December 7, 2021

Wendover, Utah (8-10 November 2021)

For my approaching birthday, Pat suggested we head to the Wendover, UT/West Wendover, NV area. Most of our time was actually spent in Utah, where there are several sites worth a visit including the Bonneville Salt Flats and race course, Danger Cave and Jukebox Cave, Wendover Airbase, Sun Tunnels and the site of the original Transcontinental Railroad.

Bonneville Salt Flats

View of the famous race course (just to the right of the sign and extending 7 mile)

The Bonneville Salt Flats are 120 miles west of Salt Lake City and are approximately 5 miles wide and 12 miles long. The race course is 7 mile long and was first used for racing in 1914. Anyone can drive on the salt flats, except when it is wet (as seen above). This is also one of a few place where you can actually see the curvature of the Earth.

Danger Cave and Jukebox Cave

Just off the access road to the Bonneville Salt Flats is another road that takes you to  two caves, Danger and Jukebox. These caves have been closed off with iron bars and cannot be entered at this time to preserve them, although tours can be arranged through Metcalf Archaeological Consultants, Inc., professional archaeologists working in Danger Cave.

Since we were already nearby, we headed over to the caves, arriving at Jukebox first. This cave was used during World War II as an NCO club, built by soldiers stationed nearby at the Wendover Aerial Gunnery School. They put down a concrete dance floor and installed a jukebox for music – hence, the name.

There is a steep climb up to the entrance, but we didn’t actually go up. We met two people coming down who told us it wasn’t really worth going up, since you couldn’t see much through the iron bars. Instead, they said Danger Cave, just up the road was much better to see inside, and there were informative signs and a brochure.

Off we went, with a stop along the way to pick up a geocache.

Wendover Airfield

Just inside the Utah border with Nevada is the Wendover Airfield. We knew of this as the place where the Enola Gay trained for the bombing of Hiroshima on August 6, 1945.

Our first visit was a self-guided tour, reading information signs and taking photos.

Later we returned to the Museum and Officer’s Club to sign up for the guided tour inside the fence.

This site has also been used for making films, including: Hulk (2003), Independence Day (1996), Con Air (1997), and several others.

Sun Tunnels

The Sun Tunnels is an art installation created by Nancy Holt to emphasize the the Summer and Winter Solstices. It is locate approximately 50 miles north of the Bonneville Salt Flats. Once off the main roads you have many miles of unpaved roads to navigate – it is not an easy place to get to but worth the effort.

It was a good thing we had another pair of shoes, since it was very muddy.

Transcontinental Railroad National Backcountry Byway

Earlier this year, Pat & I drove up to Promontory Summit to visit the Golden Spike National Historic Site. While there, I purchased David Howard Bain’s Empire Express: Building the First Transcontinental Railroad, and finished reading it a couple of months ago. It was a fascinating read, which made our visit to the Transcontinental Railroad National Backcountry Byway much more interesting.

The start of the Byway is a few miles north of the Sun Tunnels, with Lucin, UT in between. Lucin was built by the Central Pacific Railroad, coming from California to meet the Union Pacific coming from Omaha. “LUCIN IS AN ABANDONED RAILROAD community about 50 miles west of the Great Salt Lake in Box Elder County, Utah. The town was founded in the 1860s during the construction of the First Transcontinental Railroad about 10 miles north of its current location. It was then moved to serve as the start of the Lucin Cutoff, built between 1902 and 1904, which connected Lucin to Ogden with 102 miles of track, including a 12-mile trestle spanning the Great Salt Lake.” – Atlas Obscura.

 
The Transcontinental Railroad National Back Country Byway in Utah, starts just north of Lucin and ends in Corrine, UT. It is maintained by the Bureau of Land Management (BLM) with appropriate warnings about its remoteness, etc. There is no cell coverage, no gas, and they recommend a good spare tire, plenty of water and something to eat. The road runs on top of the old rail bed with a jog around the trestles, many of which are rotting away and are no longer safe to drive over. We did the portion from Lucin to Bovine, then took the cutoff to Route 30 and home. This cutoff and the climb up to Rt 30 was especially interesting. Ray had to open a barbed wire fence to let us drive through and up to the highway.
 

 

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