Utah Travelogue

Date: August 20, 2000
From: Frances Whitney <franny@inreach.com>

Well, we just got back from taking DD#1 (Susanna) up to BYU.... and survived... so here is the blow by blow. Cast of characters: Me, Susanna, DD#2 (Rachel), a 1997 Saturn, and my friend Mark.

We had planned to move some of my stuff to my new classroom last Tuesday a.m., but the person they fired last spring had trashed the room and the custodians weren't ready for me, so when Mark appeared all ready to heave boxes, files, and bookcases we surprised him with a nice breakfast and an early start to the vacation.

This had to be a quickie trip since I have to start my new job, Mark has to finish his old one, and Susanna has to resume her work at the Morris Center prior to the start of BYU, but we were determined to have a Little Fun. We drove without incident-- not even road construction incident!-- to Mesquite, Nevada, where we stayed at a very spiffy spa/resort called Casablanca, a place none of us had ever been before. The rooms were only $39 since we were visiting midweek. One thing we found remarkable is the casino doesn't smell like smoke, even though there are people smoking in there, and it doesn't feel claustrophobic.

The other item of note is that the hotel's limos have personalized license plates that say Bogie. The girls swam and worked out, Mark played blackjack and craps and I played the nickel slots. Mark broke even and I won bigtime (for me). Piles of of nickels. I cashed in all but one cottage cheese carton of them and there were our meals. Mark and I had the steak and lobster special at The Purple Fez, which is built to look like Rick's Cafe Americain, but not named like it. Ingrid Bergman never appeared.

The menus have a ridiculous illustration of a parrot wearing a purple fez. Much trip time was spent speculating about what a purple fez has to do with Casablanca. The only plausibility is Rick's employee who works in the bar, but we don't know if his fez is purple since the movie is in black and white. We refuse to watch the Ted Turner version. During dinner, I put $5 on #26 in Keno.

#26 in Keno is sort of a family joke because, years ago when several carloads of us were leaving California to go to Utah via Reno to bury my father, my brother Leonard told us to put his entire inheritance on #26. Since our inheritance was a big fat nothing, this was a very easy request to honor. I had actually never played Keno before because I had no idea how to do it, but there was a helpful explanatory brochure on the table in the cafe. Anyhow, the numbers came up during dinner and I won, so there was breakfast! We were quite excited by this run of luck.

We slept in, had a Purple Fez breakfast, and ventured out into the Virgin River Gorge, where three of us decided to make the approach to The Crossroads of the West via Zion National Park and U.S. 89. The fourth (outvoted, disgruntled) person, who was anticipating a joyous reunion at Jonathan's house with DBF, was quite put out by this, and became a wet blanket and an aggravation for the rest of the trip. Three cheerful people hit The Highways of America as quality rock and roll, folk music, and jazz poured from the Saturn's CD player, while the fourth sulked in the backseat and would not even perk up for Big Rock Candy Mountain. This is why, when pictures of the trip are developed, there will be only Red Doggie and one GGdau of Grandfather Whitney posing with various highways, tunnels, bridges and landmarks built by him in the 1930s. Others in the car pointed out that a date-having status on the part of one person does not necessarily impress a majority of people who never have dates, who seldom do anything but work/homework, who indeed have no life, (notwithstanding the acknowledged fact that we COULD, if we so deigned, participate in such folly). Person With A Date remained grumpy. Grump. Grump. This icy stare behind me saved considerable effort on the part of the car's air conditioner.

How The Grinch Stole the Highway 89 Trip.

All went smoothly (with above-mentioned exception) until we hit Happy Valley and the infamous I-15 road construction, which was the teeniest irritant to three cheerful people and a real downer to the date-anticipating DD#1. She perked up somewhat when we arrived at Jonathan's and she was able to reach DBF by telephone. BF came in haste, and I don't think I have ever seen the girl move quite as fast as she did when he drove up. Jonathan was busy showing Mark his handmade instruments and me his newly refurbished and palatial basement workroom (featuring a Shopsmith and a whole lot of Dad's old tools), so we just stood out of her way. It's a bird. It's a plane. It's an eighteen year old leaving for a date.

Mark, Rachel, and I left Susanna to stay at Jonathan's while we made our way to Richard and Pam Oman's abode, where Richard, who is the curator of the Church Art/History Museum, kept us up extremely late with cogent and scripturally grounded arguments in support of Rachel's decision to major in history in college, as well as with a lengthy treatise on spiritual symbols found in temple architecture.

The next morning we picked up Susanna at Jonathan's and drove to Temple Square (Oh joy! More road construction!), quite anxious to have a closer, more informed look at various architectural aspects of the Salt Lake Temple, as well as a peek at the blueprints, which Richard was harboring in his museum office and which show a concept of even more symbolic detail than the pioneers were able to execute in carving the temple granite. Originally, Richard says, Brigham planned to build the temple of adobe brick, with carvings and ornamentations of a much softer stone, so the blueprints show, for example, the continents and meridians on the earthstones, as well as more detailed phases on the moonstones. These original plans were partially abandoned when the decision was made to build the temple of granite.

Some of what we wanted to see was inaccessible due to the controversial construction. By this time we were taking bets as to whether the mess will be gone by the Olympics. I bet not.

Besides Salt Lake Temple blueprints, other features of Richard's private office included Kit Carson's personal rifle and an intricate bridle braided of horsehair. I could have spent the rest of the day nosing through the stuff on his desk -- plans for new temples, renderings of stained glass designs and murals for new temples, old books and journals -- it was a wonderful place even for someone who is not a busybody. OK I admit it. there.

By the time we were finished with Richard's office and his Introduction to Latter-day Saint Native American Artists whose work is displayed in the administration's conference room [which I had heard before, and parts of which have appeared in the Ensign], we barely had time to see the exhibit of Book of Mormon art. This exhibit is wonderful, outstanding, cosmopolitan, and every other complimentary adjectives.

The wonders weren't over. As we looked through the exhibit, Charlotte Armstrong, [hope I got her name right] arguably (according to Richard) the most famous quilter/fiber artist in the world and certainly one of the finest (according to me), hunted Richard down to discuss the commission the Church has given her to do a quilt for the bride's room of the Winter Quarters temple. We got to meet her and to peek at the unfinished quilt she was carrying over her arm, a gee-whiz masterpiece of a family history quilt she was making for someone. I left Richard and Charlotte discussing her time pinch. She was saying that she could whip out a machine-quilted work in about three weeks- cheaper, but it might take her much longer to do a hand one and she would have to "bump" some of her other commissions. Richard was saying he would run this choice by The Brethren.

Does anyone want to book odds on whether they will choose machine quilted versus hand quilted for the bride's room of the Winter Quarters Temple? Twenty years ago I would have been sure, but with President Hinckley in charge I just don't know.

One other delightful event happened this day. Mark and I, coincidentally, were both baptized in the Salt Lake Tabernacle as eight year old children. We wanted to see the baptistry-- he because he wanted to remember it, and I because I am trying to scrapbook my life and I wanted to take a picture. We worked our request up the chain of command, with no luck. No. We could not enter the Tabernacle Baptistry. Nobody can, no exceptions. So we were sitting on a granite bench staring at the baptistry door when along came a friendly looking maintenance man with a huge bunch of keys. Rachel and Mark blinked their big brown eyes and I flashed my charming smile and he let us in, turned on the lights, and let us look. Rachel took pictures of me, and of Mark, in front of the font. Susanna bah-humbugged, but the hunky maintenance man eventually charmed even her and she promised to bring him some brownies and drop them off for him at the Tabernacle ticket booth.

We then went into the Assembly Hall, got vertigo looking at the spiral staircase, and afterward took pictures of the girls by the handcart statue.

We went back to Richard's, took a nap, and then Rachel and I went back down to Jonathan's for pizza with various family members, including Anne and Kristen, who had just come in from Texas, and Alyson, Dave, and baby Atticus. Mark stayed at Richard and Pam's, relaxing, reading President Hinckley's new book, and undoubtedly absorbing more family lore than may be safe for him to know.

The next day was The Lunch at Macaroni Grill in Orem, where we formally [and with great relief] turned S. over to Joe and Carla Whitney. Attendees at this event were me and my girls, Mark, Anne and her girls, Kristen and Alyson, baby Atticus, Jill Whitney, and Joe and Carla. I ate a wonderful shrimp, garlic, angelhair, spinach, pine nut concoction which was really good until it resurfaced about twelve hours later. Atticus let me hold him and he pretended to go to sleep while I was eating, although he kept his eyes slitted open just enough to make sure he didn't get put down. We celebrated Kristen's 19th birthday with a Very Obscene Chocolate Cake, and the staff sang "Happy Birthday" to her in Italian. [they should keep their day jobs]

After lunch, extremely stuffed, Mark, Rachel and I headed toward California. Obligatory teeth-gnashing at the traffic. It took us an hour to get out of Provo. Somewhere around Nephi, the Saturn, heretofore a cooperative member of the cast, suddenly "turned off" and would not go again. Mark walked into Nephi to get the AAA while Rachel, the Saturn, and I sat and steamed. (Our cell phones wouldn't work where we were, not even to call 911).

The consensus was the fuel pump, which has been bothersome for years, which I have battled Saturn of Bakersfield over unceasingly, which was recalled by the factory in March and completely replaced under warranty the end of April. I steamed even more. After many telephone negotiations with Uncle Joe regarding repair possibilities and car rental/return next week options, we towed said Saturn back to the dealership in Orem, all of us very cozy --not to say steaming-- in the cab of the tow truck with a driver who was not looking forward to venturing out onto the Happy Valley stretch of I-15 at the end of a long day.

A pleasant surprise was how we were treated at the Saturn dealership, which was closing, but which took us underwing and promised a replacement with a good fuel pump by closing the next day. (Saturday, yesterday.) We abandoned the thought of trying to continue on in the rental car Uncle Joe had arranged for us, and holed up in the Provo Marriott, courtesy of AAA Plus. Poor us. Due to Education Week, the only hotel in town with vacancies was the Marriott! Thank heavens for Sue, who convinced me to upgrade my membership after her own Utah adventure.

Another pleasant surprise at this dealership is the contest being run by one of the salesmen, which consists of vacationing customers providing his above-desk display with a license plate frame from their local dealership, and the one who comes the farthest this summer --easily us, so far-- wins two nights at the above referenced Casablanca resort.

Rachel had the brilliant idea to get Robert to send us one from his dealership in Virginia, which makes us a shoo-in for the grand prize. Fer sure! For good measure, Mark is going to get them one from the dealership in Santa Clarita, next door to where he works/will be working another week.

Anne found out about our predicament and called with deepest sympathy as we were feasting on crab legs and prime rib. The gift shop was having a big sale and I got a denim work shirt with a very subtle "Utah" embroidery over the pocket, and Mark got a really classy forest green herringbone knit polo shirt. While we shopped, Rachel hit the pool We had a seamless night's sleep in the lap of luxury; Mark and I both admitting that until then neither of us had been in a king size bed since our divorces. Five pillows on those beds! Red Doggie liked it too. In the morning, Anne and Kristen came over and ate the brunch buffet with us. We sat in the cafe chatting over a big carafe of orange juice for a couple of hours. All on AAA's nickel, under the "trip interruption" provision. Whee! I loved this Marriott so much I think when I re-do my bathroom I'll use the same beige/off white color scheme.

By this time we were feeling really blessed. Obviously, the car needed to be fixed, and the circumstances could have been so much more adverse. The hotel took us to the dealership in their shuttle, and by 3 p.m. we were once again on our way in a happily purring -- and washed-- Saturn.

Once again, evening. Mesquite. We considered a cheaper place. Bad spirit there. Back to Casablanca. Rooms still not unreasonable. I called the Primary President and left word with her DH that our car had broken down and I wasn't going to make it back for church. By this time I wasn't going to worry about it though. Rachel went down to the pool. I bet on #26 again and won $60, which was way over what we needed for meals, but I got in trouble from the Keno guy when Mark called me on my cell phone, which apparently isn't allowed. So I left Keno, and that saved me, because #26 never came up again. We had dinner -- Purple Fez again-- and then I went to the nickel slots while Mark went to blackjack or poker or wherever he went. I didn't win as much this time, but left about $35 richer.

I mostly played a machine called "Break the Spell", which has a kind of medieval magical theme. Every once in a while, and I couldn't figure out what triggered it, you win and move to another level, where Merlin appears and bids you choose a frog. Five frogs sit croaking on their lily pads. You choose one and if you choose right, he turns into a frog prince and does a sort of softshoe (webfoot?) dance, waving a magic wand and bowing while the numbers go higher and higher. Then all kinds of fairy dust comes sifting down the screen and the nickels come pouring out. This is really more like playing a Nintendo game than a slot machine, and is a lot more fun than watching fruit spin around. Of course it still takes your money.

In the morning we had a huge, good, cheap breakfast at a sort of local color dive called "The Chalet" where Mark remembered his parents bringing him when he was a child. We then hopped on the infamous I-15 -- Rachel driving -- and headed for home, stalled by only one [awful] accident between Las Vegas and Baker.

In Baker, there was a long line at the ladies room, and I stood between a woman who had ridden in on a Harley and a menopausal grandma who was from Anchorage and really suffering. Texaco is going to hear from me about the perversity of a design which provides a one-holer women's restroom in a place like Baker.

The World's Tallest Thermometer was reading about 107, which is not that bad really, but the Alaska lady was saying "Why did I come back down here again?" and the Harley lady drenched her shirt and neck scarf very thoroughly before she went back out. It had to have been hot, to sit behind that accident on those bikes. We patted the Saturn and called it "good car" and prayed the A/C would hold, and it did.

The only other stop was a pit stop at the Chevron Station at Kramer Junction. I think there must be a political reason for the perennial traffic holdup at Kramer Junction, because This is America, and certainly nothing but politics could cause such a bad interchange. Mark headed into the mini-mart, and I told him, no, the restrooms are on down through the next entrance and around. Then when I went to pay for our drinks the cashier said, "Should I put these on your lunch ticket, since you're hired?" She says she stands there eight hours a day redirecting tourists to the bathroom, so anyone who knows where their restrooms are is automatically on the payroll. What a job, huh? I told her I have a similar job, since I'm a teacher. You say it and say it and say it and as soon as you are finished someone has a question which indicated nobody heard a word you said, so you repeat yourself again. Again. Again.

Anyhow. Restrooms. Descent into Baketown. Beautiful clear day. Not too hot. House didn't burn down, and the catsitter had weeded the flowerbeds! Casualties: A couple of the fish. An extra day of our life. I only shot one roll of film. But all in all, it worked out fine, we had a ball, and I came back with almost as much money as I left, which is a good thing, because I'm looking at a long, dry September until my first paycheck with my new job.