On Tuesday we returned from a six day road trip through Utah and Nevada. AK flew up to Salt Lake City last week for a meeting and I drove up with Mia the following day- a 10 hour drive from Los Angeles and a welcome meditation.
Salt Lake City is gorgeous. Almost eerily clean. It's nestled in a valley that abruptly rises up to snow-capped mountains. Naturally, snow sports—and the omnipresent Mormon church—attract significant tourism. It appears to be a thriving city. A rich city. A surprisingly gay and vegetarian city! Advocate magazine ranks SLC the 8th queerest city in the U.S., plus they have a newly elected openly gay mayor. As a very religious city in a very conservative state, we found the place rather curious and couldn't help but wonder what life is truly like for an LGBT person or a non-Mormon... behind the manicure of white stone temples, whimsical trolley car vibe, and pristinely groomed/ridiculously handsome elders.
While everyone was friendly and accommodating, I couldn't shake the feeling that SLC is a city of whispers and secrets. And since we're not into skiing or genealogy, we weren't quite sure what to do there. So we left. We spent half a day in Antelope Island State Park, an easily accesible peninsula that juts into Great Salt Lake. A population of 700 free ranging bison roam the park. The animals are not fenced off, so it's a fantastic opportunity for dumb tourists to get trampled by the largest land mammal in North America.
I should mention that, for some reason, SLC is a great place to find vegetarian biscuits & gravy. So before heading out of town we had a tasty batch at Sweet Lake Biscuits and Limeade. And an even tastier batch at Blue Plate Diner.
From Salt Lake City we drove 3.5 hours to Moab, Utah near the border of Colorado. I have to admit, I made a pretty flimsy case for wanting to visit Moab. I saw it in a movie once and it seemed quirky. This Boy's Life is one of my favorite films, based on the memoir of author Tobias Wolff. Tobias's free-spirited mother, played by the dreamy Ellen Barkin (some day I'll list all of my on-screen mom crushes), leaves her boyfriend and moves to Moab with young Tobias, played by Leonardo DiCaprio. Set in the 1950s, the tiny town of Moab was experiencing its 15 minutes of fame when uranium was discovered and the mineral boom brought prospectors calling. Tobias's mom bought a geiger counter but failed to make it tick in Moab.
And for the most part, Moab failed to impress. Its saving grace and its ruin is the embarrassment of riches in the surrounding landscape. Smack-dab in the middle of Arches National Park, Canyonlands National Park, Goblin Valley State Park, and the La Sal Loop, Moab is teeming with tourists. And not great ones. Many seemed to me like contemptible jerks in penile-compensatory trucks and ornery ORVs who came to get drunk and muddy. I can only imagine how quaint and quiet Moab once must have been. It has since been paved over by beige hotels. Thousands of dirt bikes and side-by-sides spit up clods of dirt and poison the stillness that Moab hasn't heard in years. I'm sure the residents are lovely and I'd have to assume that, like me, many feel a deep discontent when the solitude of nature is fouled. If I seem bitter, maybe this clip will help you understand:
I may not be tasked with writing the town's tourism brochure, but I'd actually encourage everyone to visit. If you're vegetarian, you won't be burdened with choices. I'd suggest the veggie burger at Atomic. It's house-made and can be substituted in any of their craft burgers. Atomic also has a veggie loaf with miso mushroom gravy and, even more importantly, local beer on tap.
But forget food. When you go to Moab, you go for the parks. No matter how long you stare at those rocks, you simply can't comprehend the geologic sorcery in those cliffs of banded red sandstone. The sheer expanse of it all made carrying a camera feel foolish. Facing the majesty of the arches and mysterious valley of hoodoos with a stupid camera is like trying to blast off into space in a Prius. With that said, here are a few shots:
After Moab we drove 6 hours to Las Vegas and for some reason got upgraded to the most incredible hotel room ever at the Cosmopolitan. Master bedroom with huge bathroom and two-person bathtub, full size kitchen, full size living room, another bathroom, wraparound balcony... I immediately got lost. When I came to my senses I stole all the soaps.
On the way home we pulled off on the infamous ZZYZX exit, about an hour and a half outside of Vegas. Zzyzx is one of those strange abandonded roadside attractions you hear about. Without going into the whole story, a snake oil salesman built a midcentury health spa in the middle of the Mojave desert from which he peddled his quackery. As usual, Atlas Obscura tells it best.
Returning home, we found the yard had taken steroids while we were gone. Just look at the size of this zucchini leaf and the explosion of flowers.