The Artsy-Fartsy Railroad Tour of 2016

Camping Nov 2, 2016

This last weekend, a couple of friends and I took a trip along the Utah portion of the Transcontinental Railroad route. We planned to do a bit of sightseeing, as well as check out a few different bits of artwork along the way. I had been looking forward to this trip, as I’ve wanted to run this route for a while, but just hadn’t made it out there yet.

As excited as I was to go though, no one was going to top my co-pilot’s level of excitement. This was Drew’s first “boys camping” trip, and once he found out about this trip, he wouldn’t stop talking about it. He even made sure that he got Mom to take him to the store to pick up a set of binoculars and a new helmet for the trip.

Our plan was to meet in Wendover to gas up, grab some dinner, and head out to Lucin, UT to spend the night near Nancy Holt’s Sun Tunnels. I was able to sneak out of work a little earlier than I had planned, and I’m glad I was - the trip west along I-80 was slow going. The Bronco’s cruising speed isn’t that fast to begin with, and the area was hit pretty hard with a rainstorm that had us traveling at about 45mph for some long stretches of the highway. We arrived in Wendover and met up with Don around 6PM. With our tanks topped off, both in the trucks and our bellies, we hit the road. John got a late start leaving home, and the new plan was to meet him and his boys in Lucin.

With the exception of a few kamikaze rabbits attempting a run for my tires, the drive to Lucin was uneventful, and dark. The skies had begun to clear up, and eventually the stars were starting to make an appearance. We arrived in Lucin, setup camp, and got a fire going. It turned out that we weren’t the only folks making the area our home for the night, as when we arrived, another group had already made camp. John eventually showed up with a pair of sleepy boys, and shortly after, we called it a night.

We had a bit of a lazy morning sitting around the fire, warming up while eating breakfast, and taking some time to shoot some photos of the area. Once the other group packed it up and headed off, we began to break camp, and took advantage of being the only ones there to shoot some obligatory poser shots of our rigs around the tunnels.

Artsy Fartsy Railroad Tour 2016

Once we were underway, we moved pretty quickly. The trail was mostly dry, but just damp enough to keep the dust down. We cruised along taking in the scenery, and stopped whenever someone saw something they wanted to snap photos of. Our first big stop was in Devil’s Playground to explore and checkout the rocks there. I’d seen a few photos of this place, and wanted to see it in person. It was not a disappointment, and the only thing that drew us away was the need to keep to some sort of schedule. Definitely agreed that it was a place worth returning to in the future. The boys were having a blast climbing around, and we were all seeing different things in the rocks.

Artsy Fartsy Railroad Tour 2016

Back on the road, the next stop was a trip to the Republic of Zaqistan. When planning the trip, after realizing that we were going to be pretty close, we all felt that there was no way we would simply be passing by without taking a look. After all, it’s not often you get to road trip out of the country in a matter of hours. The trip out there wasn’t bad, and after slipping through the border undetected, we quickly made friends with some of the locals.

Artsy Fartsy Railroad Tour 2016
Drew quickly picked up the local dialect.

After reaching the summit of Mt. Insurmountable, we looked for something to eat, but found that the Zaqistani food options were a bit lacking, so we returned to the trucks for some sandwiches.

We continued along the railroad route after lunch, stopping at the occasional bridge to poke around for artifacts of the railroad. Mostly finding bricks, ties, or hardware, like spikes, nuts, and bolts. Not much, but still interesting. We had originally planned to make a few stops at some of the cemeteries that were along the route, but needed to adjust our plans a bit in order to get back on schedule.

A long time ago I remembered reading about the Transcontinental Airway System. This system was a series of beacons that had been setup across the US in order to help airmail pilots as they carried the mail across the US. The beacons used a combo of lights and big concrete arrows set into the ground. I’d seen a map that showed there used to be one in the Locomotive Springs area, so we made it one of our stops.

Artsy Fartsy Railroad Tour 2016

It took some wandering and a bit of double-checking our maps, but eventually we found what we guessed was part of a tower, and the guide arrow for the facility. There were also several footings and foundations left, as well as what looked like some pathways marked out with stones. It was a moment where I’m sure that the others thought I was nuts, but I was pretty excited to find that arrow.

Artsy Fartsy Railroad Tour 2016
Drewski scouting the terrain ahead.

By this time, we were burning daylight, and wanted to be sure to make it to our final destination, the famous Spiral Jetty. It would do no good to get there after dark, so it was time to boogie. We made great time, and arrived at the jetty about 15 minutes before sunset. Really, it would’ve been hard to have planned it better. We wandered out onto the jetty, and were treated to a fantastic sunset. It was a great finale to a day of driving.

Artsy Fartsy Railroad Tour 2016

From the jetty, we continued on to Brigham City. I had originally wanted to try and stop at the Golden Spike monument, as well as ATK to see the Rocket Garden, but there just wasn’t time, so we’ll have to do that on another run. John and Don refueled once we arrived in Brigham City. Luckily, the Bronco is pretty happy cruising at the speeds we were doing, and with a 32 gallon tank, the only fuel I was concerned with was some grub from the Maddox Drive-In. After some burgers & fries, we split up, and headed back home.

Drewski and I finally rolled into the garage around 11PM. It had been a long day, and we were pretty beat, ready to get some sleep. But also ready to do it all again another time. (Or, in Drew’s opinion, “Five more times. Yeah… five more times.”)

Want to see more photos of our trip?