexican from Bonneville reared it’s  ugly head for quite some time. It was possibly the worst bout of gut rot I had ever had and I considered going into hospital as I was in so much pain, especially when dehydration set in. Not the sort of thing you want to happen in an enclosed environment, poor Emma. Today was a bad day.


Oct 1stsmall


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