Salt Of The Earth
It seems to always be a bit melancholy hitting the road when we are leaving friends. We will hopefully see them again, perhaps back in Florida this winter. And off we go putting Grand Junction in our rear view mirror. We’re headed to Salt Lake City to see the magnificent organ at the Morman Tabernacle. They have a daily recital and I was looking forward to the experience. The organ is an engineering masterpiece with 11,623 pipes, 147 voices and 206 ranks. While the large pipes are the most visible, many of the pipes are small and hidden.
We found suitable parking for our 60 some feet on a side street and trekked into the campus at the Salt Lake City Temple Square to find the Morman Tabernacle. If you’re a Morman, this is like coming to Mecca. Although not mormon, we are Christian and found their story and history of interest. The campus was spotless and everywhere were well dressed volunteers with nametags to help with directions.
The Morman Tabernacle took 12 years to construct, from 1863 to 1875. The unique roof design is self-supporting with no pillars or posts to obstruct audience views. The Tabernacle itself is home to the organ in the dome-shaped auditorium, which is so acoustically sensitive that a pin dropped at the pulpit can be clearly heard at the back of the hall, 170 feet away. Now I’m not just using the phrase “pin drop”, in the introduction everyone was asked to be quiet and this was demonstrated with no microphone or amplification assist. We were on time for the recital and I could have spent half the day enjoying the music and quality of this organ, but unfortunately our recital was only 30 minutes. This organ is one of the largest and considered one of the best sounding organs in the world.
Although this video is not the recital we attended, this is a nice video showcasing how special this organ really is.
Mormon Tabernacle Choir principal organist Richard Elliott performs Improvisation on “Ode to Joy” from Symphony no. 9 by Ludwig van Beethoven.
After a quick lunch in downtown Salt Lake City we were back on the road and headed to another “bucket list” destination, the Bonneville Salt Flats. Just an hour and a half outside Salt Lake City is this natural wonder steeped in racing history.
My first impression was that the salt was “blindingly white”. Racing has taken place at the salt flats since 1914. Racing takes place in a part of the Bonneville Salt Flats known as the Bonneville Speedway. There are five major land speed events that take place at the Bonneville Salt Flats. Bonneville “Speed Week” takes place mid-August followed by “World of Speed” in September and the “World Finals” take place early October.
The Southern California Timing Association and the Utah Salt Flats Racing Association organize and plan the multi-vehicle events, but all event promoters contribute to prepping and maintaining the salt. “Speed Week” events in August were canceled this year for the second year in a row, due to poor conditions of the salt in certain parts of the flats. The salt flats had been swamped by heavy rains earlier in the year, which usually happens, but the rains also triggered mudslides from surrounding mountains and onto a section of the flats used for the land-speed race courses.
Talking to the locals tells a different story, however. We stopped in to the Salt Flats Cafe and proprietor Jorge Escobedo says the racers’ conversation turns to one topic: the decline and eventual disappearance of the salt flats. The buzz of it is that the Government, for a price, granted mineral rights to a mining company and over the decades the mining industry has removed so much salt that the salt flats have begun to shrink.
Additionally, the depth and quality of the salt crust has dangerously declined and now both the racing and the salt flats are in peril. In the 1940s and ’50s the crust was an average of two to three feet thick. Now, the salt is so thin that the Speed Week events have been cancelled for both 2014 and 2015. The lack of salt can cause the cars to break through the smooth salt surface into a mud type slurry underneath which at those speeds is catastrophic. It appears the “salt of the earth” is missing.
The rich racing history of the Salt Flats, racing Bonneville, has been what dreams are made of. As with other forms of racing it embodies everything from Champions with World Speed Records to the opposite end of the spectrum with financial ruin and even death. In 1914, after several years of development, Teddy Tezlaff drove his car to an official record speed of 114.73 miles per hour. In the 50’s speeds went from 300, 400, 500 and even the 600 barrier was broken. The era of the 60’s brought jet powered cars with names like Art Arfons, Bob Summers, Bobby Tatroe, Craig Breedlove and Tom Green among many, many others. In the 70’s we saw the rocket powered car “Blue Flame” set even more records. On October 23, 1970 the Blue Flame, piloted by Gary Gabelich set a World Top Speed Record of 622.407 miles per hour (shown at the top of the page). The fastest recorded land speed record of 763 was set by Andy Green in Black Rock Desert, Nevada on October 15, 1997 and still stands today. (cover photo courtesy of Octane Magazine, Dennis Publishing, UK)
Here’s a great video on the Bonneville Experience
From heavenly organs to automotive heavens it’s an amazing world out there. It’s time for us to get on the bus and see what’s around the next bend, so let’s “load up”!