Monday, June 1, 2015

Day 15: Spiral Jetty, once more with feeling

The last day of our trip began with a morning jaunt back to the Jetty, where we saw Smithson's work in a new light, met the man who is in charge of making sure the road there is passable, and ran into a couple of girls from Indiana.

We stopped in at the Golden Spike National Monument to freshen up and celebrate transcontinental railroad travel.

And then we headed to In-N-Out Burger to fill our bellies and celebrate the grand fast food traditions of the American West.

Our trip home was not without delays, rebookings, waiting, and an unexpected sunrise trip to Philadelphia, but we did make it home.

And our extra hours in Salt Lake City were made better by this little guy, Benny the Beagle, the airport's emotional support animal for disgruntled travelers. 

This is the end of #SLCinAAW's web presence for now, but you can follow Benny on social media until we return with another crop of student adventurers.

Saturday, May 30, 2015

Day 14: The Judd-Smithson Family does CLUI, the Bonneville Salt Flats, Sun Tunnels, and Spiral Jetty

Day 14 was perhaps the most epic day of an incredibly epic trip. After a fortifying casino breakfast we headed over to the decommissioned Wendover Airforce Base, which is home to a number of old World War II barracks, airplane hangars, and the desert outpost of the Center for Land Use Interpretation (CLUI).

The buildings are locked, so you just call the LA office to get the combination and, PRESTO! You're in. 

We like to leave our mark on guest books.

The beautiful, haunting old buildings.

Now many of them house contemporary art by those lucky enough to earn a CLUI residency.

The Enola Gay was stored in this hangar before her mission over Japan. 

Just outside of Wendover are the Bonneville Salt Flats. If you want to set a land speed record, come to this wondrous stretch of land. (The Park Service will clear you a track, don't worry.)

After breathing in that fresh salty and dewy air, we made our next pilgrimage to Nancy Holt's Sun Tunnels (1976). Holt started her career as a photographer, and these four concrete tubes have some very interesting apertures in them. The four tubes correspond with four constellations: Draco, Perseus, Columba and Capricorn.

Come on the summer or winter solstice to see the sun line up with the tunnels perfectly. Otherwise, just come and hang around.

We wandered, climbed, danced, did some yoga, read, wrote, sketched, photographed, and meditated. 

We stopped in the closest town on the way out, Lucin, UT. Here it is:

Then we headed east, across the northern part of Utah and around the Great Salt Lake. We were stopped by this sassy alpaca and his band of sheep. 

And then we made it to Robert Smithson's Spiral Jetty (1970), the grand finale in our tour of earthworks. 

The water of the Great Salt Lake covered the jetty up for decades after Smithson completed it, but now the recent drought has brought it into sharp relief.

We strolled on and around it while we waited for the sunset.

It's amazing what treasures await you in these earthworks.

A cloudy and hazy, but beautiful end to a very full day.

Day 13: A Very Positive Time at Double Negative

All good things must come to an end, and we all agreed that 36 hours in Las Vegas was plenty of time. We're road trippers, after all, and the wilderness is where we belong. Once we left Las Vegas, we knew we were in for the most remote legs of the trip, but also the spaces that were home to the most earthworks yet. We were pumped! Next stop: Michael Heizer's Double Negative (1970).

The directions take you to the outskirts of Overton, NV, where you can stop in at a tiny airport (a landing strip really, with a trailer and bathrooms!) before you make the ascent to the top of Mormon Mesa. These directions by Nick Tarasen helped a lot.

It would be charitable to call the route atop the mesa a road, and Champagne and Merlot were champions rolling over the big, dusty rocks. It was worth it. We didn't lose any tires or people along the way and we made it to our destination. 

Double Negative started out as a fairly perfect rectangular ditch, which intersects perpendicularly with a natural crevasse. The two negatives form a positive, and now Heizer's mark is so worn and weathered that it is starting to look less man-made and more like a piece of geological history.

Climb in if you dare and walk around the edge to see the work from all sides. 

Maybe you feel like throwing a tennis ball, just to see if you can? (You probably can't. It's really far.)

It's good to feel lost sometimes, but even here we ran into another couple who made the trek out to DN.

Noelle and Kyla!

And then, what we do best: a "parking lot picnic." Parking lot is optional.

After we spent some quality time with Michael Heizer's work we made a long drive north through Nevada to Wendover, a town that straddles the NV/UT border. The Utah side is beautiful, and after a good night's sleep, that was where we were headed next.

But first, for old time's sake, we went to the Nevada side just to see what casinos outside of Vegas look like. (Spoiler alert: they are smokier!)

The Best Bedding of the Trip Award went to Wendover's Motel 6. Not only did they leave the light on for us, but the bedspreads were basically maps of our two weeks west. Well done, M6!

Day 12: The Lights of Vegas

After we rested and slept like knights in our castle, we began the warm, sunny Saturday by the pool. 

It was a beautiful day for relaxing, but we had a lot of sightseeing to do, too. Walking down the strip took us past the Statue of Liberty and the City of Lights.
But our destination was the City Center mall, and its Louis Vuitton flagship store.

There we got to tour the LV art collection. Did you know that all the major Louis V. stores have collections of contemporary art? This one has a special gem, James Turrell's Akhob (2013), which is one of his "ganzfeld" environments that is disorienting and hallucinatory. On a hot Vegas day, this was pretty intense. Here we are, innocent of the transformation we were about to undergo...

You can't take photos inside of Akhob, and we wouldn't want to ruin the experience for you, anyway. But there was another Turrell installation inside of the mall, free and open to the public that was pretty spectacular and photogenic, too.


And outside we saw a rogue Claes Oldenburg/Coosje van Bruggen!

Later that night we were off to the Neon Museum, aka the Neon Boneyard, right at sunset. Our guide told us fantastic tales of the luminaries (the signs and the people) that make Vegas an iconic and unique American city. 

And after we got back to our new stomping grounds, we took another epic stroll down the strip at night. The Bellagio fountain and Chihuly were must sees.