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Bonneville Travel Log – June 29th, 2007 – Day Four

We had to get up relatively early this morning for check out and to drop off our bags for the charter. We had to drop off our bags by 9:00, but the bus didn’t leave for the airport until 11:00. We had just enough time to grab some breakfast at the Paradise Grill and drop some more money into the machines. Jon and I both agreed we are lucky we don’t live in Vegas. We’d be totally broke and probably divorced.

I’m not even sure how to describe how comical it was going through ticketing and security at the Wendover airport. The ticketing and security area were together in a room about the size of your average living room, yet in that small space they had three separate check points where they checked both your ID and boarding pass. The check points were so close together, in fact, that the employees manning the stations were visiting with each other as we went through the line. They seemed to take their uniforms very seriously, though. I watched one security person wrestle a walker away from one passenger (remember the description of the age group of our fellow travelers from Day One…). She tried to wedge his walker into the X-ray machine unsuccessfully until one of the other Mensa candidates pointed out that it wouldn’t fit. I stifled my laughter so as not to draw attention to myself. I didn’t particularly want to give the butch lady with the wand an excuse to call me aside for a pat-down.

I’m glad I was able to view the whole situation with a sense of amusement. Another passenger didn’t feel the same way. He was so incensed at being pulled aside for additional security screening that he made it very clear to the airport staff that he would be writing a letter to his congressman. After all, it’s not like he rode up to the airport on a camel or something (his words, not mine).

Our plane ride back was pleasant. We had one new passenger on our way back to Denver. He was a representative from the tour company trying to get people to register for another trip. As soon as I spotted him, I could tell by his tie and the Mr. Slick grin that he was a salesperson. We ignored him and he left us alone. I entertained myself by making Jon take a relationship quiz out of Oprah Magazine. The fasten seatbelts sign was on, so I had a captive audience. He was less than pleased, but cooperative. We arrived back in Denver after a little over an hour in the air.

And that concludes our trip to Wendover. See everyone in 42 days and counting…


Bonneville Travel Log – June 28th, 2007 – Day Three

I got to sleep in this morning – one of the benefits of not having a specific agenda. Jon got up earlier than I and left me alone to do my girl things, mostly involving cleansers, moisturizers, etc.

After I was done preening, Jon and I headed out for our day’s activities. Our first stop was lunch at Mildred’s Gourmet Hamburgers. Mildred’s is a cute little mom & pop joint located in a blue & white double-wide alongside the road on the way to the Wendover airport (Turn south at the pawn shop by the Nugget. It’s on the right-hand side just past the railroad tracks).

The owner is a charming man named Allen Rowly. He’s a music and history teacher at the local school, but during the summer and weekends he is the host, server, cook, and cashier at Mildred’s.

Mildred’s offers 50+ gourmet burgers to choose from. Jon ended up having the Wendover Will, while I opted for the Texan – which Allen served to me complete with a southern drawl. Like I said, he’s a charmer. He even tried to talk Jon into eating the Gihugus burger. Gihugus is a 12” hamburger, and if you complete the job you receive a t-shirt that says “I Challenged Gihugus and I Won.” A 12” hamburger probably doesn’t sound so big, but when he showed us the bun that comes with it, I swear it was the size of a hub cap. As of this writing, only two people have won the battle with Gihugus.

For anyone who gets a little sick of strapping on the feedbag at one of the casino buffets, Mildred’s is a nice alternative. They will be open during Speedweek, although they are only able to offer a limited selection of burgers (about 10 or so) because of the increased number of customers. Allen loves having the racers come by, and this year he plans to add some extra seating and possibly an outdoor grill to accommodate a larger crowd. I hope everyone reading this decides to check it out at least once to try their great tasting burgers and support a local small business in Wendover.

The next leg of our trip took us to the airport museum. It was my second time there, but Jon’s first. The photos and exhibits they have are very interesting. It’s hard to believe that at its peak during WWII, the air force installation at Wendover housed around 20,000 military personnel. The museum includes actual photographs taken at the base during the 1940s, various artifacts from the era, and a large model showing the base lay-out during the height of its activity. You can also drive around most portions of what still exists from the original base. Key structures are labeled with historic marker signs. The original hangar that housed the Enola Gay still stands, although I would classify its current condition as somewhat depressing. Donations left in drop boxes at the museum are put towards restoration efforts. I dropped some money in the box on my way out of the museum. I’ll probably get a better return on my money there than I ever will at a damn slot machine (the cussing is an unfortunate side effect of three days of gambling and subsequent LOSING).

After checking out the past, we decided to take a look at the present. I was curious to see how the people of Wendover lived. The neighborhoods really weren’t all that different than your typical suburb. There were lower income areas consisting of affordable housing apartments and mobile home parks. There were your average, middle income houses. And then there were the houses along the golf course where the “rootie-tootie” people, as I like to call them, lived. Not that I have anything against them, of course. I wouldn’t mind being “rootie-tootie” someday, too. Although you would think people with that much money would be happier. Everyone we drove by in that neighborhood had a sour puss on their face. Maybe it was the heat, but I suspect it was the attitude.

Jon and I finished out tour of town and headed back to the Montego Bay. We spent some more time at the slot machines with similar results (feel free to insert your own cuss words here). Then I conned Jon into eating dinner at the café in the Nugget. I have to say the food was just okay, but the real reason I wanted to go there was for a vanilla shake. I discovered their vanilla shakes during Speedweek last year and wanted to be sure to have one when I was in town again.

After dinner, we spent a little more time playing the slots at the Nugget. I ended up sitting at a machine adjacent to a man and his wife who were also playing the slots. They had their two small children with them and kept yelling at them in Spanish. They appeared to be telling them to lie down and be quiet so as not to be noticed by security, but my Spanish is pretty rusty. Seeing that kind of ruined my gambling appetite for the evening, however.

Since it was our last night’s stay in the suite, Jon and I decided to crank up the hot tub one more time. Coming home to my regular bathtub is going to be a rough adjustment. There aren’t any fancy jets in my tub. I guess I’ll just have to fill it up with hot water and ask Jon to splash me.

That’s it for day three.

 


Bonneville Travel Log – June 27th, 2007 – Day Two

We awoke relatively early to start our day of adventuring. Helen from the Motel 6 was gracious enough to loan us the use of her Honda Passport to help us get around. She has treated the Amo family so well over the last few years. We can’t say enough positive things about her.

The first item on our agenda was a drive to the top of the big hill outside of town with all of the radio tower equipment. I’m sure it has a name, but I’m not aware of it. I guess “the big hill outside of town” will have to suffice for now. Anyhow, it provided another interesting view of the salt flats and the town of Wendover. Jon took the opportunity to take pictures of both from our elevated vantage point.

 

Salt Ponds across the highway More of salt ponds south of highway 80

The next part of our trek took us towards the salt. We stopped for brunch at the Salt Flats Café (next to the truck stop near the entrance road). Great food. Friendly staff. Reasonable prices. Enough said. Make sure to include at least one meal while you are at Speedweek at the Salt Flats Café, owner Marcelo Esobedo does a great job and supports the racers. Then we drove out to the salt.

The view of the salt from the plane was impressive, as I have mentioned before, but there’s still nothing compared to actually being ON the salt. The salt looked beautiful. It was a little wet in spots and stuck easily to our vehicle and our shoes, but there was no visible standing water and the overall terrain was smooth. We drove along the cones that mark the future location of the courses for the August event and are anxious to see what the conditions will be in 40+ days. We also tested our new internet service and were pleasantly surprised by the connection speed we received. Uploading information from the salt to Landracing.com should be a much easier process this year.

Jon even had the opportunity to play Salt Patrol while we were there. We spotted a little maroon car containing four young men zipping around the flats, doing what appeared to be “donuts.” Jon tore after them, pulled along side, and told them that the surface needs to be preserved for the people who race on it. He must have come across as very authoritative, because after a few quick “yes sirs” they left the salt altogether. I’m glad they didn’t decide to challenge him. I was his only backup, and my best defensive maneuvers pretty much revolve around vicious name-calling.

As for the salt report. You have to remember to take this with a grain of salt, pun intended. There is little over 45 days until speedweek and there is a lot of dragging and course prep by the SCTA-BNI before the event, and as of this report it look good. Wednesday June 27, 2007. My preliminary report so far is great. The combination course 1 and 2 are a little damp at start, pretty smooth in the middle and rough on the far end after about the 5 mile. You can tell the SCTA-BNI and BUB have been out smoothing the courses to an extent so far this year. Steve Fossett looks like he has a course lined up between the combination 1 and 2 courses for SCTA-BNI. Fossett's course starts approx two miles back from the BNI start. The 7 1/4 mile on Combination course #1 is Fossett's 9 mile.

Weather Station on the salt Drags used onthe salt to smooth the course

Showing the 132' Speed Trap at end of 5 mile

One of the reasons why we were out here is to test my new internet connection for Speedweek on the salt. At the 8 mile I have tested internet connection of about 800 Kbps. Which is far superior to the 28K connection used from 2000 to current. So when Jon goes back he will start a game plan on how, when and what gets uploaded on the salt.

We ventured back into town and made our way over to the West Wendover Visitor’s Center. It’s a small space – really just one medium-sized room filled with pictures and informational pamphlets – but it had some interesting photos and information on the past racers at the Bonneville Salt Flats and the history of the Wendover base used during WWII.

The next stop was to check in on the fire destroyed hotel, Bonneville Inn. This was the same hotel that was used in the movie Worlds Fastest Indian. Jon was going to get a comment on what the status was on the rebuild. There was nobody home at the hotel. The office was closed. Went to take a look at the damage from the fire as Jon walked down the paths, looking into the rooms find them gutted, even the unburned rooms, windows broken, some boarded up and only evidence of anything there was a few rooms with obviously poverty ridden family. I saw new studs and framing in the upper level rooms but locals said that has been done for a real long time but that was it. Everything stopped. The backside of the hotel was just a big dumpster filled with destroyed room contents.

After the visitor’s center, we headed back to the Montego Bay. Then we made a quick stopover at the Nugget for a Starbuck’s, after which we tried our luck at the slot machines in both the Nugget and the Montego Bay. Unfortunately, we will not be retiring on our winnings anytime soon.

The rest of the evening remains to be decided, although I imagine it will involve a trip to a buffet of some sort and another dip in the hot tub. We’ll see what Jon feels like doing once he is up and around (he naps as I type this).

Stay tuned for the next couple days for more info and pictures for Thursday and Friday morning. We will be updating throughout the day.


 

Keilani Amo next to Bonneville SignBonneville Travel Log – June 26th, 2007 – Day One

We arrived at the Denver airport to check in for our flight, fully expecting to be the only people on the plane. After all, who takes a direct flight from Denver to Wendover, right? It turns out our flight was 100% full – all 141 seats booked. We got in the Frontier line of about 50 people and thought about 30 minutes to check in when a Frontier rep came by in a high voice, “Anybody traveling to Wendover UT? We both looked stunned and raised our hands as he pulled us out of line to a special window and checked out bags, we laughed. Wow, we thought, as we walked to our gate.

 

We arrived early and sat by the gate watching the rest of the flight’s passengers filter into the waiting area – with canes, wheelchairs and walkers in tow. When they made the early boarding call asking for any passengers who needed assistance getting down the jet-way to come to the gate, approximately half the waiting area got in line. Jon and I stuck out like a sore thumb. Evidently the deal we got on plane tickets and hotel stay were part of some charter travel package, I imagine heavily advertised in AARP magazine or the like. As we sat on the plane, row 2, the lady in front had asked for two seat belt extensions to properly get the belt around her waist, she was in the front left row. The stewardess was giving her instructions in the event of an emergency, you have to pull the lever on the door and push out hard, then you must grab the emergency strap on the floor to release the slide, then jump out. Jon laughed and said that in the event of an emergency he would have the door open and down the slide and running before the lady could even get up, navigating her extra belt extensions and finding her walker. Next was a required safety briefing before the plane takes off, the exits are here, oxygen comes down etc, we both were looking at the overhead compartment and it just hit us, we looked at each other and started laughing looking around the plane at the other passengers. The sign was a heart with a lightning bolt going thru it, it was the symbol for a defibrillator, thinking with our present company would they have a instruction manual that we could read, just in case.

The flight was uneventful, just the way I like it. We were only in the air for about an hour and a half, and got a bird’s eye view of the Bonneville Salt Flats as we descended for our landing in Wendover. I’ve had my feet on the salt numerous times, but this was my first opportunity to see it from the air. It was truly an impressive sight. A vast white expanse stretching for miles on all sides, with the only interruption being the occasional collection of mountain and rock formations. The Wendover airport, however, was more amusing than impressive, especially considering how much experience we both have navigating the zoo that is DIA.

We settled into our room at Montego Bay around 3:30 in the afternoon. We upgraded to a king suite with a hot tub. We quickly checked out all of the room’s amenities like kids with new toys. I jumped on the bed and flipped through every channel on the television, while Jon turned on both the hot tub and the steam room. Clearly, we do not go on enough vacations. Then we ventured down to the casino where we each donated forty bucks apiece to the slot machine gods. We concluded the evening with a big buffet dinner and a dip in the hot tub.

 



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