Sunday, October 24, 2010

Day 6 Battle Mountain to Green River: The Day I Died

The Ominous Skies outside of Salt Lake City, on October 7th, 2010. The day Beefy Muchacho Died

At the onset of Day 6, the TM and I bounded forth from Battle Mountain as though shot from a dirty, upsetting canon. The stink of B.M. was starting to permeate our very souls, so we got the eff out of there with the quickness of a bunny on coke.

Of course, there wasn't much to see in terms epic scenery out there in the high desert of Nevada, but there was a quiet beauty to the landscape...

When I was a kid, I was obsessed with cowboys. My Grandpa Al was "Dusty" and I was "Danny the Dude". We'd pretend to be camping on the prairie in the family room of their house in Roselawn. My Grandpa Dick was less playful, but just as into Cowboys. His obsession was with Western movies. I loved watching old Eastwood and John Wayne flicks as he tilted back a Little Kings and talked about the Old West.

The High Desert of Nevada was the closest I've ever come to seeing what I remember imagining on the orange shag carpet on Yorkshire Place, playing cowboys with Dusty, or watching John Wayne ride through the plains on his palomino horse. I spent a lot of time on Day 6 feeling nostalgic for my childhood and missing both of my Grandpas.

Of course, it wasn't all a beautiful walk down memory lane. Some of it was also a beautiful walk down The Caffeine Highway in Casino Town. We were still in Nevada, after all, and after a delightful morning of reminiscing, the truck was mighty parched, as were we (too much trail dust in our mouths, probably). We stopped in the gargantuan metropolis known as Elko. Elko is a true oasis in the desert. They had a Sinclair gas station, several casinos, and most delightfully... a Starbucks Coffee.

Actually, it was doubly wonderful, because the Starbucks was IN the fucking casino. I can't tell you how awesome it was playing some penny slots, making more bets on the Reds (I'm sure this one will go better!), and sucking down a no-whip caramel frappuccino.

After leaving Elko with a tank full of petrol, a bellies full of coffee-drink, and a wallet full of sports book tickets, we headed straight to the majestic, regal forward thinking city of Salt Lake. I'd spent a whopping 45 minutes in SLC a couple of years before when I had a very quick layover there, but I was looking forward to experiencing more of its native culture.

Before we could arrive into the fabulous Golden City of Salt Lake, we had to make a trek through the longest portion of highway without an exit in the United States. Thirty Seven barren, service-free miles just East of the Utah border. The Bonneville Salt Flats. I'd read about this stretch of road a few days earlier, and I'd been looking forward to it ever since. The flats were... well.. Flat, for one. For two, they were incredible and vast and white. Oh so white. Some would say the whiteness was symbolic of Salt Lake City itself. I don't know who that would be. Not me, that is for certain.
If you take a look on Google Earth, you can see the Salt Flats. They're that great-big white swath of land West of Salt Lake City.

The reward for our journey through the Desert and Salt was a trip to that Triple-D bastion of Salt Lake Cuisine, The Red Iguana.

One thing you should know about me and the Tofu Muchacha is that we LOVE Mexican food. I mean... They don't call me the Muchacho for nothing. Because of that mighty love of Frijoles and Queso and whatnot, I was very excited to visit The Red Iguana.

I can't say that the restaurant is located in a great neighborhood. It was sketchy, indeed. A little close to the airport. Lots of dog poop on the sidewalk. All of those things you associate with bad neighborhoods.

The Red Iguana was worth the wait. Well... We didn't "wait" at all once we were there, because our lunch turned out to be at like... 2:30 (the mother fucking time change), so we walked right in.
For us, one of the true tests of a good Mexican restaurant is the quality of the chips and salsa. The salsa was great. Smokey and spicy and a little sweet. The chips weren't incredible or anything, but really with salsa that good, who cares? I think the salsa's dark color comes from the smoked ancho chiles, which, if you've seen the Food Network, is constantly said to taste like a spicy raisin.

The TM has two Mexican food weaknesses as far as I can tell.. She loves Chile Relleno and she loves Mole sauce. The Red Iguana is known all over (and was featured on Triple D) for their moles, so she ordered 2 Cheese enchiladas smothered in the Black Mole. Pictured below.

This black mole was really excellent. I'm not really a fan of anise flavor. I think black licorice is disgusting. It says a lot about how complex and interesting this sauce was that I detected anise in the seasoning mix and, not only tolerated it, but really liked it.

I ordered The Red Iguana plate. It offered a combination of various Mexi-Treats such as tacos and flautas and chile rellenos and all that fun stuff. It was also really, really tasty, but I almost regretted not getting a mole. (Oh... in this blog, "Mole" is pronouced "Moe-lay"). You can see some of the assortment below.
Overall I loved the Red Iguana. The food was inexpensive, delicious, and I also loved the atmosphere, which... I'm discovering is a big thing with me. I give The Red Iguana a 9 and the TM gave it a 9 as well.

We finished up at the delectable Red Iguana, full and ready to continue on the drive. We'd originally planned to stop for the night in Provo, Utah. While at lunch, we discussed the relative merits of pushing forward and trying to get as far as we could that day. Provo was only 40 more miles down the road, and we knew we had a bear of a day the next as we made our way to Denver through the Rockies. So... we chose a new stopping point, Green River, Utah. A small town at the point where Highway 6 and The Great Interstate 70 meet. It was only 3:30 or so, and Green River was only about 150 miles down the way.

Little did we know that this decision would be our last.

As we pressed onward, we looked toward the mountains... and where the mountains should have been, we saw only clouds and rain.

As we (by "we", in this case I mean the TM) drove onward into the winding, mountain roads of Highway 6, the rain got harder and the skies got darker. There were points during this last 120 miles where we couldn't see anything at all. Huge semis were passing us in the fast lane, spraying our poor truck with water like a slut at a wet t-shirt contest. We would go around these turns on the slick road, and suddenly there would be a steep descent and just one lane each way. The cars coming the other way, mere feet from us as they passed.

I can't state this adamantly enough.

I was fucking terrified.

I've never been as scared in my life. There were points where the road had some impossible slope downward and had a sudden 90 degree turn at the bottom, which in dry conditions would have been scary enough, but in the driving rain, as darkness was slowly setting in was almost too much for me to handle.

At one point the TM, who pretty much proved that she's the biggest badass on the planet, noticed me LITERALLY clenching up into a ball, suggested that I video the drive just to get my mind off the terror.

I was pretty sure I was going to die. I'm not entirely sure I didn't.

Finally, at the very end of the day, we entered the Book Cliffs, and the rain gave way to one of the most beautiful sunsets I've ever seen. It was incredible.
I was pretty shaken after the ride. There was no point on the trip that I was more glad to see the end of the day. We ended up doing laundry at what turned out to be the nicest Super 8 we stayed in the whole trip. We even got upgraded to a suite with a hot-tub IN the room. It was awesome, and truly a welcome rest after the drive that will certainly haunt my nightmares for years to come.

[EDIT: I forgot to add this yesterday when I posted it, but after we got home, the TM found this about Highway 6 in Utah. ]


Bridget said...

First off, I'm very glad you didn't die. Secondly, nothing else on SLC? I was hoping for at least one Mormon sighting.

Tamia said...

Hmm, sorry about the whole death thing, that sucks. On the plus side, the mole sounds awesome!