My sister had a flight to catch this morning, so we were up and out of bed on the early side. Our venture into the Yellowstone backcountry had slowed our pace and essentially forced us to skip the Wasatch-Cache National Forest, which we'd originally planned on visiting the day before. But we had just a few hours to kill before Lela had to be at the airport, and the forest turned out to be just a few miles from where we'd spent the night.
So we quickly drove into the forest for a brief morning foray into nature. The entry fee was $3, which was cheap but annoying because our National Parks pass didn't get us into this National Forest. The scenery was pleasant, but the weather was terrible - bad enough that none of us were so brash as to even exit the vehicle.
Again, it was a short drive to the airport in town, and we left plenty of time before Lela's flight so she could go through the inevitably terrible check-in process. But all of a sudden, as we're about ten minutes from our destination, a car pulls alongside us at a traffic light and signals for Joey, the driver, to roll down his window.
"Your tire's goin' flat there, buddy," the other driver said.
Thinking quickly, Joey located a car service center within a mile of our current location, at a nearby Sears. Lela was going to need a cab - and as Joey looked out his window, who's driving next to us but a yellow taxi. He rolled down his window, and flagged this cab down from our moving car, just as we're about to pull into the Sears' parking lot. Lela hopped in and made it to her flight with plenty of time to spare, in what was perhaps the most eventful departure I could have imagined for Lela. It was great having her with us.
Somewhere along the way, we'd run over a small piece of jagged metal in the road, which had lodged itself into the driver's side rear tire and was slowly causing it to deflate. We put these trusty Sears tire technicians to the job and wandered around the nearby blocks for a place to get some lunch. At least the spectacle of Joey in his pajamas was good for a laugh.
We settled on a quiet place nearby called Legends Pub & Grill
, where, as our bartender explained to us, things had changed somewhat over the last few months. Utahans are known for their disapproval for edgy substances like caffeine and sugar, and until July 1 of this year, had some pretty screwy rules regarding alcohol service.
To drink at a bar, we would have had to join the establishment's "private club" by filling out an application and paying a fee before we got our drinks. To boot, the bartender wouldn't have even been allowed to hand them over the bar to us - he would have had to walk them all the way around the bar to hand them to us. But as of July 1, those rules were both abolished in an effort to seem a little less... crazy. We enjoyed a few very cheap domestic beers and ate some lunch while we waited for our vehicle to be serviced.
The car wasn't quite finished when we got back to Sears, so I sat and watched the PGA Championship on TV while Joey nosily stood at the door of the garage and watched the mechanics install new tires on the car. He'd decided to get four new tires, instead of just replacing the one, and footed the bill for the three tires that hadn't gotten busted this morning. Soon enough they were finished, and we were back on the road with a total delay time of about three hours.
The drive south through Utah is absolutely beautiful, but it's a long way from Salt Lake City to our next destination, Bryce Canyon - about a five hour drive. And with a waxing and waning internet connection, we tried to find a place to sleep for the night with Priceline
's help - to no avail. Sometimes there just aren't any hotels in an area that are in on the whole Priceline thing, and other times their rates are still about as high, if not higher when combined with the service charge, as they would be if you just called up and booked a room.
So that's what we did, which didn't turn out all that badly, as we found a place in Hatch, Utah called Riverside Resort & RV Park
, about 40 minutes from the canyon - which only cost us about $55 or $60 with two beds.
The room was nice and there was a restaurant next door owned by the motel owners. They served beer and wine but didn't generally stay open later than 10:30, so it was just going be a dinner and an early night for us. The food must not have been so impressive because I didn't take a single picture of any of it.
On the way out I noticed a sticker at the counter with the year in which you'd had to have been born to buy alcohol and cigarettes, respectively. Strangely, the age for tobacco products was 19, instead of 18, which I was certainly more used to. I asked the guy at he cashier about it, and he said Utah was the only state with that age restriction of tobacco. "You know why?" he asked me. "Because we're a Mormon state." He repeated the phrase again before we left as if I hadn't digested the point well enough. I would have remembered without the echo.
We were still pretty much on schedule; we'd planned to spend this evening and the next afternoon at the canyon, and even though we hadn't gotten there yet, we still had plenty of time the next day to enjoy it to our hearts' content. We did just that and more, as you'll read more about very soon.