Below are the diary entries for September 22, 2012, with the newest entries added at the bottom. Also, check out today’s photos.
We have made it! This morning after 19 days and 4,554 miles we arrived at the end (technically, the beginning) of I-70, mile marker 0. We knew that the end of I-70 wasn't very spectacular, since it's just an intersection with I-15, but it was our goal and we now reached it.
The "Cove Fort" on the sign near Baltimore is actually an old Mormon fort -- really more like a 19th-century full-service rest stop on the highway to Salt Lake City. After having been in private hands for some time is now again operated by the LDS church as a museum.
After Cove Fort we went back to Richfield where we had the car serviced - oil change, fluids topped off, air filter change. After all, we did drive almost 5,000 miles in sometimes pretty tough conditions. After that we had lunch in the park. Now we're back in our hotel room, where we plan to have dinner, and tonight we want to go out to some dark spot, looking at the stars. Not sure if that's going to work well; it seems to be pretty hazy out here (probably lots of dust in the air).
Es ist erreicht! Today we came to the end - actually, the beginning - of I-70! This morning after breakfast among a crowd of rodeo afficionados with 10-gallon Stetsons, spurred boots, plaid shirts and (for the ladies) tight, rhinestone embroidered jeans, we drove the last 55 miles of the highway and took our picture at the “Mile 0” sign. Then we drove to exit 1, where we visited historic Cove Fort. There’s nothing else there, no town, nor even a gas station.
In 1867, Brigham Young, the second leader of the Church of Jesus Christ and the Latter-Day Saints (LDS) after Joseph Smith died in 1844, ordered one of his followers, Ira Hinkley to build a fort to serve as a way station for travelers on the Mormon Trail. It also served as a relay point for the pony express and as a rest stop for the stage coach that passed through twice a day. Hinkley was the paternal grandfather of Gordon B. Hinkley (1910-2008), who first assumed a leadership position the Mormon church in 1958 and at the time of his death was president of the LDS. At that time, Native American tribes in the region, the Ute, Paiute, Apache and Navajo, sought to stem the flood of white settlers that threatened to overwhelm them and their traditional way of life. The various altercations have become known as the Black Hawk War (1865-1872). Fearing hostilities from Native American tribes, Brigham Young ordered that the way station be constructed as a fort, but it was never actually used as such.
As Cove Fort was built with basalt and lime stone, it has stood the test of time very well. By the 1890s, as Utah was in the process of becoming a state (1896), the fort was no longer needed and the LDS leased it out at first and later sold it. The Hinckley family bought it back in 1989 and also had Ira Hinckley’s cabin brought over from Coalville, Utah, northeast of Salt Lake City. It’s now a museum that provides free tours given by LDS members. There is a small Mormon settlement right next to the fort, because the LDS apparently makes people go there for a year or up to 18 months and provides them with housing. I suppose they’re all in some way needed to run the fort. They cultivate a large vegetable and flower garden and that supplies much of their food. The produce they don’t eat they donate to a local food bank, according to our tour guide.
Touring Cove Fort took about an hour and when I drove away, I almost headed west on I-70. Force of habit, I suppose. From now on, we’re going to be heading east! The first thing we did on our way east was to stop in Richfield, Utah, to get our car serviced. It has served us so faithfully these last few weeks that we thought an extra oil change would be in order. We also had the air filter replaced, because it was filthy after these dusty back roads we’ve been driving on. In case you're ever in western Utah and you need your car taken care of, check out the Goodyear place in Richfield!
After the car had been taken care of, we got some groceries and lunch at local super market and decided to just have a picnic in the park and to heck with sightseeing, we’ll read a book for a chance. It sounds awful, I know, but we’ve seen so much and visited so many interesting places that we just didn’t need any more of that. Salina is actually the site of the first engagement in the Black Hawk War and there is supposedly a statue of an Indian chief in town, but we didn’t see it after we drove back here from Richfield. Its other claim to fame (or infamy, perhaps) is a July 7, 1945 massacre of nine German prisoners of war who had not yet been repatriated and were encamped near Salina to help with the harvest. The victims of the massacre are buried at a military cemetary in Salt Lake City. I don’t know if there’s any kind of memorial in Salina, but the one history museum we found was closed. The sign outside said that it was a Presbyterian church built in 1884 as a memorial for some lady from New York City. I suppose the Presbyterians were anxious to provide some sort of counterweight to the Mormons, but I don’t quite see why a New York City lady should have a memorial way out west in what was then still Utah Territory.
The town itself doesn’t seem to be a very exciting place and I wouldn’t be surprised at all if none of the locals knew anything about the Presbyterian church, the massacre, or the Black Hawk War. When we had dinner in Monticello, Utah, the other day, we asked the server if she knew what the MD in the restaurant’s name stood for. She said she got that question a lot, but she had never bothered to find out what the answer was. She thought it might just be someone’s cattle brand.
We had planned to celebrate today’s achievement with a restaurant dinner, but there’s nothing here except a Denny’s and a couple of grubby-looking local places. Today at breakfast I overheard a girl saying that her father had been sick all night with what she thought must be food poisoning because he had eaten dinner at one of the local restaurants. Food poisoning is the last thing we need four days on the road, so we’ll dine on Doritos tonight and save the fancy dinner for some other time!