Summer Road Trip 2017, Part 4: Destination Jackson
With the camper top installed and paid for, it was time to get to Wyoming for the solar eclipse on Monday. It was noon when left Ursa Minor.
The gear, cabinets and motorcycle were sitting in a storage unit while the camper was being installed. It was 2:30 p.m. by the time I had the Element packed and the storage unit key returned to the office.
Chula Vista, CA to Jackson, WY is one thousand miles. I estimated 18 hours to make the drive. I was in a hurry to get up there but I had a detour to make first.
I rarely visit southern California, so I wanted to see an old friend in Echo Park, Los Angeles. Driving into LA on my way out of California only added 70 miles, but the traffic meant six more hours of drive time. The traffic was terrible but it was great seeing Barbara. I was back on the road by midnight.
For weeks I've heard worst case scenarios about expected crowds within the path of totality. Some of the direst predictions involved log jam traffic in the Jackson area but, the moment I saw the eclipse path, I knew Grand Teton was the spot.
I headed West out of LA, then took Interstate 15 northeast into the mountains. I pulled over to sleep for a few hours near Cajon Junction and continued on to Victorville, then Barstow. I'd never been to Barstow but it sounds ethereally dark and hopeless in the song Leaving Las Vegas by Cheryl Crow. She nailed it.
I crossed the Nevada state line at a desert town called Primm. It's a strange collection of gas stations, restaurants, casinos and amusement rides. The Chevron was awesome, but the rest did little to interest me. It feels like a place I'd like to explore in 25 years, after the whole town is defunct and abandoned.
Before I knew it, I was in Las Vegas. I needed an REI for JetBoil fuel. I ended up in The District at Green Vally Ranch in the Las Vegas suburb of Henderson. I ate at Panera Bread to kill some time because REI was still 30 minutes from opening.
Fed and with fuel, I was on the road and crossing into Arizona before noon. At this point, I felt optimistic about my progress.
The Arizona stretch of Interstate 15 between Nevada and Utah is called Veterans Memorial Highway. It rises dramatically through the Virgin River Gorge. There were several nice pull outs but I didn't want to stop and risk getting behind schedule.
Just beyond the gorge was the Arizona-Utah state line. It was good be in Utah but I knew I'd be in that state for while. I was surprised to come across St. George, a town I'd never even heard of. It seemed like an oasis compared to the drive on either side.
Having to pass the Zion exit without stopping killed me but I had to keep moving. I did stop at a Lowe's on the outskirts of Salt Lake City to buy a gas can. I had heard there might be gas shortages if crowds were a large as some were predicting.
Just before midnight I crossed into Wyoming on Interstate 80 near Evanston. I was getting tired and didn't think I'd make it all the way to Jackson. I took a 5 Hour Energy and got about 3 hours.
I wanted to get to Jackson before stopping but discretion is the better part of valor. I parked in a pullout near Opal, WY to sleep. I could be happy with the progress I've made so far. Getting into Jackson will be a short drive in the morning. On the positive side, I'll get to see the drive in a way I couldn't if I had made the approach tonight.