BORDER Two years ago, the first annual see-the-great-state-of-Utah-and-get-out-of-the-office-for-free bicycle tour went from south to north, along Highway 89, from the Arizona border to the Idaho border.
Last year's ride traversed Utah's five national parks Arches, Canyonlands, Capitol Reef, Bryce Canyon and Zion.
That means west to east is still wide open.
And what better place to begin the summer of 2008 West-meets-East Bike Tour than the Border Inn, an establishment that seamlessly straddles the well-known and quite extreme diversity of longtime unlikely neighbors Nevada and Utah.
And we're using "straddles" here quite literally.
The 27-room motel and gas pumps are on the Utah side of the line.
The casino, bar, liquor store, restaurant and RV park are on the Nevada side of the line.
Welcome to wherever, whenever and whatever.
To avoid any allegiance or identity crisis issues, the Border Inn doesn't have an actual address. It gets its mail at a P.O. box in nearby Baker, Nev., and UPS sends packages from nearby Garrison, Utah.
"We know where we're at," says Stacy Vanetta, the front desk clerk, with a self-assured shrug.
They're at the intersection of Highway 50 and Highway 159.
The biggest attraction around is 13 miles to the southeast in Nevada at Great Basin National Park, a 77,000-acre preserve that joined the national park system in 1986 and is still something of a hidden jewel. Of the 58 national parks in America, it ranked 54th in attendance last year with just 81,364 recorded visits about 2.5 million fewer, by way of comparison, than Zion National Park.
But it is not for a lack of things to see and do. The park features 13,063-foot Wheeler Peak, the famed limestone Lehman Caves and a bristlecone pine forest with trees more than 4,000 years old the oldest known single living organisms on Earth. These trees are so old their graffiti has graffiti. If they could talk they could tell us why the Fremont Indians picked up and
left in such a hurry. They could tell us what Father Escalante looked like and if we have to worry about global warming.
The national park serves as a centerpiece for its namesake, the massive 200,000-square-mile Great Basin, which comprises virtually all of Nevada, parts of California, Oregon, Wyoming, Idaho and the western half of Utah.
Sandwiched between the Sierra Nevada and Wasatch ranges of the Rocky Mountains on the west and east and the Snake River and Colorado River on the north and south, the 890-mile-long and 570-mile-wide Great Basin is a collection of some 160 mountain ranges and 90 basins, none of which drain to the ocean.
On my bicycle, I will be traveling through several of these ranges and basins before reaching the eastern edge of the Great Basin somewhere beyond Price and then plunging toward Colorado.
Riding down into the basins, I'm looking forward to. Riding up into the ranges, not so much.
I'm not quite sure what to expect along the way. This isn't exactly the road most traveled. Most voyages don't begin in Border.
If all goes well, in a week or so I will wash up on the shores of Colorado about 400 miles from here in a place called Dinosaur, three miles across the Utah line and just around the corner from Dinosaur National Monument.The population of Dinosaur is 319, a regular metropolis compared to Border, and they probably don't have video poker or a casino. In a week or so, I guess I'll know for sure.
Lee Benson's column runs Sunday, Monday, Wednesday and Friday. Please send e-mail to [email protected] and faxes to 801-237-2527.