Tooele Transcript Bulletin – News in Tooele, Utah
image Writer Tim Gillie walks the Smelter Road in Tooele. The path is one he takes

November 2, 2017
Dodging golf balls on Smelter Road

I broke my elliptical trainer a few years ago. It sat in my basement for several years. I had no problems with it until I started using it every day.

At first it was small parts that wore out. I ordered new parts online and installed them myself.

Then one day, as I was running full bore, I broke a weld in one of the arms that connects one of the handles to the foot platform. It came off in my hand.

And I quit.

I thought maybe after I lost some more weight I would try it again.

I took up running up and down my stairs for my almost daily cardio routine. I ran as fast as I could for one minute and then I walked for one minute. I repeated the two minute cycle 10 or 15 times on an average of five times a week.

Stairway halls are boring. But my new workout routine had the advantage of not requiring a gym fee and being readily accessible.

But while I was running up and down the stairs, I got the feeling that I was going anywhere. Maybe because I wasn’t.

At the beginning of this summer, I started walking again.

I started by walking around the block every day. After a week, when one block seemed too easy, I added another street in my neighborhood.

By the end of the month, I was walking up and down the sidewalks in my entire subdivision. Thanks to my Fitbit, I could see a map of my walk and I knew I was walking 2.5 miles in around 55 minutes.

It was summer. Days were long. I could leave my house in long-shorts, a T-shirt, and tennis shoes, as late as 9 p.m. and make it home before 10 p.m., and it wasn’t too dark.

If I couldn’t walk at night, it was light by 6 a.m. and still warm enough for shorts and a T-shirt.

I enjoyed the walk. I met neighbors that I still don’t know. But we exchanged a friendly “hello.” I dodged dogs. And walked around fireworks on July 4 and 24.

For more variety, I found a route around the perimeter of my neighborhood that also added up to 2.5 miles.

And then I heard they were fixing Smelter Road.

The zero-mile marker on Smelter Road’s walking path is only a half mile from my front door. I can leave my house, walk up to the 0.75 mile marker, and come back home for a 2.5 mile round trip.

Every other week, on Saturday, I walk almost to the Tooele Gun Club entrance and back home for a 5.1-mile hike.

I started walking on Smelter Road before they finished it. The shoulder was done far enough up the road for my 2.5-mile walk. But there were no lines painted on the shoulder yet.

A few years back, I would walk up Middle Canyon Road. But the winding road with no shoulder makes the walk treacherous at times.

Smelter Road is nice and wide. It has some curves and hills, but there is plenty of open space to see who is coming at you while you’re walking.

The traffic, including walkers and bikers, is quiet enough that the walk is still quiet and introspective, but busy enough that if I were to collapse without enough time to pull out my cell phone, somebody would wander by and find my body — hopefully in time to call for help.

As I walk up Smelter Road facing the Oquirrh Mountains, I sometimes wonder what the road was like back when the Smelter was operating. Was it busy, or did most people and goods travel by train?

I look at the Oquirrh to Mona power transmission lines and poles. They stretch from Middle Canyon and reach across under the “T.” The poles look like tall soldiers marching shoulder-to-shoulder across the base of the Oquirrhs.

As the soldiers turn and make their ascent over the mountains, I look at the access road that follows them to the top.

Some say the road is a scar, a monument to man’s ugly treatment of nature.

I’ve made up a legend about the giant snake that slithered to the top of the mountain and collapsed from exhaustion when his head reached the top.

When I turn around for the return trip, I face the Stansbury range.

I can see the flag in the Macey’s parking lot, Stansbury Island, and maybe Stockton in the other direction.

I can see how close Tooele Army Depot comes to Grantsville. I can see the flatness of Tooele Valley, which makes me think of Genevieve Atwood.

The former director of the Utah Geological Survey told me if you know what to look for, you can see evidence that the ground between the Oquirrhs and the Stansburys has been stretching out for many, many years.

I wonder what I should be looking for.

With the sun low in the morning sky at this time of the year, the early light accents the spurs and draws of the Stansbury mountains.

They look like somebody plopped down a bunch of Play-Doh and squeezed the mound between their fingers, leaving the imprint of their fingers running up and down the range.

One afternoon as I was walking back down Smelter Road, a loud pop and cracking sound pierced the quietness of my daydream.

I looked around and saw nothing unusual and started walking again.

A few seconds later I heard a soft rumble on the road and looked down to see a golf ball rolling up the road at me.

It passed under me and eventually strayed off the edge of the road.

I stopped and looked over at Oquirrh Hills Golf Course.

I wondered if it was possible for a golf ball to wander off the course and roll up the road. It seemed like quite an impossible feat, but what other explanation could there be?

And then I heard the sound again, a loud crack or ping that almost echoed off the mountain.

This time I could tell it wasn’t coming from the golf course. The source of the sound was from the opposite side of Smelter Road.

While I was looking to the north, I saw a golf ball drop out of the sky and bounce off the road about 10 feet in front of me.

And then I heard the sound again, and again.

I froze. I looked around. I saw no more golf balls dropping out of the sky at me, so I started walking again.

After a few feet I heard it again. This time a golf ball dropped out of the sky less than five feet from me.

Was I under attack? Was somebody deliberately trying to pelt me with golf balls? If they were, their aim was getting better. Should I call 911 and tell then I was under attack? Do I squat down and cover my head with my arms?

What is the protocol for golf ball attacks?

I pulled out my cell phone and pointed it in the direction the balls were coming from and took a picture.

After taking the picture I saw a man walking from a driveway where several trucks were parked and head into the front door of a house.

I walked close to the house and looked at the driveway.

There were three golf clubs leaning against a truck, a green cloth on the ground, with something that looked like a gold tee in it.

I don’t think I was an intentional target. The0 guy probably just thought he was hitting balls into the open empty field across the road from his driveway. But apparently his swing has a hook.

I like walking on Smelter Road because it is safe. But sometimes I think about wearing my bicycle helmet before I leave the house.

Tim Gillie

Staff Writer at Tooele Transcript Bulletin
Tim covers education, Tooele City government, business, real estate, politics and the state Legislature. He became a journalist after a long career as an executive with the Boy Scouts of America. Tim is a native of Washington state and a graduate of Central Washington University.

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