I’ve landed at the Great Pacific coffee shop in Pendleton, Oregon to catch up on the rest of my trip, since the Grand Canyon. This has been a very different phase from the first part because I’ve been traveling on my own, staying in hotels, and feel the vacationing-tourist vibe in a big way.
First, I would like to introduce you to Blackjack. You won’t forget him. He’s the risk-taking, gassy, bully of a mule I rode through Bryce Canyon.
I woke up early in the Grand Canyon, caught a little bit of the sunrise, and drove full-speed to Bryce Canyon. I lost an hour as I entered Utah time and arrived in Bryce just in time to get on the wait list for a mule ride through the Canyon. I had heard it was the bidness.
I made it on the trip as the very last, solo, and much-pitied member of the wait list. A man name “Joooohn Henry” (use your best Texas accent) gave me Blackjack who, once I was settled on him, peed, farted loudly, bullied the mule next to him, and started walking in reverse for no reason. Blackjack is a handful.
The main reason I will never forget Blackjack is that he took my adrenaline levels to their highest point so far on the trip by clip-clopping way out on the very edge of trails that had multiple-hundred-foot drops to one side. My guide assured us all the we were safe and if we got scared to just “close your eyes.” Carumba! I was a wreck, honestly.
The man behind me, a lifelong horse trainer from Texas named Robert, kept yelping at me, “Pull on that lead, now. Get ’em off that edge. Lord!” He said he couldn’t even watch.
That said, Bryce Canyon is a pink-ish, white-ish wonderland of weird stone shapes. It looks like a Star Wars movie set. It’s absolutely gorgeous. The beauty of it makes you want to look and look and look at it. I stared at Bryce Canyon for a long time.
Then, I had dinner in the Lodge (another brownie sundae night!) and made my way back down to Zion. Snow was due at Bryce the next day so I’m glad I followed my hunch to go there on Saturday.
Zion by Nightfall
I entered Zion National Park in the dark and it was still beautiful. I could see these swirling stone mountains rise up from the ground against the twilight. After a day full of driving, the 40-minute-long, 35-mile-per-hour twists and turns through the canyon felt painfully slow.
Then, I arrived in the town of Springdale, where my Australian amigos had suggested I could just pop by and get a hotel room. I expected a Motel 6 and one, poorly-stocked grocery store. Not so!
Springdale is upscale and busy. Every hotel was sold out and the sushi restaurants and cutesy, Southwest bars with outdoor seating were packed with laughing, wasted patrons. It was scene!
I eventually settled down at the pricey La Quinta Inn and crashed after a long day.
Springdale for R & R
I really didn’t see a lot of Zion. My time there was marked by intermittent downpours, thunder, lightning, and a tremendous need to rest. Maybe it was good I didn’t make it in. One woman was missing after the first thunder storm, presumably swept away in the swelling canyon waters. Very sad.
I wandered Springdale and slept a lot. I had some wonderful time to reflect on my current semi-jobless status and ponder my next steps.
I’m heading towards my long-time dream of building an empire of “You’re a genius!” instructional courses based on improvisational theater theory and my own belief that we are all creative geniuses. I’m excited to get started. I’ll keep you posted. Wish me luck!
Provo and Farr West, Utah
After two days of rest in Springdale, I made my way to Provo to work out in the 24-Hour Fitness. The exercise was much welcomed but I couldn’t help but notice the continued vibe in Utah of uptightness. It’s just not a fun place to me. It’s beautiful but also kinda asks everyone to behave. I mostly felt the urge to leave.
I’ve spent a fair amount of time on this trip listening to Christian radio and I specifically listened to a radio show just for Christian women. Office life was very much demonized for ladies while the “hidden” duty of motherhood was much praised.
I just don’t like it. I’m all for staying home. But, I think that picking on a career discourages intellectual rigor for women and that drives me nuts. Let everyone do what they want, but don’t expect me to stay home all day if it makes me feel like a depressed, crazy person. I’m not sure, yet, what I would choose but would like the choice.
Oregon for the Win
I paused in Twin Falls, Idaho for a trip to Jiffy Lube and the Shosone Falls on the Snake River. Did you know that Evel Kneivel launched from one edge of the Snake River to the other in a feat of daring? The Grand Canyon refused him so he took his show to Idaho. I love that bit of trivia.
I’m now back in the Northwest. I’ve made it to Pendleton, Oregon. I spent last night in the very small town of Baker City. It was one of those moments where you drive outside of a small town with some Holiday Express motels and Super 8s and realize that you’re now 70 miles from the next motel.
When that motel arrives you gratefully take a room, only to wonder how safe you are in what looks like an extended trailer where people are barbecuing outside at 9 pm and the majority of the cars parked there are beat-up trucks.
It ended up being a cozy, comfy room, even if it did smell a bit like cigarette smoke and pee. The main bonus was some of the nicest-tasting water on my whole trip. The water in Springdale, Utah, for example, tasted like a naughty nymph poured a little bit of gasoline in it every day. Yuck! The Baker City Motel has delicious, refreshing water.
Maupin by Nightfall
Once I’m done puttering around Pendleton, I’ll make my last 2.5 hours of my drive to Maupin, Oregon.
Pendleton is a gem. It has a lively downtown, with the oldest J.C. Penny department store still in it’s original location. It’s was opened in 1911 and appears to be going strong.
I went for a nice run on the Umatilla River trail and checked out some of the beautiful, old homes on the hill beside the river. Pendleton reminds of once-wealthy towns of the old west, like Astoria and Aberdeen.
There’a a lot Oregon Trail history around here. And, they’re famous for their annual Pendleton Round Up with the tagline, “Let ‘er buck!” That’s why they have bike racks that say, “Let ‘er bike!” I really want a t-shirt with this logo.
In another moment of brilliance, my friend Adrienne at the visitors’ center came up with a clever promotion of their new app for travelers. Sure, it objectifies men but I doubt they’ll mind too much. I love it so much she sent me the original file. Here it is. Nice work, fellow marketer.
Work and Rest
The rest of my trip I’ll be doing work and laundry and general self-maintenance, a.k.a. washing my car. I have an “Oh, Seattle!” show to prepare for, as well as corporate gig on the 26th.
As there are more adventures, I’ll report in again before trip’s end.
(Written on Wednesday, Oct. 8)