*I came, I saw, I ate lunch!

Warm Showers came through again with an excellent host in Salt Lake City (SLC), Austin. We got up early and headed to the FrontRunner station and boarded a car that was outfitted with bike racks and plenty of seating. It was a 25 mile ride to the Clearfield station where we got off and I headed to Antelope Island. Austin had an errand and was then heading back to SLC.

Well, Antelope Island with a stop at McDonald’s for coffee and Target for a long-sleeve tee. The cool morning air in SLC was 60, but in Clearfield, it was 53 and I was only wearing shorts and and a short sleeve tee.

I had a tailwind for the 18 miles out to Antelope Island State Park, a 28,000 acre island in the Great Salt Lake. There is a long causeway to reach the island and if you closed your eyes you would swear you were at the ocean from the smell of brine in the air. 

Except, the lake is currently not so great. The exhibitions at the Visitors Center tout 1963 as the lowest level of the lake and 1987 as the highest. A ranger confirmed that they passed the 1963 level and have set a new record. The closest water was probably 200 yds out, and even then, no one was venturing in, despite the temps rising to the high 70s. I had hoped to at least dip a toe and came prepared to dip me. In the pics there’s an abandoned marina with all the docks resting on dry land (very salty land). It was still beautiful and I saw an actual bison near the visitors center, (my first since the last ride past Penn’s Cave Animal Park, but first in the wild since ’05!). 😉  I made my way to the camping area that seemed to be closer to the shore and started to venture towards the water. The terrain was very rocky at this point good sneakers or hiking boots were called for and all I had was Tevas. So, made my way back to a little picnic shelter and ate lunch!

The ride back to Clearfield was full into a headwind, so I earned some of the miles today the hard way (I ended up with 50).

I hopped the train and headed back to Salt Lake City and parked myself in Templin Family Brewing Taproom. I checked the fire status and it had worsened since the last time I checked. It was time to abandon my trip through the Sierras. I called Amtrak and after 45 minutes on hold (while enjoying two of the five Pilsners this place had on tap!) I finally got a real person and she added the Reno to Sacramento leg to my reservation in 3 minutes. 

I toured some of the neighborhoods that Austin and his wife Emily said were must sees for the Victorian style mansions amid simple bungalows, with most dating from pre-1900. I had a delicious dinner at a the Greek Souvlaki restaurant, stopped in a grocery store to load up provisions for the 15 hour journey to Sacramento, and made my way back to Austin’s. I packed up and hung there with Austin and Emily after they put their son Scotty to bed. Turns out Emily has a friend who is at PSU working on his PhD! Small world again. 

I headed towards the train station, but wound my way through downtown SLC. Quite an active night life which was really good to see on a Saturday evening when other big city streets are ghost towns on the weekend. 

The train was about an hour late leaving SLC, and when I got on, I arranged my coach seats into a nice bed, donned my blackout mask and earplugs, and had a good restful sleep. 

On my second trip to the observation car/cafe, I did a double-take as the woman I sat beside from Denver to Grand Junction was sitting there watching the smoky mountains. I had expected that I would never see her again, but she had stopped in Reno to visit a friend. Caroline (Car-o-lean’-ahh, as the Germans would pronounce it) is currently living in Germany and is heading back there in week after visiting friends and family. And, she will be moving to Berlin. On the Denver-Provo train, we talked for a long time about our experiences in Germany and here and the dichotomy of cultures, and picked up on that and more this time. What a pleasant surprise! 

Much more to add here, too, but two snippets:

Austin T.

First, there was the wonder of Austin (left), who works in the SLC redevelopment authority. He’s focused on rehabbing the poorer parts of the city and bringing them up rather than tearing them down for more expensive development. He’s doing the same with some land he owns in Provo – redeveloping for the sake of the lower income groups. An admirable young man who gives me a lot of hope for the generations to come (as did Caroline). 

Second, the Tabernacle. The iconic Tabernacle pic (right) wasn’t available to be shot because it was covered in scaffolding. Turns out it’s currently on stilts and having it’s foundation made earthquake proof. Austin said the Mormon Church is very rich and can do these extraordinarily expensive projects. Maybe someday they’ll build housing for the homeless and provide them mental health and drug rehab. 

I’m writing this on the train as I still have an hour or so to get to Sacramento. The smoke is so thick that visibility is only ¼ to ½ a mile and the smoke has permeated into the ventilation system of the train, and my eyes are watering. Right decision not to ride through this as much as I regret missing that riding leg.  More on that tomorrow.