On the road again
Just can’t wait to get on the road again . . .
Goin’ places that I’ve never been
Seein’ things that I may never see again . . .
Like a band of gypsies we go down the highway
We’re the best of friends
Insisting that the world keep turning our way . . .
And our way
Is on the road again . . .
– Willie Nelson
Bob has the travel day theme song programmed into his phone and we play a quick rendition through the bus speakers as we depart. I like to change the words to “STAY on the road again”, recognizing Rosy’s tendency to find the rumble strips every now and then. We’ve made our way to Idaho, but there’s more to tell about Utah, so we’d better catch up.
We headed off from the Bryce Canyon area on a dreary morning, dodging the rain showers on the way to Helper, a little town named for the “helper locomotives” that used to assist the steam engines climbing the steep mountains. En route we passed endless trucks zooming around the countryside that appeared to be hauling some type of rock. At one of our rest stops Bob asked a driver “What are you hauling?” and we found the answer: coal. Down the road a bit farther we discovered the coal plant, and later saw trains busy supplementing the supply. In this region the economics of coal mining are working, at least for now.
Helper looked like another town right out of the old West, and the area was rich in railroad and mining history. We spent time visiting the Western Mining and Railroad Museum, which included a nicely done tribute to the mining families in the region, telling the tale of the diverse, hard-working work force representing immigrants from many nations and the injustices they endured serving the mining companies, including several terrible mining disasters. From Helper, we drove north finding abundant recreation with lakes, fishing, ATV trails, ski resorts, tubing and various water sports.
Our next stop was Brigham City. Bob lived there for a year as a child when his Dad was on assignment for the Bureau of Indian Affairs. The scenery was striking, with the town nestled at the base of the imposing mountains to the east. The area was clearly richer than the little towns to the south, solidly middle class, clean and quiet. I said I could almost see myself living there. Bob reminded me the winters were cold, and further, “You wanna convert?” referencing the large Mormon community. He and his Dad never felt like they fit in, being attendees of the local Bible Church, not one of the more prolific Latter Day Saints (LDS) congregations. We heard that theme several times while in Utah, that non-Mormons are never totally integrated into the community and are subject to subtle forms of discrimination. You have to wonder if that is so different from the experience of any other minority group. We, the majority, aren’t used to not fitting in.
Utah seemed to present special challenges for women. In a ladies’ restroom I found a flier discreetly posted on the back of the door offering free domestic violence and sexual assault services. Some reading on the issue found that according to their own state government, Utah has a significantly higher rate of reported rapes than the rest of the county. We heard that sexual assault and incest is tolerated by the Mormon Church, at least in some areas. We were not exactly out there doing an objective investigation, just listening to the experiences others happened to offer. The other thorny aspect for the Rosy crew is Utah’s controls and high taxes on tobacco and alcohol purchases, which goes hand in hand with the Mormon position on taking care of one’s physical and spiritual health. Let’s just say we planned our visit in advance and didn’t purchase any vices there. Perhaps an extended stay in Utah would have some health benefits?
Chores and repairs were worked into these last two stops. Bob got the dash AC back on line and had a leaky tire fixed on the Rosy Toad. I had a pleasant grocery shopping adventure at a local Brigham City supermarket finding an almost perfect selection at reasonable prices. The lower altitudes (4,000 to 6,000 feet) are warmer but Bob is sleeping better and Rascal is definitely more chipper, and loving the lush green grass at Golden Spikes RV Park. Think we will do better to avoid those 8000+ foot destinations.
I felt like Utah deserved more time to explore than we had on this agenda. However, August 21st and the solar eclipse is approaching and we need to keep moving.
Passed dozens of these coal-hauling trucks as we traveled the countryside along State Road 10 north of I-70.
Rendezvous with the air conditioning parts at a remote UPS service center en route. Drove the bus down this dirt road to find that the customer service center was closed. Their customer hours were 5:00 pm to 5:30 pm only, not 5:00 am to 5:30 pm as we had assumed. Oh my goodness. Really? Thirty minutes a day? Had to go back later via car.
Spent a couple of nights at Blue Cut RV Park near Helper, along the Price River. Coal-hauling trains passed by multiple times each day.
A drive in search of a ghost town outside of Helper was a morning adventure. One of many abandoned mining communities in the hills.
Downtown Helper, UT
Came away from the mining museum with a greater appreciation for the past contributions of miners, and feeling like we need to do more to help prepare these communities as we transition away from fossil fuels.
One of many LDS temples, with golden angel trumpeter on the spire. Interesting that they often don’t have a visible name of the denomination or congregation outside, or have a sign with service times welcoming visitors.
Hillside letters “B” and “I” adorn the mountains of Brigham City. “B”for Box Elder High School and “I” for Intermountain Indian School, now closed.
View toward Brigham City from the Bear River Migratory Bird Refuge, an unusual wetland preserve in the desert and part of the Great Salt Lake ecosystem.
Bob was able to find his old apartment building, middle school and church in Brigham City, and happy to discover a favorite restaurant, Maddox Ranch House, was still in business, 45+ years later. It is one of those value/family type places, sort of like the now defunct Kapok Tree (Clearwater, FL) and Peter Pan (Frederick, MD). Enjoyed trout dinners with all the accompaniments. The place was packed and almost no one seemed to mind that alcohol was not served.