Circumstances beyond our control meant we were ahead of schedule on arriving in Salt Lake City. Salt Lake City itself meant we were even further ahead of schedule by the time we left. Damn place gave me the creeps. Not just that the Mormon religion is so transparently based on mass delusional bollocks but that it also seems to work. Salt Lake City is a clean functional city, populated with many kind and helpful people, they also have a massive genealogical data base which any old stumbling bum can pop in and access. But the place seems to be twinned with Stepford. OK, most organised religion was instigated to stop people eating each other’s children come the first bad winter – but … damn it read Dave Gorman’s chapter on the subject in his excellent (and funny) “UnChained” book . M-fukkas be crazy.
Tried getting out of the place as fast as possible without drawing attention to ourselves by sitting right on the speed limit, which had the opposite effect as we were twenty miles an hour slower than everything else on the interstate. Mack trucks were swarming past us at about 75 mph inside and out and in the fast lane cars were at well over 90. We were making a nuisance of ourselves as people rushed away from Salt Lake City –you have no choice but to put your foot down and stay with the flow – so hitting the Moab road was a great relief.
Moab is in Utah so beholden to the state’s peculiar licensing laws (weak beer, limited availability of anything stronger, if you want to drink in an area where there are children you have to eat) but when you get there it barely feels like Utah. In fact after a week there you barely think you are in America, it seems like an independent country or a suburb of New Zealand. Moab is in a narrow valley but that valley twists so you are surrounded on all sides by dusty brick-red mountains. Like Keswick on a massive scale, and like Keswick, Moab attracts adventurists from all over the world, only more so. It is the very epicentre of mountain biking for a start with The Slickrock Trail considered the ultimate for serious off-road peddlers. But that’s just the start: you can hire jeeps, dirt bikes and quad bikes to play with. You can go out rafting, climbing, ballooning and the hiking trails cater for all abilities. In the UK if a trail says ‘difficult’ it means there is a steep hill and maybe a stepping stone across a stream. In Moab ‘difficult’ means strangers are pulling you up boulders and you are scrambling through thorn bushes hoping nothing snake-like starts rattling its tail at you. Last month someone drowned in the rapids while white water rafting. The extremity of your pastime is your own business you set your own limits and accept your own consequences.
The mountains are made of terracotta coloured sandstone and sandstone is a crumbly rock so the weather has bitten chunks out of the scenery. There are holes and arches, turrets and strange shapes that look different as the sun drags the shadows around. There is a layer of dust on everything; at dusk the dirt bike kids roll back into town thick with filth and red mud.
There is pride in that filth, there is even a company that washes white t-shirts in this local red muck, it adds a slogan and/or a design and flogs them $20 a shot. People will ask “what did you do today?” and expect a story. The tattooed and pierced lass dispensing icy lager in Rio’s Bar said she came on vacation and stayed – eight years ago.
Rio’s is a sports bar with many TVs but it would open too late to show live English football in our season. We are on Mountain Time and are 7 hours behind the UK. Of course if they gave me a Green Card – I could do the breakfast shift.
We feared with it being a long national holiday weekend that we would struggle for accommodation – but anyone who knows anything about Moab knows not to go in July. It is ferociously hot, so I might have wanted to injure myself on a mountain bike but I would have burst into flames before I had a chance to do anything silly. So we camped for three nights, moteled for two then went back to the tent and we quickly learnt to do outdoor stuff early in the day. White water rafting down the Colorado river on a Monday morning near where they filmed “Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid” and “Rio Grande” was awesome.
So were the buffalo burgers and shakes at Milt’s where the raft guides eat.
They let off fireworks on the cliff edges to celebrate the 4th of July to remind us we really were in the USA and despite being the offspring of former colonial oppressors we were allowed to watch. What a place Moab is, I defy anyone to go and not want to go back.
Right Song at the Right Time:
Thursday 30th June: “Are You Connected” – Combichrist; cybergoth in a hot car with a cool mountain backdrop, powering over the brow of a hill to reveal an arrow straight road.
Friday 1st July: “16 Tons” – The Nighthawks; from The Wire soundtrack – drinkin’ music
Saturday 2nd: “The Weekend” – Dave Hollister/Redman – “this is how we roll on the weekend” – up to Ken’s Lake for a paddle.
Sunday 3rd: “Bad Things” – Jace Everett; New series of “True Blood” on HBO and a very nice bottle of wine from the town’s only liquor store.
Monday 4th: “Make it Stop” – Rise Against; in Rio’s where the music was nearly as cool as the beer.
Tuesday 5th “Open Up” – Leftfield/Lydon; pulsating attitude as we drove through Canyonlands National Park.