Tuesday, 1 November 2016

Tourists in Salt Lake City.

 Friday 28th October, 2016 in and around Salt Lake City.
It was a beautiful morning and a joy to see the sun rise over the mountains from the window.
The jet lag finally rather caught up with M after the whirlwind trip to Texas but she declared she wasn't prepared to lose such a lovely day so we set off for Park City, the site of the 2002 Winter Olympics.  R has been there several times before to go skiing with David ( and M of course, has never been there) but he had never seen the area without snow. M said it was quite unlike the ski resorts she's previously seen in the Alps and the Pyrenees; out of season they are green with grass and conifers.  Not so with Park City, it is bare rock but of loveliest hues - what we would have described as "ochre" colours in an old fashioned paintbox. The colours were shades of red, yellow, brown and orange - so quite striking to see.  There were few folk about, with it being out of season. The resort is due to open on 18th November but it was hard to imagine the first day is three weeks away as we stood there in the warm sunshine.  
Afterwards, we called in at the shopping area and found a Post Office (to buy stamps). Next door was a TJMax (TKMax back home) and M was delighted to find some tops to wear - as the weather is unseasonably warm, she had brought all the wrong clothes! She was thrilled to find three lovely tops for the grand sum of twenty-eight dollars - what a bargain!  
A reviving coffee in Starbucks followed, bringing back happy memories for R of all the times he's had an apres-ski drink there in the past.  The Main Street of the resort is very attractive with some handsome buildings.  And an old-fashioned trolley bus!
On the way back to David's, we called in at the RV depot to check all is in order to collect our camper on Friday. It is, and we were shown round an identical vehicle.  M was staggered at the size and space - and very excited.  It's half the length of Many Meetings but nearly twice as wide! Very well fitted out and positively luxurious.  
We had a quiet evening back at the house and David was kind enough to cook dinner for us. Riley was hopeful that she might share just a bit!

Wednesday 26th
Another beautiful morning with the sun rising over the mountains as M made her first cup of tea (R was still asleep!).  We both slept really well and, over breakfast, did some research for our RV trip starting at the weekend.  
As we flew into SLC airport the other day, we had good views of the Great Salt Lake.  We were both fascinated by its size and the salt flats, so decided to spend today exploring.  We had read about Antelope Island, which is the biggest island in the lake and which is connected to the mainland by a seven mile long causeway. The lake itself is 75 miles long and 35 wide; its depth fluctuates about two feet between the spring snowmelt and winter but currently is close to its historic low level. It is a remant of ancient Lake Bonneville which, 15,000 years ago, would have left Salt Lake City 850ft under water.  Fresh water springs and rivers flow into it but it has no outlet so all the minerals and salts which are brought down remain, while the water evaporates in the sun.  The salinity of the water cannot sustain life such as fish but it teems with tiny brine shrimps and brine flies, which attract migrating birds by the million.  The island itself is rocky, with a mountain range stretching down its 15 mile length and peaks reaching a height of 6,500ft (the lake is at 4,200ft).  After spending a while in the Visitor Centre, we drove to Bridger Bay, M donned her new walking shoes and we set off for the nearest craggy top.
 The views were spectacular across and down the length of the lake, which is surrounded by the Rocky Mountains. 
There is a surprising amount of animal wildlife on the island, including bison, pronghorn deer, antelopes (hence the island's name), coyotes and sheep.  They must all be very shy, as the only evidence we saw of theses creatures was the bison herd of 600 head, which is managed commercially. The herd is rounded up in the autumn and was in a corral.
They are "gathered" on horseback each autumn so that they can be checked and vaccinated. The herd is maintained at about 600, so extra animals are exported to other National Parks and private herds across the country. There were still a few escapees running free on the island, including this huge fellow whom we met on the road.  We didn't argue with him!
The island's first settlers established Fielding Garr Ranch in 1848 to manage the Mormon Church's tithing herds and the ranch was continually inhabited and worked until 1981. It is now a living museum. In the 1920s, the ranch managed a herd of over 10,000 sheep. They built a huge shearing shed with ten mechanised shearing bays with the ten power shears driven by a single gasoline engine through a complex belt and pulley system. Unfortunately, we could only look at this from outside as three weeks ago a rare tornado hit the island and tore most of the corrugated iron roof off!
Driving back to the causeway, we made a little pilgrimage on foot to the site of a long abandoned homestead; it has a sad and poignant history of a family who briefly settled there in 1891 and, against all the odds in such an inhospitable situation, built a house and lived a very solitary but happy self-sufficient existence with their seven children. The mother of the family died in 1897 and is buried next to their homestead. The rest of the family left the island in 1902 and the homestead was left to nature. Almost nothing remains except a few stones and a small corral around her grave.
The only thing lacking on the island was somewhere to eat! There is a kiosk but it was closed for the season. So, by the time we arrived back at the house, we were starving - breakfast was nine hours in the past! Thankfully, David was kind enough to knock something up for us.

 Thursday 27th
Another super day.  The weather was a little cloudier and cooler today.  We decided to have "a Mormon Day" and learn about the history and beliefs of these people who were the first Westerners to settle here in 1847. On our way to the Temple, we called in at Macy's in search of a wok for our RV trip but came out with just a jolly pinny for M to use when cooking on the RV.  We spent the morning in the Mormon Museum, which is amazing, whatever one's beliefs.  So much to learn and wonderfully presented.  We visited the Lion House and the Beehive House, which were the original houses of the leader of the church when they came to Salt Lake, Brigham Young, and are now a museum. The church has an enormous skyscraper office block, where 8,000 administrative staff work, and outside is a very touching statue of the founder Joseph Smith and his wife Emma Smith.
We then realised we had only twenty minutes to be the other side of town for our Tesla test drive.  We got there on the dot of 5pm and were greeted by Parker, the absolutely delightful young man who had taken R out on his last visit here in the spring.  The Tesla Model S was incredible and Parker first demonstrated the "ludicrous" (yes, you do select "ludicrous" on the dashboard!) acceleration, 0 to 60 in 2.8 seconds on this model. R drove it "no hands" (and very competently, says M) for about one hour.  Most impressive.  And expensive - so we won't be buying one just yet! Damn, says R.
On a Thursday evening at 7.30, the world famous mormon Tabernacle Choir rehearses and admission is free. An opportunity not to be missed.  So, after  a very welcome and excellent home-cooked supper in the Mormon "Pantry" back in the Lion House, we made our way to the Tabernacle and waited, along with many others, to be allowed in.  Wow! What an experience!  The auditorium is magnificent and the choir fully justifies its reputation as one of the world's finest.  Entries and exits spot on, discipline first class.  The sound was astonishing.  We tried to book tickets for a performance on 12th November (again, it's free!) but sadly, it was already sold out.

Friday 28th
A cooler day but still pleasant.  Refreshed after yet another good night's sleep, we set off to pick up the RV; David kindly dropped us at the depot on his way to work. Our camper was ready and waiting. It's so big and luxurious! The duty manager, Ed, showed us how everything worked then we were off.  R drove it (very expertly) back to David's, where we parked it up outside the house.  The next task was to provision it for our two-week trip so off we went to Whole Foods, a marvellous - and huge - shop.  We left with a trolley piled high with goodies; M declared it the most expensive food shop she's ever done! We packed everything away in the van, added some of the clothing and toiletries we'll be needing (the rest we'll add in the morning before we set off).
Then we tackled the long overdue task of updating this blog!!
Tomorrow the next part of our adventure begins - off in the RV!

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