Wednesday, 27th of September
Farewell Moab, hullo Salt Lake City!
Despite this being another necessary-evil driving day, thanks to Roadside America I had a list of potential stops for us to peep to keep us occupied during our route. (Honestly that website is a game-changer for long hauls!) That said, we had a surprisingly eventful day cavorting across southern Utah.
First stop: Green River, Utah. Home, obviously, of the world’s largest watermelon slice.
But of course you knew that. Maybe you even knew Green River in a roundabout way. Ever seen An American Tail: Fievel Goes West?
Chances are you have, but like me, remember very little of it. Something about Jewish mice moving to America… because they thought there’d be no cats there? I may or may not have that story straight. Regardless, a wiki of Green River, home of the world’s largest watermelon slice, revealed that in the fictional American Tail, Green River was their new chosen home.
Funny that eh?
Despite its animated claim to fame, Green River is a wee place that like other wee places has an oddly specific festival. (Think RC Cola & moonpie festival, slug burger festival, soybean festival, you get the idea.) Green River has, of course, a watermelon festival!!! Which we missed by a few days I think–major bummer.
But we still got to see the watermelon, left abandoned in the parking area of some sort of museum. We were the only people there to pay it homage (again, it was pretty early but I doubt many others even know about the glory to be found), and we located it pretty quickly based on its sheer size, and the small structure built around it to protect it from the elements.
Here’s Haitham being appropriately awed by the sheer majesty of it.
(We didn’t stop to get any watermelon though. Gutted.)
Our drive continued for an hour or so until we reached our next stop of the day: Spanish Fork, Utah. The drive to reach it, unsurprisingly, continued to be absurdly beautiful. I still stand by my awed perplexity at just how it was Utah escaped my notice in all my years of living in the States. I always sort of imagined it much like Kansas I guess–flat, and empty. But it’s the polar opposite.
Here’s a photo of drive scenery, for example.
So what drew our attention to Spanish Fork, you may ask? Well, it was a Buddhist temple. I know, right? Utah=Mormons. But Roadside America had drawn my attention to this place, which also featured an Indian veggie buffet, so what better place to stop and get lunch (and potentially see some llamas)?
We walked in the door right at noon, and were greeted by an older (surprisingly) white woman. She had a wee African grey parrot on her shoulder who peered at us from his perch. She asked, a bit brusquely, what she could help us with (the woman, not the parrot). We said we were just passing through and hoping to get some lunch. She waved a hand and said, “Oh, it’s not ready yet. It’s not even lunch time.” I glanced at my watch, eyebrows raised, and said, “Oh, really? But it’s noon… that’s okay though.”
“Oh, is it?” she said vaguely. “I had no idea that was the time. Well, go on then. I’ll ring you up here. It’s just five bucks for the both of you.”
While we waited several eternities for her to ring us up, as she kept getting distracted and letting the card reader time out (haha), I asked if I could snap a quick photo of her and bird. She looked up, sort of surprised, like she’d forgotten he was even there. She explained that his name was Ramu.
Lunch there was delicious, but also sort of an experience. We were the only people in the entire place besides the actual staff, and this lady and her bird (who disappeared shortly after). Here’s a photo of Haitham enjoying his meal–notice the massive bird cages in the background. Ramu seemingly has friends!
After a quick wander, one small purchase, and donning our shoes again, we headed outside to scope out the grounds. When we wandered a short distance to some trees nearby, we began to hear a riot of noises–whistles, “Hello!” and squawks. Lo and behold, we encountered Mr. Ramu back in his outside home, and he was feeling super chatty. He’s apparently learned that when people stop showing him attention, hollering and making loads of racket well bring ’em curiously back round to investigate. We were certainly no different, charmed by the variety of noises he was able to make, and even better, his friendliness. He would pop up a little foot onto the bars so he could stretch his neck out to you for a scritch. Be still my frikkin’ heart he was so cute!! I’ve never met a bird I wasn’t afraid was going to nip the tops of my fingers right off so much as look at ya. But Ramu was a special wee guy.
Here’s the temple. It’s called, for the curious, the Sri Sri Radha Krishna Temple. At least according to Google Maps, anyway.
After taking photos of llamas, the scenery, and attempting a few videos of Ramu speaking we finally wrenches ourselves away from the adorable little featherball. Time was a’wastin–and our next stop was a scenic drive, spotted online, that everyone crowed about.
The drive itself was the Provo Canyon Scenic Drive, or simply the 189. And while it was perhaps even more gorgeous that the folks online crowed about, it was also super narrow and wiggly, leaving me more than a few times clutching the panels of the Mustang in abject terror as someone else shot around a tiny corner just ahead of us. (Channeling my best mom impression from my learning-to-drive days!) It created a bit more stress than I think was warranted for the route–perhaps this was why the guy at the rental car place had suggested a Jeep–but the scenery was totally stinkin’ worth it.
This was, if I remember correctly, not too far in when we’d just pulled off to a gravel bar on the side of the road. Check out those stunning fall colors!
We pulled off again not long after to take in an aspen grove. I wondered if I could just build a cabin somewhere and stay there forever.
We finally made it to a scenic overlook–uuuuuuughhh. I even managed to convince H to stay still long enough for a photo of the two of us.
We eventually stopped at a wee state park called Cascade Springs, which at the time I couldn’t recall why I had listed in our itinerary at all. That’s the trouble with doing your research in advance–sometimes you can’t even remember what the heck they were down for.
H, by that time, was feeling a bit stretched thin. Here’s where I asked him to pause for a photo. Remind you of anyone? Like, maybe a 5-year-old? ^_____^ Bless him. He did drive the entire way.
We navigated oh-so-carefully down out of the mountains and before the sun was even setting we were tucked up in our airbnb. With time to kill, of course a wander in downtown Salt Lake City was in order.
Salt Lake City is a curious, but surprisingly awesome, place. For some reason I believe my gal pals and I had stopped there once on our long road trip coming home from California–but I only remember passing through salt flats and stopping at a small, twee place. It must not have been SLC because this place was a sprawling mass of a city. Surprisingly clean and modern, but also just really pretty.
Here’s a photo of the downtown area, featuring an excellent reflecting pool, and a bridal gown unveiling photoshoot. I waited for ages for the groom to turn around to see his bride. D’aw!
And here’s a photo from our wander back home, that sort of encapsulates SLC. Very straight roads, all navigating from the big church (mormon tabernacle?) heart, and mountains encircling it all. A lovely place. You gotta hand it to Mormons–they may have their own controversies, but they certainly know how to build a city!
Thursday, 28th of September
Our full day in Salt Lake City started off with a nip of cold in the air. Unsurprising, considering our location surrounded on all sides by mountains, and the higher elevation. Though we had plans for later in the day, we decided to get an early start (per usual) and headed out after a nice breakfast (and for me, a latte with a smiley face foam art, awesome).
Our destination was the Red Butte Gardens. Which we took a lot of pleasure in by mispronouncing butte literally every time we said it because we are children. Despite that, it’s a lovely place–even on days it feels overcast and in the grips of winter. It’s also quite high up, creating a setting for excellent views!
Although I could have spent a long time in the gardens, we ended up doing a quick lap of the place (I think we saw about 50% of it) before some of us began whimpering from the cold. Couldn’t possibly name names though.
After a quick snack and a disappointing tea in downtown SLC (who serves hot tea in a glass cup anyway?), we rendezvous’d for the real excitement of the day: our first Segway tour. I tried to keep my nerves under wraps, the remnants of my vestibular neurosis and general clumsiness on my mind as I thought, “If something could happen to anyone on a segway, it would definitely be me.”
Here’s H taking to his mechanical monstrosity like a seal to water.
It was a great tour. Our guide was the happiest chap, full of geeky humor but absolutely brimming over with knowledge of SLC (and a bit of inside info on Mormonism). He was also highly skilled at guiding us on our way–however, I’ll be the first to admit this didn’t stop me from crashing my freakin’ segway. This was maybe 30 minutes in, going up a inclined, zigzagged section of path where I clipped a wheel and went down like a sack of potatoes. I got up quickly but already knew I’d twigged my foot–I shook it off and we continued on our merry way, even if I favored my left foot which I could already feel swelling!
The rest of the tour was just lovely though. Check it out–here’s the Salt Lake City White House, or rather, the state capitol. Impressive eh? Or is that just those two cool kids out front you’re ‘mirin? Lucky you can’t see the pain hiding behind my sunglasses!!
After our tour we decided to take a quick trip up to see one the highest points in SLC, Ensign Peak. It was at that point as my limp became a bit more pronounced that we decided (or rather Haitham insisted) that we just settle for the viewing platform below the peak itself. Fair enough–it was still lovely!
At that point, after eating some leftover curry in the parking area, that we decided we didn’t know what exactly to do next. My aching foot meant any walks were just about out. Our guide had mentioned a place you could drive about on the long stretches of salt flats, but it was just a wee bit further than we were prepared to drive, but it sounded cool enough to be bummed about not being able to visit! So instead we decided to drive about 30 minutes to the Great Salt Lake Marina to take in, ya know, the lake. Despite its semi-questionable reviews (weird), we headed out, and in no time at all we were traipsing around on the beachfront.
It was positively lovely. The water was so reflective, there were people kayaking, it was just cracking.
However–however. When we’d been googling about the marina, we’d come up with a bunch of negative reviews from visitors claiming the place stunk. And sure enough–they were so fucking right. The place was mingin’. Turns out, salt lakes are full of brine shrimp–one of the only things that can live in such salinity. When they die they wash up on the shore and as they decompose–oh, my god. There are no words to describe it.
It wasn’t long (maybe 20 minutes or so) spent on the beach before we’d had right enough. We went back up to the marina parking area and headed for some big rocks upwind of the shrimps. We decided, hell, it was only a wee while before the sunset, so we may as well stick around for that long.
And so we did.