Tag Archives: utah

Wendover and Beyond

After being stranded in the Bonneville Salt Flats all day, we cruised the strip in Wendover, Utah; the nighttime streets lined with $35 motels. On the Nevada side of the border, bright Vegas-style lights advertise penny slots, $6.55 senior discounts, and all-night buffets.  A weird neon glow rises up into the desert sky. A place for Vegas dropouts, and vagrant Mormons to drown their woes, Wendover was clearly not built for high rollers. Technicolor temples of debauchery are seemingly the only things West Wendover has to offer.

After scanning the strip, we decided to get some cheap grub at a casino. Inside the Red Garter, patrons sit hypnotized by machines ringing out the merry music of paychecks being tossed aside. Countless slot machines and who-knows-what-else awaits the avid gambler inside these establishments. We ate our dinner at the Prospector Lounge, a neglected section of the casino with busted-out satin chairs and dull historical paintings commemorating the old west. The food was good enough; a simple biscuits and gravy for myself, and two eggs and toast for Steve. After reflecting on our day in salty hell, we chose to move forward and immediately made tracks for Twin Falls, Idaho. Driving up an old dusty portion of 93, I stayed wired on caffeine and chewing gum.

A view from our journey at the Bonneville Speedway.
A view from our journey at the Bonneville Speedway.

 

It was 3:00 AM before we settled into a RV park, a few miles north of our intended destination. Out in the open, surrounded by rural-suburban sprawl, our choice of campground was anything but ideal. Instead of a tree-lined grotto in the woods, the desolate concrete pad was lined with water and electrical hookups. Steve was furious about my decision to camp here as we rolled up to our pseudo campground. As we drifted to sleep in the parking lot, distant footsteps shocked my dull brain with a jolt of paranoia. Exhaustion took over and, before I could peek out of my sleeping bag, I was overtaken by troubled sleep.

Thursday morning in Jerome, Idaho, the fair grounds where we camped were milling with lazy preparatory activity for an upcoming event. Having expected to be harassed by the police, or worse, twisted local bumpkins whose motives and ethical standards would be no doubt questionable, rising to the gentle murmur of friendly fair grounds employees was a relief. The clanking of tent poles and humming of diesel engines quietly emanated from surrounding lots while we slowly and crustily rose from slumber. Despite our ratty appearance, we — wild-eyed, dusty punks passed out in their parking lot — were greeted with an offer of showers, friendly conversation and use of a hose to clean off our van.

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Scenic Viewpoint in Twin Falls, Idaho

As I hosed-off the salty mud caked onto the bottom of our vehicle, I was struck by how fortunate we’ve been. All along our journey, the kindness of people we encounter continues to surprise and amaze us. From gifts of Girl Scout cookies to perfect strangers offering a place to stay, we’ve are grateful for everyone’s generosity and willingness to help two road-worn travelers.

Many thanks!

-Team Brownie In Motion

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Stranded in the Salt Flats

7:30 a.m. on Wednesday morning we were rearing to get out on the Bonneville Salt Flats to make photographs with the camera obscura. Our frolic in the mud the night before had caused some apprehension but thorough testing of the ground assured us of a securely packed salt flat with only a little water from the rain resting on top. In cinematic form we sped through to the flats with our video camera rolling. The loaded down Ford maxed out at 93mph but driving on the famed salt was an experience non-the less. We made a beeline straight into the immense salty white expanse while I stared off, hypnotized by the road cones and mountain ranges swirling past us.

Sunrise just outside the Bonneville Speedway. Photo by Stephen Takacs.
Sunrise just outside the Bonneville Speedway. Photo by Stephen Takacs.

Continue reading Stranded in the Salt Flats

Utah: The Road to Salt Lake and the Salt Flats

The road to Salt Lake City caught me off-guard. I knew Mormons had found the salt lake valley after wandering through the desert and decided it was a divine gift, but I was never aware or concerned with the logistics of this gift, nor had anyone ever described it to me with particular enthusiasm.

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Cruising through the mountains was awe-inspiring. In the south near Route 70, the rocks are hard and craggy; large double trailer coal mining trucks speed through the hills. As you proceed north, the landscape starts to undergo dramatic transitions. Within 100 miles, you travel from the Moab desert, up into the mountains, and then down towards Lake Utah. The descent is nothing short of magical. At the top of the mountains, the landscape becomes more fertile; shrubs and trees to rise in frequency, changing the world from the dead whites and greys into deep greens, blues, and browns. For a moment, mind you, just a moment, I think I saw what the Mormon’s were speaking of when they thought they had found Eden; sunlight gleaming through majestic peaks brushed by clouds while mighty pines climb steeply upwards. We sped through Salt Lake City with the commuters on the 8-lane, mega-highway-mecca-Blvd. The city at night was impressive. We cruised down 80W towards Bonneville, still tired from Arches, doing our best to stay awake.

The further west we went, the stranger things seemed to become. At one point along the freeway we saw what looked like a giant illuminated cactus, the only structure for 50 miles. Our eyes started playing tricks on us. Apart from our headlights, there was nothing but total darkness and some industrial operations deep in the hills. My eyes locked onto something in the distance, maybe a mountain range, maybe a UFO; I had no idea. It turned out to be the lights from Wendover, the town nearest the flats. We pulled into the Bonneville Speedway around 1:00 A.M. and started exploring.

A bullet riddled sign welcomes visitors to the Bonneville Speedway. Photo by Stephen Takacs.
A bullet riddled sign welcomes visitors to the Bonneville Speedway. Photo by Stephen Takacs.

A sign filled with bullet holes, eerie wind, and a blanket of stars became our playground. I had noticed earlier that day while setting up at Arches National Park that the poles of the Brownie’s frame sounded like giant wind chimes when struck against the ground. I unpacked a few and hit them against the hard packed desert floor. The vibrations I had heard earlier sustained a long ringing enhanced by the wind and silence of the desert. Different lengths of poles created wild overtones, slowly receding in the expansive nothingness. Steve set up a remote sensor on a flash behind the bullet-hole-ridden Bonneville Speedway sign, revealing the negative space created by gun totting yahoos that regular the flats. We spent at least two hours in the cool desert night.

Finding any clear information about camping at the flats had been a bit of a challenge. The BLM website (Bureau of Land Management) make vague statements about camping being permitted on adjacent land. So Steve pulled of on the side of the road to set up camp. There seemed to be a great deal of space to explore and camp on even further off the road, so I egged him on. It turns out a van with front wheel drive does not fare that well in mud. About 40 yards from the road, the van stopped and wheels started to spin. We freed ourselves by emptying some of our photo sandbags to gain traction in the slippery mud. About ten minutes later we were back on the road. Crisis averted we headed onto a deserted desert road to camp.

A tarp behind the van on the shoulder of the road was our campsite and sleep came easy. Having learned our lesson about the mud we were ready for the flats. Tomorrow would be a day of photographic fun in the bizarre desert world. Or so we thought…

Until Next Time,

-Micah

Team Brownie In Motion

Into Utah

             Colorado was a blur and our workflow was irregular at best. Between visiting with friends and family, being rained out of several locations, and wanting to sightsee, the Brownie-In-Motion team managed only 2 camera obscura shoots in our 8 days there; the Genoa wind farm, and the Red Rocks Park. We fell in love with the rapidly shifting landscape, the color palates painted on various altitudes. It was with a heavy heart that we left Carbondale on Monday, quietly driving away from our little mountain paradise.

            Our next location, Arches National Park just outside Moab, Utah. That evening we cruised through the park scouting locations for our shoot the next day. The surrounding landscape, epic in proportions, compared with nothing I have ever seen. To the south, Mt Peale darts into the clouds and the Moab fault runs into an adjacent valley seeming to stretch on forever. Deep reds, washed out greens, and endless blue skies serve to accentuate the stone formations that towered around us. Throughout the whole time at Arches, my sense of awe never diminished.

Red Rocks at nightfall in Arches National Park. Photo by Stephen Takacs.
Nightfall in Arches National Park. Photo by Stephen Takacs.

 

Overnight we camped out on Route 162 about 10 miles northeast of Moab. Route 162 is a scenic byway that runs down the Colorado river in Southeastern Utah, coming out of the Rockies and slowly dissipating into the desert. It was dark by the time we arrived, but our camp setup is rather minimalist and easy to accomplish in the dark. A hammock, sleeping pad, or simple tent make for good sleeping pretty much anywhere.

Our campsite was hot, humid, and riddled with insects of all kinds. Not 20 minutes after we set up and prepared dinner, a strong wind picked up and our non-rainproof camping arrangements started feeling quite inadequate. We rushed to get our things packed away again but before we finished the rain came on without hesitation. With one of our tarps and a nearby fencepost, Stephen created an impromptu lean-to that connected to the back doors of the van. With our aluminum Bud Light bottles and mac n’ cheese, we settled in for a nice, albeit wet, dinner. Laughing at the improbability of rain in a desert, we slowly got cold, drenched, and dirty. When the rain let up, we relocated camp to a picnic shelter down the road. On our nighttime drive through scenic 162, we laughed, shivered, and sang ‘Strangers in the Night’ to passing cars as we made our way down the lonely road.

Photo by Micah Chamberlain.
Photo by Micah Chamberlain.

By 6:15 A.M. the next morning, with only 3 hours of sleep, we were back at Arches ready to work. The only others inhabiting the park were clearly photographers, hobbyists & professionals alike. No one in the park seemed to interested in our giant camera; a few tourists scampered by with raised eyebrows but during our 6 hours there we only spoke with three people. Right as Steve was finishing what would be our final shot at the park, a ranger approached us. We narrowly escaped a $500 citation at the graces of the ranger, and were issued a verbal warning. Luckily the large paper negative Steve had just developed turned out to be perfect

Brownie In Motion post photoshoot at The Mirrors in Arches National Park.
Brownie In Motion post photo shoot at The Mirrors in Arches National Park. Photo by Stephen Takacs

After breaking down the camera, I encouraged a little more exploration since we hadn’t actually got to go up to the rocks much. I climbed around gaily while Steve snapped some pictures inside the Double Arches. The next destination for us, the Bonneville Salt Flats. Hopefully we catch some wild speed trials, or at least perform some ourselves.

 

Until next time! 

Brownie-In-Motion Team

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