Miles Today: 64
Miles to Date: 4,556
States to Date: 19
I continued my journey along US 40 into Utah. The scale is grander than Colorado, the road kill more exotic (bucks and snakes), the shoulder a cyclists puzzle of different pavements and rumble strips irregular as crispy bacon.
I left early to avoid the wind and was in Vernal by ten. I was in Vernal ten years ago or so at the start point for a family rafting trip. The town has grown in size but not in my affection. It’s hard to love a place so naturally beautiful befouled by the detritus of our energy business. The air should be so fresh. Instead it is heavy and rank.
Beyond Vernal the Uintah Basin is stark and gorgeous, except for the drilling sites. Around fifty miles I needed a break and sought shade. I spotted a row of trees, which turned out to line the driveway of a rare house. As I slowed to see if it might be suitable spot, I met Darlene and her granddaughter searching the roadside for a stray dog that came by their place and then ran off. I’m a sucker for Pamela Anderson types. Darlene’s ample figure and platinum hair were offset by the most gorgeous nails I’d ever seen. She invited me to rest in the shade while they searched. I enjoyed a bit of breeze. Unfortunately, they found the dog on the far shoulder, yet another road kill victim. Darlene used the dog to lecture me on being careful. The speckled pink nail of her pointer finger dazzled me. Then I pedaled, refreshed and careful, toward Roosevelt.
The Uintah Basin is an ancient seabed, which explains both the dinosaurs and the oil. More recently it was home to the Ute Indians, whose reservation is centered at Fort Duchesne. Several tribal businesses line US 40, but what caught my eye was the Fort Duchesne Cemetery, one of the most remarkable places I’ve encountered on my trip. It’s a barren place of hard furled flags, garish plastic flowers, antler ornaments and markings of Americans who died much younger than most of us, set off the highway just enough for cars to ignore but not so far as to be serene. A woman and her daughter vacated a mini-van and placed two fresh plastic bouquets on a man’s grave. I did not ask her about tomorrow. This was the kind of place where tomorrow and today mingle in a way Native people understand and Westerners only guess about.
I got to the Frontier Motel on Roosevelt’s main street before three and had a nice conversation with the clerk, also owner, about her seven children and their interest in cycling. The Frontier cost a notch above my usual joint, so I was disappointed the pool wasn’t open and I had to make several calls to get the Internet to work. I want to patronize local places, but everything is easier at the budget chains. I finally abandoned my room and settled into a booth at the Frontier Grill, where the Internet worked great and I had my first full restaurant meal alone – soup, salad bar, steak, baked potato, vegetable medley, scone, and peach cobbler a la mode: a very satisfying treat.
You might wonder about a scone in a restaurant in rural Utah. Not to worry. It was fried dough, served with honey, under a gussied-up name. There’s nothing British about this part of the world.