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Original Issue


There is no place quite like it. Once it was part of a saline inland lake, the last remnant of which, the Great Salt Lake, lies 75 miles to the east, separated from the Bonneville Salt Flats by the geologic upheaval in the Miocene Epoch that thrust up the Newfoundland Mountains. What remains is a becalmed bed of salt, 100 square miles in area. For most of the year this empty land lies bake-oven hot in eerie silence, but for one week in late September all is sound and fury as hundreds of vehicles descend on the Flats where they roar down a five-mile-long painted black line and then, within an hour, roar back in the opposite direction, in hope of setting a world record during Speed Week.

In this difficult terrain course markers turn into driftwood, moths are haloed in salt and man's thoughtless insults to nature are quickly erased.

Speed Week on the Flats has a racing class for everything, from hot rods that parade city streets the rest of the year to swoopy single-purpose, big-bucks streamliners.

As strange-looking vehicles, both cars and motorcycles, speed over the glaring surface of salt, spectators observe from equally bizarre grandstands; a canine fan gets treated to a cooling ride; and drivers, cars and crews all acquire a coat of salt until the world from horizon to horizon appears to turn white on white.

Crisscrossing trails left by the annual invasion of vehicles last until the winter rains come and the salt is put back into solution. Once the water evaporates in the blazing heat, the salt flats are re-created.

Bonneville specializes in fooling the eye, not just with fantasy cars but with an ability to transform itself form a glistening lake into a world where two moons shine.