First stop was at the famous Bonneville Salt Flats - the evaporated remnants of Lake Bonneville. Lake Bonneville was a much larger lake during the last ice age when Utah was more moist and the only thing left of this once huge lake is the Great Salt Lake.
Here is a picture of my wife and daughter out on the salt flats.
Here's a closeup of the salt. I tasted it - it's salty!
Then we drove out a dirt road into the area around the UT/NV border called the Silver Mountains and poked around in the desert for a bit. We turned around when the road got too rutted for our sad little car without much clearance or 4 wheel drive.
As a geologist, I think I should own a big-ass jeep but my wife thinks we need practical family cars. Guess what we drive (me too since I inherit the old family car when we buy a new one).
Off into Nevada where we are spending the night in Carlin.
Hate to trash a town people live in, but first impressions are that Carlin's a pit. It's basically a truck stop with shabby mobile homes nestled between I-80 and the railroad tracks (maybe there's more of a town hiding somewhere, but we didn't see it). We're spending the night at the dirtiest Comfort Inn I've ever stayed at and I'm on my computer in the lobby area since the signal's too weak to receive in my room. The first room they put us in had a broken fridge (advertised as having a fridge) and wires hanging from the ceiling where the smoke detecter belonged. My wife won't let the kids walk on the carpet without their shoes on. I wouldn't mind as much if the room wasn't $100/night. If you ever find yourself driving through the area, keep going.
I have heard of Carlin before, however, since it was the home of the famous Native American shaman Rolling Thunder (written about by Doug Boyd in a book of the same name).
Anyway, one surprise I had was the Ruby Mountains outside of Elko (25 miles before Carlin on the Interstate). I've been in the Las Vegas area, but never up in this part of the state. There's a canyon 20 miles or so south of Elko called Lamoille Canyon which goes up into the Ruby Mountains. It's a beautiful area with peaks reaching 11,000+ feet. The canyon was glacially carved and the area feels like you're up in the mountains of Montana.
A classic U-shaped glacial valley
A hanging valley where a smaller glacier entered the larger glacial valley