X Mas 2016 The Return Trip

Day 15

Well there it is the complete trip route. I hate to ruin a good ending, but its pretty obvious that we made it back. I’ve been back at work for a month, and been posting photos from the trip for just as long, so you already know nothing catastrophic happened. Now that the suspense filled conclusion is out, lets talk about the details.


I shall call it Mini Me! A quick shot of “my other 4Runner”, aka my parents x-mas gift a few years back. Thats what happens when you get tired of phone calls about a broken Ford so you replace it with a 4Runner. Not nearly as many phone calls now and much easier to answer when you know the vehicle inside and out.  This year I even lucked out and didn’t need to do any maintenance before we left.


We didn’t have a ton of time to do any real hardcore exploration on the way back, but I wasn’t about to give in to taking the same old route home. We left Omaha around mid morning  traveling on highway 75 north towards highway 12 which has been dubbed the “Scenic Outlaw Trail”.


We saw some scenery,


We learned some history,


and explored some small towns.


Then eventually we were treated to what I have dubbed a “Delicious Sunset”.


Not everyone thought it was as amusing as I did.


One more stop to grab that sunset…


and a possibly abandon home.

By the time we hit Valentine Nebraska, we decided driving the Scenic Byway wasn’t very beneficial in the dark. I of course picked what looked to be the most interesting road south. Highway 97 winds in between the Valentine National Wildlife Refuge on the east and the Samuel R. McKelvie National Forest on the west. Judging by photos online this area would have been much better if you could see farther than the PIAA’s light could pierce.


Eventually we intersected highway 2 and hung a right. We stayed on that until we came to Alliance Nebraska where we called it a day.


Okay car lovers young and old, whats Alliance Nebraska famous for? Yep the photo gives it away again… Carhenge!


This wasn’t our fist time in the area, but the last time we were here it was a “oh shit the sun is about to set, go go go” as we tore through town to make it before the sun set on the cars.


This time all I had to do was get up a little early and make it to Carhenge before sunrise. Mission accomplished.


If you want to shoot abandoned buildings, there is plenty out this way.  Some we stopped to shoot, some we drove right by.  This was a from the car window shot since there were still a few people around in the “semi ghost town”, and we didn’t want to draw more attention to ourselves.


From Carhenge, we were headed to Chimney Rock to cross another place off of my “haven’t been there in years” and Jamie’s “Never Been There” lists.


I could tell you Chimney Rock was an epic sight that day, but in reality there’s a bit of photo editing magic going on once again.


From Chimney Rock Scottsbluff was only 20 miles down the road, so we headed that way. What we found was living proof that Nebraska is in fact not just flat.


We also found a few diamonds in the rough so to speak. It’s pretty amazing some of the cars and trucks you find scattered through out fields, and in salvage yards out in this part of the country.


While eating some lunch in Scottsbluff,  I was browsing my phone for other sites to see in the area when I stumbled across the western Nebraska lighthouse and had to go see it. We arrived at Lake Minatare only to find that it was closed.  We tried a couple of different entrances but everything was gated off.  (Later I found out that it is shut down from October through January for bird migration.) In trying to catch a glimpse of the lighthouse I found a dirt road leading in the right direction so we took it.  It didn’t lead very far, but it did get me far enough that with a 400mm telephoto lens I was at least able to get a photo of the Nebraska Lighthouse and a rather frozen looking Lake Minatare.

Salt Lake City Utah was the next and final stop of the day.



From Salt Lake City we were back on Interstate 80 and had to focus mainly on making time.


I had to stop and see how wet the Salt Flats were.  We’ve tried to make it out for speed week the last couple of years, but the water hasn’t cooperated with our or the event planners itinerary.


A very dirty 4Runner at the Salt Flats rest stop.


The only Nevada stop was the Thunder Mountain Indian Monument.  I have no idea what the history on this place is, but it is sensory overload.  There are random bits of car parts and what other might consider trash making up a good portions of this building, and its artwork.  The longer you stand there and stare the more you see and the more creepy it feels.

We were welcomed back to California by a light snow causing several drivers to lose their minds and stop mid interstate to put chains on.  It slowed traffic to a crawl but after more than quadrupling our time we finally got home just into the next day.

The final stats:



And after all that I would have turned around and left again if time and money permitted.

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