Did someone say "Utah Adventures?" I focused our efforts primarily on northern Utah but I did slop across the borders of neighboring states. I will concentrate on some of those meanderings in this final installment.
I wrote about my quick jaunt to Nevada earlier so I won’t rehash that story again. It wasn’t about the salt so much — although that was a great sight and I’m glad I traveled through the flats — it was more about the Time Zone anomaly. Yes, I drove five hours to stand in a Time Zone jog created solely so that gamblers arriving from Salt Lake City wouldn’t have to change their watches. I don’t know why I’m so enamored by that anecdote but that’s the sad truth behind that particular journey.
I’m a fan of roadside Americana too. Naturally I had to pay my respects to Wendover Will on the Nevada side of the line in West Wendover. The town was kind enough to provide a nice pullout so that oddballs such as myself could photograph Will safely without worrying about traffic.
Terrain varies so drastically in these parts with everything from searing deserts to forested mountainsides. I was truly impressed by Bear Lake on the Utah-Idaho border. Several 12MC readers had suggested Bear Lake, and I thank each of you because it was quite simply spectacular. We spent a morning at Rendezvous Beach State Park on the Utah side. It was the historic site for at least two of the old raucous Rocky Mountain Rendezvous held in the days when fur trappers and mountain men roamed here. Our adventure was rather more tame. We had a nice picnic lunch, splashed in the water and then drove into Idaho.
The kids had enjoyed their previous cavern adventure so greatly that we decided to try another one, Minnetonka Cave, in the Cache National Forest. It involved a ten mile drive into the forest and up a mountainside but the views were well worth the effort. The caverns were nice too but I figured one cave photo from the previous article was enough.
The kids also wanted dinosaurs but we were too far away from Dinosaur National Monument. We settled for the closest similar thing available: Fossil Butte National Monument in southwestern Wyoming. This site featured a seabed from an era somewhat after the dinosaurs so the fossils were of fish primarily, a herring-like species called Knightia in greatest abundance.
Another shout-out to the 12MC audience: thanks to Scott for suggesting National Park passport stamps. We’re now the proud owners of passports and we’ve collected a couple of stamps along the way. I’m sure this collection will grow in the future.
Worthwhile things often require effort.
We learned that a scientific dig was in progress but visitors had to hike up a steep hillside in the scorching sun to get there. About two-thirds of the way up our older son decided he no longer wanted to be a paleontologist. It’s too much work, he complained. Those thoughts disappeared quickly as scientists allowed him to chip the stone with their tools. He uncovered a beautiful fossil of two fish crossed over each other. Fossils cannot be removed from the park but he was excited to see that his find was numbered and cataloged for further scientific study. The thrill of the hunt and the satisfaction of the find put his future career back on track.
County Counting results
I consider the last several days a successful set of county counting adventures. I recorded fourteen new counties previously unvisited, I attached the former Salt Lake "island" (which I’d previously visited only by airplane) to the rest of my visited counties, and I didn’t leave any unvisited doughnut hole counties behind.
The vast white expanse on the left half of this satellite image is a gigantic salt patch, the Great Salt Lake Desert. The smaller blue area in the upper-right is the salt water of the Great Salt Lake itself. Both are the remnants of ancient Lake Bonneville, much of which drained away in a single massive, cataclysmic flood about 14,000 years ago.
I am presently in an endorheic watershed, a part of the Great Basin. Water drains to no ocean or sea within this bowl. It is trapped without an outlet. Water carries trace minerals down slowly eroding rocky hillsides and then evaporates within the basin, leaving behind salts that collect over millennia.
Bonneville Salt Flats
The wife and kids decided to take a pass on this journey. I left Ogden at 5:30 am in the dark. I was awed as I turned the corner along the southern edge of the Great Salt Lake, and watched the sun rise over Interstate 80, illuminating the ridges in yellows and reds. There are no towns of much significance out here in the 120 miles between Salt Lake City and Wendover. I had the road to myself, in a world of contemplative silence. To me, these are perfect driving conditions.
Brownish desert grasses gave way to streaks of salt and finally to the starkly white and barren Bonneville Salt Flats themselves. A ghostly blanket stretched to the base of mountains on the far horizon, resembling a fresh snowfall if I hadn’t know better. Random vehicle tracks diverged from the highway into the horizon of the flats, no doubt left by people who wished to test how high their speedometers could climb. Some of the most unimaginable automotive speeds anywhere have taken place right here at the Bonneville Speedway on absolutely level terrain, including the Blue Flame which hit a speed of 630.388 mph (1014.513 km/h) in 1970. I remained on the highway, thank you.
I crossed the border into Nevada because I wanted to visit the only place in Nevada that legally recognizes Mountain Time: Wendover. I paid a quick visit to the Wendover Will statue, turned around and headed back home. This also allowed me to record my first trip to one tiny corner of 17,203 square mile Elko County, Nevada. It is larger than several of the smaller states in the eastern U.S., but much less densely populated. That crossing will fill in a nice chunk of geography when I find the time to update my county counting map.
I returned a little after 10:30 am, just as the rest of the household was ready for the remainder of our day’s adventures.
Antelope Island is the largest island in the Great Salt Lake, a mountainous backbone jutting from the surface of the shallow lake. A 7 mile (11 km) causeway connected the island to the mainland, a fun drive in itself. Watch out for the seagulls though: they seem perplexed by passing automobiles and we had a number of close calls.
There are many activities on the island including driving tours, hiking, bird watching, taking in the spectacular views, and searching for the antelope for which the island was named (we spotted several). It also includes a large bison herd although it’s a large island and they must have been grazing on the other side when we visited.
The public beaches are another popular feature. Here visitors can conduct personal tests on the buoyancy of excessive salinity. It does seem to hold true. The kids bobbed like corks. You won’t want to swim here if you have an aversion to flies. Notice the part of the video where I walk along the beach as swarms of flies move away from me in waves. They’re harmless but they may be a bit disconcerting to those with bug phobias. The waters are also filled with brine shrimp. My older son caught one and wanted to keep it as a "pet" but I said he couldn’t unless he found a matching trident and crown. Apparently he’s not attuned to sea monkeys as a cultural icon as the joke went completely over his head. I guess you had to grow up in the 1970′s to understand.
A road led far down the east side of the island to the Fielding Garr Ranch. This had been a privately-held working ranch from the earliest days of the Utah Territory until 1981 when the state purchased the ranch to convert the entirety of Antelope Island into a public park. The isolation must have been intense even with the major cities of Utah clearly in view just across the salty water.
Friends seemed rather amused when we chose Utah as a summertime holiday destination. They could understand winter (skiing) but summer? I think they wrote it off as yet another one of my unusual vacation choices. On the other hand, I’ve noticed a high percentage of European visitors at the many places we’ve stopped during the trip including the Golden Spike site and the Great Salt Lake. I ask the European 12MC audience: is this a cowboy and "Wild West" fascination? Many people in the U.S. seem to take this area for granted, which is unfortunate. They don’t know what they’re missing.
The Utah tourism council should feel free to send me that endorsement check now.
This is my second attempt to present this article, following the debacle yesterday evening when I posted a rough outline. That was the first time I’d hit the publish button prematurely in nearly 500 articles. I suppose it was bound to happen eventually. Hopefully it didn’t cause too much confusion.
The whole point of this article, which may or may not have been apparent from the inadvertent draft, is to feature businesses that go directly up to a border without actually crossing it for economic reasons. This is the flip-side to an earlier article I provided about buildings that straddle a border, or something I called Bordersplit.
Jurisdictions may have different taxes or cultural norms. A product on one side might have a higher price or it might even be illegal on the other. These disparities create powerful business opportunities. Someone can set up shop on the more permissive side and entice customers across.
New Hampshire doesn’t have a sales tax. Its neighbor, Massachusetts has one of the higher sales taxes, at 6.25%. Many Massachusetts residents are a short drive away from instant savings, with plenty of New Hampshire businesses located at the first exit for their convenience.
Pheasant Lane Mall focuses a business model centered around this precept, attracting more Massachusetts customers than natives. The buildings are so close to the border than much of the parking lot extends into the neighboring state. Google Maps includes an error here by the way, placing the border about 40-50 feet north of the actual location. The real border is marked on the pavement. One segment can be seen above the three cars in the parking lot. Follow that line across and notice that the edge of the building has an irregular side designed to hug the boundary, stopping within inches without crossing it.
There is a story, quite possibly apocryphal, that accounts for the strange shape of the JC Penny store. As legend goes, the corner of the department store once straddled the boundary ever-so-slightly. Massachusetts, sometimes derided as "Taxachusetts," responded by declaring that all purchases made within the mall would be subject to their sales tax. The mall owners replied by lopping-off a small corner of the building to keep it entirely within New Hampshire. I have some doubts about the story — I think it more likely that the architects simply worked within understood space limitations — but it’s still fun to consider. Take that tax man!
I have a good friend who lives in Belgium. He frequently recommended that I cross into Luxembourg whenever I wandered anywhere near the border. Petrol is considerably cheaper in Luxembourg than in surrounding countries due to tax differences.
SOURCE: Panoramio (user vnk08); under Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike License
I borrowed this image from Panoramio to demonstrate the situation more dramatically. There is a stretch of the N4 road, Route D’Arlong, running directly along the border. Luxembourg is on one side and Belgium is on the other. Notice the row of fuel stations starting just beyond the Maison Rouge Restaurant on the left side of the image. That’s on the Luxembourg side.
Many parts of the United States limit fireworks severely or ban them entirely. South Carolina has a much more permissive attitude. Pretty much anything that the U.S. Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives approves for sale to the public is available in South Carolina year-round. I have fond childhood memories of friends returning from trips down south with large bags of firecrackers, cherry bombs, bottle rockets, M-80’s, and a whole range of exploding shells and projectiles. Our neighborhood would resound with the concussions of smuggled goodies for several days.
Gambling is a huge example. I touched on this previously when I wrote about an esoteric time zone issue in the Wendover article. Wendover, Utah faces economic uncertainty while West Wendover, Nevada prospers. The primary difference is that West Wendover is the closest Nevada location to Salt Lake City, a two-hour shot due west on Interstate 80. Gamblers from a restrictive state flock to West Wendover for a quick gaming fix.
Other examples would include the proliferation of Native American gaming enterprises that have sprouted in areas where gambling hasn’t been allowed traditionally.