3-Day Road Trip Exploring The Best Of Idaho, Nevada, And Utah

 

The cultural immersion (and birthday good times) are not over yet!

I’ve flown into cities in this part of the country but have never done a road trip like this. All I can say is, “why did nobody tell me how absolutely knock-your-socks-off gorgeous these Western States are?”

 

Read on below for twelve highlights. Recommend any or all of these for your next trip West.

 

Highlights are listed in the order of our drive.

Were I to rank them in order of importance and pure awesomeness, Shoshone Falls and Bonneville Salt Flats would be tied for #1, followed by Nancy Holt’s Sun Tunnels.

 

1. The Big Idaho Potato Hotel

 

 

This is an Airbnb and supposedly run by a Super Host. However, based on the reviews, the experience of actually staying there may not be so super with lots of host-cancelled nights.

Based on the listing photos, it is pretty gorgeous, as it should be at $200 a night. It’s on a 400-acre farm right by the rail tracks. Although it says it’s in Boise it’s way out of town. Far too isolated for me to consider for even a minute.

 

2. Shoshone Ice Caves in the Black Butte Wilderness Study Area

 

We did not take the ice caves tour. First, it takes 45 minutes and second, I am claustrophobic, and this would have driven me crazy.

However, the museum and those random statues of dinosaurs and turtles and Indian Chiefs are worth checking out.

 

3. Burrito Lady for lunch in Shoshone

 

This is a very cool, retro-looking spot. The food is prepared in the catering truck that adjoins the restaurant.  Tasty food, friendly service – what more can you ask for while road tripping?

 

4. Shoshone Falls – Twin Falls, Idaho

 

Frequently referred to as the Niagara of the West. It’s spectacular. And check out the double rainbows.

 

5. Perrine Bridge – Twin Falls, Idaho

This bridge is the only man-made structure in the United States where BASE jumping is allowed year-round without a permit. Unfortunately not happening the day we were there.

 

6. Breakfast at the Buffalo Café in Twin Falls

 

I loved every single thing about this place. The food was yummy (I had chorizo scrambled eggs with toast and their homemade jams). The clientele was a mix of locals and a few tourists like us. But most fabulous of all was our waitress, Peggy. And look at that hair – courtesy of her daughter.

 

7. Desert Bottle Tree – Wendover, Utah

Per Atlas Obscura, the tree is a DIY situation with passersby decorating it with tokens, gnomes, cans, bottles, trinkets, and sparkly things. People have even been putting messages and wishes in the bottles.

 

8. Sun Tunnels Art Installation – in Great Basin Desert, Utah, near Wendover.

 

This is not an easy site to get to but so worth the effort. I also didn’t realize that Nancy Holt had been married to another major (if not THE major) land artist, Robert Smithson of Spiral Jetty fame.

Sun Tunnels was finished in 1976, after three years of planning and multiple treks to the desert bordering Utah and Nevada. It became Nancy Holt’s defining work.

Per Artsy, Holt, as a sculptor and filmmaker had some well-received shows to her name; a famous, recently deceased husband (Smithson) whose career had largely overshadowed her own; and 40 acres of land in Utah’s Great Basin Desert.

Sun Tunnels (1973–76) is composed of four massive cylindrical, concrete forms—large enough for a viewer to walk inside without ducking—positioned in a cross formation on the desert’s cracked clay floor.

The work’s orientation is precisely calibrated so that its four tubes frame the sun on the horizon at the summer and winter solstices. Creating the work entailed hauling tons of concrete into the desert, working with engineers, astrologists, contractors, and crane operators.

The project had been initiated shortly before her partner, Robert Smithson, died in a freak airplane crash in Texas. In the subsequent years, his widow spent countless secluded months in the Southwest, experimenting, scouting sites, and establishing her own personal relationship with the land.

Sun Tunnels stands with Smithson’s Spiral Jetty (1970) and his friend (and rival) Michael Heizer’s Double Negative (1969–70) as among the most important contributions to the land art movement.

 

9. Town of Montello

 

This is a semi-ghost town with 70 inhabitants. It was initially built in 1904 to serve the railway. Many of the old buildings are still in existence. Great photo ops.

We stopped at the Cowboy Bar Café – better for photos than for food but worth checking out.

 

10. Wendover Will – 1952

 

Wendover Will is a sign created for the Stateline Casino in West Wendover, Nevada in 1952. It is now a landmark for the town of West Wendover.

Wendover Will was named after the town of Wendover and William Smith, who founded the Stateline Casino.

Wendover Will was included in the Guinness Book of Records as the “World’s Largest Mechanical Cowboy.”

 

11. Bonneville Salt Flats

 

This is a MUST-SEE. I am so thrilled my friends Erika and John were as excited as I was to check this out. Doubtful that I would have done this drive were it not for their enthusiasm to join me on this leg of the trip.

Yesterday morning, we not only got to drive out onto the Salt Flats; we also got to see a Polaris and US Army TV commercial being filmed – drone style. Super cool morning!

 

12. Metaphor the tree of Utah in Wendover

 

You pass this 87-foot high cement sculpture on your way from the Salt Flats to Salt Lake City (on the opposite side of the road). Stopping is strictly forbidden (although I hear people do “emergency” stops all the time, camera in hand).

It was created by Swedish artist, Karl Momen between 1982-1986. He financed the project himself to bring bold color and beauty to the stark, flat, salty landscape. The sculpture is made of 225 tons of cement, almost 2,000 ceramic tiles and five tons of welding rod, and tons of minerals and rocks native to Utah. After completing his work Momen returned to Sweden, donating the sculpture to the state of Utah.

 

Bottom Line.

One of the most phenomenal road trips I’ve ever taken. I’ve been to each of these states over the years but never spent time exploring the land as I did this time around.

Now in SLC. Feeling very inspired for the final leg of the 2019 Cultural Immersion Tour.

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