Monday, February 21, 2005
Pull ups in the wild, wild west
Beth's artistic eye
Growing up in middle America I was fairly unaware that other places didn’t look like Minnesota, Wisconsin or Illinois – the places I frequented as a child. My exposure to the West came in about 8th grade when we took our summer vacation cross country road trip to California. It took us three weeks to get there and back. Three weeks of keeping my brother on his side of the station wagon. I didn’t really appreciate it then, but at least had a reference to other landscapes as I got older.
So my knowledge of the West was limited even after I made the calculated decision to live here. Living in the city of Salt Lake is not really THE West. It is metropolitan (my words – not necessarily those of my neighbors from LA!!) and it has green grass and big trees. I have a charming older home and feel almost as if I’m still in the Midwest, except that it is much hillier and we have phenomenal views of the Wasatch Mountains.
I flew here last year with the kids, so that didn’t help my senses associate me to the fact that I AM IN THE MIDDLE OF NOWHERE! Driving to Minnesota for Christmas started my transition to this realization – especially the horizontal, blinding, straight-line, snowy winds in Wyoming.
I have noticed subtle differences, but do not think any of them made a dent in my psyche until this past weekend as we traveled to Moab, or as I like to call it, Another Planet.
Some of the things I had previously noticed were the size of the pick up trucks out here. People like them large. Ford F-250s are a dime a dozen. I haven’t seen many gun racks on trucks, but my friends have told me that it’s a pretty common option on these loud diesel machines. Sidenote: when we first moved in, I seriously thought that there was semi-traffic on my quaint neighborhood street. I kept hearing the loud sound of a diesel engine chugging up my street. It took me about a week to finally run to the window and see who was moving into the neighborhood. That’s when I discovered that it was just the guy across the street going to work. For the size of his engine, he must haul horses daily!
Other differences include interior decorating differences. Stores, homes, restaurants have a larger percentage of western/southwestern motif. It’s fine. Just different. Also, people dress more casually for outdoor activities. Most of my friends wear fleece when they take their kids to the park. I wear my Talbot’s pea coat. I need to sell the vacation home so that I can go shop the Patagonia Outlet clearance sale. I can definitely see the advantage to this type of attire. One other subtle thing I’ve noticed while at work, also known as “treeless, barren, prairie land”, is the wind. It blows hard and often down in the valley. One afternoon a tumbleweed blew past my window during a windy snow storm. SERIOUSLY. I felt like I was in an old western movie.
This past weekend, however, exposed me to an entirely new world. Four hours from my 1927 Tudor is a red land unlike any other I had ever seen. It is full of rock, desert and formations that are beautiful and eerie at the same time. Chris and Dave went mountain biking in Slickrock and Chris said it felt like he was riding on the surface of the moon.
My experiences in Moab were somewhat limited due to rain and potty training Ella (which is going famously by the way thanks to the underwear-under-the-Pull-up-advice I got from the Internet), but what I did see was amazing. Overall I’d give the weekend a 9. Friendships are deepening between parents and kids alike, no one got sick or injured (Chris usually hurts something when biking) and we all had fun. My only complaint applies to the trip home.
Since it rained so much on Saturday, we saved touring Arches National Park for Sunday. Of course everything took longer than expected and we didn’t leave for Salt Lake until about 6:00 PM. No big deal, I thought. It’s only 4 hours. Well, it turned into a big deal. I live near mountains and need to start appreciating the weather that goes with them. Our trip was uneventful until about two hours in – just north of Price – when in the distance we saw a strange sight. I thought it was a freight train with red lights, but it was a REALLY long line of cars parked at a dead stop. We waited and waited and waited for one hour and 10 minutes. The snow started to fall and about one inch accumulated on our hood. Harrison had fallen asleep, but Ella was antsy. This was NOT a good end to my potty training extravaganza. Squatting in a snow storm in front of an audience was not something I was going to make Ella do. When the cars started to shift into Drive, the traffic moved at a crawl because we were in a pass and it was extremely icy. We drove at about 25 mph for well over an hour. The temperature rose a few degrees and the ice seemed to dissipate, but then the snow starting coming down stronger. It was blowing right into the wind shield and we couldn’t see the lines on the side of the road.
Trying to put this experience into words isn’t easy. I am a marginal writer, at best, but I am journaling this mainly for us. The wilderness, that is the West, is relentless. We were without cell phone service, bathrooms, gas stations, and medical care. I knew that Beth and Dave were a mile or two behind us, and there were cars all around us, but I still felt isolated and scared. Now that I am a parent, I have deeper responsibilities. My commitment to keep Harry and Ella safe is inside of me and it was raging last night. I am still thrilled that we live in such a magnificent place, but for many reasons I respect it much more this morning.