Firstly, apologies to Brigham Young for the deliberate misquote, but it seemed as apt a title as any for the drive from Las Vegas to Hurricane, Utah where we were to spend the first two nights of our road trip.
It got off to an electrifying start …………………….. with a lie-in and a spa bath. Making the most our deluxe room in Mandalay Bay, I was also able to complete the first post of my road trip blog.
We checked out at the latest possible time and collected the car from valet parking, when the guy who delivered it to us unaccountably disappeared before I was able to make his day by dispensing my customary $2 gratuity. Within a couple of minutes we were on the I-15 north in the direction of Salt Lake City (401 miles). It was already very warm and sunny, with temperatures forecast to tickle 100.
Locating a country music station on the car radio proved more difficult than anticipated, and after rejecting around 20 stations, spewing out everything from hip hop to power ballads, the comforting tones of Kenny Chesney took over. We had landed on 955 FM Vegas Country KWNR and life was good.
The landscape quickly gave the impression that a race of furious giants had ripped up and stamped upon it at some time in the distant past, leaving a jumble of cliffs, hillocks and mounds of varying sizes and colours.
We passed through the Moapa Indian Reservation and alongside the Valley of Fire State Park and Lake Mead National Recreation Area before arriving, 85 miles and 70 minutes after setting off, at the town of Mesquite, Nevada.
We cruised through the main street in search of a suitable lunchtime dining option. The signs were gloomy until we spotted Peggy Sue’s 50s Style Family Diner. Dave Gorman, the English comedian, whose book Unchained America recounted his mission to cross the USA “from sea to shining sea” without paying even a cent to “the man”, would have been proud of us. This was the sort of place you should eat at on the classic road trip.
And Peggy Sue’s was indeed a classic. We were greeted with Laurel and Hardy on the TV at the end of the restaurant and Roy Orbison on the jukebox. The walls were liberally adorned with photographs of movie stars (Marilyn Monroe and James Dean amongst them) and Elvis (obviously), US flags (equally naturally), 45rpm discs, vintage Coca-Cola bottles and metal advertisement signs.
In addition to the customary condiment containers, and in the unlikely event that conversation should slacken in the few short minutes before your order arrived, each table had a series of books on it by Ben Goode, amongst which were How to Cope when you are surrounded by IDIOTS…….Or if you are one, How to Share a Bad Attitude and The Fine Art of Worrying. They, and many others, could be purchased at the till for a measly $7.99 each.
The waitress was loud (in a good way), enthusiastic and attentive, which set me wondering, not for the first time, why her British counterpart invariably demonstrated the opposite characteristics. And then it occurred to me – why not sack all restaurant waiting staff in the UK and replace them with the London 2012 Games Makers? Moreover, they could work for free – there’s one you hadn’t thought of, Mr Cameron. In fact, the idea could be replicated in other industries.
Shortly after we resumed our journey, we were joined by the Virgin River which wended its muddy way through the steep cliffs on either side.
It is often said that beautiful American roads are too often scarred by huge, garish billboards, but, advertisements for fast food joints, motels and politicians aside, the prize for the daftest sign today must have been the one that advised us to “Watch for Rocks” The entire landscape comprised rocks of various shades of red, orange and brown!
As we entered Utah where, according to the welcome sign on the state line, our life was about to be “elevated”, we lost an hour (moving from Pacific to Mountain time) but gained a degree (it was 99 now).
We stopped for coffee in St. George, an attractive and civilised town with two bookshops (always a good sign for me) and many public art works, including lovely bronze statues scattered around the main square where gleeful children froliced through water features.
St. George is home to the dazzlingly white Mormon Temple , the only Latter Day Saints temple completed during Brigham Young’s lifetime, giving it a special place in the Mormon world. We decided not to visit, partly on the advice of our guidebook which advised that non-Mormons were not permitted to enter, but also that any caller to the adjoining visitor center was as likely to leave on a two year mission to Mozambique as be sold a guidebook.
Besides, this particular pasty-faced Brit would rather escape the heavy hundred degree heat for the comfort of the air conditioning in the car.
We left I-15 at junction 9 and took the road leading to Zion National Park. After nine miles we arrived at the Travelodge in Hurricane where we would be staying for the next two nights.
Our unusual dining experiences there will have to wait for the next article.