Unfortunately it was I-80 virtually the whole way. Fortunately, as it is Memorial Day, traffic was very light. Western Wyoming, while as sparsely populated as the rest of the state, is a bit more scenic. A bit. The freeway is still a long haul with not much to look at except a billboard for Little America every 1/4 mile regular as clockwork. Little America shows up on the maps, but it's not a town -- it's essentially a very large gas station/truck stop/motel. It's a creature of the Interstate, especially in the early days when the slog across Wyoming was a long and dreary one and cars weren't as reliable and people needed rest stops. They advertised heavily (and still do) on billboards and I imagine many a wary parent pulled over just to get the kids to shut up. I blasted on by on the Interstate, but I decided to exit off and loop through the Bridger Valley a few miles further.
Wyoming 413 is a short little road, a loop off of 1-80 that runs up the Bridger Valley, through the small towns of Lyman, and Urie and Ft. Bridger, before connecting back to I-80. Off to the South are the Uinta Mountains of Utah -- the only mountain range to run in an East/West direction. I spent so much time here as a boy -- fishing with my Father and my family up at "our" spot, a place called China Meadows, on the North slope of the Uinta's. The access point was a dirt road off of WY-410, which intersects WY-413 at Urie. Which was, and is basically a gas station crossroads. Straight ahead are the Uinta mountains.
Back up on I-80, heading West into Evanston, Wyoming -- the first town in Wyoming after crossing the Utah state line. As a kid Evanston was magic -- we could buy fireworks up there! They were legal in Wyoming, not in Utah. There was a mythical store just inside the line called "Porters Fireworks", and I smiled as I rode past on the freeway. It's still there, still selling fireworks. Like a lot of Utah border towns, a major industry is selling things that are "illegal" or frowned upon in Utah -- like fireworks, or liquor, or porn in Wyoming, or lottery tickets in Idaho, and all the sin of Nevada on that side of the state. It kept Utah "pure", although we all went across those imaginary lines to get it and bring it back. Utahn's still do it seems.
Across the state line I bump as the pavement changes and the sign says "Welcome to Utah - Life Elevated", and then down into Echo Canyon the freeway and I dip. Past the red rock cliffs, and the Union Pacific mainline off to the right, the bike and I roll. I decide to exit off and take the original route before the freeway, which still exists in the lower part of the canyon, crammed between I-80 and the UP. Where the canyon bends and splits is Echo. Once again not much here today -- another small stop on the highway that was killed off by the Interstate.
I can name these exits by heart still -- they roll past me on the bike and I know what to expect and what is coming. Wanship, Kimball Junction, Snyderville. I see the Wasatch mountains, and the ski resorts I learned to ski at. I feel I'm home. I'm a young man again, driving my parents Chevy Blazer, my Father's Ford Pickup, my own GMC truck, listening to KSOP and drinking a can of warm Coke.
Yes, I live in Seattle, and it is home and has been for nearly 20 years now, and its been nearly 30 years since I left here. But this city, these mountains, this land, this part of the West is HOME. It's not just because the family is here still and I'm like the prodigal son returning. It's imprinted on my DNA. Long after my parents are dead and gone, and even if the rest of the family moves away, this is still HOME. It always will be.