The fun of road trips is the quirks and oddities tucked in odd corners and small towns. Small towns can run together like the blurring of still pictures from a moving bus but some moments in the middle of nowhere are worth remembering.
Seligman, Old Route 66
Seligman lives on thanks to one man who dedicated time to preserving part of Old Route 66, of music lyrics fame. The quirky town of few inhabitants largely still exits to sell memorabilia and food to tourists. The antique shops were fun jumbles of anything and everything. Staff at the ice cream and hamburger stand clearly had their pranks rehearsed to amuse and delight the tourists. All of this made Seligman a better place to stop than yet another cold strip mall.
Moab is a good ambassador for Canyon Lands and Arches National Parks. Small, impeccably clean and graced by the Colorado River, Moab was a relaxing stop. Having skipped the organized side dinner, several of us decided to take advantage of the Sunset Grill free shuttle from the hotel to have dinner there. It was an excellent choice in every way—food, conversation, view and history.
Sunset Grill is in the former home of “Uranium King” Charlie Steen. Back in 1952, the Atomic Energy Commission was paying a bounty of $10,000 for finding domestic uranium. On his third try, Charlie struck uranium. This changed Charlie, Moab and the lives of all Americans. Charlie built the family home with a million-dollar view and generously built housing for uranium workers. As others came seeking uranium, Moab grew.
In the rooms of the house, now Sunset Grill, there are displays of products using uranium and the stories of what happened to workers who did not yet know the long-term effects of radiation. The Watch Girls who painted the glow-in-the-dark paint on watches and clocks were taught to lick the paint brushes to be sure the paint lines were precise. As we now know, that did not end well for them. More products than I’d ever expected, including some glassware, contained uranium. I’m sure my mother and grandmother had some of those products in their kitchens.
Salt Lake City
Salt Lake City is an impressively designed and maintained city that captures your attention as soon as it comes in sight. There are snow-capped mountains framing the city, punctuated with the pristine white spires of the Temple. The city was a welcome respite in many ways.
Our hotel was the nicest of any and in a walkable neighborhood with plenty of restaurant and bar options. It felt good to settle in comfort and we took advantage of my platinum status to visit the executive lounge to enjoy the view and an excellent hot chocolate.
The Temple and center piece of the city is remarkable. Being flower lovers, we loved the gardens and agreed that a garden tour was in our future, should we return. Unfortunately, we were visiting on a Sunday, so the historic homes were not open, nor was the historic hotel lobby.
The capitol complex is inviting and surrounded by an arboretum of trees from every county in the state. Kit Carson sits on his horse and medallions in the sidewalks show where the Carson Trail once was. Carson City has a walkable downtown with a nice selection of restaurants. We ate at a brew pub the first night. Beside the pub was a place that served soup and ice cream. That fascinated us, so the next night we went there. The cheddar broccoli in a sour dough bread bowl was great. I passed on the ice cream but my companions both enjoyed the salted caramel.
Oh, go ahead, shout “Tourist Trap” as loud as you can and then have a laugh. The Bonanza generation had fun roaming about the town and enjoying the nostalgia. There are wonderful bits of history preserved among the saloons, eateries and mercantile establishments. For those who support otherwise unemployed theatre majors, there is the thrice daily reenactment of a shoot-out.
The stop we made was too short to take in the museums or go on a walkabout off the main streets. Still, as bus stops go, this was infinitely more interesting than many along our route. Virginia City does enjoy an amazing view.