Friday, February 28, 2014

Aragonite Rest Stop - East Grassy Mountain Along I-80

We usually have smooth sailing all the way home, but we had to make a quick pit stop along I-80. The Aragonite exit is about half way between Wendover and Salt Lake City and is mostly noted for being a major hang-out for the Utah Highway Patrol, as well as a nice rest stop.  There are no services there and the only thing that exists out there is what appears to be an oil refinery.

Shari had to use the restroom there and I've always wanted to get out and quickly explore as the rest stop that sits on top of a mountain.  It is sort of the gateway to the the salt flats and the views up there are expansive.

While Shari took care of business I quickly climbed a well-defined walking path to a peak and snapped a few pictures.  It was super windy up there and it looks like the trail also serves as a horse trail, so I suspect it could go quite a ways.  My time was pretty limited and I simply took pictures and ran back down to the rest stop.

I figured I'd share the pictures.

The trail continues. Looking north east.

Highway 80 down below.

2-28-2014 Wendover Morning Run

One of the joys I have in going to Wendover is my morning run.  I try to get up early -- just as the sun gets up and head up Aria Blvd (the Utah side) and head out into north-east side of the mountains or head west and run on the groomed trail they have just outside of town.  Now is an ideal time for getting out there, as the rattle snakes are still largely dormant.  I still keep an eye out for them, but I think generally I am a lot safer running out there versus the middle of summer.

Today, I headed up Aria Blvd, made the hilly climb to the cemetery and hit the dirt ATV trail that leads out of town.  I remember studying the maps and my goal was to run up a small canyon that I thought existed -- at least using Google Earth I figured the ATV trail would drop me into a grotto / canyon and I could do some hill climbing.  The weather was nice --  my phone said 30F but it felt more like it was 40 and I was warm in my windbreaker.

So I veered north and met with stiff resistance as I ascended a hill.  I had to walk most of it as my legs were shot.  It is quite different running out there versus my asphalt bike trail.  I feel it more in my quads and ankles.  There really isn't any flat sections -- you are either climbing or descending.  Either way it makes an excellent training stimulus.

Also, you are completely alone out there.  As the horror movies would say: no one is going to hear you scream out there.  Luckily I carry a cell phone and only if you drop into a canyon will you lose cell connection.

The hill that I climb quickly dead ended.  I did get some nice pictures but it was definitely a lot more work than required.  I was also worried about tearing up my new-ish shoes on the sharp stones.

Once I got back down to the main path I realized I wanted to do some more running.  I had run east before and I knew what I was up against, so I figured I'd check out the valley again.  I got there a lot quicker than I expected and decided to hug the northern curve of mountains to see what they were like.  I quickly spotted a place where if I climbed a hill that I should be able to see a nice drop off.  I did reach there and indeed got some nice photos.

I was gone for nearly 2 hours.  I figure I ran about 6 - 8 miles.  It is hard to say because I wasn't wearing a Garmin and I would stop and take pictures.  So it was definitely run to the next viewpoint, snap some pictures and continue on.  I think the next time I go out there, I'd like to go a bit further in so I'll likely drive to the cemetery, as that would save me a mile or two.

On the way back, I ran into a super friendly dog.  He was in a yard playing with another dog and he ran into the middle of Aria Blvd near Anna Smith Elementary School.  I am usually guarded against such dogs, but this one definitely wanted to play.  I greeted it and pet it -- which was a mistake.  I suddenly had an unlicensed and untagged friend who wanted to run with me.  I was trying to get back to Montego Bay before checkout (it was about 10:15 and check out was 11).  I'd take a few steps and the dog would want me to pet it or it would run with me.  It was super friendly and I didn't see any owners.  I wondered if it was homeless -- its coat wasn't the best but it didn't appear the be hungry.

I wound up calling the Tooele Police department.  I managed to get away as the dog heard another dog bark down the road.  That poor dog definitely was keeping on an eye on me and was trying to decide if he wanted me as a friend or to go visit another dog.  Luckily he chose the other dog.  I hope they find whoever it belongs to.  I would love to have a dog - especially one as friendly as that (and it looked like it wanted to go for a run), but with 3 cats and a wife that has said emphatically NO, it likely isn't in the cards.

I wanted to hit the jacuzzi but by the time I was back into the room it was approaching 10:30AM.  I quickly packed my gear and took off.  Another fun exploratory run.

The back door out of Montego Bay

Looking south - salt flats below.

On the trail, looking east. Wendover is below that mound

Volcano Peak Ahead

Climbed that hill just below. Southern Salt Flats in the distance

Looking east

More to climb if I want to...

The Valley where I like to run

Just gotta cross that valley to get to Volcano Peak

I would wind up running to that hill in the distance

Looking west - I ran across the valley

Climbing to my destination - notice communications depot

Wendover Utah...

Anna Smith Elementary School

Finally back at Montego Bay

2-27-2014 West Wendover Trip

Well, I had another free offer from the fine folks over at Wendover Fun: another $5 in free play, a free buffet and a free room.  With a little bit of extra PTO saved up and to celebrate the house closing, we decided to head on out to Wendover on Thursday night.

I got off of work to a cold and rainy day.  It was coming down pretty good and in some spots the water had accumulated on the road.  I am just glad it wasn't snowing -- otherwise the normally 100 minute trip to Wendover would've been a 2-hour (or more ordeal).

Either way, after work I threw some clothes my backpack and some food and headed out the door.  Traffic wasn't bad at all and once you get past Tooele the highway gets deserted.  Also, the rain let up once you got past Grantsville.  What was once a cold 35-ish in Salt Lake City suddenly became a upper 40's and sunny by the time we reached Wendover.  What a difference.

We ran into Montego Bay and swiped our player's club cards for 5x comps.  I got the free buffet coupon and we proceeded to have a huge dinner buffet.  I had the usual: shrimp, spicy shrimp and more shrimp.  I snapped a picture of every morsel I ate while I was there, so if you are into food porn, I've got it.

One thing I had noticed at Montego Bay was they had swapped out the Centipede games.  Instead of a bank of 3 that you could milk, there was just 1.  The jackpots were pretty high and I sunk a $20 into it hoping to nab one.  I got into the bonus round but had an epic fail and didn't even clear the first level.  I hate to say it, but I find that game incredibly frustrating and in fact the entire time I was in Wendover I experienced nothing but FAIL.  That is usually my "go-to" machine when I want to turn $20 into $50.  It also leaves me feeling frustrated as well as anxious.  I really have to quit playing it.  It isn't good for me.

I was super anxious to hit up the Peppermill so we drove down the road.  Last time we had went there we all had won, big too.  Being that it was Thursday, it was kind of a ghost town so I was able to find and jump on my King Leonidas Slot Machine.  The good old king was NOT in a generous mood -- he was King of the Tightwads and he instantly put a tentacle onto my wallet and sucked a good amount of cash from my wallet.  It was still fun, and I got a bonus round or two, but they paid next to nothing.  I am used to getting a $30 - $50 bonus round -- instead I eeked by with a $12 bonus round.  I recorded videos of the events.

The Peppermill turned into a fiasco, although Shari was up a few dollars.

We got into our hotel room back at the Montego Bay and it was the SAME one as we had from last time.  Shari wasn't happy with it last time because there was mildew around the bathtub (that was under caulk).  She insisted we change rooms and got a double king.  It was a long walk from the elevator but the room was cooler and definitely more spacious.

At 8AM I rolled out of bed and went for a long run.  More on that in a subsequent post.

My luck did change for the better in the morning.  I was able to get a nice profit playing video poker, but just about any slot machine I went to inhaled my money.  It got to be where it wasn't terribly fun and it was frustrating.

Overall, this was a losing trip (at least for me).  Shari wound up about -$30.  On the plus side, I got in a super nice run, a free hotel room, 4 buffets for a total of $20 and a chance to get away from the stresses of life for a day.  Hopefully I have better luck next time.

Enjoy the photos:

I am so full - yet sad from losing.

On the road - just hitting the salt flats

Nice and sunny and warm in Wendover

Plate #1

Plate #2

Plate #3


Final plate

Montego Bay Casino at Night

Morning Plate #1

Morning Plate #2 - I love crab legs!

Morning Plate #3

Morning Plate #4

Which will I choose?


Little bit of fruit.