As Soon As You Arrive in Utah, Stop Here!

Hidden Gem Has a Whole New Meaning with This Place

Special thanks to Utah Department of Transportation for their cooperation on this article

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You see a sign that says “view area” after driving all day. You’re tired, and maybe you think “I’ll pass…still gotta long way to go.” We’ll admit that even we do that sometimes, but those viewing areas tucked away on the side of the road–or the side roads–can turn out to be the best free views you can find on your all-American road trip.

We’ll always be grateful for deciding to stop at Harley Dome View Area in Eastern Utah that one evening.

Located just 3.5 miles west of the Utah-Colorado border along I-70 (see map), Harley dome gives you an up-close view of the West’s jagged yet amazing landscape. Look carefully and you can watch hawks fly around. Then take the winding path up to the main attraction: a panoramic view of the Wild West. Words cannot describe this place, but pictures can.

Don’t miss this opportunity; Utah is a beautiful state. The evidence begins the moment you arrive.

Island Hopping In Croatia

Have You Been to Paradise Yet?

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Why has Croatia become such a hot destination in recent years? Its Old World charm, friendly people, and unique buildings are a start. But its natural beauty–including beaches–is hard to find anywhere else.

We’d like to thank one of our readers, Nicholas, for sending us his travel story (and photos) about Croatia, including and especially a place called Brač Island. Found off Croatia’s southern coast, Brač is beautiful. Don’t just take our word for it though; read Nicholas’s account below…

It’s well known that Croatia is a nautical haven with favorable winds and currents, which allow sailors to comfortably cruise through the Adriatic Sea. The islands and coastal towns are replete with sheltered harbors so that tourists may dock their boats and enjoy the local flavors of the Croatian cities.

Everyone who decides to go sailing in Croatia must make a stop at the island of Hvar to enjoy the sunshine and the lavender fields. Same goes for the island of Brač – which is better known as home to the horn-shaped beach of Zlatni Rat. Another popular sailing destination is Kornati National Park, a collection of islands, islets, and reefs surrounded by turquoise blue water and adorned with pristine flora.

Taking an Adriatic voyage is a perfect way to go island hopping (Croatia counts more than 1000 islands!) and experience the different facets of this colorful and welcoming country.

Thank you again, Nicholas, for sending this our way! We always like hearing from our readers. If you have a travel story you’d like to share with UndiscoveredWanderings for publication, please visit our Share Your Travels page to learn more. Reader contributions help make UndiscoveredWanderings possible.

A Sunken Ship Reborn

This Ship Has a Story to Tell

Click icon to view map. Detailed directions and parking instructions in Stockholm can be found here.

We would like to thank one of our readers, Melissa, for sending us photos of the Vasa from her recent trip to Sweden. We enjoy hearing from our readers, and welcome you to send us your travel stories through our Share Your Travels page. Your contributions help make UndiscoveredWanderings possible. We would also like to thank the Vasa Museum (Vasamuseet) of Stockholm for assisting UndiscoveredWanderings with this article.

The Vasa, a sunken ship raised from its watery grave centuries after it met its untimely demise, is one of the most popular attractions in Scandinavia, but virtually unknown in America. We certainly weren’t aware of it until we received this postcard from our friend, Melissa, addressed to UWanderings’s Founder/Editor:

Intrigued, We Set Out to Learn More
The year is 1628. The Vasa was a grand spectacle, complete with two decks of cannons, 10 sails, and beautiful artwork and carvings. The pride of the Swedish Navy; the might of Scandinavia. The ship was a force to be reckoned with. At least it would have been if it ever made it to sea. The ship, it turned out, was top-heavy and very much overloaded. There were plenty of warning signs to indicate design flaws during its construction 400 years ago—including the yet-to-be-completed ship’s dangerous rocking—but political pressure of the day demanded the biggest and most intimidating ship, so such concerns were overruled or simply ignored.

The Vasa at its current home, the Vasamuseet, still drying out.

On its maiden voyage, less than a mile out of dock in Stockholm Harbor, the Vasa keeled over and sank. It was a complete disaster that was keenly visible to the watchful public that day, plus a major diplomatic embarrassment. King Gustav II Adolf was not pleased, even though he approved the ship’s design in the first place. Investigations ensued, but no one officially took the blame once concluded. Perhaps the powers that be would rather have forgotten this whole failure altogether.

And so the Vasa sat, beneath the murky, cold Swedish waters for over three centuries, until a major salvage operation in 1961 brought the world’s attention to this relic of the past, reintroducing it to a brand new, welcoming public. The cold waters actually helped to preserve its hull, but its journey was far from over. Preserving the Vasa’s waterlogged wood required constant spraying of polyethylene glycol; otherwise the wood would quickly dry out and fall apart.

Archival footage of Vasa’s 1961 salvage operation, courtesy Vasamuseet YouTube channel.

Vasa was moved to its current home, the Vasa Museum (or Vasamuseet, in the original Swedish) in 1990, the story of which is an interesting read.  The Vasa is still under restoration since the polyethylene glycol continues to slowly dry, and will for many years to come. We hope to have the opportunity to visit the Vasa someday ourselves; it’s truly remarkable. Here’s a complete visual timeline of the Vasa’s journey. For more information on the other exhibitions at the Vasa Museum, click here.

Vasa Museum official website

There’s Greenery in Las Vegas After All

Cool Off in the Desert the Natural Way

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Our first visit to Las Vegas this summer was a blast. Great city. Great people. Great atmosphere. Great climate. But even we noticed the extreme desert heat. Realizing we needed to get some fresh air and cool off, our hosts recommended Mount Charleston. Also known as Charleston Peak, Mount Charleston, we were told, is a Colorado-like place with cooler temperatures and gorgeous mountain scenery.

What?! In Vegas?!?! This one we had to check out…

So off we went on the 40-minute drive northwest of Sin City. It wasn’t long before we noticed the desert landscape getting greener before our eyes. And up Charleston we drove, deeper into the Spring Mountains. Wow, they weren’t kidding. This place is awesome! It reminded us of our visit to Italy’s mountainous Trentino region years ago. And to think, Mount Charleston is only a short drive from Vegas; a very easy day trip. Plenty of places to park the car and enjoy the scenery, cooler temperatures, and numerous hiking trails that will take you deeper into the wilderness. All in Clark County. On the day we went in late August, it was 100 degrees in Vegas, but only 70 (with a light breeze) on Mt. Charleston.

There’s more to Vegas than visitors think. Mt. Charleston’s definitely a well-kept local secret.

More about Mount Charleston

The Vastness of Salt

You’ve Officially Left Earth

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We waited a long time to see this place in person. The Bonneville Salt Flats is as close to an alien landscape on Planet Earth that you can find. We were drawn to it because it’s so…different. It’s the ultimate escape from reality.

The final fight between humanity and the alien queen in this summer’s Independence Day: Resurgence took place on the Flats, with a little help from CGI magic. We didn’t see any alien queens out here, but we were ready if one decided to show up. The Salt Flats is featured in countless movies, TV shows, and commercials–especially car commercials. Even Don Draper made an appearance in a modified 1970 Chevelle SS in the Mad Men series finale. Countless land speed records were set and broken here over the years.

It was a hot, dry day in July when we took off from the last paved road and waltzed onto what looked like oblivion. Driving on the Flats is an experience that’s second to none. Sure, you could take a few laps on a (paved) racetrack, but how about driving on a field of table salt, as fast as your car can go and in any direction, without the horizon changing? Distance is impossible to gauge out here. Once you drive a few miles inward, you can get out of the car and walk across the crunchy surface to take in the eerily silent, beaming white emptiness. Want to get away from civilization for a while? This will work.

You can drive as fast as you want to within the realms of safety. There’s no official speed limit. That’s why the Salt Flats is so popular for racing specialized cars. Since we visited shortly before the popular Speed Week, we were lucky enough to meet a crew working on a specialized car capable of going 400+ mph. It was in pieces at the time, undergoing final preparation, but it went on to race on the Bonneville International Speedway–a 9-mile stretch on the Flats marked by two blue (painted) lines–a couple of weeks later.

Some Words of Caution
But the fun things in life come with caution. Racing on the Salt Flats–professionally and for fun–comes with serious risk, so be prepared. We write these words of caution not to be condescending, but because we had a few hiccups out there ourselves, from almost driving into an abandoned spool of barbed wire that came out of nowhere–and would have probably shattered the windshield at our speed–to nearly running out of gas. The Bonneville Salt Flats are to be feared and revered.

The Salt Flats occupy a large swath of Northwestern Utah, but the best place to enter this magical land is right at the Utah/Nevada border at Wendover, UT, just across from West Wendover, NV (see map above). That would be Exit 4 on I-80, about a two-hour drive west of Salt Lake City.

Before entering the Salt Flats, please check with the local Bureau of Land Management office to make sure the Flats are drivable. They’re safe to drive on when dry, but it’s illegal to drive on the Salt Flats when wet, since it’s federally protected land. BLM will have up-to-date information for you and speed limit recommendations. They can be contacted hereThere will also be signs posted nearby to tell of the current conditions.

When driving on the flats, bring lots of water, cell phone, extra food, hats, sunglasses, sunscreen, and perhaps most importantly, a full tank of gas. Driving on the salt is like driving on very crisp, crunchy snow, so your car’s gas mileage will be terrible. We could actually see the fuel gauge move down as the speedometer moved up. It could costs hundreds to have your car towed.

Those of us who have spent even one winter in the Northeast know all too well the effects salt has on a car. WE’RE NOT GOING TO LIE: YOU WILL GET SALT ON AND UNDER YOUR CAR. LOTS OF IT. It could cost a lot of money and time to get all the salt off the underside of your car; one car wash is simply not enough. We spent $100 at do-it-yourself car washes over the course of two weeks getting salt out of every crevasse. In the end, it was all worth it to us since it was a once-in-a-lifetime adventure, but we advise you, the reader, to enter the Bonneville Salt Flats at your own risk.

LINKS
Contact the Bureau of Land Management for updates on drivability and conditions.

Bonneville Salt Flats FAQ
Utah Salt Flats Racing Association
Learn more about Speed Week