Barring any accidental clicks, unauthorized hacks, or major drama in the coming days, this post will be the last Seize The World update from the road. Right now I am at Pizza Hut in Moab, sitting at one of three occupied tables on this side of the restaurant. The other side of the restaurant is occupied by 15-20 ten year old girls and three or four of their mothers who are fully-engaged in celebrating a birthday. Much Mountain Dew has been consumed. I am just glad that I will be home by my own birthday. By the time I reached Idaho, I had begun to rest quite heavily on the crutch of telling people that I was excited and ready to get home. But I suppose that’s okay. I am…and people seem to understand. At least, they certainly seem to understand that a whole lot better than they ever understood any explanation of the rest of the tour!
In Utah, train photography is quite popular. So I decided to try to copy a couple of the photos that I’d seen for sale in Cafes and gas stations. I am a fan of vehicle photography in general…machines = cool.
Other side of the same train!
Trucks don’t seem to get enough attention…so I took a picture of a truck.
F-16s get plenty of attention, but I can’t resist. When I arrived in Salt Lake City, it was no surprise to see that birds were already up in the air from nearby Hill Air Force Base, patrolling the airspace above one of the most dense conglomerations of box stores that I have ever seen outside of Japan. Just out of frame in the above photo, below the F-16, there is a Home Depot, a Walmart, a KFC, a Ford Dealership, a Bed Bath and Beyond, and a Staples, among many many other stores.
There were also dancers dressed as statues of Liberty deployed at 1-mile intervals, each holding arrows, and waving them around wildly. They were listening to Mp3 players, acting like lunatics, and trying to get me to go to Liberty to have my taxes done. I made wary eye contact with a couple of them, feeling a certain sympathy with one of the Statues who stopped dancing for a moment to stare out at me with a hollow, sad expression, from the depths of his or her mask (I could not see their face, but there was a wealth of sadness stored in the eyes that met my momentary glance from beneath the spikes of the Statue and from between the earbud cords of an immitation Creative Zen player).
I waved tentatively at a few Statue Dancers – I always feel a certain bond with anyone else who is stuck outside all day, even if they are…different. I was tempted to see what it would take to get one of the Statues of Liberty to fill out my tax return, and to bypass the Liberty Office altogether…Would they do it for $10 and a set of AA batteries for their Mp3 player? Would they do it for a 4 pack of Rockstar Energy Drink? Or would I need cocaine? After 30-minutes, I had rolled out of F-16-patrolled, Statue-dancer-populated, Box-store-rich Northern Salt Lake City, and I found myself in the heart of the City. A somewhat different scene. A totally different scene, in fact.
The uniform red bricks and white steeples of the L.D.S. wards had suddenly, breathtakingly, given way to the the Salt Lake Temple. Do not be confused – the Temple is, itself, surrounded by nondescript Mormon wards – churches – but the Temple is beautiful. I caught it as the sun was going down, and got off of my bike to walk around the grounds, which were being patrolled, not – thankfully – by F-16s, but rather by pairs of Mormon missionaries, each eager to learn about my bicycle tour. Once they reach a certain age – early twenties if I am not mistaken – young Mormons go on missions to teach people around the world about the Jesus Christ Church of Latter-Day Saints. Until my day in Salt Lake City, I had not actually considered the thought of being sent on a mission to Salt Lake City, or of being given the assignment of walking the Temple grounds. It occurs to me now that the Temple is an important place to have missionaries standing by to answer questions. I made the suggestion to one of the pairs of missionaries I met – Sister Dogget and her companion (male missionaries are called “Elder,” females, “Sister,”) that the trees which you see in the above photo, blocking the view of the Temple, be removed. She said that she would pass my suggestion along. Although now, the trees have grown on me. I am not too concerned about it though – I do not think that the Jesus Christ Church of Latter-Day Saints will cut down the trees at the Salt Lake Temple based on my suggestion to Sister Dogget. But if they do, you will know why it happened, and I apologize in advance. I left the Temple grounds feeling peaceful and refreshed.
Downtown Salt Lake City is a place that makes me feel, as a Coloradan, as though Denver needs to up the ante a bit. Salt Lake City is at the heart of the Wasatch Front, which is Utah’s version of Colorado’s Front Range: both are North/South stretches of the Rocky Mountains with an Interstate Freeway and dense population running for hundreds of miles along the foot of the mountains. Between Utah’s Wasatch Front and Colorado’s Front Range, there is a great deal of Rocky Mountains – skiing, hiking, mountain biking, etc.
Salt Lake City has nice, wide, clean streets with smiling, happy people walking around on them. I saw trains rolling by at short intervals, with nice buses making their way around all over the place – both city buses and long distance buses en route to Ogden, Brigham City, etc. It was not until I spotted IKEA on the outskirts of southern Salt Lake that I really began to feel nervous. At this point, as I pedaled toward Provo, I remembered the four F-16s that I’d spotted earlier…were they nervous that the Colorado Air National Guard might ….just…. decide to send a few of its own F-16s up to take away Salt Lake City’s IKEA advantage?
In a part of the world where economic advantage – and image – is determined more by IKEA placement than by Nuclear Power Plant placement, my thoughts naturally wandered to a place in which a few airplanes from CO might decide to nullify the threat posed by the box stores of their smaller neighbors to the NE, on the Wasatch Front. Apparently somebody’s thoughts at Hill AFB in Utah had wandered to the same place. Either that, or there were just a few F-16s out flying around practicing some stuff above the box stores on the day that I pedaled through town. Probably the latter.
Salt Lake was also a great stop because my friend Lindsey Gauderer hosted me at her house for the night, where she lives with her new husband Christian. Lindsey and I worked a NOLS course a couple of summers ago in the Wind River Range, and it was really good to reconnect in Salt Lake, where she lives now. Also in town were a couple of other NOLS people – Scott and Matt, recently returned from a month spent climbing in Mexico, as well as Lindsey’s good friend Brittany, another SLC local. As expected, the night evolved – devolved? – from an evening of great cooking (Thanks Lindsey!!!) and catching up on old times into partying. There was a mask involved. And a camera. I was reminded the next day that it’s really been quite awhile since I’ve gone out drinking…sort of like…being out of practice if that sounds at all reasonable. Which it doesn’t. More, just, idiotic. In other words, a rough morning after a great – and silly – night. But fortunately I was also able to sleep in, drink water, and recover before getting a late start for Provo. It was possible to make for a safe day after a great night by only riding 15 miles! Great times, great times.
I camped that night in a vacant commercial lot right next to Denny’s, so beginning a Denny’s craze that has lasted for the past few days in Utah. I camped 50 yards or so from a Denny’s in Sandy, Utah, eating a Grand Slam there for dinner, then woke up and ate another Grand Slam for breakfast. It was the ideal campsite.
The following day saw me in Provo, where I had the great fortune to connect with Rich and Sheila Valgardson – family friends of ours, and clients of my Dad, George. They hosted me for the night and took me out to a fabulous dinner, to celebrate Sheila’s birthday. I was glad to be there, and so grateful to get the chance to pass through Provo! A very relaxing, nice stop along the tour! I hope to make it back to Provo again soon.
The following days have been a bit of a slog to get to Moab…riding through a bit of difficult weather, over some hills, through some traffic, etc. to get here. But it has all worked out. Altogether, Utah is a good state. A lot of enjoyable things…open space, trains, snow, trucks, farms, ranches, highways, jets, and nice people.
Will post again from Telluride! Thanks everyone for making this ride happen.
Camping at Green River
Larry – one of the characters of the road. Moab, Utah. He has been traveling cross-country for decades, never sleeps inside, and tells his most passionate stories about protesting the Vietnam War.