Archive for September, 2014

St. George – and south to north across Utah – at 82 mph

September 20, 2014

It’s Friday, September 12, 2014, our last day in southern Utah. In the nature of true tourists we decide to do a walking tour of the historic district in the center of St. George, starting with a guided tour of Brigham Young’s winter residence (his primary residence was in Salt Lake City). Brigham Young was the second President of the LDS church. He led followers from Missouri west to the Salt Lake Valley after Joseph Smith (the founder) was arrested and killed by an armed mob. Brigham Young was the most famous polygamist of the early LDS Church. As you can see, his winter home was modest in size


with a bedroom for him, a bedroom for his ‘wife’, and another bedroom for his ‘cook’ (one had to wonder where any or some of his additional 54 wives would have stayed??). By the time of his death on August 29, 1877, at the age of 76, Young had 57 children by 16 of his wives – 19 of his wives had predeceased him, he was divorced from 10, and 23 survived him. (Check out this link to learn more about Brigham Young.) Our tour guide explained that Brigham Young oversaw the building of the LDS Temple in St. George, which was barely completed before his death in 1877. (It was the first temple built in Utah.) Brigham Young had expressed his disappointment over the size of the original spire – it was too small in relation to the size of the temple. A few years after his death, as the story goes, lightening struck the spire down and they rebuilt it to the current size it is today.

We continued our walking tour to the town square, past several interesting bronze sculptures. Megan gives this very bronze young girl


a ‘high-five.’

“Hey – Look!!” (I do a double-take…)


“It’s my long-lost brother!”

We eat lunch at the Painted Pony, a charming restaurant in Ancestor Square. Verses, such as this one, are carved into the tabletops:


When the going gets tough, the smart get lost. Yeah. (Sigh)

Well, that’s about it with the tour. The daytime temperatures soared into the upper 90’s. We were done with our walking tour.

Saturday morning – September 13 – we hit the road at 9am for the 513-mile drive back to Idaho Falls. Boy, are we anxious to be home. David takes Red Rock Road through St. George – it runs along a high red bluff that overlooks the city. I snap a couple of photos.


The Temple stands square in the middle of the city.


(Geez. Why didn’t we think to ride up in a hot air balloon?) Soon the city disappears behind us.

Heading north on I-15 now. Speed limit – 80 – (how fast can you get away with?) David sets the cruise control at 82.


We sail past the exits to Hurricane, Toquerville, New Harmony, Kanarraville, Beaver… (How did they come up with these names?)

Through Payson:


… home of a very large Temple.

“Ben!! Are you there?”


Past American Fork:


The traffic is solid now – four lanes all barrelling along in tandem at 82 mph. It’s about impossible to capture a picture of Salt Lake City as we sail past, hardly slowing our pace, but I give it a whirl.


That’s the best you can do? You ask.

Yep. If you look carefully you can see the Capitol building (toward the left in the picture) and the spires of the Salt Lake Temple poking up (next to those twin towers).

We’re zooming along – north of Salt Lake now, there – you see the Layton Temple coming into view!



Uh, never mind…

Brigham City!


“No, Jody. Stop it.” I know – it just strikes me funny. My eyes are on the lookout for temples now and they sure are finding them. ( NOT! ) Recalibrating…

We see the exit to Plymouth – then spot the whole town off to the right – nestled at the base of that mountain:


Then a neighboring community off to the left – the town of Portage:


“Hey Megan, you wanna live in that house?”:


“NO, MOM.”

We sail across the border into Idaho now.


Hey, so the sign is blurry – Whatdoyaexpect? It’s flying at me at …


Yep – 80+ in Idaho too. (Can anyone really keep it at 80?)

At 2:20 – after being glued to our seats for four hours and twenty minutes, we make a 12-minute pit stop. You can pull this off in Malad, Idaho, where there’s gas, bathrooms and Burger King all in one building. David gasses the car up, while Megan and I jet to the ladies’ room. Then Megan and I order food, while David uses the restroom: “Double burger, ketchup only, and 2 whoppers, hold the pickles.” I further explained to the young introverted employee behind the register: “Megan likes her hamburgers with only ketchup, we want the 2 Whoppers with everything but pickles. Got that?”


David joins us as we grab the bag of burgers, jet back to the car, fasten ourselves in – he’s pulling out again while I get out the burgers – I hand Megan her burger in the back seat. Then I pull out ours. Geez they feel awfully thin…

I unwrap David’s burger:



“What did you order?” He inquires from behind the wheel, as we swirl back toward the freeway.

“I said, hold the pickles!” I holler back.


“Okay, honey.” Now I have extra pickles for my whopper, making it hands down the ugliest whopper you could ever encounter:


“I’m not eating this.” I shove the thing in the trash bag at my feet. And sulk in silence as David reluctantly knaws on his dry bun and meat patty to suppress the growls in his stomach.

A few minutes pass and I turn to David with a revelation:

“Maybe God is punishing me for being such a heathen.”

“No. God is saving you from eating Burger King.”

(What do you think?)

We’re passing through Pocatello now:


(Beats me.)

Pulled into our garage in Idaho Falls at 4:00 PM. We covered the 513 miles in 7 hours, for an average of 74 mph – you know, because of that 12-minute pit stop.

Zion National Park

September 14, 2014

Last week we traveled down to southern Utah to visit Zion National Park. From Idaho Falls it’s about 500 miles straight south. We stayed in St. George for several nights and visited the park on Thursday, September 11. – ‘9-11’ – We saw a lot of American flags at half-mast.

We’re on Highway 9, close to the park entrance now.


Visitors used to travel by car to the points of interest along the Zion Canyon Scenic Drive. But because of the crush of traffic, in the year 2000 a shuttle service was implemented. Now you park near the Visitor’s Center and catch one of the many shuttles that give you a guided tour with several stops. You can pick and choose where and when you want to get off the shuttle, and which trails you want explore. (Leave your pets at home if you want to ride the shuttles, by the way.) Here’s a photo of the map with the shuttle routes:


Shuttles arrive at each stop about every 12 minutes – round trip to the last stop and back to the Visitor’s Center takes about 60 minutes. Easy!

We decided to ride the shuttle to the last stop – the Temple of Sinawava – and work our way back – Here we are on the hike. It’s about impossible to capture the magnificent rock cliffs with an I-phone camera, but I give it a whirl:


That’s David ahead – with the backpack. You can see the walk is paved – many of the trails and all the shuttles are wheelchair friendly.

There are signs posted everywhere: “Do not feed the wildlife.” Okay, okay… But then we run into this squirrel perched up on a fence post alongside the path. He stops several tourists in their tracks. Including me. Look at him!


Posing for photos, pouring on the charm; one tourist actually reached over and scratched him on the head. (Stupid tourist.)
We can’t feed him? Are you kidding? Awwwwww. Look how fat he is.

A few steps further and another throng of tourists are stopped in their tracks. Oh, no big deal. Just a really big, thick, hairy, creeping ….


Tarantula? You’re kidding! In these parts? There was a ranger beside him on the path, specifically to give the tarantula safe passage across the walk. Turns out, it’s mating season for tarantulas, as the ranger explains. This is a male, probably 8 or 9 years old. He has been hanging out in his hole all these past years, molting, maturing, and now that he has finally reached full maturity he has crawled out of his hole to mate. Over the next month he hopes to get ‘lucky’ about 4 times, that is, lucky enough to mate without getting devoured by any of the females he gets lucky with. Soon after he’s done mating, he dies (of exhaustion, one would presume). I Googled tarantulas to verify the ranger’s facts – here’s a link, and an additional link, if you want to read more about tarantulas.

They are actually quite gentle and peace loving critters who are only interested in injecting their venom into beetles, grasshoppers, caterpillars, cicadas and other things tarantulas eat. The venom liquefies the insides of these creatures, concocting a tasty ‘bug soup’. YUM! Although if provoked enough, tarantulas will bite humans, but the bite hurts less than a bee sting and poses no serious hazard. This is why they make such great pets (yeah, right). Females make the best pets, as they can live up to 25 years while males live about ten years. You go, girls!

David was interested in a much more strenuous hike than Megan and I (you go, girls!) so he got off and we rode on to the next stop. I took a picture of the map of the area so I can show you how cool and accommodating this worked out for all of us.


The destination was the Emerald pools – David got off at the Grotto stop and hiked the upper Kayenta trail, while Megan and I got off at the Zion Lodge, took a bathroom break, sat and shared a big fat chocolate muffin, and a beverage, took a photo….


then moseyed over to the lower Kayenta trail…. where, sure enough, we very quickly met David. Meanwhile, David had encountered a, uh, 30″ rattlesnake along the upper trail- who slivered away before he got a really good picture. (What? I would have gotten the picture for sure, come hell or high water, and likewise, been bitten and nearly dead by now, so it’s a good thing Megan and I opted for ‘plan B’.)

I took a video of the scenery on the hike to the Emerald pools.

It’s just about impossible to capture the scenery in photos – but I’ll post the best of what I took:




It was difficult to capture the Emerald Pool in a photo, here is my best effort:


The Virgin River is still flowing fast and muddy today, two days after the biggest rain they’d had in this area in 30 years, associated with tropical storm Norbet. (check out this link). The park was closed this past Tuesday due to flooding and debis on the roads.


I took one last short video of the rock formations while waiting for the bus back to the Visitors Center.

In our car now, checking out more of the park on the Zion Mount Carmel Highway (pictured on the first map above) –


crisscrossing up the side of a mountain into a one-mile tunnel carved through the rock –


and a second, much shorter, tunnel.


Headed back down again





One last shot of the peaks as we head out of the park back to St. George.


We have one more day left in St. George before we hit the road back home to Idaho. David drove like a bat out of hell to get us home and I captured photos through the buggy windows from the front passenger’s seat as the scenery flew by. (Hey, that’s how we roll.) You’re just chomping at the bit to see my next blog aren’t you?