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Day 18, Tuesday June 6, 2017:
Loa, Utah -> Emery -> Castle Dale -> Elmo -> Clemo Junction -> Vernal, Utah

One of the biggest challenges on these trips is hotel air conditioner air. Those room units strip the humidity making me wake up in the middle of the night parched and boogers get rock hard. Sometimes the shower steam breaks them free. But last night in the central AC of the Snuggle Inn there were no such distractions, just cool comfort.

We had a simple breakfast in our room and packed out for the day. It was a quick and refreshing break from the usual drill. Checking out, the owner wished us safe travels, he was a really nice fellow. After a minor detour we were on our way. One thing we noticed driving out from Loa was a phenomenal amount of irrigated hay fields. I never thought of hay as an irrigated crop. Lateral and pivot move irrigators were everywhere, long rows of sprinkler trusses on power driven towers. With dozens of nozzles flailing in a field and with multiple fields in view it was like a festival of waters. I kept waiting to see a rainbow. Apparently this valley town has a good water supply and they are taking advantage of it.

I think this was the first time we saw western hay bales, the size of a cord of wood, 4 feet by 4 feet by 8 feet. You don't just toss those around but trailer trucks load fast. We also spotted more of those cabins burrowed into hillsides, again there wasn't a good chance to pull over and take pictures.

Route 74 took us through the Fish Lake National Forest. This lightly travelled road defined open spaces. I'm not quite sure why they call it a forest but it was pretty space with a few trees and a lot of wide open pasture. The open road rolled freely, soaring along ridges and winding into valleys with minimal traffic. The day started with a bit of a nip but warmed fast. We weren't seeing the kinds of high elevation cold we had prepared for and we were OK with that. The forest was home to free range cattle and we had to negotiate for passage with a few. We came to a calf and adult sniffing around in the road and then noticed a large steer in the ditch, apparently road kill.

From there we landed in Emery. We had planned to follow some of the Dinosaur trail and had hit the start of the west side of the loop.

In Utah I noticed that shoulder and edge rumble strips are used extensively, not just on interstates and problem roads. It's also common for find roads posted as not getting winter maintenance or restricting maintenance to daylight hours. The can see drifts or single snowfalls in some of these parts equal to what we get in a whole winter. The mountain updrafts can result in a lot of snow in one valley and hardly anything in the next.

In Castle Dale we visited the Museum of the San Rafael Swell for the price of a donation. They had some dinosaur and local geology stuff as well as other science exhibits. Some were still under construction. It wasn't a long visit but Lorna bought a fossil egg thing. We ended up at Fatty's Pizza & Grill for lunch before leaving town. The locals were there and we didn't go wrong.

In Castle Dale we were seeing a lot of double bottom coal trucks, almost a constant parade. We learned they were from a local mine supplying a power plant. Overall coal production was down and a lot of people packed up and abandoned town.

Our next destination was the Cleveland-Lloyd Dinosaur Quarry. GPS directions led us to believe it was off a back street in the town of Cleveland, easy enough. That was not exactly the case. On the back street we found the beginning of a 10 mile gravel highway that took us through the fields and brush. Fortunately once we were on the road it was well signed. The road led us to Elmo, UT, where we did find the quarry. They made a big deal of pointing out that there was a fee to visit……$5 each. There was a visitor center and a resident paleontologist who spoke to us and explained the place. Then he pointed over to a steel building that covered the quarry. I'm learning that these archaeological sites are not huge spaces. This one was covered in a building the size of a 4 car garage. Catwalks let us view the dig. As money and resources are available, digging is done. Much more time is spent cleaning and cataloging what is found. Just about any dinosaur or other rare skeleton you see has been reproduced from actual parts. Rarely are the actual fossils on display. This quarry is known for having the highest concentration per square foot anywhere, a mix of meat and plant eaters with more plant eaters which is a naturally improbable combination. Bones are found in normal orientation suggesting they were deposited and not moved. Even small bones stayed put. How and why is a big mystery. Equally mysterious is the lack of small plant and fish fossils, only large creatures are found here. We roamed around spoke with the paleontologist some more and were on our way.

We found a way out that took is toward our destination a little more than doubling back would have. We passed through Clemo Junction. I think it was a tongue and cheek sign with a caption that read something like "Taint Cleveland or Elmo". The GoPro caught the sign in a few frames but not with enough resolution to say for sure.

We were back on the road, heading toward Vernal as the night's goal. We got on Route 6 for a stretch and missed an exit. Now we were heading for Provo. When we realized, we got off at an intersection and looked at the map. As it turns out the road we got on cut right across the detour we made, it would be a quick recovery through Kyune Pass Road. This was a daylight only road for plowing. The shoulder markers had yellow plastic whips attached to double their height.

Heading to vernal on 191 we noticed the rocks strata was very skewed and compared to the slope of the road it created a funhouse sensation, messing with my sense of level. It was a nice drive through the Ashley National Forest and Unitah and Ouray reservations. In 2012 on Route 66 the reservations were posted to prohibit picture taking. So far on this trip the reservations have been hard to recognize, let alone being posted.

In Vernal we checked into the Quality Inn and found dinner nearby at Freddy's. We discovered this burger / frozen custard chain on the 2012 trip and instantly wanted to pay a revisit. The burgers are good and the fries are about 1/4 the size if a common shoestring fry, almost a potato stick. A frozen custard concrete rounded out the meal. Concrete is the term used out west for a Blizzard (DQ), Flurry, Northeaster etc. I think I went with my usual Heath bar in chocolate custard.

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Created June 21, 2017