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Homeward Bound

I don’t know where I am going but I’m on my way.

--Carl Sagan

July 22 – Most of this day was spent driving from Reno, NV to Park City, Utah, a drive that included experiencing multiple mirages while driving across the Great Salt Lake Desert and then having a look at the Great Salt Lake just west of Salt Lake City. The highway to Park City out of Salt Lake City is ever rising into the mountains…mountains that are quite lush this time of year -- even the sagebrush is quite green. Although Park City is quite popular as a ski destination and the home of the Sundance Film Festival, visiting in July is quite lovely without all the jam of people that the other interests attract. If you have more time to spend there are unlimited opportunities for walking, hiking and various paddle sports close at hand. There is plenty of eclectic dining and shopping available as well. The evening was finished off with dinner and a sampling of the fine products offered at the High West Distillery and Saloon. The food was good, the booze was great, and the staff was as friendly as experienced anywhere.

July 23 –

After breakfast the plan was to resume the high-speed trek along I-80 with the goal of reaching Kimbal, Nebraska for the evening stop. Reaching outside Park City, we decided to visit the main distillery of High West Distillery and its visitor center at Blue Sky Ranch in the mountains outside of Park City at Wanship, Utah. In a rather idyllic setting are an impressive building and grounds to welcome visitors, with tours of the distillery available. Although it was a little early in the day to experience some tastings with such a long drive ahead, I did leave with some “liquid souvenirs.” Certainly a return for a tour on the next visit to Park City will be on the to do list.

Finally on I-80 we try to make a blur crossing the state of Wyoming (if you can think of a 402 mile drive, even at 75-80 mph, as a blur). At the eastern most spot of Wyoming is the town of Pine Bluffs (pop. 1,129). We pulled off I-80 to stop at the simple traveler services station to account for the water consumption since Park City. This facility has various travel information plus a rather interesting exterior nature interpretive display about the prairie environment with panels to describe the local vegetation including a short nature trail leading away from the parking lot.

Driving away from the rest stop we were presented with an unexpected delight (at least for me). Turns out the entry ramp back on to I-80 was closed so traffic was routed through Pine Bluffs onto a short section of US 30, the old Lincoln Highway before heading back to I-80 a little to the east. This bit of 30 went all the way to Kimball, NE that was to be our night’s stop. Hooray…one more little bit of two-lane highway driving on this adventure. First was going through Pine Bluffs, a hardscrabble kind of town that has a rough look around all its edges. Like so many towns that were attached to the Lincoln Highway and then were deserted by traffic jumping on the Interstates, Pine Bluffs has seen its better days. After a few haphazard blocks you are on a Rt. 30 cruising through lush farmland. Ah, cross country driving the way it should be…no big trucks at high speeds, being able to see houses, livestock, and other natural sights up close. At a couple points you could look south and see I-80 with its wall of trucks in motion and be thankful for a more relaxed drive. The drive to Kimball was about 20 miles and I enjoyed every mile.

After arriving in Kimball (pop. 2946) and checking into the motel, it was time for dinner. Since we had arrived after the only locally owned mom & pop restaurant had closed, the choices came down to three national chain affiliates – Dairy Queen, Subway, and Pizza Hut. This left a big decision: when embarking on this big adventure (6400 miles and counting) we decided not to ever have a meal at a national chain, fast food establishment (and have kept that pledge so far)…but desperate times call for desperate measures. We chose Pizza Hut. Well, apparently so did about every family in Kimball decide to have pizza this evening. When we arrived the three employees were fairly stressed out and with only one server the personal attention was not quick. But we were here for the night so we just chilled out. At some point they stopped taking walk-in customers and then any pizza orders because they ran out of dough and other ingredients. We were so happy that we got there in time just to get a cheese and pepperoni pizza pie. Who knew there could be some much stress in a small town on Sunday afternoon? Went back to the motel for a homemade nightcap of vodka and tonic.

July 24 – Resuming the I-80 trek, we move as quickly as possible across Nebraska, Iowa, and halfway across Illinois (quick being a relative term) to the last stop of the trip at Peru, Illinois. At this time in summer eastern Nebraska and Iowa are in a wonderful green glow, at least along the I-80 corridor. Iowa is in a midwestern prime time of pastoral splendor, highlighted by the endless stands of corn with a thick carpet of golden tassels that look as if you could walk on the top. Quite a contrast to the rocky and sometimes forest-covered mountains of a big portion of the adventure.

Tuesday, July 25 will bring the last link of the adventure, crossing Illinois past Chicago, across the NW tip of Indiana, and most of the way across southern Michigan to the home near Ypsilanti, Michigan.

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