Posts Tagged ‘vacation’

We’ve just returned from a week in Utah, where Special D and I visited Capitol Reef National Park, Bryce Canyon National Park, and various roadside attractions.

The hiking in Capitol Reef is beyond belief. In this hot, arid, wind-sculpted, high-altitude wonderland I felt that I had invaded an ancient Egyptian city. The silent domes and cliffs and hieroglyphs suggest unimaginable chasms of time.

CR 3

Bryce Canyon, which was new to me, is filled with spooky stone towers called hoodoos. (This makes me think of comic-relief characters in old novels who were constantly fending off the heebie-jeebies, the jim-jams, and the dipsy-doodles.) Some of the hoodoos look like the terra cotta soldiers buried with Chinese emperors; some look like Hindu gods. If I were a little less awed, I’d say they all look like candle drippings on a Chianti bottle.

Bryce 3a

The canyonlands were well-stocked with Brits and Germans in rented RVs, followed by the French, the Japanese, and the Australians. Are Australians always happy, or are they just happy to be anywhere but Australia? Are all Germans over 30 depressed, or do their faces just naturally do that?

Kudos to the state of Utah. Of all the states I’ve traveled in, Utah has the most highway signs that haven’t been aerated by gun slobs.

Chow time
We found something good to eat almost everywhere we went. The last time I hiked in Capitol Reef was about 25 years ago, and back then the best you could hope for for dinner was barbecued iguana. Plus you had to run it down yourself.

Capitol Reef Inn & Café was just up the road from our cabin in Torrey. Ooh-la-la! If this restaurant were in downtown Portland, it would be so popular that no one would go there anymore.

At the Burr Trail Grill, the tattooed staff not only serves up a first-class burger, they also produce the best apple pie I have ever eaten, and that includes my wife’s, and it’s safe for me to say this because she said it first. We took some pie back to our cabin for breakfast. Later that morning I did a solo hike with no more fuel than that pie. Sure, on this hike I was lost for about an hour, but was I hungry and lacking in energy? Heck no!

On our way into Utah, we stopped at a town called Payson, and not because Footloose was filmed there. We didn’t know that. All we knew was that we wanted lunch. We found a terrific Mexican place: Mi Rancherito. Good town to walk around in, but it was Sunday and we couldn’t get into the Peteetneet Museum and Cultural Arts Center, a Victorian extravaganza named for a Ute Indian chief.

On our way out of Utah, we stopped in tiny Snowville. At Mollie’s Café, where the staff is friendly even though the building looks as if it wants to fall down and take a rest already, we split a superb cinnamon roll.

In Idaho we stopped for a late dinner in the desolation of downtown Mountain Home. Frankie’s Burgers was empty on a Saturday night and I can’t understand why, because I don’t know where in Idaho you’re going to get a better burger.

In Baker City, Oregon, we breakfasted in the 19th-century splendor of the Geiser Grand Hotel, and then, in the only non-food shout-out in this section, we spent a pleasant hour at Betty’s Books. I have never seen an independent book store with so many new books from traditional publishers and so many small-press regional histories and indie press fiction and memoir. They even had used books:

Betty's Books b

I’m home. Next week we return to Prince and my usual hailstorm of unlikely opinions.

Song of the Day and Bonus Song of the Day
“Bring It to Jerome,” on Bo Diddley (1957)
We stayed one night in a hotel in Jerome, Idaho, which whacked this song into my head. Bo Diddley didn’t write “Bring It to Jerome” because he stayed in the Comfort Inn and he liked the scented soap. He wrote it for his maracas player, Jerome Green.

In 1959, Bo and Jerome collaborated on “Say Man,” which is three minutes of them trash-talking each other and slinging bad jokes while the guitar and piano play. (“Where you from?” “South America.” “What part?” “South Texas.”) “Say Man” was Bo Diddley’s only trip to the Top 20. That ain’t right.

Bo Diddley is an important step forward for rock ’n’ roll. But like most stuff from the ’50s, it sounds dated, and a lot of it sounds the same. Chuck Berry has the same problem. But “I’m a Man,” “Before You Accuse Me,” and “Who Do You Love?” are all on Bo Diddley. Give it a listen.

Book of the Day and Bonus Books of the Day
Nicholson Baker, U and I: A True Story (1991)
This is the story of Nick Baker’s friendship with John Updike…which he made up. Lots of children have imaginary friends, but how many adults write 179-page books about one? Baker’s impossibly convuluted sentences gallop on for days, including one startling specimen about Updike being “so naturally verbal that he could write his fucking memoirs on a ladder” which began on page 43 and collapsed, all passion spent, on page 45. Possibly the weirdest book on my lifetime reading list, not counting Baker’s other books that I’ve read, musings by various French existentialists and Irish nihilists that I was forced to march through in college, and the Bible.

The Rejection Collection: Cartoons You Never Saw, and Never Will See, in The New Yorker (2006), and
The Rejection Collection: The Cream of the Crap (2007)
Cartoons rejected by The New Yorker. Any questions? Vol. 1 is funnier than vol. 2. Each chapter begins with an artist responding to the editor’s ridiculous questionnaire. Paul Noth, who led off vol. 2, has two of the best answers. Where do his ideas come from: “From a magical place called Boredom.” What would be a terrible pizza topping: “Mike Wallace.”