Getting My Griswold On – Day 12: Ogden, UT

Miles traveled today: 554.9
Total miles traveled: 4890.0

We’re Not In Kansas Anymore. Wait, We Never Were…

If I had to pick a theme for this trip, it would be Crazy Weather. True, I had a four-day stretch where there was nothing but sunshine – but the other days more than made up for that. When I settled into my room in Sidney, Nebraska last night and discovered there was a Tornado Watch posted, I was surprised because the sky didn’t look very threatening at all. But then the clouds began to thicken, and the radar showed a line of severe thunderstorms bearing down on me. Sidney appeared to be exactly in the bulls-eye. My friend Steven, both an avid ghost hunter and storm chaser (the guy knows how to multitask!) kept me up to the minute with what was going on. Literally. He was following along from home, and even though he was more than 1000 miles away I think he was even more excited than I was! Fortunately, even though funnel clouds had been spotted with this cell, there was no tornado activity – just a whole lot of lightning, thunder, rain and wind. I took some video, and Steven extracted the best frame (and added a little shameless plug for his photography business, as well).

Lightning display over Sidney, Nebraska.

After 30 minutes the storm passed and the skies cleared. When I hit the road this morning, there was nothing but sunshine; you’d never know such an intense storm rolled through less than nine hours earlier. Such is life in this part of the country. I think I’m all done with the bad weather for the rest of my trip, but we’ll just see what Mother Nature has to say about that.

Crossing the Continental Divide. Twice.

I wanted to reward myself with one nice sit-down breakfast on this trip, so this morning I stopped at the Perkins across from my motel in Sidney. I like that most of my motels have offered free breakfasts, but the choices are slim and they all start to taste the same after awhile, so I enjoyed my eggs, bacon, biscuits and breakfast potatoes today. I had one of those perky older waitresses that calls everybody “hon.” I was feeling special for about two minutes, until I heard her call the old guy in the booth next to me “hon,” as well. Is that a prerequisite for working at a Perkins or Denny’s? Just curious. After breakfast, I hit the highway – it was shortly after 7:30 AM. Nine days ago, I spent about twenty minutes driving through Wyoming. Today, I was there for more like six hours. The flat prairie soon gave way to mountains – boy, was I glad to see those! – and then, desert. That surprised me…I didn’t know there was a desert in Wyoming. It all looked pretty arid and desolate. At one point I crossed the Continental Divide, and chastised myself for not being quick enough with my camera to snap a picture of the sign. Then, about thirty minutes later, I crossed the Continental Divide again. Not sure how that happened, but I again chastised myself, because I was no quicker on the draw the second time around.

My poor car did not appreciate today’s drive. Most of the time we were climbing steadily but gradually, and it protested over the long uphill grades. One sign I passed indicated the elevation was more than 8000 feet, remarkable considering I wasn’t even crossing a mountain at the time. I guess that’s why they call it the “high plains.” After my car continued to struggle, I hit upon the idea of switching into a lower gear on those long uphill climbs, and that did the trick. Duh! I’m not used to having to do any work driving an automatic. I also had to fill up for gas three times today; I’ve never had to stop more than twice before. I’m sure it was a combination of the steep roads and gusty winds.

Finally, mercifully, the road began descending, and soon I was in Utah.

Multiple Wives Are All The Rage

Most of the time, crossing into a new state yields no discernible difference. Indiana looks remarkably like Illinois, Ohio looks remarkably like Indiana, etc. But the moment I passed the Utah border, the landscape changed. The high desert of Wyoming gave way to steeper, greener mountains and canyons in Utah. I passed through the Wasatch Front mountain range, their peaks still dusted with snow, and gasped out loud, the scenery was so beautiful. Utah – at least this portion – is gorgeous! It’s also hot as blazes. The temperature when I arrived in Ogden was 99 degrees. Ouch.

My theory about motels seems to be proving true. The bigger the town, the crappier the budget motels are. The Super 8 I checked into is rather dingy on the inside, and my room has a funny smell. But…BUT…the view from my room is incredible, and makes up for it!

When I was in Rapid City over a week ago (!), I purchased a bottle of Cruzan rum so I could enjoy an occasional rum and Coke when settling into my room for the evening. After a long day of driving, it really hits the spot. But because I’m in Utah, I felt funny just carrying the bottle into the room, so I actually took pains to hide it in one of my bags. Sheesh. It’s not like people don’t drink in Utah! Still, I felt odd about it. Funny thing is, nobody would have batted an eye if I’d brought two women back to my room, I’ll bet. Multiple wives are all the rage here.

OK, I’ll knock it off with the Utah stereotypes.

By the way, I have gotten devoured by mosquitoes on this trip. I count a dozen bites on my left leg alone! There are more on my right leg, my arms, even my neck. They were attacking me like crazy the two nights I was standing outside watching the fireflies. They itch like mad, but the experience was totally worth it anyway.

Tomorrow I plan to stop in Boise, about five hours away, and spend my last evening on the road there. I’m looking forward to experiencing the 4th of July in a new city I’ve never been to. One reader commented that they’re sorry I won’t be home for the 4th, but I’m not. Had I arrived in the evening as originally planned, I would have been too tired to do anything but crash. This way, I’ll get to explore a new town and see how they celebrate the 4th. Considering it’ll be my last day before returning home, I should go out with a bang!

The Medicine Bow Mountains in Wyoming.
Wyoming's Red Desert. It's got everything a desert should have, except cacti.
Wyoming desert
Rock formations in the Red Desert.
A more pastoral Wyoming scene.
Descending through a canyon in the Wasatch Range, Utah. Beautiful!
Ogden Utah
My motel may be only halfway decent, but check out the view from my room!

Published by Mark Petruska

I'm a professional writer and editor living my best life in south central Wisconsin.

24 thoughts on “Getting My Griswold On – Day 12: Ogden, UT

    1. Surprisingly, gas prices have been pretty much the same all over. They’ve all ranged from $3.49 – $3.69 or so. What’s weird was filling up with 85-octane gas in Wyoming. I read that the higher altitude causes fuel to burn more efficiently, so they sell 85-octane while most other places have 87-octane minimum.


  1. Welcome to Utah! After growing up in Utah, I have to agree that it is a very beautiful state. I’m curious if you drove on I-80 going west and if so, then I’ve traveled that same interstate while I lived in Rock Springs. Evanston is where everybody from Salt Lake drove to, so they get could get real beer and real fireworks. Ah, the memories of it all. Beautiful pictures Mark…thanks 🙂


    1. Yes, I was on I-80 the whole way, until I hit Ogden. Passed through Rock Springs and snapped a few pics I didn’t post…very cool rock formations there; I’ve never seen anything like them before! And Evanston sounds like Vancouver, WA – where the Portland people go every year for real fireworks!


  2. Mark, that first shot of the Medicine Bow Moutains took my breath away. Holy cow…they’re gorgeous!

    In fact, all these photos are gorgeous. Utah is STUNNING! As I figured it would be.

    “My poor car did not appreciate today’s drive.”

    I was just going to ask you how your car is doing. I bet it’s POOPED from all that driving.

    Hey, I just had an idea while reading this post. I think you should consider starting a travel blog; sharing the best and worst hotels cross country – HA!

    Continued happy trails, buddy!


    1. Yeah, today was the first day she started complaining about doing all this work! Plus, she’s about to hit 100,000 miles. Wow…hard to believe. I’ve gotta say, I would highly recommend a Hyundai to anybody – best car I’ve ever owned.

      And I love your idea for a travel blog. However, I took this trip because I *never* travel, LOL! So I don’t know when I’ll ever do something like this again. But when I do, you can bet I’ll blog about it then, too.


    1. I was worried that I might be adding too much detail, but I’m glad it’s working and making you feel like you were along with me for the ride (and all the other fun stuff). Happy 4th of July!


  3. Wow–the mountains are stunning! I have never been to that part of the country and apparenty I’m missing a lot! I’m blown away, really! Hope you have a great 4th of July, Mark–home or not. (I’m pretty sure I was the one who said I was sorry you wouldn’t make it home before the holiday.) Your plan for the 4th sounds far superior to falling into bed, exhausted in your own home town!

    I am sorry you’ve been attacked by mosquitoes! They love me and itch ike hell—ate me alive in both Vietnam and Haiti. At least you don’t have to worry about malaria, though!

    Happy trails today!



    1. Yes, it was you, Kathryn. If I were missing out on Thanksgiving or Christmas or Arbor Day I’d have been bummed out, but the 4th I can deal with. Even if I had never set out on this journey I’d still be home alone today, setting off a few fireworks for fun but otherwise probably bored. I’m glad to be having an adventure on the road instead! And you’re right, malaria is a non-issue. West Nile, on the other hand? Let’s hope not!


  4. Happy 4th Mark! The photos are awesome. I love all the canyon and mountain shots. I hope Boise has some great fireworks/fun places to check out so your last night is a good one. Have fun, be safe!


    1. There’s a big fireworks display in a park downtown. The parking lot’s already full so I’ll have to figure out how to get there/where to park. Otherwise, there’s a lot of fun things to do downtown – off to explore!


  5. Mark–
    SUCH lovely picutres…did you find yourself at all…feeling exposed?

    I am always happy to be away…then happy to be back among so many trees.

    I loved Utah–always driving through…also, Wyoming…My dad lived in Colorado and I loved it there, as well…



  6. I feel like I’ve learned so much about our country just by your travels :). Love it. And, I’ve always driven an automatic, and never would have thought of switching gears in my car. I’d just think my car was about to break down 🙂


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