This continues my coverage of our trip out west … the move to Portland. This leg is from Cheyenne, WY to Salt Lake, UT.

We were happy to leave Cheyenne but it seems we pressed on a bit too quickly. Kristen started out driving, but we reached barren desert terrain quite soon, and the sun was beating in on her side pretty heavily. The bad La Quinta breakfast, horrible coffee, no fruit, and forgetting to drink sufficient water all contributed to her getting a bit dehydrated. No fun. I took over so she could recuperate.

I mentioned in my June 23 post about the La Quinta. Well, to make up for the bad breakfast and coffee, we decided to find a coffee shop in Laramie via GPS. The joint seemed pretty hip from the outside, and even on the inside. Reminded me of other local coffee houses I’ve visited that try so hard in small towns that otherwise have very little going for them. It even had art on the walls that would be considered mildly offensive by some. Kind of comforting.

However, when I walked in, I looked around for a menu board but had difficulty finding it. Obviously I was new here, and the barista was ready to capitalize on this fact. I asked what type of coffee they have. Some coffee shops get special blends from around the world and try to inform their customers about them (like Mitchell’s, which was my favorite shop in Lakeland). But the Laramie shop didn’t try that hard, so she just said, “light, medium and dark.” Not exactly what I was hoping for. So I just got a dark coffee. Kristen’s drink (probably a vanilla latte) was lackluster as well. Overly sweet, because a flavored coffee drink isn’t supposed to taste like coffee, right?

We saw our first prairie dogs on the way to Utah. Their lair was situated on a pull-off between the east and west-bound lanes of I-80. We didn’t quite know what they were at first. One started playing with a discarded piece of trash (potato chip bag?) and later on a braver one started to re-enact a level from the Frogger video game.

We took quite a few great photos on the way to Salt Lake, but unfortunately, I forgot to charge the camera battery the night before so we weren’t able to take photos of our trip’s most spectacular stretches of hilly roads. They were the biggest inclines I’ve ever driven up or down at high speed. I couldn’t imagine braving those roads in snowy conditions. Seemed a recipe for disaster. I really can’t express enough how dynamic the landscape was an hour or two away from Salt Lake. Some people would be terrified, but I had a blast driving that stretch.

In Salt Lake City we stayed at a Holiday Inn Express that was a few miles south of the city center. Getting there was an adventure (missed the exit), but at least we had GPS. We looped around and only lost about 15 minutes of time. Naturally, this made the highways in Salt Lake even more intimidating, so we avoided them after that.

Checking in… Man. Old man. Neck brace. Parked in the pull through near the hotel door in such a way that noone else could pull through. What the hell, I was checking in, so I pulled up as best I could. He was inside at the counter asking excessive questions to the clerks. He asked if they knew where X hospital was. Then he asked if they knew where doctor Y practiced, because that’s his wife’s cancer doctor. The clerks didn’t know. He asked a few more questions, while leaning on the counter as if he were in a bar having a nice long chat with the bartender. He didn’t notice me standing behind him. After 10 minutes I decided to have a seat in the lobby. Then the clerk said to me, “we’ll be with you in a minute, sir.” Finally the old man realized someone else was there and said, “Oh, I’m sorry.” Some people act like clerks were born to wait on them. Or maybe he was simply stalling so he didn’t have to go back to the car where his wife was waiting. She was probably worse.

We arrived in time to relax a bit, but figured we should check out the Mormon Temple before it got too dark. The roads to the temple were confusing as hell. They were all numbered, but used North, South, East and West to differentiate. “13th West”, “13th North”, etc. To make it worse, it was also like other large cities where they create several one-way streets for the sake of efficiency. But really, I think it just deters more people, which naturally leads to better traffic flow. Pictures of the temple and the surrounding areas of much mormon oversight begin here.

It was all beautiful. But seeing such creations, similar to elaborate Catholic churches, or even posh houses of government, one can’t help but think the money and labor could have been put to better use. That’s all I have to say about that. You can see the pictures for yourself and decide.

While waiting to cross a street near the temple blocks, for the first time in our lives we encountered a red-faced (from the sun) woman, holding up a sign, asking for money while crying. Milestone noted.

We walked around the temple almost paranoid that we were going to stumble upon a restricted area, and then be whisked away never to be heard from again. But that’s par for the course when you’re on the sacred ground of groups with such high levels of secrecy. It’s understandable that getting close to the temple was prohibited, but the manner in which this was accomplished – construction barriers in the absense of ANY visible construction – was puzzling. A curious people indeed.

When we neared the Visitor Center, we were greeted by two young people eager to talk to us. Naturally they asked where we were from. Both were girls. One was Asian (I think she was even an exchange student). And both were younger than us. Interns, no doubt. And for some reason it just felt wrong.

In the Visitor Center, we were in awe at the amount of propoganda. There was a bench inside facing the temple, probably the best, unobstructed view of the temple from a seated position. There were murals, paintings, interactive kiosks, dioramas. It was too much. Luckily we could take photos. But really, why wouldn’t they let us take photos? We’re doing their work for free! Heathens, spreading the word of the Lord unwittingly!

The highlight of the evening was over, and we were hungry. Salt Lake’s downtown didn’t seem anything like Omaha, with it’s Old Market district. We didn’t see any recognisable collection of eating places, and we weren’t about to check out the cafeteria on the temple block. We ended up finding a McDonalds, the far-flung path of least resistance.


Some additional thoughts. Let the blasphemy begin:

Joseph smith statues are funny looking. As are most statues of religious figures that hold books while looking like they have the most important mission in the universe.

The pool of water near the temple might be calming, but I’m sure it’s hard to relax and get spiritual when there are so many video cameras mounted on buildings and poles around you. The Mormons must have had problems with vandalism. Or maybe they’re paranoid.

It’s odd having such a strong religous presence in a city center, near the center of government.

The Mormons are huge on geneology. And I felt like my privacy would be invaded if I investigated my geneology using the computers in their Visitor Center.

It’s also disturbing that they take it upon themselves to baptise the dead into their faith.

Mormonism is the epitomy of brainwashing individuals into thinking that raising a family is every person’s second most important calling in life.