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Aaron N. Tubbs

Dragon chaser.

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It’s true what they say — the dry heat thing isn’t so bad. With shade or cloud cover, 80 to 90 can feel downright pleasant. My skin is less irritated than usual to boot, though some combination of the dryness and altitude changes (I’ve been pushing 3-4000 feet deltas over the last three days) is giving me a persistent slow deep nasal/sinus blood drain, which is all sorts of fun.

Got up at 8:30 again, had breakfast, slathered up, and headed north. Took 191 out of Vernal, and enjoyed the drive. Along the way as one leaves town, they are greeted with signs along the road indicating the layer/era/epoch that they’re driving through. So, for example, you’re told when the geological layer you’re driving through has dinosaurs. Or coal. Or phosphates. Or crocodile teeth.

Honest. There’s a layer for crocodile teeth.

It’s actually pretty neat, though. About the only thing I learned at the museum yesterday was that the layers of the earth, as pushed up, change as you go north out of Vernal, and the signs on the road make this more apparent and interesting. It’s pretty clear visually, if you’re paying attention, as fossilized sea bottom looks a lot different than fossilized sand dune.

It all makes me want to go and actually finish reading Annals of the Former World. It’s about time I revisit those four books and actually finish them…

Anyhow, along the way I stopped at various overlooks. One was for the mining operations. I forget which layer, but one of them is rich in phosphates — the mining companies scrape off the topsoil, drill holes, blast the shit out of the next layer, and then plow the phosphates for profit. They backfill with crap, restore the topsoil, and all is well. Or something like that. I snapped a few quick photos of the mining operations, though I didn’t get to see much in the way of anything, especially massive blasting. Oh well. Featured in the photos are D-10 or D-11 (I forgot which) bulldozers, which are massive. You don’t realize how massive they are until you see one next to a pickup truck. Or you realize that, from two miles away, they sound like the lift chain on a roller coaster. I can’t imagine what it’s like being actually near one. Massive and loud.

And strangely cool.

Incidentally, this is sort of a crappy picture, but what’s cool about it is that you can see mountains 75 miles away:


Kept driving up 191, and took a pit stop at the Flaming Gorge dam. A tour was leaving when I arrived; it was me and an older couple. I had to pass through a security screening and magnetometer run, which was sort of silly. I was prohibited cell phones, radios, bags of any sort, and half a dozen other things. In specific, this meant I could carry one body with one lens, which meant I went with my 35/1.4L and left the ultrawide and tele glass in the car, so the options for taking photos were somewhat limited. We were then guided on our tour, which was apparently self-guided pre-9/11.

They just let random trucks and semis drive over the dam, and they’re worried about cell phones? Security is more about the illusion of security than reality, I think…

But, then, I’m no security expert, so who knows?

Our tour guide was inexperienced, and couldn’t really answer my questions about much of anything. This was frustrating, but I got to see some interesting stuff. I’ve never visited a dam, so it was kind of cool to take the elevator down to the generator room, and see that stuff, and to learn about the variable-height intake system, and so forth.

Apparently the concrete takes about 100 years to cure, and it being ~4 decades strong right now, it still has a way to go.

At one point, the elderly couple with me mentioned that their marriage was as old as this dam.

Fuckers. Good for them.

Anyway, the dam was cool.

Visited a little town past the dam called Dutch John. It was tiny and sleepy, and looked to support the dam, and a few other people, and that’s about it. Had a mediocre burger and plate of french fries at the combination outfitter/restaurant/general store/gas station, and then drove on to Wyoming, which was uninteresting, and a good cause to turn around.

Actually, the geology was interesting there too, but there was nothing else, so whatever. Another state I’ve visited, with no real need to go back.

I’m sure I’m missed out on something big, but oh well, back to Utah, as I say…

Stopped to tool around in Flaming Gorge in a few places; hiked a bit along the cliffs/reservoir, and then headed back to Vernal.

I saw a USPS team biker biking along the road, which was sort of nuts. While 8-8.5% grades are nothing compared to yesterday’s adventure, they’re still well beyond anything I’d want to attempt on a bicycle. Or think of attempting. I guess that’s how you train for biking through France competitively…

On the upside, when I got back to the hotel, the pool was actually open. I was able to use it. This was a novelty.