Wednesday, July 08, 2009

On the Road! Bonneville Speed Week

We had driven about 18 hours through the night, and as the sun rose over the potato fields in Idaho, Hubs got a fantastic idea.

"Hey we should go through Wendover, Utah," he suggested, "We could see the salt flats. That might be kinda cool, and we could just snag a hotel there for the night before we go on to Moab."

It was early-way too early to stop and get a hotel, so after a quick stop for egg mcmuffins and coffee at a McDonalds, Jake and I agreed.

Wendover (Utah) or West Wendover (Nevada) are small towns that practically straddle the Utah/Nevada border. It's a bit strange for us tourists-one side has all the typical Nevada trappings with casinos and flashing lights, and the other doesn't. A short drive from town will give you an amazing view of the Salt Flats. We thought we'd just arrive and find a hotel, then rest and take a look at the flats.

By the third full hotel, we decided that we might just be in trouble and began looking at the casinos where there was just one room left; a king suite complete with a jacuzzi and mirrors on the ceiling. If it were just us, it could have been classified romantic, even. With your 10 year old in tow, it just seems a little weird.

"So, um, what's going on? Is there something special happening in town?"

What a stupid question. I've laughed at tourists coming to Canada with parkas on in July, and this was my karma.

"You're kidding, right? You don't know what's going on? Have you heard of Speed Week?"

We had just hit Wendover smack in the middle of Bonneville Speed Week-or for those of you who don't know, one of the biggest events in racing.

I have two racing fans in the family and co-incidentally, we had just watched "The World's Fastest Indian" right before we left so when I hit the car and spilled the news, Jake and Hubs went NUTS.

The Salt Flats

What we didn't know, was that Bonneville Speed Week is more than just what goes on out at the Salt Flats. People with hot rods from all over the USA travel to the flats and drive around-some sleeping out there in tents, some bunking at hotels, and their cars line the parking lots so spectators can walk through and check them out. Hubs and Jake began chatting with other car enthusiasts, and became friendly with a guy from Idaho who offered to take us for a whiz around the flats in his car the next day. We weren't sure if he really would, so we didn't really think about it.

We were nervous about taking our car out onto the flats. The last thing we wanted was to get salt all up inside it, so instead we booked a shuttle to take us the next day.

Who did we run into, but the guy who promised us a ride on the flats! It was one of the highlights of our vacation!

Being out on the Flats was kinda surreal. Hot, dry, blinding white, with a ground that looks like snow but has a grainy texture, it was probably one of the most interesting places we've ever visited. People where everywhere but in the huge expanse it didn't seem crowded at all. We walked through the areas where teams were working on their cars, admired many of the hot rods that were there, and then checked out the various tents selling souvenirs, car stuff, and drinks. Any any point we could stop and watch vehicles racing along in the distance.

Jake has a hot wheels car just like this!

After a few hours we felt we'd had enough and rode back to the hotel. If there's one thing to be said for spending time out on the salt flats, it's if you aren't used to that sort of environment, the heat is a bit hard to take for long stretches. The actually makes you feel like the very moisture is being sucked right out of you.

That evening, Jake decided to have a bath in the jacuzzi in our room. As he floated around in the bubbles, he suddenly pointed up.

"Why are there mirrors on the ceiling?"

Ah, traveling with kids. It's always an adventure.

We found out later that this one broke the land speed record.

Try checking out these tours.
This article gives you some great tips-where to watch, and a great description of what speed week is like.
Tips for visiting the Bonneville Salt Flats:

-definitely visit the pits!

-bring a telephoto lens for your camera and some binoculars

-Bring water and drink lots of it. Like I said above, it feels as if the very moisture is being sucked right out of you.

-go early. Great photo opportunities, plus the sun isn't at it's peak and so it's not quite as hot.

-there are outhouses available.

-You can buy t-shirts, drinks, food, souvenirs, etc during Speed Week.

-Wear really good sunscreen and lip balm, and again; lots of it. We saw people at our hotel who had either missed spots or didn't wear any, and they had very nasty sunburns. With the white salt reflecting the rays, you will bake out there.

-Wear a HAT and bring something to cover up if you need to. Sunglasses are a must as the glare off the salt really can give you a headache after awhile.

-seek out shelter..our tour company had a nice covered area with chairs and a cooler full of ice
and drinks. If you are driving your car, I would recommend doing the same thing.

-there is an admission fee to watch the speed trials that is payable at the gate. I believe you can buy a ticket for the whole weekend or just for a day.

-if you choose to take your car, make sure to wash it well after wards at one of the local car washes

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