How one trip along the Bonneville salt flats yielded friendships and Fun
A funny thing happened while driving across country. A wayward traffic cone. A bent pipe. 4 flat tires and a crazy ingenious AAA driver just for starters. After all, you meet the most amazing people in the middle of nowhere.
Picture it. A mother daughter team driving all the way across this vast country of ours has no idea what’s just over the hill.
If you’re unfamiliar with the area, driving East on Interstate 80 in West Wendover, Nevada you will come up over a beautiful large hill and drop down into Wendover, Utah and the Bonneville Salt Flats. About half way across, while driving through a large construction zone, a giant traffic cone jumps out and hits the side of the RV!
Now, this was not your average squishy traffic cone. This was one of those huge heavy ones that even the big semi-trucks avoid. Yup. Those. This lone cone decided today was it’s day to strike back at all the traffic driving by. We were that strike.
Well, after we were so rudely attacked, I noticed a noise that had not previously existed. So, at the next safe pull off exit (10 miles ahead of us) we stopped to survey the damage. This is what we found.
That cone had knocked the generator exhaust pipe clean off its mount! Not only that, the pipe was now bent into the tire. Not good at all. So, we called AAA and I started taking pictures of this amazing area called the Bonneville Salt Flats.
What are the Bonneville Salt Flats?
Formed over 10,000 years ago, the Bonneville Salt Flats originally was Lake Bonneville and was the size of Lake Michigan! After the thaws of the last ice age, water levels eventually dipped below their runoff levels and began to evaporate. Today you can still see the water erosion levels carved into the mountain sides around the lake bed.
Thousands of years later, in 1845, Captain John C. Fremont and his scouting party finally surveyed the land and warned emigrants against crossing. However, the next year, a young Lansford Hastings retraced the Fremont trail and took several emigrants with him. Little did he know the tragedy that would soon come.
The Infamous Donner Connection
In 1846, the infamous Donner-Reed party decided to take Hasting’s cutoff route through the Bonneville Salt Flats believing it to be a shorter route to California. Sadly, they did not bring enough water for the long trek and lost a critical number of oxen. They were also forced to abandon several wagons and lost valuable time.
Their faulty journey across the Salt Flats is what caused their late arrival to the Sierra Nevada mountains and, in turn, their tragic end in the harsh mountain winter.
In 1910, the Pacific Railroad completed their tracks across the massive lake bed connecting Salt Lake City to San Francisco and thus beginning the common travel route we have today.
Named after Captain BLE Bonneville, whose expeditions in the 1830’s proved the area was part of the Great Basin, the Bonneville Salt Flats are made up of potassium, magnesium lithium & sodium chloride (common table salt) and stretches over 30,000 acres!
The western side of the Bonneville Salt Flats is the most flat and is used for testing the land speed records. But don’t be fooled. The rest of the lake bed is merely made of a thin crust that will crack under the weight of a vehicle and sink into the soft mud below.
Case in point. Meet Daniel and Charlie.
While waiting for our illustrious AAA driver, we were approached by two very nice young men driving a very nice Denali. They politely asked if we had a tire pump. Why yes, we do!
As it turns out, young Daniel and his brother Charlie were driving their mother’s very nice Denali out to the Salt Flats and decided to go ‘joy riding’. Yes. They went right out onto the open Salt Flats not realizing that the crust would not hold them.
Not only did they get stuck in the mud, the dense salt concoction of the lake bed sucked the air out of all four tires!! Luckily, a nice State Trooper was able to get them ‘unstuck’ and we were able to help pump their tires and even clean a little of the caked mud off of their mother’s car. I can only imagine the conversation they received once they arrived home. 😊
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Our savior arrives!
Not too long after we said goodbye to our new young friends, our AAA drive arrived. I just need to say here that this was the absolute best AAA driver I have ever met. Before young Matthew arrived, I was convinced we were going to need a new tire as well as a new pipe and mounting bracket. Nope. Matthew had another plan.
After getting underneath that RV, he was able to use one of his truck straps to bend the pipe back in place (without breaking it!) and strap it to the undercarriage. I mean to tell you he was darn near jumping on that pipe and it didn’t move! That is ‘redneck ingenuity’ at it’s finest!
Just to be on the safe side, Matthew followed us nearly all the way into Salt Lake City to make sure that strap held. Not only did it hold, it is still holding nearly 2 weeks and 15,000 miles later!
Morale of the Story
After all the ups and downs and twists and turns, the biggest lesson I took away from our adventures in Bonneville Salt Flats is this: When life hands you scraps… make a quilt!!
When we hit that cone our day could have ended in anger and frustration. Instead, with a little calmness and ‘looking on the bright side’ we met new friends, got some amazing photos and hand a wonderful tale to share with you! May all your scraps become beautiful quilts!!
While in Salt Lake City…
If you’re headed out to Salt Lake City, be sure to stop in to My Girlfriend’s Sewing Center! Located in Sandy, Utah, My Girlfriend’s is only a short 15 minutes from the city and WELL worth the visit. Be sure to tell them I said hello!
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