Category Archives: Possible Attractions

Holidays in the Salt Lake Area

We suspected but did not know for sure that the city of Salt Lake and its satellite communities really decorate for an old fashioned Christmas. Our neighbors who used to live in Salt Lake City told us about the special tree in the lobby of the Joseph Smith Memorial Building, and they advised us to dine for Thanksgiving at the Little America Hotel coffee shop, but we discovered on our own that the Macy’s in the City Creek Shopping Center downtown has unique Christmas windows.

The delightful holiday decor all over this Western city added a special and unexpected oomph to our week in Salt Lake City and beyond. Its festive feel especially enchanted the children among us. The Joseph Smith Memorial Building lobby was a treat that we would never have found on our own. Joseph Smith was the founder of the Mormons. His building is adjacent to the downtown temple and is owned by The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. A one-time hotel, it contains 2 restaurants including a 10th floor one that affords perhaps the best view of the city. It was unfortunately closed when we wanted to dine there, but the lobby was opened and its tree was spectacular. We ate at Michelangelos instead, and loved this Italian restaurant.

Macy’s was very near the 76-year-old Joseph Smith building and its Christmas windows reminded the adults in our group of department store windows from long ago when urban stores really went all out for the Christmas holidays. This year’s theme was ornate, candy-centered creations that were definitely uncommon and fun to see.

Our neighbors also suggested that we spend a day in Park City. This town in the Wasatch Mountains 20 miles from Salt Lake City and home to the Sundance Film Festival has become Utah’s best resort town since we were last there. Known for its ski slopes, Park City also has a Main Street featuring 19th century silver mining boom architecture. Because the 2002 Winter Olympics were held in Park City, an athletic training facility and the Utah Olympic Park are now there. The latter’s bobsled ride on “The Comet”, one of the longest rides around, is a lot of fun. Our neighbors suggested that we go to the Snowbird Ski Resort and take its gondola up to 11,000 feet. They said it was a great experience for Midwesterners who don’t get much mountain time, but our son and grandchildren now live in Denver and get lots of mountain time. We spent our time instead in candy and cookie stores that are superabundant in Salt Lake City and its environs. We did, however, have Thanksgiving dinner in Park City.

As the week unfolded, we also experienced Luminaria in a formal garden in Lehi and a spectacular Christmas Parade in Ogden. Detroit-style pizza at Via 313 was an added bonus.


A Major Tribute to Westerns

The Museum of Western Film History in Lone Pine, CA is an attraction on Highway 395 that was established in 2006. It may not be around for long. It depends on a steady stream of older visitors who grew up in the early TV era and are still interested in westerns. As long as they pay to be admitted and are interested enough to book a tour of old movie sets in the Alabama Hills, the Museum of Western Film History will probably survive.

Here’s a test. Roy Rogers, Gene Autry, Gabby Hayes, Hopalong Cassidy, Randolph Scott, Fatty Arbuckle, and Tom Mix. If you reacted favorably to any of these names seen in this museum, then head for Lone Pine. If you repeatedly said, “Who?”, you will probably wonder why you paid the admission price to see the Museum of Western Film History. All of the names above were once movie stars with successful, long-term careers. Roy Rogers, Gene Autry, and William Boyd who played Hopalong, were early TV personalities with major career wattage. Gabby Hayes was what fans called a sidekick. He was a humorous, somewhat grungy co-star to Hopalong, Roy Rogers, and Gene Autry, the original singer of “Rudolph the Red Nosed Reindeer” who had a substantial hit recording of this Christmas favorite. Gabby made more than 40 movies with Roy Rogers. Scott had a major Hollywood career making mostly western movies. His last film, Ride the High Country, was a nostalgic western co-starring Joel McCrea. Randolph Scott retired from films after making it. Fatty Arbuckle had a major career in silent films but made few westerns. One of the exceptions was a satire about such films called Out West. Arbuckle never recovered from a rape accusation that led to 3 trials. He disliked his nickname Fatty, which was used to promote his movies, and he much preferred to be addressed by his given name Roscoe. Tom Mix was Hollywood’s first Western star. He made 291 films before dying as the result of a car accident in Arizona.

This museum has gathered an extensive collection of western related artifacts, costumes, props, and many fine posters. Seen in this museum are period projectors and cameras, and visitors can watch old TV westerns from the 1950s and 1960s. They can also arrange a movie site tour up in the Alabama Hills where more than 400 movies and TV shows were shot. Out Movie Road are a Gunga Din bridge site and other places where films such as Tremors and Django Unchained were shot. Gunga Din was one of the few non-western movies that were made almost entirely here in this area. It filmed in the shadow of major mountains and was released successfully in 1939. If you miss such a tour, be advised that a major tribute to Tremors is part of the Museum of Western Film History experience. Tremors was a successful Kevin Bacon film released in 1990. It was a science fiction, horror, and comedy film that caught on and did very well. Django Unchained is one of the few westerns made fairly recently. In fact, it was the last western made and is often described as revisionist. There is a tribute to this Quentin Tarantino movie released in 2012 in this museum, and some artifacts used in its making in the Alabama Hills are on display.

After seeing this attraction Ruth and I continued south on Highway 395. Shortly after leaving Lone Pine from which Mount Whitney can be seen on a clear day we descended into the Mojave Desert. It was quite a contrast to the rest of this highway that passes some of the highest elevations in this state including Mount Whitney, the highest peak in the lower 48 states. Beautiful Highway 395 continues on to its termination point at Hesperia, CA, but it is not said to be scenic beyond Inyokern, CA. That’s why we spent the night in fast-growing Ridgecrest before traveling north again on 395 to see what we had missed.


There Are Dips and Curves Everywhere

The trip we just took to California was not the adventure Ruth & I set out to have. Travel plans undergo changes for many reasons. The year with COVID has made this truer than ever. On the trip just mentioned, for example, we underestimated the difficulty of traversing the mountains in southern Oregon and northern California in mid-March, the big increase in traffic on I-5 and especially the exploding number of Amazon Prime trucks on this route, the big increase in recently reopened attractions, and the availability of food. These and other unexpected conditions made travel changes inevitable.

We did manage to achieve 3 scenic drives–Mount Diablo, Highway 46, and much of Highway One, but we had to delay 2 others, Highway 395 and Moki Dugway, until I don’t know when. Highway One was difficult because of a 2021 winter storm that destroyed a small section half way down this fabled highway along the Pacific Ocean in California. This led to major, time-consuming rerouting.

Getting through the mountains of southwest Oregon and past Mount Shasta in California also proved difficult. Rain and fog made Oregon a slow go, and Shasta snow caused unanticipated delays. Ruth and I planned to drive home via Highway 395, which we have never experienced. It’s marked as scenic almost all the way from near Tehachapi, CA to near Reno, NV. It passes Manzanar NHS, which we would both like to see, and pauses in a town that someone whose travel instinct is similar to mine admires greatly. Sounds like a go. However, we had to abandon our plan to return home via this route due to circumstances. Scenic Highway 395 passes close to Mount Whitney, the highest point in California and taller than Shasta. We worried about further delays on our way home and expecting 2 important deliveries there. Moreover, Bishop, CA, a town Bob much admired and highly recommended but Ruth & I have never experienced, had few reasonable accommodations due to its remote location. We decided to save this route that goes through another remote town we really like, Susanville, CA and surprising Reno for another trip in the summer.

We will probably not make it to Moki Dugway in the still very remote southeast corner of Utah that we hoped to see on our upcoming trip to Arizona, but we will get to drive a scenic route that a Tucson native recently told me about called Gates Pass Road.

Travel is unpredictable. Our daughter Lisa and her husband Stan, who have always been dedicated travelers, are in Zion National Park now. They just sent us pictures of their day spent negotiating the famous Angel’s Landing Trail. One of the most difficult hikes in the National Park system, Angel’s Landing is a very popular but challenging route. However, our kin only raved about seeing 2 condors in a distant tree while on this trail.

I hope I never lose the desire to find out what’s beyond the next bend in the road. That’s what brought Ruth & me to Mount Diablo, Highway One, and hopefully Gates Pass Road soon.


Newly Proposed but Not Necessarily Enacted

There are 63 National Parks. Thirty states and 2 territories, American Samoa and the US Virgin Islands, have National Parks. The number of states without a national park is 23. Many entities that aspire to National Park status are now National Monuments. Some will eventually become National Parks, like California’s Pinnacles did. Sixteen new National Monuments have been officially proposed.

New National Monuments, if accepted as National Parks, will mostly be in states that already have National Parks. There are currently 129 National Monuments. My favorite is Arizona’s remote Chiricahua. Four National Monuments have been proposed in California. The states that will have 2 new National Monuments are Utah, Arizona, Nevada, and New Mexico. There will be new ones in Montana, Colorado, and Oregon, which will share Owyhee Desert National Monument with Nevada if it becomes one. Some proposed National Monuments will be expansions of existing National Parks like Canyonlands in Utah and the Grand Canyon in Arizona.

It sometimes takes a long time for National Parks to be established, like the Gateway Arch. It officially opened in 1967 but did not become a National Park until 2018. The Lesser Prairie Chicken Preserve was proposed as a National Monument 11 years ago but it has not become such. To become a National Monument, an area must have the backing of a US President, must contain objects of historic or scientific worth, must meet the criteria of the Antiquities Act, and must be places already controlled by the Federal Government.

To become a National Park, an area must be recognized by an Act of Congress. However, US Presidents have the power to proclaim them on lands already under federal jurisdiction, like Ulysses S. Grant did when he created Yellowstone National Park in 1872. My sources for the above information are myself,, and The most recent National Monuments Ruth and I have been to for the first time are Newberry Volcanic near Bend, OR and Pipe Spring in northern Arizona. Both were worthwhile. The last National Park we visited for the first time was the eminently interesting Congaree in South Carolina that is seen up top.


2020 Ends

I mentioned on December 18 that the ball dropping ceremony from Times Square on New Year’s Eve promises that it will occur “visually, virtually, and safely” to end this year from hell. Well, I finally know what this means because The New York Times explained in detail on Sunday.

The crystal ball will drop from One Times Square as usual but without a human audience. There will be confetti and “Auld Lang Syne” but no people. The event starts at 6 pm in the Eastern Time Zone. The broadcast promises to honor those Americans who worked to get us through the 2020 pandemic that will continue to affect lives in 2021. Ruth talked to the medical team headed by our doctor this morning, and we are on a waiting list for the vaccine. They are not committing to time and place yet, which is a good thing. It is recommended that viewers still at home after 10 months of confinement, travel the world via TV on the final evening of 2020 starting in New Zealand at 6 am Eastern Time. Viewers can go on to see year ending events in South Korea, Brazil, and elsewhere. PBS as usual will broadcast the New Year’s Concert from Vienna, Austria, on the first day of 2021 at 9 pm, Eastern Time.

Also on New Years’s Day or before I recommend watching Netflix’s hilarious and droll special appropriately called “Death to 2020”. This original comedy with a stellar cast makes fun of the entire year. No one who made 2020 so grotesque escapes inclusion in the fun that puts an end to the year that virtually no one wants to remember. Ruth & I have already seen this comedy special and will watch it again.

Here’s hoping that 2021 will be a more normal year and that we can all return to beloved activities. For us that will be travel. For some reason I am anxious to return to some destinations that we have enjoyed but have not been to for a long time like Newfoundland, coastal California, and other surprises. I am currently reading an old but curious book about Newfoundland’s singular history and have never been to L’Anse aux Meadows National Historic Park or Labrador. Both have been on our must-see list for a long time. That list has been in a drawer unused for 10 months now. I am eager to see Corner Brook, Gander, and St. John’s again and explore the place in North America with so many weird town names like Witless Bay, Placentia, and Robert’s Arm.