“In the city” *
My breakfast is fine but I do not sleep well again. Which was not helped by someone calling the US phone number I have in my mobile. I normally turn my phone off at night but obviously forgot last night and paid the price!
I found a hop-on hop-off city bus tour pre-trip, US Bus Utah. It takes 90 minutes and whilst today’s drive is about 5 hours and 300+ miles, I cross another time zone to gain an hour, so thought I’d be OK to do the tour and not arrive in Ely too late. I call the bus company at 8.30 am to check they are still running as it’s getting towards the end of their season. No point in busting a gut to get up earlier than normal to find the bus is not in operation anymore. But it’s on, so that’s OK.
I’m out of the hotel just gone 9 am and drive 5 minutes to Council Hall, opposite the State Capitol. Parking is free, and it appears lots of stuff is free in SLC. I discover on the tour that this is down to the Mormon Church that is so prevalent around here. I buy my ticket inside for the 9.45 am tour. When we set off there are only four of us plus the driver.
It’s the usual city tour with a good commentary provided via a CD and USB stick but the voices are local city residents, not the driver. Neat touch, and works well. The tour is good and Salt Lake City seems a nice place. I learnt a lot about it, which is the whole point, but not that I knew hardly anything about SLC beforehand. 90 minutes later we’re back at Council Hall and disembarking.
A SIMple Problem
The reason I get a US SIM pre-trip is so I don’t incur massive data roaming charges. I also usually end up making a few calls within the US, but it’s mostly for the data. I haven’t written about it before now but I ran into problems with the data a few days ago. It’s a T-Mobile SIM and where T-Mobile has no coverage it is supposed to roam to another service provider. It did this correctly at the start of the trip but two days ago, data stopped working completely.
I’ve called the UK company who I bought it from but they don’t know why it’s stopped. The owner of the company admitted he was mystified. I need to try and get it fixed and spend the next couple of hours going first to a Best Buy, then to a T-Mobile shop to find some answers. I get some answers and an explanation. Plus what later turns out to be some incorrect information as well. I won’t bore you with the details except to say that my data roaming stays broken for the rest of my trip, so I only have data available where there is native T-Mobile data available. It doesn’t inconvenience me too much…
Just down the street from the shop I have a McDonalds Sausage and Egg McMuffin plus Apple Pie for lunch. I then finally set off down I-15 S out of SLC at 1.05 pm. It is very busy on I-15 in the city and suburbs, the traffic thinning out slowly as I drive south. About 120 miles further on, I turn off the Interstate at Holden.
“So lonely” **
US-50 W at Holden
I’m now on US-50 W: The Loneliest Road In America. The road is almost devoid of any other traffic. Initially it’s what I expected, flat farming land – cattle mostly – and a dead straight road. There are few towns either. Away from the Interstate and ‘out in the sticks’ there are no houses either. There are hills in the distance but it’s empty. Quite lonely…
And then. I’m into the hills and the road starts twisting and turning, up and down, with stunning scenery through a mixture of rocks and vegetation. There are clear blue skies but it’s chilly as I’m at almost 7000 feet elevation. Then it’s down the other side of the hills and onto another flat section, with another set of hills in the distance. Getting nearer, and nearer.
Soon I’m on another twisty technical section, but maintaining a good speed of 50 mph for the most part except on some bends which are quite tight. This is a brilliantly good drive. Gorgeous scenery throughout, even on the flat plains. Hill and mountain ridges form a backdrop, a border, to the views. The sun and now some clouds combine to cast shadows and light to create ever changing vistas.
What little traffic there is on US-50 today is all going the other way. I can’t remember any cars going my way. But in reality there are really hardly any other cars about, the road is basically deserted. US-50 is a lonely road… I stop at the Border Inn, which is literally on the Nevada side of the Utah-Nevada state line for a short break. The rest of the drive towards Ely is varied, similar to before but different. I wasn’t sure what to expect on US-50 but it’s great, and really enjoyable.
Ely And Racks
I fill up with gas on the outskirts of Ely and then find the Hotel Nevada on the main drag through town, which is still US-50. I park up right outside the front door and go inside to check-in. The receptionist says I can park there all night. The yellow kerb I’m on was to indicate where their limo used to park, but they no longer have it. She’s nice and jolly, friendly and talkative. I like the place already, despite the fact it is a bit rundown. But it’s real. We talk about where to eat in Ely and after a few places she mentions Racks Bar and Grill.
Which is where I end up later, a couple of blocks down the street. It is very busy and luckily as I walk the bar some folks get up and leave, vacating some seats so I grab one. The place is full of hunters, discussing guns and killing animals, and showing photos on phones of whatever it was they killed today. Seriously. Not exactly a topic I’ll be able to join in with.
My Nevada Cheese Steak – a bit like the Philly version – is good, a little spicy but too much bread. The bar gradually clears out and by 10 pm they are looking to close up. I’m not asked to leave but it’s clear I might be soon so decide to take the initiative and pay my check. There was little chat with anyone other than a few incidental works here and there, but I’m getting used to that on this trip, sadly.
“This town, is coming like a ghost town” ***
I walk out onto a deserted Main Street. Neon lights flash on the casinos but there’s no-one about apart from me to see them. Ely is a ghost town! But for some unknown reason I really like the place. It’s real America, in the raw. To bed, reflecting on the day. Good tour of SLC and whilst I’d rather not have the phone data problem, in trying to fix it I did get to drive around, see more of the city, interact with local people and see the real America. Which are all reasons why I’m here.
And of course a great drive in the afternoon on US-50 W, which I think lives up to its tag of ‘The Loneliest Road In America’. Then a quiet dinner and beer. And Ely turns out to be a nice ‘real’ town.
But I wonder now for this trip if there’s too much to take in as it’s going on. I’m doing a lot, and maybe won’t realise what I’ve done until much later. Some of it has been an undoubted drag in places but I think I’ll look back – weeks, months, years down the line – and reflect: “Wow! I did all of that!”
* In The City by The Jam
** So Lonely by The Police
*** Ghost Town by The Specials