Surprises on the road

17 09 2010

We just got back from another epic journey in the American west. Jetlag has attacked with a vengeance (I am having more and more trouble with him as I get older, it seems), and I am up at all sorts of ungodly hours, writing. But I have to say that we had a grand time – as expected. It was also a learning experience, my second such educational tour in the western part of my own country. There is so much to discover out there and I am sure I haven’t learned nearly all I want to know.

So I decided to compile a list of things I didn’t know before I went, as well as vignettes and facts that surprised me during the 12 days we traveled through northern California, Oregon, Idaho, Montana, Wyoming and Nevada. Maybe you were ignorant of these as well (but probably not).

If only I could put all my cool experiences in a box and take them with me everywhere, to open and enjoy whenever I want to.

Here is my list of interesting & fun stuff (in no particular order):

  • There is a lot of desert in Oregon.
  • There is a sign at the side of the road whenever you cross into a new time zone.
  • Old Faithful geyser in Yellowstone National Park blows every 93 minutes, like clockwork. Almost.
  • San Franciscans have thoroughly embraced the Smart car.
  • Bison can swim?

"Yes we can!"

  • Buffalo wings have nothing to do with these buffalo because they come from Buffalo, New York.
  • The LDS-church temple in downtown Salt Lake City (from which non-LDS-believers are banned) is pretty small. And downright insignificant when you compare it to many European cathedrals built 600 (or more) years ago.
  • A Jeep Grand Cherokee is also called a “Laredo.”
  • New quarters will be minted with motifs of the national parks, in the order in which they were established. Yellowstone (founded in 1872) is the first to be commemorated on the back of a quarter – and I have one.
  • Coast Redwoods can get to be 2,400 years old.
  • While looking for change in my wallet at a Starbucks in Bend, Oregon, the Barista told me, “Sorry, we don’t take Euros.”
  • There is actually a place called “Jackpot” in Nevada.
  • There are many onions in Idaho.
  • Sarah Palin was born in Idaho.
  • West Yellowstone, Montana is the self-declared “Snowmobile Capital of the World.”
  • It takes eight hours to drive from Salt Lake City to Reno, Nevada (520 miles / 800 km), across a whole lot of nothing.
  • If you come to live in San Francisco, you will never leave. As a friend put it so aptly: “How can you be miserable in such a beautiful place?”

She's right, you know.

The bullies of Salt Lake City

14 09 2010

And once again I out myself as despicable, selfish, child-free and…much happier that way.

We were in that family-friendly of all cities, the LDS-church capital of the world, Salt Lake City, Utah. One fine and sunny morning, three small children and their two mothers were sitting in the breakfast area of the Crystal Inn. Irritating, high-pitched screams echoed through the hallway before we could even see and identify the creatures they were coming from. Shrieks, rivaling the sound of nails on a chalkboard, greeted us before we even had a chance to smell coffee.

The two rather rotund women who seemed to be the mothers of the screeching, squirming beasts sat at a table along with one mute and sickly-skinny man. (I thought polygamy was illegal…even in Utah!) Two kids were in highchairs and the third was perched on a lap. After every vocalization of 107 decibels or more, one of the women would tell her son, half-heartedly, “Jake, now stop” or “Nathan, don’t do that” as the other woman just smiled and laughed and pretended she could actually hear herself think amid all the noise pollution.

Other breakfasting guests concentrated hard on staring into and picking at their bacon and eggs, none making any visible attempt to address the great white (bellowing) elephant in the room.

And the whole time I’m thinking – if a little dog was yipping away like a maniac in the breakfast room of a hotel, would everybody go about their business as if it was nothing? I think not. The rules of society seem to be different when it comes to disruptive children. Everyone is supposed to actually enjoy the pandemonium they create.

If only one could silence such terrors with a milkbone. Soaked in grain alcohol. Or rat poison.

Here little kiddie, time for breakfast!

As the racket began to fray our tender early-morning nerves, I finally got up to ask the two mothers, obviously incapable of handling their kids effectively in public, if they would please just try to calm them down or leave because there were other guests who had paid for the right to enjoy their breakfast in peace. The childrens’ high-pitched squealing stopped for an instant as the mothers launched into a rampage, telling me that their precious little boys are just learning how to behave and little boys must also eat. And that they will grow up into competent, responsible adults. (Really? I wouldn’t be so sure about that.)

“But… how can they eat if they are screaming all the time,” I asked, which was the red flag for both obese mothers and a few other guests in the room to attack me all at once. I was surprised at the decidedly family un-friendly language used.

By this time R.’s blood was coming to a boil as well and he jumped into the discussion with a few choice words of his own. His comments betrayed his foreign accent and promptly we got a “Get outta here and go back home!” tossed our way from a white-trash, tatooed, slimy, IQ-deficient blob of body mass sitting at another table.

After an eternity the clan finally got up to leave, threatening us with a “We’ll be back tomorrow!” to which we lobbed a “Thank God we will not!” back.

Charming folks here in Salt Lake City. I don’t think I will come visit again anytime soon.