JohnBoy the International Spy

Possible subtitle:  #FederalPrisoner4511046

The name’s Boy……   John Boy……..


It occurred to me while driving around the area yesterday that I had heard several years ago the government was building a huge complex near Salt Lake City for a then-undisclosed purpose.   I did some research and discovered I was spending the night just a few miles from it!

I stayed in Eagle Mountain, Utah which is roughly halfway between Salt Lake City to the north and Provo to the south.  When I left the housing development I headed east towards Interstate 15.  At the first traffic light (Route 68) I turned left and within about two miles was standing near the entrance to the Intelligence Community Comprehensive National Cybersecurity Initiative Data Center (say that 3 times fast), more commonly known by the much easier name “Utah Data Center”.  This facility is run by the NSA (National Security Agency).  It sits high on a hill next to Camp Williams (a Utah Air National Guard base) overlooking Interstate 15 and the Wasatch Mountains to the east.

There are no signs stating what it is.  The road leading up to the entrance (where a patrol car sat with it’s lights flashing) has a sign which simply states that only employees and authorized visitors should enter the grounds.

The Utah Data Center has lots and lots and lots and lots of Cray Supercomputers which store massive amounts of data (telephone calls, emails, internet searchs, etc), both foreign and domestic.  The NSA processes these various forms of communications to try and detect terrorist threats.  There are allegedly two other three other facilities like this in other parts of the country, although this is supposedly the largest.

This facility takes up over 1 million square feet and uses massive amounts of electricity and water (for cooling the equipment).  Construction started in 2011 and was completed in 2013, but there were problems with equipment malfunctions and it didn’t start formal operations until 2014.  Allegedly.  The government doesn’t like to talk about this place so what I am telling you has been reported in various news stories.

As I was parked down the road taking these photos with my zoom lens a guy rode by on a bicycle (perhaps on his way to work at the Center) and said to me “Not a good idea….”

Well guess what, buddy.  I pay taxes (well I did, not so much any more) and what I paid in income tax last year probably pays your salary (for a few hours anyway!).  If they didn’t want me to take pictures of it they should have built it in Cheyenne Mountain.





Sunflowers vs. Black-Eyed-Susans

At several places during this trip I have seen huge fields of sunflowers.  Not the big, showerhead flowers that yield sunflower seeds, but smaller, wild flowers which are native to the area.  There is an ongoing debate whether or not what I saw were, in fact, sunflowers or black-eyed-susans, which are similar in appearance.  I saw large quantities of those when I entered Texas from the east back in May.

When I stayed in Joseph, Utah about a week ago I asked my hostess Janett (pronounced ja-NET) what the difference was.  She should know, as she operates a nursery next to her home specializing in native plants (for landscapers and homeowners).  Her immediate response was “Well, they’re both DYC’s”….  That is plant-person-speak for Damn Yellow Composites.  Janett confirmed what I thought I already knew – that the smaller, light yellow petals are typical of native sunflowers, whereas the longer, darker yellow petals are more common among black-eyed-susans.

SUNFLOWERS (taken by me, today, up near Eagle Mountain, UT):



BLACK-EYED-SUSANS (images found online):


(Photo credit:

black-eyed-susan_flower brandeis

(Photo credit:


As I was driving on a scenic road over in western Colorado a few days ago (the Mesa loop, near Grand Junction) I saw a house with a garden containing many other types of sunflowers, including the large ones seeds are harvested from.









Kolob Canyons – Zion National Park

I visited Zion National Park very briefly (for a few hours) several years ago.  It is a relatively small Park, and I always thought it only consisted of one road, running west to east away from I-15.  As I approached from the north I was planning to take exit 27 to get to the Park entrance but saw a sign at exit 40 which stated I could get to Zion and be on a scenic road.  As you know, scenic roads are the starting point for these trips so I was all in.

When I got off the highway I was at the Visitor Center for Kolob Canyons, which are part of the Zion National Park system.  I took the 5-mile drive uphill and stopped at many overlooks which gave dramatic views of the mountains and canyons.  Most of what I saw is similar to other places I’ve posted pictures of before so I won’t post too many pictures, but no matter how many times you’ve seen them, these huge reddish-brown mountains are breathtaking.

This was the first view I had of the looming mountains as I started driving up the short scenic route.


Once I got to the highest level I drove along the a ridge and stopped at many of the overlooks, each of which offered a slightly different view.  Here is the best series of photos, taken as I panned the camera left-to-right.




And here are just a few closeups.







When I was done taking photos at this location I hopped back on I-15 and headed 13 miles further south to the exit I originally planned to take.  I drove through the little towns of Hurricane and Virgin as I proceeded east towards the main Park entrance.

Before getting there I saw on the official Zion map that there was another scenic road, 23-miles in length, I could take before entering the Park.  I had noticed the skies darkening and the wind picking up and knew there was rain in the area.  When I got to the turnoff for the scenic road I was faced with this decision.

Looking east towards the Park:


And turning 45 degrees to my left, now looking north (literally taken 7 seconds later at 4:46:53 local time):


I opted for the latter.


And if the hot, dry air didn’t convince me, this confirmed I was in the desert.


I only made it about 1/3 of the way up towards the reservoir at the end of the road before turning around and heading for my Airbnb in Kanab (pronounced ka-NAB).  I wanted to arrive there before dark, and made it with about a half hour to spare.

After I turned around and was headed back towards the main road through Zion I saw this “under canvas” campground off in the distance.





I did not take any photos today while driving through the main portion of the Park.  I will be going in later in the week, and will be taking lots of photos.  Parking is extremely limited and there are not many pullouts for stopping, so I will ride the bus through the Park, probably several times, in order to be seated on different sides for photo ops.  I did that when I was here before and it worked out pretty well.

Various locations today

I spent Wednesday night in Eagle Mountain, Utah which is a little north and west of Provo.  Eagle Mountain sits west of Utah Lake, which is just west of north/south Interstate 15.

This was taken just after sunrise, looking east towards the Wasatch Mountain range.  Visibility was noticeably better this morning as a wind shift overnight apparently pushed the wildfire smoke a different direction.


In order to avoid morning traffic on the interstate (although I would be going south, away from most of the local metropolitan areas) I decided to drive south along the western side of Utah Lake.  That drive took me 35 miles south, at which point I turned left and headed towards I-15.

When I turned left onto Route 6 I saw this old Sinclair garage across the road.  Sinclair (their logo is a big green dinosaur) is a popular gasoline brand here in the west.


As I drove east I stopped to take some photos of freshly baled hay (or some other crop).


While walking back to my car a hawk flew past me and landed on a nearby fence post.


I tried walking past him to get a better shot with the morning sun behind me but he saw me (maybe I need a camo Safety Sam vest, although I guess that kind of defeats the purpose) and flew to the next fence post up the road.

As I drove through the little town of Santaquin I decided to stop and take a picture of this logo for a local convenience store chain.  While seemingly cheerful somehow I find the image vaguely disturbing.  When I get home I plan to have this photo printed and hang it over my bed so he can watch over me as I sleep (things a Stephen King novel are made of).


Right before getting on the interstate I saw a huge plume of black smoke just to my left.


The trucks in the foreground belong to a utility crew, working between me and the fire (they were a safe distance away, but were keeping a watchful eye on the situation).  I drove back in to see what was burning.  Turns out it was actually two fires, and was a controlled burn of tree limbs and other debris.  Don’t be fooled by the structures in the photo below – they are not on fire, but are merely in the shot due to the vantage point from which I took the photo.


Confident that Santaquin was safe, I hopped on I-15 and headed south for the several hour drive to Zion National Park in the extreme southwest corner of the state.


Today I plan to see the Grand Canyon from the North Rim, then the southern portion of Grand Staircase – Escalate National Monument on Saturday, Bryce Canyon (finally!) on Sunday, and Zion National Park Monday before heading down to Flagstaff, Arizona for my next stop. A busy couple of days ahead.