Day 11: June 18, 2014
Cut Off at the Cutoff

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7:00 AM is indeed early for bus tour starting.

I've mentioned that the main thing that got me to come to this year's conference was a change to get inside Dugway Proving Grounds where sections of the Lincoln Highway have been locked from regular public view since 1941. We soon reached the main gate and were waiting for clearance. Dugway is a high security army installation and we had been instructed to bring photo ID. We expected someone to board the bus, give us a speech on security, and possibly check some or all IDs. That didn't happen. Although we were at the gate for several minutes, no one appeared to be subjected to any extreme scrutiny and, as we pulled on through, I overheard a comment from someone who had visited the base multiple times that this was the quickest entry they had ever experienced.

We were allowed off of the bus at the iconic wooden bridge but told there would be no photos. At the bridge, however, lots of people proceeded to snap photos with all sorts of gear without being accosted by the military folks nearby. Command Sergeant Major Zeladaparedes gave a welcome speech and confirmed that photos of the bridge were OK. It seems that the policy on photos had been relaxed and the change communicated to one of the busses but not the other. My camera was back on the bus but I kept things from being a total bust by grabbing some pictures with my cell phone. They're pretty crappy pictures (I really should learn how to work that thing.) but they are pictures.

Outside of Dugway, a fantastic lunch of home grown barbecued beef was had at Willow Springs Ranch which is the site of buildings used as a pony express and stagecoach stop. The clapboard covered building is the original and the log structure an addition. People known to have stayed here include Mark Twain and Horace Greeley.

The next big treat was to be a ride on some 1919 Lincoln Highway back inside Dugway. The Lincoln Highway in Utah has more than its share of political and geographic convolutions. Some significant ones involved huge salt flats and a causeway across them. This path was called the Goodyear Cutoff and we were to experience it today. On the way, the buses slowed where the Cutoff could be seen in the distance and I grabbed a shot through the window.

But this would not be the day for Goodyear. As would eventually be explained, while the Army owns Dugway, the Air Force uses and controls access to a portion of it and that portion includes the Goodyear Cutoff. The two do not always communicate with each other very well and, even though our visit had been cleared months ago, the Air Force would be conducting some sort of bombing exercise for at least two more hours. Being kept out because of the bombing was extremely disappointing but worse miscommunication can easily be imagined.

It meant retracing more than fifty miles to the gate where we had exited Dugway and in our hurry we got pulled over for speeding. No, we actually pulled over at that overlook spot where Rachel from Dugway shared information on the Cutoff and the construction village that produced it. Her presentation was to have taken place near the actual village site. I used the stop to put on a long lens and get a picture of the causeway without dusty glass between us.

Those two patrol vehicles were not out chasing speeders but had accompanied us ever since we reach Dugway. I guess they were protecting us from the bombers and the secrets from us.

Getting to see the LH in Dugway had pretty much been my whole reason for attending this conference. Hearing that I could not take pictures had been disappointing. Learning that wasn't quite true and resorting to fumbling my way to some cell phone pictures had turned the disappointment to frustration. Though they were light, I made comments to Jay Banta, our onboard guide, suggesting that he was responsible. He clearly wasn't and I subsequently apologized. However he was, I'm sure, at least partially responsible for what happened when we returned to the bridge area.

This could have happened even had we made it to the Goodyear Cutoff since the two alignments come together near the bridge and either drive could have been long enough to justify a restroom break. When we pulled into the lot for just such a break we were also told that, since some of us hadn't had a chance to take pictures on the earlier stop, we could do so now if we made it brief. That's all I needed and, as soon as we could get off the bus, a half dozen of so headed directly to the bridge. Many more followed and people were still straggling over as I was walking back. I'm afraid the second chance was more inclusive and time consuming than intended. I may still have crappy pictures but now it's my own damn fault. Thanks, Jay.

We pulled into Orr's ranch soon after leaving Dugway. This was a stop for virtually all early Lincoln Highway travelers to obtain food, fuel, lodging, or information. This was my third visit and while others crowded around the very interesting "tourist cabin" I went after things I'd basically ignored on previous visits. Things like the 1913 lead barrels in which gasoline was hauled to the ranch by wagon, the backside of the cabin that I may have never seen, the pond I didn't even know was there, and some other buildings I had noticed but never approached.

Having also seen the Carl Fisher monument in Johnson Pass previously, I stood back as others crowded around the monument for the first time. Though not perfect, this was a great tour.

Holy cow! The same thing happened last year. A three-peat is unlikely.

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