Bill and Laura rock the West...

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...or walk the rest.

In a first for me in recent memory, I took a long trip without a laptop. Laura and I went gallivanting around the West for nine days, and I sat down in front of a computer only once, for about ten minutes, the whole time. How liberating it was!

Of course, I had my new BlackBerry 7130c with me for text messaging and limited email access, and that was crucial, but otherwise I was completely unwired. And I didn't come unglued.

We flew from New York to Salt Lake City a week ago Saturday. Dropped off bags at my parents' house in Kaysville, then drove to Roy for locally brewed beer with my sister Sarah and her great new spousal unit Sal. Not to mention their many dogs. But the dogs didn't get any beer.

Sunday morning we hung out with my parents, then met my cousin and her terrific girlfriend for brunch in Salt Lake. Then it was north again to hang out with my sister Greta and kids at the parents' home, and even further north for some supper and beer with my sister Denice and her beau Matt.

Early Monday we flew to Las Vegas, where we rented a car and immediately drove northeast to St. George, Utah. We spent a few hours visiting my sister Tanja, her husband Roger, and their two kids, then struck out east along the Utah-Arizona border on lonely desert highways. We passed through Hilldale, Utah, and Colorado City, Arizona, infamous polygamist enclaves, just before sunset and found the towns eerily dead. Not a person sight, except for one minivan driven by a woman wearing a floral bonnet. Particularly creepy, I thought, was the sight of the Bank of Ephraim, which I had read about many times. We were glad to see the back of that stretch of road.

In Fredonia, Arizona, we turned north, and a police car parked at the side of the highway kept our speed down. As we passed, we realized it was a dummy behind the wheel—Latex Larry, as we later learned the locals call him.

Kanab, Utah, was our goal, and after checking into an Everyone Welcome Here hotel, we strode across the street to the Rocking V Cafe where we met Laura's friends (and now mine too) Caralee and Jimmy for dinner. The meal was outstanding; I had the Lime Peppered Trout Caponata, and everyone else was envious when they tasted it. It had been a long time since I'd had trout.

The next morning, Tuesday, we drove out to Caralee and Jimmy's spread east of town, where they're building a straw-bale house (actually three) on their sixty acres. (Follow along as they progress!) The view from the eventual site of the main house is absolutely stunning, and the photo does it not enough justice. There we met their huge pack of dogs, the alpha male of which, a huge shar-pei/rottweiler mix named Max, took a fancy to me. According to Caralee, I'm only the second stranger Max has ever gone belly-up for. My pheromones are strong, grasshopper!

The bulk of the morning and early afternoon were given over to hiking. The four of us drove in Jimmy's SUV through bits of the Grand Staircase—Escalante National Monument and south into Arizona to hike the undeveloped Paw Hole Trail. The trailhead itself was a chore to find, with the topographical map Caralee had obtained when purchasing our hiking permit not the most useful item ever. The road to the trailhead became too steep and sandy to pass, so after pushing the SUV free of the sand and maneuvering it in reverse to a safe parking spot, we continued on foot. A mile or two of arduous sandy hiking brought us to the trailhead, after which we roamed across desert scrub and red sandstone amidst gorgeous rock formations for a couple hours more. Many long-legged hares, some chipmunks, a few small lizards, and various copulating beetles were spotted along the way.

Our picnic afterward, with cold chicken, cole slaw, Key lime bars, and icy Negra Modelo in the shade of a big juniper, was what heaven should be.

After a comical interlude involving the attempted purchase of condoms at a local supermarket (not an Everyone Is Welcome establishment), and a nap, I sprang for dinner at Escobar's. I tried to eat only half to three-quarters of what was on my plate at every meal on this trip, but Escobar's defeated me. Before I knew it, my plate was clean.

Wednesday morning, Laura and I rolled out of town well before dawn. A couple of local geezers at the service station where we stopped for coffee gleefully relating the news of a woman who had died the day before in a 1,200-foot fall from Angel's Landing in Zion National Park. We were on our way to Zion ourselves, but only to drive through on the way back to Vegas (taking a different route than we had come by). The only deaths related to our journey were two cottontails among the many that attempted to dash across our path as we sped down the highway.

By the time we were almost out of Zion, the sky had brightened enough that we could see what a spectacular canyon we had driven through. The rest of the drive to Vegas was unexceptional, though the incredible backup in the security lines at McCarran was almost enough to cause us to miss our flight to Los Angeles.

Pictures forthcoming, along with a report on our Worldcon.

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This page contains a single entry by William Shunn published on August 28, 2006 5:12 PM.

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