Monday, May 02, 2011

Day 7: Oh, Everybody's Got an Angry Buffalo

Today started out at 44 degrees, sunny, with an expected high of 60 degrees. I have to share that “sunny” part for my readers in Cincy. I’m sharing some virtual sunshine with you.

After our late night, we were a little slow getting going in the morning. We left the hotel at 9:25 instead of our planned 8 am departure. As the Jedi was checking out, I glanced up and was surprised to find mountains framed in the windshield.

We headed first to Antelope Island State Park on the Great Salt Lake. We had read some reports about biting insects. I was just prepared to use heavy amounts of bug repellent and hope for the best. The Jedi, who is annoyingly always right, said if the bugs were bad, we would stay in the car and drive through the park with our windows up.

We asked the ranger at the park entrance, and she said the small biting “no see-ums” were only out when the temps hit the 60s so in the cool of the morning, she said, we should be all right. Still, as we drove over the causeway to the island, the bugs were hitting the windshield so heavily and often it sounded like rain. It was disgusting. The front of the van is plastered with their sticky little corpses. It is beyond disgusting. The Jedi’s plan of keeping the windows up and staying in the van seemed a no-brainer.

Fortunately, when we left the causeway and got up on the windy high ground of the island, we left the bug problem behind.

On the island, looking back at the causeway.

Toa collected his Utah rocks, and wanted to head down the hill toward the shore.

We walked down the grassy slope, stepping carefully around buffalo patties. I told the kids that if we were pioneers on the Oregon Trail, we’d be collecting those patties for fuel for our cooking fires. They weren’t impressed. Toa found a buffalo hoofprint, and that was impressive.

We didn’t make it to the bottom of the hill, before the Jedi started to notice a marked increase in mosquitos. Even though we were wearing bug repellent, after the drive over the causeway, we all turned around and headed back up the hill.

Antelope Island, we decided, is lovely as long as you stay on the highground to simply admire the view.

We went into the visitor center and spoke with the ranger there about the best places to see buffalo. Following her advice, we started to drive around the east side of the island.

We hadn’t gone far when I saw a deer. It was pretty far from the car, and even on a zoom, it turned out pretty small in the picture. (Click on the picture to enlarge it).

After going around a few more bends in the road, we came across a little blue car pulled over on our shoulder, and a pick up truck pulled over in the shoulder of the other lane. Thinking they must have spotted something, we started to pull over behind the little blue car.

“Buffalo!” Toa said in a huge stage whisper. (We had discussed being extremely quiet around the buffalo.)

We looked up the hill, and sure enough, there was a buffalo.

It was tossing its head up and down, kicking, snorting, and pawing at the ground. In general, it was engaged in a dance of impending doom for whoever was unwise enough to agitate it.

We had barely glanced it when the Jedi through the car in reverse and started getting us out of there.

Meanwhile, smart person that I am, I rolled down the window and frantically tried to get a few photos of the charging buffalo. I fussed at the Jedi not to take us out of camera range. The Jedi ignored my insanity.

I got a one picture of the buffalo on its rampage down the hill at the blue car.

Fortunately for the people in the blue car, the buffalo decided he had made his point. He ran to the bottom of the hill, and then just strolled onto the road as cool as you please. He stood motionless on the road for a few minutes, just to prove his dominance of the situation, and then oh so slowly walked off the road and down the other side of the hill.

The Jedi announced that this was as close as we were ever going to get to such tempermental, unpredictable, dangerous large animals, and turned our van around.

We paused in a parking lot on the far side of the cause way for a few more mountain pics before heading west out of town.

We were now on I-80, the interstate which would take us to California. I got my first turn at driving. I started off my driving turn by turning out of the gas station onto the main road on the left hand side of the grass median. Ooops. It was quickly rectified without any mishap, and we were on our way.

I drove us across the Salt Flats. Towards the end of this drive, the Jedi woke up, or maybe had never been confident enough to fall completely asleep. He called the bank to straighten out some issues. At one point he was on hold and exclaimed,

“I love this country. Even in the middle of a barren wasteland, I’ve got a great cell phone signal.”

The Salt Flats themselves were a very strange alien landscape.

We pulled over, despite the no stopping sign, to snap a picture of the weird Tree of Utah. (I was driving, not the Jedi, that’s why the illegal stop was made.) Sadly, we were sideways to the Tree, and didn’t get a great picture of it.

We stopped again, legally this time, at a rest stop just west of Salt Flat State Park. Toa had slept through the drive through the flats. When he got out of the car, I asked him what he thought the white ground was.

“Snow?” he guessed. “Ice?”

I let Sweetling guess, because I figured she knew, and she did. Toa immediately asked if he could go out and walk on it. Permission granted, both children headed out. The Jedi snapped some pictures, but he said it was so bright, all he could do was point the camera in the direction of the children and hope they were in the shot. He couldn’t see anything on the camera view finder.

After crunching around on the salt for a few minutes, we started spelling out our name in rocks.

Toa and Sweetling each grabbed a salt encrusted rock and a chunk of salt for their collections.

We stopped in Wendover at the Salt Flats Café for a late (2ish) lunch. I had heard that the Café was where many of the Bonneville Flats racers would eat, and that the walls were full of photos of their race cars. It was. Toa was not interested in the all the brightly colored, unique race cars, which surprised me. But Sweetling walked around and looked at race cars with me while we waited for our food.

The menu had hamburgers, cheeseburgers, fries, and a whole lot of Mexican dishes I wasn’t familiar enough with to order. The guys got cheeseburgers and fries. Sweetling and I got a chicken quesadilla and a chicken taco. It was good, but not noteworthy.

Our next stop was a letter box hidden behind a stone historical marker along the Hastings Cut-off. We were going to plant our penguin traveler there. Sadly, we couldn’t find the letterbox, even with the Jedi’s help.

I had originally slated dinner in Elko, but I was in error. Elko was way too close to Wendover for us to eat dinner there. I did a search on google maps on the Jedi’s phone and found a Round Table Pizza in Battle Mountain. The website seemed to bill it as a King Arthur themed restaurant, so I was expecting Chuck E Cheese meets the Renaissance.

We got off at Battle Mountain and found the restaurant. It was 6:55 local time, but the restaurant had closed for the day. Which was all right, because it was not at all what I expected. It was pretty much just a ordinary small town pizza place at the end of a mediocre strip mall. The only thing theme related was its name.

Instead, we found a combination Long John Silver’s / KFC. We got 10 pieces of fish and a few hush puppies, and joked about how one would combine the names of the two restaurants. LJSKFC? Kentucky Fried Fish? Long John Chicken?

Fortunately, dinner was only 2 hours from the hotel. We checked in at 9:57 Pacific Time.

Read from Day 1
Back to Day 6
On to Day 8

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