Sunday, July 5, 2009

Utah - Park City, Salt Lake City, Arches, Moab

"... and at dusk were in the Salt Lake flats with the lights of Salt Lake City infinitesimally glimmering almost a hundred miles across the mirage of the flats, twice showing, above and below the curve of the earth, one clear, one dim” (199).

“I sat back and enjoyed nightfall on the desert and waited for poorchild Angel Dean to wake up again. We were on a hill overlooking Salt Lake City’s neat patterns of light and he opened his eyes to the place in this spectral world where he was born, unnamed and bedraggled, years ago” (199).

"... arriving at Salt Lake City at dawn—a city of sprinklers, the least likely place for Dean to have been born ..." (54).

"As we crossed the Colorado-Utah border I saw God in the sky in the form of huge gold sunburning clouds above the desert that seemed to point a finger at me and say, ‘Pass here and go on, you’re on the road to heaven.’” (171)

“We had spent almost the entire night crawling cautiously over Strawberry Pass in Utah …” (200).

(on my way to the Moab)
(The Colorado River, Utah)

(peering above the road to Arches national park)

(Delicate Arch, in Arches national park)

(On my way through Utah, I forget where I was heading)
(in Park City, UT)
(Park City, UT)

(a dust devil)

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Utah was another hard time on this trip--at least the beginning of the state was. My car had a problem, but I'll skip the details and say that I was in the middle of nowhere when I had some trouble--or what I thought was trouble, but turned out to be nothing, despite the dramatic alarmism I received when I called mechanics asking what might be wrong. I called triple-A and was towed over 130 miles to Park City, Utah, where I had a place lined up to stay. This was late saturday night, however, and the people I was going to stay with weren't going to be around until Sunday night sometime, thus I had a day to spend on my own, without transportation. He dropped me off in an inconspicuous section of a walmart parking lot, where I would spend my Sunday.

I thought that after my ordeal in Indiana, I could deal with anything. So I found a way to spend my time, drifting from big-chain retailer to retailer, loitering in various cafes, and constantly walking around the concrete purgatory I found myself in as the surprisingly benign Utah sun pulsed in the cloudless sky. The elevation was probably the reason why I didn't worry about the heat. I even tried (briefly) hitchhiking to Salt Lake City, then I realized I'd have to get a ride back and wasn't sure how likely it was for me to find one when I needed to, given my luck in the state so far. After fifteen minutes nobody picked me up anyway, (I remembered the hitchhiker I regrettably passed by in Nebraska, and I thought of Kerouac saying, "there's your karma, ripe as peaches") so I continued to while away my time--it was strangely relaxing to stay so stationary after previously driving over 1300 miles the day before. A day ago, I had passed through Colorado (twice), New Mexico, Texas, Oklahoma, and Wyoming, and now I'm spending more time in a parking lot in Utah than I've spent driving through five states. And I thought, "finally, something funny."

But the people I had planned on staying with were sympathetic to my situation and picked me up as soon as they got home; they were an extremely hospitable couple, with a pair of hyper-obedient dogs (one that was the spitting image of the coyote I nearly hit in South Dakota), and I slept like the exhausted traveler turned parking-lot-wanderer I was. The next morning I took my car to a garage and spent the day walking around downtown Park City--aka the "playground of the rich"--while my engine was getting flushed and checked for potential problems. The results were positive, and my car was good to go on (and now I know it has a bottomless appetite for the expensive synthetic oil I've been treating it to). But I stayed in Park City for a few days, joining my hosts as they went to their gratuitously rich friend's house for dinner; a four-million dollar mansion in the heart of Utah's ski country, and I couldn't help thinking that this time last week I was sleeping on the floor of a one-room apartment in Rapid City, South Dakota.

The next day I took a hike in the moab and visited Arches national park. The moab wasn't the sandy wasteland I had anticipated when I thought of the word "desert"--it was a scrubby, high plain soaked in a blood-red landscape thanks to the ubiquitous rusty rocks. Arches park was also a uniquely natural experience, as the hike I took there was more arduous and hotter than I had expected (I severely underestimated the trail, thinking that a trail already laid-out couldn't be that difficult). I did a little climbing in order to get the picture I took of Delicate Arch, and as I was standing up there I noticed the wind was relentless and had been for a while, though I didn't really notice until I was high up with nothing else around me and nowhere to go but down.

The next day I left my hospitable, good-natured hosts and continued on my way, passing through Salt Lake City briefly (just long enough to take the above pictures of the city, actually), then it was up through Idaho and on to Missoula, Montana. One more word on Utah, however; I got the sense that government--particularly the police--are more present here than in any state I've been to. I've heard numerous stories being recounted, both by the people I've stayed with as well as strangers I've chatted with, about the confiscation of alcohol purchased out of state (Utah's alcohol laws are infamously strict and backward), as well as the unbending will of the highway patrol; I was advised not to speed on my way to and through the moab, else I'd be subjected to fines that would cripple my bank account--advice which I followed. Earlier in the week I had purchased two six packs and a bottle of red wine, and my bill came out to $37--double what it would have been in most other states. So I got the sense that big brother is too present in Utah, and aside from that it's a "red" state anyway. However, there are exceptions to the "red" state mentality, as I was fortunate enough to experience in a place I might have otherwise driven through immediately had I not had car trouble.

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