From Fort Collins, Colorado, the road took us back into and all the way through Wyoming along the 80. Let's assume, for the sake of comedy, that you haven't spent many hundreds of man hours staring at the scenery of the 80 through Wyoming. Allow me to set the scene: on your right, perhaps as much as five whole universes away, there are mountains, there are cliffs, there is difference. To you, these things are nothing more than purple smudges jutting through the haze and cloudcover. Impossibly distant both in miles and in conception. Near you, there is only desert. Not sand dunes and buzzards desert but desert just the same, 400 miles of identical, unmemorable scrub brush punctuated occasionally by rusting barb wire fences, oil derricks, the moon-eyed faces of cattle destined, inevitably, for slaughter.
Proceeding vertically from the top edges of those impossibly distant smudges of mountains, track your eyes across the sky. It's something like 300 degrees from one horizon to another, the sky blue and white and vast as anything you've ever experienced in your life, as if every sky that has ever been has coalesced here in order to force away the land. In front of you, far ahead but growing closer, you can see Utah. You can't actually see Utah, you understand, what you can see is the ending to a long long day in which you would cross both the halfway mark and the 2/3 way mark, but you can see something shimmering out there like water, and you swear to the steering wheel, the gearshift, anything you can get your hands on, that Joseph Smith had this promised land thing right all along.
This is how I spent my 29th birthday, how I welcomed another year of life: a long, fugue-like drive into Utah and a night at a hotel in Salt Lake City. And for all this it was an awesome time.
See, it wasn't just any hotel. What Dana had been keeping secret for a month or more before our trip was that the room we were staying in that night was titled Dodge City, a themed affair, one of many themed rooms in this complex called The Anniversary Inn which is apparently a big thing in Utah. (Note from Dana: it's where Mormons go to have crazy fantasy sex!) Our hotel room sported a bed shaped like a (very convincing) covered wagon, a mirror nestled into the worn center of a yolk, swinging saloon doors between the bedroom and bathroom, and a huge two-wall mural of a western scene. Also some creepy-ass pictures of frontiersman all over the walls but I'd just as soon forget about those, thanks.
And, okay, the enormous bathtub was equipped with what I can only describe as the coolest shower of all time. The water for the shower flowed from a set of antique bottles which I originally thought had been discarded precariously above the tub. So you're showering from a bunch of whiskey bottles. That's so friggin' old west! Tell me truthfully: does this not kick ass?
In addition to being a kick-ass surprise hotel to stay the night at, The Anniversary Inn was also apparently a bed & breakfast! So at 7am (remember we'd been gaining hours as we passed through time zones all along the way) the staff there knocked on our door and left us a huge plate of really decent food including these great yogurt parfaits (highlight!), a huge cinnamon roll (good, but I wanted it to be better), a ham & cheese croissant (eh), and coffee (blessed, blessed coffee). Really, a decent showing.
After checking out of the hotel, Dana and I wandered over a couple of blocks to a Whole Foods we'd spotted the night before. Okay, call me an uncultured slob or... I don't know, a bumpkin? Call me what you will, but I have to admit this: before last week, I'd never been into a Whole Foods. I've lived in towns with Whole Foods, I've watched dozens of Top Chef contestants shop at them (between food porny shots of piled up apples and blatant branding, obviously) I'd even been in their parking lots, but I'd never walked inside. So tell me, is every Whole Foods the most awesome place in the world or is it just this random one in Salt Lake City? I'm leaning toward every one but I just want to be sure.
We picked up a couple of righteous salads (to offset the beating our stomachs had been taking with all the road food), some snacks, and (accidentally) a couple of energy drinks, but I was nearly in tears at the idea that a place with this much healthy beautiful food exists in the world and I do not have regular access to it. I'm seriously considering driving back to Utah and setting up a tent in the parking lot, just to get more of their house-made tortilla chips. I mean, they are good chips. That's not so crazy, right?