Published in The Lebanon Democrat Tuesday, October 21, 2014.
PARK CITY, UTAH – This past weekend, Maureen and I launched another test of exploiting our new found freedom beyond work days.
Our friends Pete and Nancy Toennies invited us on a road trip to Park City, Utah, the former silver mining town turned winter ski resort for golf before the snow falls.
Saturday, we drove to Temecula, the Southwest corner’s wine country. Pete and I golfed while the ladies shopped, dined, and tasted wine. Afterwards, we drove to Nellis Air Force Base just outside Las Vegas, for the night. We completed the trip on Sunday.
The test, thus far, is successful. Pete and I, as mentioned here before, have been friends since 1979. The accompanying photograph demonstrates we were aptly nicknamed Shrek and Donkey about four years ago by Zack, the son of our good friend Steve Frailey.
After leaving Temecula on the southern border of Riverside and San Diego Counties, there simply isn’t much for 275 miles except high desert. Sand, rock, and scrub vegetation are just about all one can see. It is majestic in its sweep. Elevation changes are striking. Except for Interstate 15 egresses and ingresses where gas stations, food marts, and fast food abound, the vista reminds me of being at sea.
Occasionally, several houses would appear in the distance. Sometimes we would spot one small house with farm vehicles, sagging sheds, and fences.
I wondered how someone could live all alone with nothing as far as the eye could see. To this untrained eye, there was no viable food source. Occasionally, a windmill would confirm the availability of water. Did the electric company run one line that many miles for one home?
Places like this have existed for years. People have been doing this long before air conditioning or even electricity. As we plod through the mid-October landscape, it was well over 80 degrees. How did these folks live in the summer? Under ground?
As usual when I drive east through the deserts of California, Arizona, New Mexico, Texas, and now Utah, my mind turns toward the past. I try to imagine a Conestoga pulled by oxen with a family living off of hardtack and the surviving livestock they brought with them from some jumping off place back East. I envision topping a promontory before even a trail was cut through this desolate place and seeing nothing but more desert, wondering what lay beyond the horizon, wondering if they would ever get to the promised land.
After four hours, we tuned the GPS to our chosen Outback restaurant for supper, reasoning it would be away from the city glitz. Vegas lights were visible for miles. Soon the hotels jutted into the desert night with inventive and unique neon beckoning. We ignored them and exited the ramp per GPS instructions. Our exit took us into the heart of “The Strip” and a traffic jam that New York or Los Angeles would envy. The Outback was located within a block of Caesar’s Palace. There were more people on the streets, moving slowly. It took us a half hour just to get back on the interstate and finally to our destination.
The next morning, we continued. High power lines, phone and telegraph wires, and antennae galore ran back toward Vegas. “Umbilical cords,” I thought, “giving life to its fetus ‘Sin City.’” Take a spot in the desert, add water, electricity, steel, and plastic. Lure folks with false hope of fortune and good times. Viola! A major city, a modern Sodum. We love it.
We quickly reached Utah. Initially, the vistas were the same. Gradually as we climbed, a tree or two appeared, then a few more houses and businesses. Soon, hay fields appeared, more hay than Middle Tennessee could imagine. Aspens in their glory of yellow foliage appeared. The mountain peaks were higher, the interstate climb steeper. We turned onto US 189 at Provo and reached Park City around 5:00 p.m.
Remarkably, we drove the 757 miles and were never out of traffic, even in the desert with speed limits of 80 mph.
So Shrek and Donkey are in the high country with their very understanding wives. When you read this, we will be on some mountain course, searching for our lost balls in the aspens and pines with incredible vistas and perfect weather.
The drive will not seem so bad.