After a spirit-lifting custom breakfast omelet we hit the road on day 4 with a big decision to make. Our schedule had a built-in additional travel day cushion, so we had a choice of two relatively easy days of motoring or one very long day on the road to get home. You’ve probably already guessed the alternative we picked—yet another marathon.
Our last leg was projected to be a whopping 880 miles and take about 13 hours of drive time. But to sleep in our own beds we felt it was worth the effort, particularly since the final miles would be along roads we knew and occur after rush hour. Leaving Rock Springs we headed west on I-80 and crossed into Utah in the north central part of the state.
A hint of what we were in for was when I saw the first sign for Wasatch. That’s the mountain range where most of Utah’s best ski areas are located and I’ve skied all of them—Alta, Snowbird, Brighton, Solitude, Park City and Park West. Sadly, at our breakneck pace we had no time to venture off the freeway for a visit. Approaching Salt Lake City from the east I realized I had been on this stretch of road before, but in winter and heading in the opposite direction. Things look decidedly different in the summer and there wasn’t a hint of snow anywhere.
The mountains rose up before us and some were shrouded in clouds. It was becoming increasingly clear we were heading into rain.
Up to now we had been extraordinarily lucky with weather on this whole trip never having hit rain anywhere except for a few drops our first night in Michigan which gave way to glorious sunshine the next morning. But approaching Salt Lake our luck ran out. The rains came with a vengeance and navigating this area was probably the toughest task of our whole trip. If you look closely at the lead photo of this post and the broader view of this below you will see an overturned truck to the right and some emergency vehicles and personnel. This was about where the I-15 splits off from I-80 and made this stretch particularly nerve-wracking.
Somehow we made it though here and spotted the I-15 cutoff just in time to begin heading southwest on a track that would take us back through Utah, into Arizona, across the Nevada state line, past Las Vegas, and ultimately into California.
Skies cleared as we exited the Salt Lake area, but we could see rain cells ahead and soon hit cloudbursts once again.
We crossed into Arizona and passed through the scenic Virgin River Gorge.
The Nevada border was just to the west and it was not long before we were on the outskirts of Las Vegas.
Some of you had asked about the pesky “Check Engine” light that came on early in our outbound trip. We had the code read at an Auto Zone in Las Vegas and Jim had a pretty good idea that the trouble lay with some cracked hoses in the PCV system. He had replacement hoses onboard and was able to get them installed in Michigan and get the trouble code reset. After a few on-off engine cycles the light went off and stayed off until…
we got near Las Vegas on the return trip and zowie—the light went on again. Nuts! With no time to stop for another code reading and with no obvious malfunctions we pressed on. At Primm, NV, just east of the CA state line, we stopped for food and gas. To our chagrin, this usually bustling stop was shut down tight, with few options for either. JIm added a bit of oil hoping that would kill the Check Engine light, but no luck. Only the ubiquitous Starbucks was open so we grabbed sandwiches there and kept going.
Soon we began seeing familiar CA landmarks. Heading into the setting sun we realized the end was near. One thing we did not see was this, a common sight in many states along the way, but not this close to home.
Before we close, a few words about our Mark VIII sidekick are in order. For a 23-year-old car she performed brilliantly chugging along through searing heat, rain, mountains, lowlands, cities and woods averaging in the mid-20s for mileage and conveying us through it all in air-conditioned comfort. Jim was at the wheel for the entire trip.
We speculated on the final mileage reading knowing it would be much more than twice our outbound total of 2,226 miles. Heading for home, we figured it would be closer to 5,000. As we approached my driveway it stood at 4,978 miles. With just one final stretch to Jim’s home we guessed it might hit the 5K milestone. Later that night Jim forwarded this final image. It hit exactly 5,000 trip miles as he pulled into his parking spot.
What a trip! Fourteen states in 11 days and memories to last a lifetime. Thanks for sharing our experience. We hope you have enjoyed coming along for the ride!