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Day 21, Saturday 22 August 1998

This morning I got up before dawn and drove to Salt Lake City. As I made the transition from US Highway 6 to I-15, the CD I had on started playing Bach's Chromatic Fantasy & Fugue in G minor (BWV 542). The opening of this piece was the theme music to "The Auditorium Organ", a radio program of music played on the organ in the auditorium of the Mormon church's conference center in Salt Lake City, which Mom listened to every Sunday when I was growing up. I associate that instrument's music with Salt Lake City even more than I do the Mormon Tabernacle Choir...

I noted yesterday that Utahns (yes, that's how you spell it--I looked in a newspaper) have high standards for roads; a couple of people were apologetic about the extensive construction going on along I-15 through the city, but as with the "damaged roads" yesterday, it was certainly no worse than I've encountered elsewhere--if anything, the detours were better labeled! The locals call the reconstruction corridor "the Luge", because of the chute formed by the two open lanes in each direction and the concrete deflector barriers flanking them... Beverly Miller, the Coordinator of the Salt Lake City Clean Cities program, wasn't able to set up any media coverage before she had to go out of town, but she left me the phone numbers of the local newpapers and stations. I guess I'm not so good at doing promos--nobody showed up. Well, thanks anyway!

Salt Lake City Amoco

Utah is certainly among the easiest states to travel using natural gas; most of the stations accept cash or credit cards so you don't have to obtain a special fuel card (not that that's hard to do, of course), and there are a lot of them. The stations in this state also have the biggest discount for natural gas relative to cheap (85 octane!) gasoline that I've seen; in Fillmore, UT I paid over fifty cents less per gallon-equivalent! That's almost half off... The sign in the photo above shows 69.1 cents vs. $1.119; it's at the Amoco station where I first stopped, which as it happened had its compressor out of order. Another sign of a successful local alternative fuel market, as I noted in Indiana when the same thing happened, is that you can easily get to another station before you run out of fuel. I actually drove fewer miles to the next Amoco station, about seven, than I would have to if my usual refueling station in Los Angeles went on the blink and I had to go to the next one!

Cedar City compressor

Next I retraced my path down I-15 for about fifty miles, then continued on I-15 toward the southwest corner of the state. As with the Natural Fuels stations in Colorado yesterday, I stopped at more intermediate points than I really had to, just because it never hurts to top up: Fillmore, Cedar City (shown here), and St. George, of which I could have skipped at least one without running out of fuel. Actually, these three stations all gave me 3400-3500 pounds per square inch refueling pressure (nominal is 3000); I'm going to repeat the trick I did on the second day of this journey, and close off some of my tanks during the next leg of the drive in order to save the high pressure for the last long stretch (over 200 miles) from Las Vegas, NV to San Bernardino, CA.

In the photo, by the way, note the "honeycomb" stack of tanks inside the compressor station (behind the grating); most stations I have used have a few large tanks, one at each pressure in a cascade (so, for example, the refueling process doesn't waste the highest-pressure tank on dumping gas into a low-pressure, nearly empty vehicle--instead it begins refueling the vehicle from a lower-pressure tank and then "stages" to one or two higher pressure tanks). This station has been here awhile, as have most of the ones in Utah--at least long enough to be included in my 1995 American Gas Association booklet--and the tanks are of an older, all-steel design rather than the more recent fiberglass-wrapped aluminum or steel designs, or even all-composite construction.

Zion National Park

Again, though my inexpensive digital camera can't do justice to the majestic landscapes I saw (and some of the prettiest, going along US Highway 6 through Price Canyon, were in dim dawn lighting and wouldn't have photographed well anyway), I wanted to show one sample. This is a view from a rest stop toward Zion National Park to the east from about 40 miles north of St. George. (The formation is prominent enough that it must have a proper name, but I don't have a guidebook to consult...) I hope the varying colors of the rocks show up better on your 24-bit screen than on my 16-bit basic LCD monitor! There are places where the rocks are even redder and dominate the local geology (the hotel where I'm staying is in one such place, and is aptly named the Best Western Coral Hills), and where this is the case the soil is red enough to rival that I saw in north Texas and Oklahoma.

I hope you don't mind my mixing in the travelogue comments with the alternative-fuels observations and experiences! In the west, where cities (Clean and otherwise) are few and far between, I get to spend a lot of time looking at the scenery rather than the bumper of the guy in front of me whom I'm trying not to rear-end in heavy traffic. Well, tomorrow will see both desert and metropolis as I head back into my own stompin' grounds of Los Angeles!

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new 22 August 1998, revised 23 August 1998