Ah, its been a week now since I returned from the US, UTAH and the Westgate Resort in Park City. I’ve just about recovered from the 7 hour time difference, which was compounded by a 24 hour day of traveling including a harrowing down the mountain drive in heavy snow, two flight connections (Detroit and Minneapolis) and a 2 hour coach trip from Heathrow back to St Albans.
Heading over appeared easier on paper, short flight to CDG, Paris then an 11 hour Air France flight to Salt Lake City (do not go to the Travelodge near Heathrow and certainly do not taste their food - if you must there is a nicer looking pub just around the corner). Looking online beforehand we noted the movies we wanted to watch, etc. Unfortunately the flight was with an Air France partner, Delta, without a sophisticated in flight entertainment system - instead giving us in the aisle airings of the awful “Little Miss Pettigrew Lives for a Day” and “Kung Fu Panda”, leaving 7 hours to spare. No doubt the complimentary Kronenbourg 1664 helped the trip go a little faster. All in all it felt like a short haul flight - just really really long. Leaving the dull London 12C we were treated to a basking 88F on arrival, where we picked up our 4x4 Suzuki rental and proceeded towards Park City in the mountains.
With a little time to spare before we collapsed in a heap of jet lag, we nipped to Ruby Tuesday’s at the Kimball junction for our first dose of American dining alongside the odd tipping culture and the first of the auto-free refills - auto in that they always come back to fill you up. Dr Pepper, overly salted fries and a glorious Bison burger with ranch sauce nestled nicely in my tummy when I slipped into an unconscious 11 hour nap, bringing me nicely into Utah time.
Our rooms were conjoined at the wall, with handy inner door, to form a cozy, large and homely ‘mega room’ of duplicates. Full kitchen, half kitchen, washer dryer, one of those ‘garbage disposal’ grinders, balcony, three sofas, one jacuzzi, one shower with steamer and seat, one bath, four televisions each with cable, a large dining table, luxury bed robes, two safes, two king sized double beds and to wrap it all off a free newspaper in the morning (USA Today)! We were also treated to a heated half in-half out pool with two hot tubs aside it, pool tables, table tennis tables and a basketball net. Though most of my holidays are about getting out and seeing as much of the culture as possible, on the days we had nothing planned or didn’t feel like going too far, these facilities made staying ‘at home’ a lot more enjoyable.
First stop, Walmart and then Smiths for much needed groceries, bagels, drinks and Peanut Butter M&Ms! After a green chilli and cheese bagel and something I prefer to call plastic yellow rather than cheese filling, we nosed around Park City’s old main street, with a little bit of shopping and a gander at some puppies in an antiques store with old native, hunting and skiing memorabilia. Eleanor cooked a very tasty roast for dinner, though she was too tired to eat most of it.
Day 2 and the Indian summer continued as we drove down the valley into Salt Lake to pick up a map, visit the “This is the place“ monument and carry on towards a small Mall with a terrible food court and Antelope Island. The island sits in the middle of the great lake and is home to a herd of Bison, ‘wave cut platforms’ and a lowly little ranch with some informational plaques. The second shot below was taking from the eating point where we enjoyed some juicy refreshments before heading home.
Wednesday became an outlet store shopping trip complete with red Vans shoes, a lot of relaxing, some pool side sunning, swimming and a meal at the local Good Thymes. Home cooked bread and butter, Brie and Roasted Chicken Quesadilla and Down South Nachos prior to some local Rainbow fresh water trout; all lovely but shame about the over peppering. The meat loaf was also palatable.
With morning pancakes and syrup I packed my bag for a trip up Mount Timpanogos to view the caves. Of course, no one else in my family was up to the 1300ft hike up the paved track, so I did it alone. The thin windy road towards the entrance of the path granted stunning beautiful views of the mountains and foliage complete with autumnal colours - at the cost of nail biting corners; Eleanor was having none of it and was later glad to escape to the safe confines of another shop. Meanwhile I trekked up the mountainside for 90 minutes, past sheer drops, rattlesnake habitats, chipmunks and spray painted red areas you aren’t allowed to stop in, to reach the three large cave systems at the top. Through the ragged limestone formations, out the other side and back down in half an hour and I rejoined the troupe. In the evening we met a local named Elaine and her family in Ogden where we were treated to turkey and other tasty treats. Back at home I caught the highlights of the Vice Presidential Debate, impressed by Biden.
The weekend brought with it rain, lots and lots of rain. In it we drove around Heber city and up the monument for those in the region that have fought in wars, before going down the valley and stopping at University Mall to buy yet more things - Eleanor finding that Nordstrom had in stock some beauty products she’d been looking for.
Luckily enough, the sun made its return on Monday in time for a day out with an old friend of Stuart’s; from peanut butter and jelly sandwiches and views of the Wabash front we were taken down into Salt Lake to see temple square and the other latter day saints monuments and the view from the top of state street. Then a stop off at Rocky Mountain Chocolate Factory, a quick trip to the air field to see the aircraft he pilots ($25m Challenger) and back home for a fine BBQ and a game of Ticket to Ride with the family.
After Stuart hurt his ankle, probably playing table tennis with me, the rest of us drove down to Heber (after topping up the rear tire with a little bit of air, following the prompt on screen warning we were given) to go on the valley railway. We didn’t get the steam train, instead a more forceful looking engine, and for $30 we each rode down into the valley. Having driven this route a couple of times now this wasn’t the most exhilarating of trips though it did give a welcomed break to the road, and from the rear cart, which was open to the elements, you could see the snow capped mountains (they had a dusting overnight it seems) and the autumn leaves.
That evening we tried out the Hapa Grill; a sushi bar. Here I was treated to a very tasty thai beef salad; the beef and crushed peanuts really did the trick. I also took the opportunity to introduce mum and Eleanor to the wonders of sushi, starting first with the much loved California Roll (crab, cucumber and avocado) and later trying the Eel which didn’t go down too well. Stuart of course stayed well away from it all; instead sticking to his faithful root beer and refills.
It was about this time that Eleanor developed a severe pain in one of her rear teeth, leading to severe agony, many painkillers, sleepless nights and an eventual trip to a dentist on our last Friday. For $350 we found out that her root canal was infected, needed cleaning out and refilling. Loaded with powerful but nauseating painkillers, antibiotics, a syringe and some X-rays, Eleanor made it through the rest of the holiday dosed up, docile and puffy faced. Though nothing but positive things to say about the dentist she saw.
That kind of put a damper on our plans for the end of the week; later that day Eleanor caught up on her sleep whilst we visited the Utah Olympic park; I conceived of many ways to beat the ball bearing slalom games at the visitor center and get the top scores before checking out the freestyle ski jumps and the bobsleigh run from a distance.
We ate at Squatters along the way from Westgate towards PC, the Polygamy Porter ale was scrumptious but the food was distinctly lacking.
Friday turned bitterly cold and with Saturday came snow. A couple of inches falling in just an hour. Armed with a list of targets to be met, we set off with a mission; first heading North to a “Super Target”, then back down through Salt Lake, Provo and eventually Ogden, to visit a proper Steakhouse and see Elaine again; Eleanor and I opting to do some last minute shopping and picking up some fantastic bargains in Aeropostale. The succulent 9oz filet with jacket potato was delicious. Before packing we made one final stop at Walmart for treats and the Vans outlet so I could buy 3 more pairs of radiant but glorious shoes at cheap prices.
More overnight snow led to our death defying down the mountain trek into Salt Lake to catch our 8:30am flight, where the lanes were unclear, the tracks hard to follow and the car ready to escape from beneath us, though helpfully warning of icy conditions. Through mum’s excellent driving and nerve we made it to the rental drop off point, boarded our plane and we were flying away home, this time with in flight entertainment (Indy 4, Must Like Dogs and The Baker) and empty seats to lie down on - oh what a difference it makes.
Also, Pumpkin Ale is disgusting.
And this guy is really cool looking.