Heading west – July 9, 2010
It was a day unlike most days. Having awoken at 1 am to begin the journey west, I left Maine in somewhat of a slumber- less stupor; guided more by auto-pilot than by conscious thought, I arrived at Logan at 4:15am.
Save for the occasional cranky toddler and a few high-maintenance air travelers, you know the type, the flight to Salt Lake City was delightfully uneventful. Along the way I thought about all the adventure that lay ahead.
As I exited the jetway an airline employee asked if I needed any assistance to make a connecting flight, without thinking I replied, “no thank you, I am here” Having passed through the airport on several other occasions on my way to other westward destinations, this was the first time I was to set foot in the city of Salt Lake. Immediately, I knew I was in a different place. As I exited the terminal seeking to flag a taxi, a lone taxi sat unoccupied, with its driver sitting on a bench. Were I in Boston, Chicago, San Francisco or any other urban locale, I might still be curbside . The driver was an older gentleman who originally hailed from Poland. “Salt Lake City, it is a quiet place” he remarked. Having told me he previously lived in Los Angeles, he was certainly qualified in his assessment.
With Alex, Erin and Diana still making the journey south from Yellowstone, I checked my bag at the hotel and headed out to experience the city of Salt Lake. Just a few blocks up from the hotel, I entered into an area called Gateway Plaza; an eclectic array of shops and restaurants. As I looked skyward past the shops I first noticed the range of the Wasatch Mountains, which provide an impressive scenic backdrop for much of the city. The plaza encompassed several city blocks on two levels connected by bridges and skyways. After having stopped to enjoy an iced coffee – the temperature was approaching 90 degrees before 11:00am—I happened upon a center square, with jets of water shooting skyward from the courtyard, falling as refreshing raindrops on the children below, playing without a care as only children do. An understated clock tower rose above the square. Soon I could hear a familiar tune emanating from the tower; it was the Olympic theme. It occurred to me that I was sitting in what was part of the Olympic village, in the host city of the 2002 Winter Games, a place where athletes from around the world came together for a fortnight some eight years ago. Pretty neat.
After grabbing a late lunch and a local microbrew I headed back to meet up with the wandering Mainers; more than 3000 miles in to their journey we were finally together. It was great to see them. Looking none the worse for wear they shared stories of their trip thus far, along with a goodie bag of treasures collected along the way. Among the presents was a block of 10 year aged sharp cheddar from the state of Wisconsin. Delicious. If it is possible Alex and Erin have grown since leaving Maine and remarkably Diana has kept her wits and sense of humor. The plush accommodations served as a welcome respite for the travelers. We spent the rest of the afternoon relaxing by the pool, did a few loads of laundry and plotted our next journey as Wandering Mainers, now a party of four.