Bonneville Salt Flats. Otherwise known to the world speed record cognoscenti as “The Flats”, or the singular “Bonneville”, or the more descriptive “Great White Dyno” (short for dynamometer). Whatever the nickname, this great expanse of sometimes dry salt bed is the preferred destination of choice for wheeled speed freaks from all over the world, and a place that it took me decades to finally reach myself.
My own interest in Bonneville Salt Flats began in the mid-1960’s when my family was driving on one of the highways in southern California, near the city of Ontario, when we came upon an odd scene along the side of the road. It was a mass of people all crowded around something – something low to the ground, quite long, and metallic gold-flake colored. We pulled over and parked, got out, and walked to see exactly what was attracting all of the attention.
It was the Summers Brothers offering to the god of speed — their world speed record holding streamliner — the Goldenrod.
Ever since then, I’ve been hooked by the romance of Bonneville, as well as the many stories of land speed record attempts held there over the ensuing decades. As the years have marched by, I’ve came close – oh so close – to visiting the salt flats, but never actually set foot on them myself. I flew over them, drove by them, saw them on the big screen and on television, but never visited them in person until September 2014, when Cindy and I finally made the pilgrimage.
Wow! If you like vast, expansive spaces of open nothingness, then Bonneville is where to find it. We drove out into the middle of the flats, got out and walked. And felt like we were in the middle of… forever. The salt flats are a stark, eye-searing white; the sky is an intense cobalt blue, and the two are separated on the horizon by a tall ridge of mountains so distant that they look tiny. And there’s nothing else. Nothing grows or lives in the salt, so there is a total absence of all flora and fauna. It is a place of surreal extremes.
For anyone interested in more about the Great White Dyno, here’s one of the best films I’ve ever seen on the subject, starring Anthony Hopkins in one of his best roles – The World’s Fastest Indian.
Bonneville Salt Flats International Speedway
Bonnevillle Salt Flats
Kodak T-Max 100
Voigtländer 15/4.5 lens
Leica M3 35mm film camera