Our Route 89 road trip from Salt Lake City to the Grand Teton was an unplanned highlight of our vacation.
I shopped around for the cheapest airport / rental car combinations for our trip and Salt Lake City was ‘low bidder’. But had I known the scenery and entertainment value of the ride, it would have been my first choice!
As you drive up and over the Wasatch Mountains surrounding Salt Lake City, you get a glimpse into a western America landscape like no other. Before we left on our trip, my Dad gave me some advice: “When you see a gas station – stop and get gas!” What I initially thought was a joke, turned out to be great advice. You can go for almost 50-60 miles without seeing so much as an outhouse – let alone food or a gas station.
This Route 89 road trip takes you through the rolling hills of southeast Idaho and southwest Wyoming with the only visible civilization from one end of the horizon to the other, being cattle ranches and the occasional speed limit sign and wire cattle fences. One particular ‘festival‘ sign (below) got hours of laughs from our crew (I remember the glory days before they could read!). They were laughing so hard they we did a U-turn to go back and take this picture:
Every so often, there will be a “town” with a few houses, reduced speed for a mile, and then back to the open road. The mountains in the distance seem to grow with the miles, and it was clear to me that this area of the world belonged to the cattle rancher.
When we’d pass a sign of life or a dude ranch entrance, it would get us all laughing. Our rental van had an XFM Country and Western station that added to the experience. It was a ride that we’ll never forget.
This ride had a beauty that sort of snuck up on you. Unlike breathtaking coastline or snow-topped mountains, this ride’s beauty was the sheer magnitude of the untouched hundreds of square miles that is Cowboy country. It was clear to me that many of these hard-working Americans were self-sufficient or served a self-sufficient community. Think about that for a moment and let it sink in. They don’t rely on a supermarket or Wal-Mart to get what they need. They pump their own water, milk cows, and slaughter livestock for their meals. It’s a glimpse into our Nation that we would have missed, had we taken a different route.
Route 89 goes north into Jackson Hole and civilization emerges. From the antler arches in Afton and Jackson Hole to the entrance of the Grand Teton National Park, our family was still riding high despite the 2500 mile plane ride and the 280-mile car ride. To be honest, I thought that road trip would make for a tough day of travel, but it turned out to be a great ride.
We arrived in Grand Tetons to see herds of Buffalo trotting along the road, and arrived up in Jackson Lake before dusk. And while I’m sure the convenience of landing in Jackson Hole (actually within the National Park boundaries) would be nice, our family loved the Route 89 road trip! The ride through Wyoming and the many notes, quotes, and antidotes that came out of it made for some great vacation memories!