Springville to Salt Lake City

I like America.  There's never been a town I wouldn't go back and revisit.  That is, until now.  Salt Lake City.  A truly horrible city.  It's the bastard child of Disneyland and Stepford Wives.  The kind of place where you wouldn't be surprised to be followed by a Mormon Agent, or see listening devices checking you weren't  say anything disparaging against their batshit crazy religion.  I've explored an abandoned TB hospital deep in rural Arkansas and even there I didn't feel the overwhelming feeling of dread in this horrifically anodyne hole.  For unexplainable reasons adrenaline was rushing through me causing my heart to beat heavily in my chest,  Salt Lake City was rejecting me every bit as much as I was rejecting it.  The only plus side is that I know that I will never ever have to return to this god-forsaken pit.

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We threw the car back at Alamo and went to sit in the airport and wait for the flight.

Did I mention that I really didn't like Salt Lake City.  At all.

Springville

We stayed local today as after over two-thousand miles of driving it's time for a little amble.

Ten minutes in the car took us to the Springville Museum of Art.

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Someone (it was me) left their spare camera battery back at the hotel so we drove back, then went on to the Radha Krishna Temple.  I had some interesting conversations.

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Back to the hotel again to start packing.  Somehow we were massively over our luggage allowance so rather than leave things behind we paid for an extra suitcase.  Off to the Mighty Walmart to grab a cheap one.

Near to to Walmart was a large field of what looked like watermelons.  I went to take a photo but no - they were something else - hundreds of crazy sharp burrs.  So sharp were they, they drove right through the soles of my shoes and into my feet.  It hurt every bit as much as you'd think.

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With our new suitcase, it seemed a shame not look for books.  Popping into a bookshop we found it was a Mormon shop.  If you want a painting of Jesus this is definirelt the shop for you.

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Day 18: Helper to Springville

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Yesterday Afternoon.

Me: Do the trains run all night?

Motel Owner: No, they shouldn't do.

1AM: TOOOOOOOOOOT

2AM: TOOOOOOOOOOT

3AM: TOOOOOOOOOOT

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We had breakfast at the Balance Rock Eatery & Pub.  We'd had lunch there at the very start of the trip.  The food is great, but the music choices are... not.

All fed with potatoes and egg we drove down the end of the town to walk around the Western Mining & Railroad Museum.  We figured it was a tiny little one-room museum, but it was huge and we spent about ninety minutes looking around.  Everything in the museum was donated locally.

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For the final two nights we're going to stay in the same hotel that we first stayed in on our first night.  

The evening was spent trying to get our luggage packed and down to the right weight.  The plan - currently - is the pay for an extra bag.

Day 17: Green River to Helper

We left our hotel.  Can you see it dwarfed by the mountains?

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We drove into the main part of the town.  Green river - population 900 (though it feels less).  Lot of buildings and signs to photograph.

More importantly, however, was the coffee shop.  We'd brought a typewriter with us to use as a prop to photograph with writer Jules in the Albuquerque desert.  We knew it was too heavy to take back, but it had a name.  Qwerty.  You can just dump something when it has a name.  Because it was used in Albuquerque Jules had changed the name to Albuqwerty.  It couldn't come back with us, but couldn't just be dumped.  We knew we had to find someone to give it to.

The coffee shop in Green River was perfect.

Goodbye, Albuqwerty - we hope you'll be happy in your new home.

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Green River had so many midges they've had to install their own protection system.

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An amble up to the hotel via a cool 50's type diner and Walmart (Living the American Dream) we arrived at the hotel.  Well, it's... Out of the back window, it's nice. See how delightful it is?

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But, the front.  A railway track with massive trains with very loud horns.

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We took a walk to the end of town which has a great old gas station.  Picked up some milk and back to the room for a coffee with something other than "half and half" in it.

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Day 16: Kayenta to Green River (Utah)

We're flying back on Friday and so have four days to drive over six-hundred miles so today it's a case of getting a lot of miles done.  It was made easier that we got to drive through Monument Valley

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Lunch at the Olde Bridge Grille.  Where was it?  Oh, in a town called Mexican Hat.

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Who'd name a town Mexican Hat?  I know, I wondered the same but then Jane pointed at this.

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A museum, some buildings but finally 224 miles done.

Really tired.

A much easier day tomorrow.

Day 7: Monticello to Durango (Colorado)

It was nice having a house after some hotels so we made the most of it and hung around until 11 am.  The next hotel was in Durango (Colorado) and was only two hours away with a check-in time of 3 pm so we had a few hours to kill.

First port of call was the Stateline Bar & Grill just over the border into Colorado in a town called Dove Creek.  You're probably thinking; "Dove Creek - Why does that ring a bell?"  Well, it's the self-proclaimed Pinto Bean Capital of the World.  That's probably it.

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Driving out of Dove Creek we hung a quick right when we saw a town called Yellow Jacket.  Nothing but a post office (which opened in 1915).  A population of zero I suspect.  The name, I later learnt, came from the abundance of yellow jackets (a type of wasp) near the original site of the town.

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A quick walk around the Narraguinnep Reservoir and the back in the car to the Anasazi Heritage Center.  The centre is an archaeological museum of Native American pueblo and hunter-gatherer cultures.

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Around the side of the centre you can work your way up the hill and from the top you can see McPhee Reservoir.  When the reservoir was constructed it covered the original resting place of the artefacts now found in the museum.

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On to the hotel in Durango.  It's full and proper name is the Free and Sovereign State of Durango.  Wikipedia says it's called both "the land of the scorpions" and as "the land of cinema".  I'm pretty sure Hollywood is the land of cinema, but hey - what do I know?

The major occupations in Durango are farming, logging, mining, and ranching.

All very interesting I know.

Day 5: Moab to Monticello

Awake at 6 am.  Up at 7 am.  A quick breakfast and we were in the car on the way to Monticello (pronounced sello not cello).  The first stop was Ken's Lake.  Of course, we took a wrong turn and ended up going down yet another wrong road (thanks, GPS).  It took us down a gravelly path where we ended up in snakebite canyon or coyote-bite-you-leg-off underpass or wolf-chomp alley - some name like that.  After a long retrace of our steps, we found the lake.  Ken's Lake you'll be surprised to learn is named after Ken.  More specifically Ken McDougald (former Mayor of Moab).  It was the first expanse of water we've seen in a while.

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From the lake, we were about fifteen minutes from 'Hole in the rock' which is more impressive than it sounds.  (Yes, the GPS took us the wrong way again.)  You weren't allowed to take photos inside the house so here's one from their website and since I was there - and to save me typing - here's what it says. "Travelers along U.S. Highway 191 in Southwestern Utah are amazed to discover this historic 5,000 square foot home which began taking shape almost a century ago by the Christensen family. What began as a small alcove for the young Christensen boys to sleep in at night grew into a man-made engineering marvel 20years in the making. A fireplace with a 65' chimney,14 rooms arranged around huge pillars and a deep bathtub built into the rock delight visitors who visit this most unusual home in the dessert. Original furnishings, Alberta's paintings, Gladys's doll collection and many of the tools used to create this home remind you of the past.

In a 12 year period Albert excavated 50,000 cubic feet of sandstone from the rock. During this time he completed his famous painting Sermon on the Mount and his sculpture of Franklin D. Roosevelt on the face of the rock above his home.

When Albert died in 1957, the home was not complete. Gladys's in keeping with his wishes & lifelong dreams continued to develop the property, opening a gift shop and giving tours of her home until she passed away in 1974. Gladys is laid to rest next to Albert in a small cove within the rock near the home."

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Jane was more pleased that the Hole in the Rock contained a petting zoo, though since it had raccoons and the like which would have your hand off as quick as look at you, petting really wasn't advised.

With hands intact, we continued towards Monticello via Wilson's Arch.  Again, naming inanimate objects after people.  In this case after Joe Wilson, a local pioneer who had a cabin nearby in Dry Valley.

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We'd rented a house for two nights, but check-in wasn't until three and we got into town by at twelve so we went and had a nice hand-made pizza.  Much excitement from the owners that their Coke Fridge was being swapped out for a Pepsi Fridge.  It's all go in Monticello.

Every shop window and in the back of every car is a silhouette of a bear with the hashtag; #NOMONUMENT inside.  It's protesting the move to make a piece of a land a Bureau of Land Management property.

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Having a proper places to stay (with an oven - get us all fancy being trusted with 'fire') we went hunting for supplies to fill the fridge up with.  That done and with more time to kill we took a drive around town.  If there's any doubt we were still in Utah then in a town with a population of just 2,213 there were two Mormon churches AND a temple.  Well, it gives you choice I guess.  We walked into the temple but a nice guy dressed totally in white said we couldn't go into the back room as it was "secret."

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We took a quick visit to the Frontier Museum which had some artefacts from Home of Truth whose remains lay out in the southeastern Utah desert and once comprised a religious colony that set out to be a post-apocalyptic utopia, formed in 1933 by a wealthy widow from New Jersey.  We'd definitely go for a visit but it's now on private land and isn't that accessible.  Boo. More interestingly than that is this painting which looks just like Keith Richards.  You're welcome.  Enjoy it.

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Eventually, 3pm came round and we could get into the house.  We presume the area is pretty safe since the key is just under the doormat (or perhaps it's because the owner is an FBI agent).

We have absolutely no idea what we're doing tomorrow.  Fun times.

Here's our house.

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Day 4: Canyonlands National Park & Dinosaurs

The plan was to see some dinosaurs. then go to Arches National Park.  We drove past the dinosaurs and started to wend our way through the mountains.  The views were great so we carried on up and and up.

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Eventually we got to the Canyonlands National Park so it'd have been rude not to go in.  AFter seeing paintings of arches everywhere we finally go to actually see one.

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It takes about four hours to go round the whole park and we did most of it before we headed back towards the dinosaurs we'd missed.

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A thirty minute drive back to the hotel.  Out for another 'Dead Horse' Ale.  Grab some food and an early night.

Day 3: Moab, Yellowcat, Cisco, Sego Canyon

Asleep by 10 pm last night and not awake until 8:30 am.  Lovely.  A breakfast of way too many sausages and then into the car towards a ghost town.  Often when driving we see a promising road and decide to 'hang right' so after only twenty minutes we came off the main road and drove down a dusty path to a campsite with some nice views of the mountains.  Jane then realised that (a) the battery light on her camera was flashing, (b) her spare battery was back at the hotel so we popped back to grab it.

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Battery installed we were back on the road again heading to a ghost town in CIsco.  Again, we saw a sign for Yellowcat.  Sounded like it was worth a visit so we hung a right and drove and drove and drove down another dusty road.  We saw what was probably a meercat but really it was just a very long empty, gravelly road which lead ever closer to mountains that you figured you'd never reach.  We turned back.

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Cisco was all you want from a ghost town.  Empty, Interesting buildings.  Nice and out of the way.  The town has been seen in films; Thelma and Louise,  Vanishing Point (1971) and  Don't Come Knocking.  Johnny Cash wrote the song; "Cisco Clifton's Fillin Station." (the photo below)

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From the Ghost Town we were just about thirty minutes from Sego Canyon which we knew had some petroglyphs, but we'd heard can be hard to find.  Pffff.  We found them easily.

"Native Americans painted and chipped their religious visions, clan symbols, and records of events onto the cliffs. There are three distinct styles present which represent three separate cultures and time periods. These cultures are known to have been in the area during the past several thousand years."

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Day 2: Springville to Moab

We may have been in bed early but alas - jetlag - for me.  I woke up at 1:30am and could I get back to sleep?  No.  Not at all.

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I read until it wasn't too stupidly early to leave and we had breakfast and set off for Moab.  I'd read there was a ghost town en-route in a place called Soldier Summit.  On the way to the Ghost Town we passed an iron archway to Mill Fork Cemetery so we did a completely safe u-turn and went to have a look.

To get the cemetery you walked over a bridge, which this morning was coated with a thick frost.  The cemetery was pretty small (I looked it up on a website and the official internment count is just seventeen graves, though the findagrave website lists 46).  

You can read the story of the cemetery over www.thedeadhistory.com.  If you want the short version - A mother and daughter fleeing a town with an outbreak of Scarlet Fever didn't know they were infected and so infected most of Mill Fork.  Further tragedies ensue.

Leaving the cemetery behind we got to the "ghost town" in Soldier Summit.  All that was left behind were signs saying; "Private Property" and some brick outlines of buildings.  I suspect they've mostly been cleared away for some new rebuilding work.

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We both very much wanted a coffee so we pulled into the nearest town.  This turned into a nice hour walking around Helper.  Surrounded by mountains it was a nice find and after a late (bigger) breakfast we had a wander around.  

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Tiredness was starting to creep in and Moab was still hours away so we plugged on through.  Stunning mountainous scenery made the journey go pretty fast with Jane clicking her camera through the window.

Moab doesn't feel like an overly tiny town but if you look it up on Google Maps you can see it's really in the middle of nothing.

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It's most unlike us on a road trip, but we're actually in the same hotel for three nights running so we walked across the road and grabbed food for the fridge.  Job done we wandered over to the Moab Brewery for a beer.  We both wisely plumped for "Dead Horse".  For an ale it was pretty nice.

Back to the hotel by 7:30pm (yes, lightweights) and an early night.

Welcome to Utah

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Picked up by taxi driver Simon at 11 am. He described America as both; "Wide open spaces surrounded by teeth" (a Charles Luckman quote) and "The place where they think a hundred miles is a short distance, and a hundred years a long time."   The actual quote, by Diana Gabaldon, is; “An Englishman thinks a hundred miles is a long way.  An American thinks a hundred years is a long time.”

We arrived, checked in, went through security, fed ourselves and wandered over to the departure gate by 1:30 pm and were pretty much straight on the plane.

Sitting on the plane to Salt Lake City I wondered what percentage of the passengers where Mormons.

My attention span is rubbish and I wondered whether I could finish a book on the flight.  "The Virgin Suicides" by Jeffrey Eugenides is only 280 pages and the Kindle says I can read it in five and a half hours.  We'll see Kindle - Oh, we'll see.

The first distraction was a great documentary on called; "Score: A film music documentary."  Well, there was ninety minutes gone (ignoring the three times they had to reboot the whole entertainment system a few times at fifteen minutes a go).

Distraction number two was thinking about NanoWriMo.  For the uninitiated, it's a yearly challenge where you have the month of November to write a 50,000 word novel.  Last year I tapped out at 35,000 words.  This year I'll be failing to write a sci-fi thing.

The third and final distraction was to go back to reading; "The future of mind" by Michio Kaku in which I learned that on our transatlantic flight we'd experience about a millirem of radiation per hour - equivalent to a dental x-ray.

Salt Lake City airport is pretty small so we were through security in short order and had the hire car within about thirty minutes.

An hour's drive to the first hotel in Springville, Utah we threw the stuff in the room and headed over to one of the two options for some food.  Cracker Barrel.  Try the grits. *

In bed by 9:45pm - which, of course, in proper English time is 4:45am.  

A three hour or so drive south to Moab in the morning.

* Don't try the grits.

Ghost Towns

I THINK we'll only have two relatively long drives on this holiday (though time will tell).  After our first hotel we're driving from Springville down to Moab.  All being well it's about 185 miles and 3 hours.  The thing is there are four - FOUR - ghost towns to the South West of that first hotel.  Do we want to take what will probably be a two hour detour (plus exploring time)?

The towns are; Dividend, Eureka, Mammoth and Silver City.

There's a good list at this website.

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Booking Hotels and Planning/Not Planning

It's most unlike us to book many hotels in advance but we've actually booked three hotels (well, two hotels and a house) for the first six nights.  A night in Springville, then onto Moab for three nights where we can drive out to see the ghost town at Cisco then onto stay in a house for a couple of nights in Monticello.  Then as we're meeting Jules for a photoshoot in Albuquerque we've booked a hotel near the airport for picking up duties. And finally, we've re-booked the hotel in Springville for the return flight at the end of the trip.

As with Route 66 last year we're trying to draw the line between planning so we don't get back home and realise we were ten minutes from something cool, but equally not letting serendipity taking care of things.

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