July 11, 2022
Where is McDonald’s?
The owner of the Wanderlust Cowgirl Coffee kiosk, overhearing my order of coffee with a splash of whole milk, came to the window to chat about our plans and wish us safe travels. Her hospitality energized us as we began our day on the road to Salt Lake City, Utah. Having visited the aforementioned Quilt Walk Park on our first day in Panguitch, we could fit in a visit to the Great Salt Lake before checking into The Little America Hotel, our home for the next two nights.
Utah presents a beautiful landscape for driving long distances. The scenery changes frequently, and when you are on vast plains, the mountains in the distance remind you that they are not endless. Southern Utah is comprised of multiple national and state parks and forests. Along with the Native American reservations, almost 67% is nationally owned. Thus, cities are few. The land is filled with vast plains of rock and scrub on one side of the interstate and hayfields on the other. Frequently cattle are seen grazing. Although the vista was expansive, smoke haze covered the mountains in our view from left to right. We saw evidence of several active fires among the hills.
Out of curiosity, we kept our eyes open for a McDonald’s. They seem in short supply in Utah.
Utah does not coddle the driver as indicated by signs that advise “If drowsy, pull over.” Rest stops are few. And men, no trees to hide behind. Just sayin’.
At last we saw the majestic spires of the temple: the Krishna temple of Provo, Utah. Many tall white cross-less spires of the LDS churches punctuated the neighborhoods visible from the interstate as we drive by. A quick bite at Potbelly in Provo, and we were on our way to the Great Salt Lake.
I swam in the GSL back in the early 1960s when my family journeyed cross-country to California in our at-that-time modern Apache pop-up trailer. Having adequate adipose tissue, buoyancy in water has never been a problem for me. The salt of the Great Salt Lake practically spit me out. Continually fighting athlete’s foot as a child, I floated in the lake holding my feet above the stinging brine. As the family drove back to the campground, the salt dried on our skin encrusting us as if we were trout being prepared for dinner. Alas, the showers were being cleaned when we arrived, forcing us to wait. This is all to say that I’ve been there, done that, won’t do it again.
Mike had never seen the lake, and I do believe it is worth a look. Online posts suggested viewing the lake from Antelope Island State Park. We drove through Salt Lake City, hiking shoes ready. The history of the lake is intriguing, the vistas are sensational, and the smell, a mix of salty brine and machine shop oil, is off-putting. The treeless, rocky trails disinclined us to hike. Instead, we enjoyed the overlooks and then drove the east side of the island, the only road open to cars, stopping at the Fielding-Garr Ranch. I was disappointed that there was little information on this family that set up a ranch on an island in the middle of the Great Salt Lake in the 1800’s, currently a peninsula due to low water levels. The ranch remained active into the 1980s. The views of bison herds, California seagulls (the state bird, no less), and some long-legged species of birds kept us entertained. Birders, this is considered a prime environment for you. Because of the low water level, we did not venture the several hundred feet to the water.
Google Maps led us to the discreet, unmarked back entrance to The Little America Hotel in Salt Lake City. I booked a room here because accommodations in town were filling quickly when I was making reservations. Normally opting for more modest rooms such as Purple Sage for short stays, we looked forward to a special experience. A young man pushing a laundry cart directed us to the parking garage. Ascending via elevator to the lobby, we located the check-in desk by the front entrance. The charming young woman seemed disappointed when we declined her up-sell to more luxurious rooms. We envisioned their “motel-like rooms” without refrigerators.
As Mike retrieved the car, I walked out the front door to our room in an adjacent building. Following the map, I got lost and met two other parties looking for their rooms. Is there no signage in this place?
Let me compare the humble abode of the Purple Sage Motel in Panguitch and the much more expensive The Little America Hotel in SLC. In SLC, the furniture was more updated but no more clean or comfortable. There was a refrigerator, microwave, and single-cup coffee maker in SLC. However, there was a dearth of outlets for charging electronics. Mike followed the map to fill the ice bucket only to wander several minutes before inquiring at the lobby; the map had not been updated.
We explored the main building, enjoyed a drink in the bar, then back to the room for leftovers, cheese and crackers. Although there was an enticing indoor-outdoor adults-only pool in the main building, I enjoyed a refreshing dip in the pool across the lot from our room.
Relaxed, we settled into bed. Darn. No Amazon Prime: no Midsomer Murders.