This past few weeks, Grace and I headed over to the US, to visit friends and family, but also to travel across the country to Idaho for our pals’ wedding.
We spent a bit of time in the infamous Bonnie Brae Tavern, where it all began.
and met Chris and Noemi’s wean.
From Denver we drove over to Salt Lake City in Utah, for our first hop in the trip to Idaho for Natalie and Jeremiah’s wedding. It was meant to be an 8 hour drive time roughly, but we took a fair bit longer, so we could stop for lunch and explore a bit on the way.
One of the detours we took was to see the Colorado National Monument, something akin to the better known Grand Canyon. You pay $15, and you can drive up and around the edge of the ridge.
As breathtaking as the views were (and the pictures do no justice to the reality), the road itself was narrow, and winded right round the edge of the sheer cliff edge, with little in the way of crash barriers to stop you going over. It wasn’t quite what I had expected, and poor Grace had to confront her fear of heights head on to get us round the course in our rental car. I wouldn’t mind going back one day, and spending more time to hike a bit, and explore further. It was a beautiful place.
When we made it down, we breezed past the town of Fruita, where there is a bizarre (and apparently true) story about ‘Mike the headless chicken‘ – a chicken whose head was cut off, but lived as some sort of freak show for months afterwards. Instead, we stopped just a bit further down the road at a tiny ‘ghost town’ by the name of Cisco, Utah – where various films like Thelma and Louise have been shot.
Cisco was really strange. Down a lonely road off of the main highway, there are a bunch of abandoned buildings and vans, in a place that it’s hard to believe is still classed as a town by any means. Perhaps most strange of all was that there were clearly still people living there in some of the houses, with ‘KEEP OUT’ signs posted everywhere, and a car with updated license plates. We decided not to spend too much time wandering about as a result, even though the solitary car had a bumper sticker that said ‘This machine kills fascists’.
The post office was particularly cool:
Some 500 miles from Denver, we arrived in Salt Lake City.
SLC is the land of Mormons… with the whole city built around the massive temple in the centre. You can visit the grounds freely, but not access the church itself without special invitation.
The building itself is huge, and has an intriguing look, with remnants of the Scientology HQ about it, along with the Gothic style architecture.
Across the road from the temple is an old grand hotel, which is now exclusively reserved for Mormon activities. You can go in to visit, and there’s an observation deck at the top. It was an interesting place… complete with perpetual piano music.
It was incredibly hot in Utah when we were there, even though it was overcast and muggy. Later on in the day, we watched as a storm rolled in, with lightning striking over the hills.
There was some amazing Mexican food to be found, and we stuffed our faces at a place called the Red Iguana – known for its Mole, and made famous by a certain American TV show that will remain unnamed.
The queue was pretty big, but moved quickly, and was totally worth it.
The other place of note that we visited was this ‘prohibition-era’ cocktail bar, which was so dark inside that it took a few minutes for our eyes to adjust when we went inside.
They had a huge selection of spirits, including some amazing special edition single malts that I had never seen before… that came in at about $70 a nip. Ouch.
It was so hot that we had to stop every so often for an iced coffee or two. Overall, SLC seemed like a nice, clean, small city. There were some cool bits and pieces, but it was generally pretty ‘inoffensive’. I don’t mean that in a bad way necessarily, but more that it lacked a bit of an edge that can be so appealing in places like Glasgow or Chicago.
We headed out of Salt Lake City to go North towards Idaho. We naturally had to take the opportunity to visit an In ‘n’ Out Burger before leaving the State.
It was pretty good, and looked like something out of a movie. All I could think about the whole time I was there was the theme from Good Burger.
Just along the road, Grace spotted what looked like an abandoned old burger joint. It was smack bang in the middle of a road with every kind of fast food chain you could imagine. I’ve never seen anything like it. A review I found on Yelp from when it was still open put it this way:
a 40-year-old drive-in burger joint surrounded by a vast and menacing crowd of chain fast food restaurants.
The place looked awesome. A genuine slice of Americana.
It’s pretty sad to see that it had closed down – and to reflect on the rather depressing notion that the reality of the American dream is that capitalist success inevitability results in homogenisation.
Hitting the road again, we stopped in a place called Twin Falls, not too far from Boise, in Idaho.
The town was named after some spectacular falls… which apparently have a higher drop than Niagra Falls.
You can just make out the houses at the top of the falls. They have some view from their front room.
Just along the road was this bridge, which crossed Snake Creek Canyon. The bridge itself is apparently one of the only places in America that you can jump from without a permit. Nobody was jumping when we were there sadly.
The canyon itself also has an interesting history, as Evel Knievel attempted (and failed) to jump it in 1974. Apparently the rocket powered bike that he had malfunctioned on take off, rather than something else. Actually being there, it seemed mind boggling that anybody would ever even try to get across such a vast distance. It’s a lot bigger than it looks in these shots. As it turns out, somebody else actually managed to do it just a year or two ago. Madness. (Update: I just realised that the Knievel stunt was the subject of this track from AIM that I like. Worth a listen). More info here.
We finally made it to Boise.
It wasn’t quite what we expected, and there was a lot of pretty cool bars and shops.
The wedding itself was next…