In Utah, in 1869, the promise of a waterway to the Pacific sought by Lewis and Clark was realised instead by the medium of rail when the railroads from the East and West coasts of the USA connected at Promontory summit in Northern Utah. As you drive around Utah you are never far from a railway, and occasionally you will see a huge train slowly pass through the landscape, blowing its soulful but discordant horn as it crosses the great expanses of the USA. There is even a passenger service that traverses Utah, stopping off at Salt Lake City every day on the 54 hour journey from Chicago to Oakland in California.
My journey is by road and I headed South through Utah, taking some time out to visit Salt Lake City and to visit the Arches National Park - I am not sure which felt closer to a religious experience. I got to stay one night out at a desert motel near the shores of the Green River, a motel which seemed to take its inspiration from the Bates Motel in Psycho.
Salt Lake City was funky and more weird than Austin. It was founded by the Mormons in 1847 who came to this remote part of what then was still part of Mexico to escape persecution. The Mormon Church is also known as the Church of Latter Day Saints and they are part of the wider Christian faith. However they believe that the founder of their religion, Joseph Smith, got visited by an angel in the early 19th Century and the angel loaned him some tablets which he then translated to English before handing them back. These tablets provided an update on some things that the Bible was vague about, like polygamy. However Utah struggled to become adopted into the United States because of the polygamy issue, for even religious freedom has its limits, so it was somewhat convenient when a subsequent Mormon leader had God let him know that the polygamy thing was a mistake and it was important to follow the laws of the land. In 1896 Utah became the 45th State.
Salt Lake City has a beautiful setting, surrounded by mountains and full of temples and related religious buildings. There is a great museum of Mormon history, although the art is somewhat tacky, and a Family History centre where there are no end of people available to help you track your family tree. Then as you walk around, young ladies appear to ask you if you are enjoying your day and whether you need any help and what was the thing you enjoyed most during your visit. And they are highly appreciative of your opinions.
In Nevada I would have been a little more suspicious about attractive young ladies akwardly making lame conversation with me, but these Sisters are missionaries. However the funny thing is nobody mentioned God or religion or anything like that the whole of the time I was in Salt Lake City. it was almost as if it was impolite, like asking right out if you were gay or not. If I had more time I would have quite liked to quiz the earnest Sisters on their beliefs, but I guess they could no more convince me I was right than I could them. Their religion is strict and, as a result, Utah is a largely dry state, but they seemed peaceful and friendly folk. I also understand that if they have tracked down your name and recorded it in their microfiche and hard drives in the family centre, you are sorted for the next life. No endless mornings in church, no giving away money to keep the Pope in the manner to which he is accustomed, not even recourse to prayers. Just make sure your name is in their records.
I made sure I signed my name legibly in the book in the visitor centre, just in case.
In this or the next life, I will be sure to spend a little more time in Salt Lake City, but I had some distance to make before I got to my creepy motel. The scenery throughout my journey through Utah was breathtaking and continued the next day as I drove through the Arches National Park, within sight of Monument Valley, over desert, past Indian reservations, across the Colorado River and down to the only point in the USA where four states meet, Utah, Colorado, Arizona and New Mexico.
Utah has the reputation for great powder, and in Snowbird you can combine that with some seriously steep slopes. In fact Snowbird is all round a steep resort with just a handful of intermediate runs. It couldn't be easier to get to, just a short drive out of Salt Lake City with a regular, reliable bus service to the slopes.