Tuesday, September 10, 2013

The Third Sunday Drive, Day Two: Utah

Along the Spanish Fork River, Utah

Down the lane I walk with my sweet Mary, hair of gold and lips like cherries.
It's good to touch the green, green grass of home.
Yes, they'll all come to meet me, arms reaching, smiling sweetly.
It's good to touch the green, green grass of home.
 --lyrics by Curly Putman

To hear Johnny Cash sing this song, which I chose only because there was no green, green grass on my drive today, click here.

Once out of bed and back in the Saab, the first order of the day was to feed my face.  Turning to Yelp, I found several nearby places offering a decent breakfast, but finding them was another matter.  While I'm sure that Salt Lake's address system using xxx North yyy East works well for those who understand it, I find it extremely confusing, and impossible to program into Nancy the Nag's navigation system.  Further complicating matters was the fact that I seemed to be in strip-mall city, where all the businesses were part of one strip mall or another and not easily seen while driving down a six lane street.  Finally, none of the buildings I could see had easily visible numbers, so it was merely by chance that I found myself at Kneader's Bakery and Café in Midvale, Utah.  Or maybe I was still in Salt Lake City.  I don't know.  I never saw any signs indicating that I had moved from one municipality to another.

Kneader's was not what I wanted, in that you stepped up to the order desk, placed your order, then waited for the staff to bring you your meal.  I much prefer sitting down and letting them bring me a menu.  As it was, I completely misunderstood the choices available to me, and ordered (I thought) a mango smoothie and a pain au chocolat.  The cashier then asked what I wanted for my main course.  Silly me, I thought that was the main course, so I ended up getting way too much food when they brought me my omelette and it's accompanying side dishes as well as the smoothie and croissant.  The coffee was surprisingly good, considering I'm in Mormon country, but I would recommend that the management rethink their idea of putting black plastic tableware in black circular bins with no overhead lighting.  Since this is more of a cafeteria than a restaurant, you are expected to get your own tableware, napkins, coffee, etc, and finding them was a challenge.  The omelette was good, however, and I took the smoothie and croissant for snacking down the road.

 What a dramatic sky above central Utah

On my way back to I-15, I filled the Saab's tank, and hit the road listening to The Focus Group on SiriusXM OutQ Gay Radio.  Due to it being Labor Day Weekend, OutQ's weekend schedule was a strange mix of repeats and odd combinations which allowed the regulars to have the weekend off.  The Focus Group had chosen to repeat a broadcast about America's number one Tupperware distributor, Your Aunt Barbara, just a typical housewife out on The Long Island, who is otherwise known as Robert Suchan.  Who knew that a drag queen would become Tupperware's Queen Bee?  The segment was hilarious, and apparently, unbeknownst to the Focus Group's hosts, Aunt Barbara showed up for the interview in full drag.  The show was hilarious, and I, for one, will be ordering my Tupperware from Aunt Barbara, and I feel you should too. 

Turning off I-15, I headed southeast on US 6, climbing from Spanish Fork up and over the mountains to descend to Green River and I-70.  This is a gorgeous drive, one that Kevin and I had taken in reverse way back when we rushed to Denver to rescue Rocky I from Denver Animal Control after Gary's untimely death.  That trip was in January, and the area looks much different in early September.

Stopping for lunch in Green River, I had a decent Chef's Salad at the West Winds truck stop and then found a geocache just across the highway near a motel parking lot.  I won't give away anything more in case you want to find this particular cache.  I was now at 176 found caches in 17 different states.  My Garmin GPS unit is not working properly, so I had to download the geocaching app to my iPhone to find the caches in Idaho and Utah.  I planned on continuing to find caches along the way, but somehow got distracted by the scenery and miles.

Red Rock along Utah 313, leading to Canyonlands National Park

I had directed my Nav system to find the northern part of Canyonlands National Park, and at Green River, the system tried to direct me down 80 miles of dirt road.  I knew from my maps, that there was a paved road that took off US 191 a few miles north of Moab, and was thus surprised to find myself driving across the desert on gravel.  Turning around, I headed back into Green River, caught I-70 for a few miles until I exited on US 191.  The big advantage of traveling on a three-day holiday weekend, is that the construction projects are usually on hold, and you can drive through construction zones without worrying about being delayed by actual construction.  Most of US 191 north of Moab was a construction zone.

Sure enough, roughly a dozen miles north of Moab, Utah 313 took off to the west, leading to the northern part of Canyonlands.  The Visitor Center was some twenty-five miles ahead, but the day was still relatively young and the scenery was spectacular.  I spent enough time in Canyonlands and later in neighboring Arches National Park that I will address each of them in separate posts.  For now suffice it to say that while driving along 313, I stopped at various places to take pictures, including at the overlook for two bright red rock mesas named for the Civil War battleships Monitor and Merrimack at the Battle of Hampton Roads.  I got to talking with some bicyclists and turned them on to WarmShowers.org, a social networking site for bicyclist tourists and their potential hosts.  I've had such fun hosting bicycle tourists through WarmShowers, that I want anyone riding a bike to know about the program.  I also got a nice shot of the Saab with the mesas in the background.

Monitor and Merrimack Mesas, near Moab, Utah
No Saab in this shot

While at the Canyonlands Visitors' Center, I purchased a National Parks Passport and entered my first stamp.  We'll see how full I'm able to get the thing--i.e. how many stamps I put in the passport, but it's fun knowing I have the option of logging all my visits in this handy guidebook.  This was also my first chance to take advantage of my new Senior Pass, which at my advanced age allows me entrance to all federal fee areas for the rest of my life--and it only costs $10.  I highly recommend you take advantage of the program, if you're old enough.

The road into Canyonlands is also the road out, and once back on US 191, I soon found myself at the entrance to Arches National Park.  My drive up and into the park took the rest of the available sun--so necessary for daylit photography, and by the time I left the park and entered the city of Moab, I was ready to find a bed and a good dinner.  Oh the joys of traveling on a holiday weekend in a resort area.  There was a sign on the door of the Super 8 saying that there was no need to proceed any further.  They were full for the night.  There was another motel just across the highway, so I pulled in and found they did have a room which I quickly rented.  Once I had carried everything from  the car to my room, I again called up Yelp and found a Thai restaurant in the center of downtown Moab. 

When eating in an ethnic restaurant, I always take it as a good sign that the customers are also of the same ethnic group.  I figure they know whether the food is good or bad.  Now as to whether this holds true in a resort community, who can say, but well over half the tables at Sing Ha were filled with Asians, predominately from the subcontinent judging by their appearance.  I found the meal delicious, and my only quibble would be the service which was extremely slow.  This I attributed to the fact that every table was full (I was the only single diner), and there were only two people serving.  No sooner did a table empty than it was refilled with new diners, and the ethnic mix never varied.  I had no idea there were so many east Indians visiting Moab, Utah.  At one point, an Asian woman appeared at my table and asked me how I liked the dish.  When I told her how good it was, she took great pride in announcing that she was the cook who had prepared my meal.  In my experience, it's not often that cooks leave the kitchen to introduce themselves to the diners, and indeed, I did not see this woman talk to anyone else in the restaurant.  What can I say, I stayed for dessert and left with a glass of Thai iced tea.  The one other item of note at Sing Ha was the young Asian woman who on occasion would come around filling glasses.  Her shorts were so short, they were completely hidden on the front by her apron.  Must be a family member, I thought, as I can't imagine a manager allowing such attire on a regular employee.

I just love twisted trees, Canyonlands National Park, Utah

Back at the motel, I checked my mileage.  I had driven only 340 miles, but had taken over one hundred photos.  A beautiful day.

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