Eat, Drink and Be Merry, For Tomorrow You May Be in Utah!
When you think of Utah what comes to mind? Mormons, everything being closed on Sunday, the inability to get a drink, or the extreme beauty. By extreme I don't mean the breast implants that Salt Lake City (SLC) is famous for, but the unfathomable natural beauty that can be found in this unique state.
As for the other three things, the first two still are relevant. The Church of Jesus Christ and the Latter Day Saints (LDS) is still a dominant force in the state and we did find that SLC was a ghost town on Sunday. However, the alcohol laws have been relaxed making this blog post title a little out of date. When we last spent any serious time in Utah (visiting Zion and Bryce Canyon National Parks several years ago), the drinking laws were draconian to say the least. You had to join a club to get a drink and there were some weird laws about having a "wall" between you and the person serving you the drink. Most of these laws were changed in 2009 and it is easier to exercise your "grown-up" right to chose whether you want an alcoholic beverage or not.
We spent our first few days on Antelope Island the largest island in the Great Salt Lake. What a beautiful spot. The campground is spacious and graded so that everyone gets a great view. It's a popular location. We managed to get a site without reservations but had to move on Friday to another space as the weekenders arrived. There are over 500 bison wandering all over the island that are hard to miss. Our first day there an enormous specimen wandered through the campground. The next day we almost stumbled over another fast asleep on the hiking trail. They are huge, so feeling a little intimidated we decided it best to give the beast a very wide berth. In addition to the other wildlife on the island, the mosquitoes are prolific. Usually I am the tasty one, but both Iain and I were eaten alive here.
Fielding Garr Ranch is on the east side of the island. It's an old ranch that was set up by the LDS back in 1848. It's a very cool visit since you are encouraged to interact with the museum exhibits. You can actually touch and feel all of the historical artifacts and equipment on display. All the old tools, the clothes the ranchers wore, the trucks they drove. You can walk around the houses and see how the ranchers lived. As the ranch developed in the mid 1950's communication was a challenge due to the remote location of the island. To keep in touch with the mainland they actually used one of the first mobile phones systems back in the day. I bet they were too busy to play Candy Crush though.
After enjoying the seclusion and natural beauty of Antelope Island we relocated to Salt Lake City opting to stay at a downtown RV park. It's not our preferred type of place to be but the convenient location allowed us to walk or take public transport to most places. We love to explore interesting cities, seeking out the places where locals hang out away from the normal tourist traps. This led us to spending an afternoon in the beautiful historic neighborhood of SLC known by locals as "The Avenues". Lucky for us there happened to be a street fair on that day. It helped us get a real sense of the place and view some of the wonderfully eclectic mix of housing. After tiring of walking in the heat we strolled to a brew pub called the Avenues Proper, where we enjoyed refreshing local cold brews and appetizers. We walked back toward the downtown area stopping for dinner and beers at another couple of watering holes before getting the light rail home. Saturday night in the big city!!
The next morning it was bucket list time. Leaving the optional shuttle bus behind at the RV park, we decided to walk to Temple Square to see the Mormon Tabernacle Choir. Every Sunday morning they broadcast a performance live to radio and TV stations across the world. It's a 30 minute program open to anyone in the city to come experience in the auditorium as they perform. The sound of the choir was so effortlessly beautiful, it was definitely something to see and hear.
After seeking out somewhere open for brunch (see earlier comment on Sundays), we decided to escape the heat for a few hours in an air conditioned movie theater. After that welcome respite, we were ready to see a little more of the sights and wandered back to Temple Square. Non Mormons are not allowed in the temple, but are welcome to tour their impressive Convention Center. Local hosts give you a free tour while explaining the history of the church founding. The place is on a vast scale and definitely interesting to see. I will keep my judgments on Mormonism, and religion generally, to myself. But my overall impression of visiting the sites at Temple Square was that is was fascinating. The idea that someone can found a religion and, in such a short time, create all the infrastructure and followers around the world is mind-boggling to me. The place is immaculate and everyone we met was super friendly. It was a bit like Disneyland or The Stepford Wives in that the wholesomeness almost bordered on creepiness.
Our final day in SLC was spent doing chores, getting haircuts, grocery shopping etc. Our water heater had sprung a leak sometime in the previous few days. Rather than think about how to wash dishes with no hot water we went out for some very mediocre Indian food. Why was I foolish enough to think I could get good Indian food in Utah. I guess I am an optimist!
We really enjoyed our visit to the SLC area, and despite the discomforting LDS factor, the city seems to be developing some cool neighborhoods. But tomorrow we would be heading south to what really excites me about Utah. The wonderful National Parks of the Southern State. Moab here we come!