If today had a theme billboard it would be the Virgin Rivers Hotel/Casino/Bingo establishment in Mesquite, Nevada. In addition to their claims of $25/night rooms, $5 steak dinner, and $2 black jack table, the biggest impression they made was with their intense marketing campaign flitting past with the tumbleweeds as regularly as the Cadillac SUVs with California plates. The climax came in the traverse down the mountains outside Las Vegas where I crossed the namesake Virgin River itself a number of times as to determine that subsequent crossings were not so, er, virgin.
Other memorable signs: Freedom Legal—“Just Sue ‘Em,” “A colonoscopy would’ve saved my Dad,” and one too many real estate broker images with names like Jay, Suzy, and the mother of them all, Tim Tennis. Perhaps my tittering over the latter’s name was due to the long hours of my own company and the desperation for anything to break the monotony. An antelope broke the monotony. I thought it was a dun-colored cow at first, but it was all alone out there, which warranted further looking, and cows, well, um, they usually hang out in herds. Who knows, this even-toed ungulate looked a bit forlorn, maybe it missed the bus.
So Ogden seemed like a happenin’ place, being a backdoor community of SLC. Everyone was out biking and jogging on my departure from town. After Salt Lake however I wondered if anyone else lived in the state beside that particular valley. One must be aware of the misconceptions driving on an interstate can bring. That’s what makes the signs so enticing. Who lives in Ephraim, Manderfield, and Panguitch? Panguitch sounds like the noise your shoes make when they get water in them.
The 80mph “test zone” was all very well, but with a car loaded down and a bike up top creating wind drag there wasn’t much point. Cruise control at 75 is the sweet spot. The section between Cedar City and St. George was particularly scenic, but that’s a no brainer when 5 major National Parks lay just east of there.
Las Vegas is soulless. When I was there for a half marathon a couple of years ago it struck me as such, and while standing in line for the women’s restroom key I had the same revelation. The characters in the Sinclair’s mini mart seemed like caricatures of themselves. Really? You smell like an ashtray, b.o., and you’re carrying a case of Coors under your arm? Every bathroom I had visited prior to then, involved keyless entries. Apparently even the bathrooms have a nefarious reputation in Sin City. It’s like connecting the dots. Billboards around the city broadcast the opportunity to fire a “real live fully auto” weapon; driving out of the city I saw a truck with the following sticker: “my other auto is a .45”
Hoover Dam was a zoo. I embraced my touron tendencies and tried parking in the tour bus section much to the chagrin of a harried polo-shirted employee. I was obsessed with the signs about clearance due to a scrape I got into up in Yellowstone. Embarrassment is only avoided with more embarrassment, although I was briefly vindicated when another touron in a Honda Element followed me. My obsession was for naught, because, besides the fact that the Hoover Dam is one of the Wonders of the Modern World, its cliff-side parking structure also boasts the highest ceilings of any I’ve been in. So, my first big photo-op of the trip and I look into the screen to find finger-like shadows covering the image. Drat! The Germans and the Japanese will be posting theirs to Facebook and I won’t because the pressure of being a tourist in a human zoo gawking at a ridiculous amount of concrete prevented me from noticing that my shutter/lens covering thingy (highly technical term) had simply become flustered in the den of turbidity which is my car. I figured this out after touring the facilities and fixed it with a sheepish poke of a finger.
Hmm, you know you’re on the Rez when you see decrepit trailers scattered among the cacti, and street signs can’t be anything but tongue in cheek when you see that First Street looks to be more wash than road a no one could be living in that trailer anyway because there are so many windows boarded up—could there? Welcome to the least talked about poverty demographic in America. Invisible nations within our borders.
I found Chloride, touted as a ghost/historical mining town in my guide book. The only ghost I encountered was one who told me I had to make a $15 minimum purchase to use a debit card. Mom, you’re getting an impromptu jar of prickly pear jelly when I get home. Refreshingly, there was no roadkill on the way to Chloride. A very live jackrabbit crossed my path as well as a family of quail. Getting off the beaten path is well worth it, even if it means four extra postcards and a box of cornbread mix.