Road Trip Day 2: Oregon to Salt Lake City, Utah

posted August 18, 2021 by Holly Hayes part of trip: Colorado Road Trip 2021

Day 2 was our longest driving day of the trip, with about 8 hours on the road. That is definitely not my jam... but since there wasn't too much to see between Oregon and Salt Lake City, it seemed worth it to get some mileage under our belts so we could stay two nights in SLC.

We were a bit delayed getting underway, as we forgot to get gas until we were about 10 miles out of Burns. Not knowing when our next opportunity might be, we played it safe by going back into town. Being absent-minded is such a hassle, as both Roland and I can tell you. (If we remember.)

Oh, and speaking of which... we had actually intended to go through northern Nevada to Utah, but somewhere along the way I messed up the navigation (I think Google Maps switched to the quicker route at some point) and we realized we were headed for Idaho instead. Oh, well! It was more freeway than we'd hoped for, but at least it was faster.

Rinehart Stone House (1872) in Vale, Oregon

We rolled slowly through tiny Vale, Oregon, which has a few interesting historic buildings including the Rex Theater (1914) and the Rinehart Stone House (1872), built of local sandstone along the Oregon Trail. Originally a hotel, it also functioned intermittently as a store and post office and inspired the town's original name of Stone House, Oregon. (It was changed to "Vale" in 1887.) Also of note in Vale: I scored some ridiculous '80s-style cheap sunglasses at the gas station.

For many miles after that, the most exciting sights were the 80-mph speed limit in Idaho and a rest area with a shaded, breezy table to have some lunch.

Twin Falls Idaho LDS Temple

Our only planned stop of the day was at Shoshone Falls, just outside the city of Twin Falls, Idaho. As we approached, however, we noticed the spire of a Mormon temple and made a brief detour to check it out. We visited several of these on our trip; they are all imposing and immaculate. This one was completed in 2008.

Snake River and Shoshone Falls panorama by Roland

Then onto Shoshone Falls, which has been called the "Niagara of the West." It is certainly beautiful and impressive, at 212 feet tall (higher than Niagara) and about 900 feet wide. There's a $5 fee per car to enter Shoshone Falls Park for the best views. It was incredibly hot by the time we arrived and there was almost no shade at the viewpoints, but we soldiered on and it was very much worth it.

Shoshone Falls, with historic power plant on the left.

The views encompass not only the falls but the beautiful Snake River canyon and a little power plant built in 1907, which is still functional. We did the short walks to a couple different viewpoints, but definitely didn't linger - and were grateful to find a bit of shade in the park to enjoy some cold drinks and fruit out of the cooler before moving on.

Welcome to Utah - you're about to get rained on.

The final three hours to Salt Lake City included some beautiful evening light, which eventually turned to stormy light as we neared our destination. And weather forecasts began warning of severe thunderstorms in the area.

Storm clouds and rainbow over the freeway

Sure enough, as we approached Salt Lake City, the heavens opened and dumped incredibly heavy rain on the freeway. The windshield wipers struggled mightily to keep up. It was now completely dark. And the lines on the freeway were old and faded. We could barely see anything and had no idea where the lanes were, so had to rely on following the lights of the other cars and guessing.

Roland did a wonderful job of driving and I did a wonderful job of quietly freaking out. I tried to focus on the GPS... 3 miles to our exit... 2.2 miles... only 1 mile to go... and finally, we were off the freeway in one piece.

Our port in the storm in Salt Lake City

The rain tapered off and my heart rate gradually returned to normal as we drove to our Airbnb, which is in a converted warehouse downtown. It had a very complicated entry process, both to the parking lot and the apartment - but after our harrowing arrival I was more than happy to get out of the car to figure it out while Roland waited in our (illegal) temporary parking spot. After I opened the gate for him and he expertly squeezed the car into its tiny designated parking space (one downside of historic lodgings), we explored our home for the next two nights.

The apartment is on the third floor of a former warehouse that's about 100 years old; the walk from the lobby was amusingly maze-like. I loved all the exposed brick, wood beams, and modern furnishings. It even has a jetted tub and a washer/dryer! We could have happily stayed there and explored SLC for a week.

It was now pretty late (for us) but we decided we needed a drink and thought it would be fun to explore our neighborhood a bit. Just a few blocks down the street, we found a bar/restaurant called Lake Effect, located in another cool brick building (the former Hotel Victor, built in 1910). I really wish I had brought my camera, as our phones don't do it justice. It was very cool inside and there happened to be live music that we loved - a sort of country/Irish mix, heavy on the fiddle.

Lamp made of bicycle chains

During our long hours on the road that day, I had Googled the alcohol situation in Utah, as Roland had heard it was limited to 4% ABV and only available in certain places. We could certainly live with that, but were curious what to expect. The internet said a bill had recently passed allowing up to 5% and there were no longer such strict rules on food service, membership to "clubs," etc. So we were quite surprised when Roland received his locally-made beer and read the can... 9% ABV! Huh. For the rest of our trip we encountered no alcohol-related differences in Utah at all.

I had a great cocktail, which also exceeded 5% ABV, and was thrilled to have some hot steamed broccolini and fresh pesto pasta after a day of car snacks. They were both excellent. We initially sat together on this lovely chair... cozy and romantic? Yep. Comfortable? Not so much. But very plush and regal for one.

We finally got home after 11pm. What a long but (mostly) great day!

next: Road Trip Day 3: Salt Lake City

previous: Road Trip Day 1: Salem to Burns, Oregon

Article Info

Page Title
Road Trip Day 2: Oregon to Salt Lake City, Utah
Added By
Holly Hayes
Date Published
August 18, 2021
Last Updated
September 12, 2023