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Sam's Ride to Promontory Point (Golden Spike Transcontinental Rail Road Monument)

By coolsen - Posted on 05 May 2015

This is the second time that Sam Stone has led a group of riders from the Boise area down through southern Idaho into the desert east and north of the Great Salt Lake to visit Promontory Point, the Gold Spike National Historic Site where the Union Pacific and Central Pacific Railroads joined their rails on May 10, 1869 forging the destiny of our nation. 

A.J. Russell image of the celebration following the driving of the "Last Spike" at Promontory Summit, U.T., May 10, 1869. Because of temperance feelings, the liquor bottles held in the center of the picture were removed from some later prints. More on the history of this event can be found here.


As the designated writer of this ride report, I invite all who participated on it to add their favorite photos and perspectives in the comment section following this report.

We grouped up to begin our ride from the Stage Stop on I-84 about 16 miles southeast of Boise.  Twelve riders participated in this event - Sam Stone leading and following were Doug Patchin, Norris Riggs, Thane Eddington, Gary Umland, Mark Englund, Matt Spurlock, Dave O'Neal, Ed Torry, Ron Schinnerer and Larry Belisle with me (Craig Olsen) riding sweep.  In our group there were 3 KTMs, 4 Triumphs, 4 Susukis and 1 Kawasaki. 

We enjoyed a hardy breakfast and were on the road by 9 AM.  As we were leaving, Sam pointed out that we had parked in the Harley only spot .... hope they won't mind!

 Our first stop was at the Elmore County Courthouse where those participating in this year's IAMC Challenge picked up one of their 44 sites.

 Our next stop was near Hammett where some grass got watered ... well maybe.

This is a pretty old truck, and it looks like it has been sitting here a long, long time.

Our first gas stop was in Hagerman, and then we paid our respects to the last of the "moonshine runners" located about 0.6 miles west of the Snake River Grill on E 2700 S just outside Hagerman.

From Hagerman it was on to Balanced Rock, one of our IAMC Challenge sites a few years ago.  Matt, the youngest of our (aging) group hiked up to the base of the rock, shown here coming back down.

We stopped at Salmon Falls Dam on the Jarbidge Road just before arriving at Rogerson on Highway 93.  Some of us used this as an alternate Challenge site for Twin Falls County.  You can get the GPS coordinates here.

It was then on to the Rock Creek Station, another former IAMC Challenge site from 2013.  It was the largest stage stop between Fort Hall and Boise on the Oregon Trail.  The Kelton Road between Boise and Kelton, Utah also passed through the Rock Creek Station.  More on the Kelton Road later.

The Stricker homesite located here was placed on the National Registery of Historic Places in 1979.

Our second gas stop was at Searle's Station in Oakley...

... and then it was on to the City of Rocks where emigrants on the California Trail departed from the Oregon Trail at the junction of the Raft River with the Snake River, about 50 miles west of Fort Hall, and headed southwest through this area.  It became a well known landmark for its unusual topography.  California emigrants passing this way in the late 1840s and early 1850s called this area a "city of rocks" because the unusual formations gave the appearance of abandoned buildings of a city in decay.  Many of the emigrants passing through inscribed their names on the granite rocks using axle grease.  Their markings can clearly be seen over 160 years later.  Some in our group used this site (Camp Rock) as an alternative Challenge site for Cassia County.

Others chose more scenic vistas.

We encountered light rain going over the Lynn Road leaving City of Rocks for Grouse Creek.  There a few topped off their tanks  at the recently installed automated credit card pumps.  The sun came back out, and we were greeted with a rainbow.

We travelled further south until we crossed US Highway 30, and about 5 miles later we arrived at our destination for day one - Lucin, which is an abandoned railroad town and appears as a tiny oasis on the western edge of the Great Salt Lake Desert with the only trees seen for many miles in any direction.  We arrived about 6 PM and quickly set up our tents.

We were then off to the Sun Tunnels located about 5 miles south of our camp.  Created by Nancy Holt in 1976, the tunnels consist of four massive concrete tubes oriented in an X such that two of the tunnels align with the setting and rising sun during the summer solstice and two line up during the winter solstice.  We arrived just before sunset.

The tunnels are sufficiently large to ride your bike through them, which many of us did.  Here is Sam and his bike seen through one of the many side holes cut in the concrete tubes to pattern the constellations of Draco, Perseus, Columbia, and Capricorn.

We noted what appeared to be circular tracks spiralling through the length of the inside of each tube.  Upon closer inspection it became apparent that they were made by the traces of bullets shot into the tubes from an angle creating a rifling effect.

 Arriving back at camp, we individually cooked and ate our dinners, and then crawled into our sleeping bags for a well deserved rest after traveling about 330 miles, most of it on dirt.....

.....Then came the trains - long freight trains with multiple engines at each end pulling and pushing their loads.  The tracks are only a 100-150 yards from where we were camped, and of course, the engineers sounded their whistles as they approached the railroad crossing.  Between and after the trains you could hear the sounds of little critters coming to the only water hole for miles in any direction located right next to our camp!

Following a night's rest - though it was somewhat fitfull, we embarked on riding about 90 miles of the original Central Pacific Transcontinental Railway grade from Lucin to Promontory Point.

Every few miles along this grade signage is located telling the story of the small towns and stations built up to support this section of the transcontinental railroad.

Following is one of the many original trestles over the intermittent streams that form from ocassional rain storms.  Since these are now over 140 years old, no vehiclar traffic is allowed over them.  The road diverts around each of these before resuming the original railroad grade.

Looking west toward Lucin from one of these trestles you will see this view.

Looking to the east toward Kelton, this is the view.  Each of the trestles are marked by upright warning signs.

We were met part way by a couple in a motorized paraglider following the same grade we were, only going in the opposite direction.

Terrace was the largest of the towns built along this stretch of railroad.  It had a large roundhouse for servicing the steam engines.  All that remains of it now is a pile of bricks.

The Terrace Cemetery is located a short distance to the east along the grade.  Not a lot remains, and unfortunately, there has been significant vandalism.

This shows a section of original railroad ties on a side spur of the railroad grade near Terrace.

Grouped up just outside Terrace.

Between Ombey and Kelton, Gary noted the back end of his bike behaving abnormally, and on closer inspection it was evident that he had a flat in his tubless tire.  It took a while to find the small punture site (no foreign object was still in the tire).

He set the bead by circumferentially compressing the middle of the tire tread to force the sidewalls and tire bead into the wheel rims.

We then reamed the small leaking hole and plugged it using the special tool and tire plugs saturated with glue.  He made it the rest of the ride, though he did have to intermittently put some air into the tire.

At Kelton, all that remains is the cemetery, and a lot of that has been vandalized.

Kelton was the terminus of the Boise to Kelton Road that was active from 1863 to 1883, and served to supply needed goods from Salt Lake City to Boise and then further north to the mining fields in northern Idaho and eastern Oregon.  During its time, it was the most used and best supply route for supplying southwest Idaho.  It was replaced as a shipping line with the development of the Oregon Short Line and Utah Northern Railroads into Oregon, Idaho, and Montana.

From Kelton we pushed on the remaining 35 miles to Promontory Point at the Gold Spike Historic Site.

At the visitor's center, they hold a reinactment of the gold spike ceremony each day using replica steam engines (Jupiter from the Central Pacific Railroad and Engine No. 119 from the Union Pacific Railroad) commemorating the May 10, 1869 event when an actual gold spike was set as the last spike joining the two railroads into one.  Unfortunately, on the day we were there, May 2, our reinactment was without any engines because their boilers were still being refurbished.  You can view a short 6-7 minute video of segments of the reinactment at this site on YouTube to give you a feel for the steam engines.

Following our "engineless" reinactment, we headed to Thiokol Rocket Display not far from the Golden Spike Historic Site.  Thiokol has been making solid fuel rockets for 60-70 years.  They are probably best known for their o-ring failure that caused the Space Shuttle Challenger disaster in 1986.  This year it became ATK Orbital.

 It was then on to Brigham City where we stayed at the Howard Johnson, enjoyed steaks at J & D's Restaurant, and then were treated to a spectacular sunset viewed from the hotel parking lot.

The next morning (Sunday) we left Brigham City early (7:30 AM) and retraced our route back past Thiokol (ATK Orbital) on our way to Snowville where we had a hearty breakfast at Mollie's Cafe.

 After breakfast, we headed west on Highway 30 to Curlew Junction and continued on Highway 42 that becomes Highway 81 at the Utah-Idaho border.  About a mile later at the junction with the Strevell Road we visited one of the few remaining U.S. Airmail Beacons remaining in Idaho.  Some in our group used this as an alternative Challenge site for Cassia County.

 Our next stop was at the City of Rocks Visitor Center in Almo where we learned more about the interesting geology of the area and some of the history of the emigrants to California who passed through there. We also took a group shot in front of one of the replica emigrant wagons.  We are shy three members of our group who were still in the visitor's center.

In Albion we visited the site of the Cassia County Jail where we learned about the story of Diamondfield Jack.  Albion was originally the county seat when Cassia County was formed in 1878 until it was moved to Burley in 1918. 

Our next stop was the Minidoka Internment National Monument, this year's option "b" Challenge site for Jerome County.  Many of the Japenese held there volunteered for service in WW II and are honored by a memorial there.

Leaving the Internment Camp, our group had dwindled down to 8 riders, 4 of whom had peeled off to get back to Boise earlier.  Sam took us to Wilson Butte Cave, an interesting archeological site showing evidence of native people inhabiting it dating back to 10,000 - 15,000 years ago up until recent times. It is located in Jerome County about midway between the Internment Camp and the town of Dietrich.

From Wilson Butte Cave we proceeded to Shoshone and Gooding where we visited the Lincoln and Gooding County courhouses for this year's Challenge sites.  The memorial to veterans at the Lincoln County Courthouse in Shoshone is quite impressive.

We ate dinner at the Gooding Stinker Station (junction of Highways 26 and 46), and then took the back roads retracing our route to Mountain Home and arrived into Boise about 8 PM.

It was a most enjoyable ride with lots of interesting sites and history and great riding companions.  It is now time for them to share some of their favorite photos and impressions from the ride in the comments below.





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