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Posts Tagged ‘Bryce Canyon’


The idea for this trip came thirteen years ago when I bought the book entitled The Blues Highway: A Travel and Music Book by Richard Knight.

But then, as we were on the point of booking the trip, Hurricane Katrina battered New Orleans, the planned starting point for the trip. We resolved then that we would wait to do it when life in the city had returned to some semblance of normality.

In 2012, we did finally embark on a road trip, but in a very different part of the country – the National Parks of the South West, covering the states of Utah, Colorado, Arizona and New Mexico.

Setting off from Las Vegas, our expedition took in Zion National Park, Bryce Canyon, Lake Powell, Monument Valley, Arches National Park and the Grand Canyon, followed by a sizeable detour through New Mexico, visiting Santa Fe, Albuquerque and iconic locations on Route 66 such as Winslow, Arizona (“Standin’ on a Corner”) and Gallup, New Mexico before returning to Vegas.

Numerous trips to San Francisco, Tahoe, Vegas as well as the North East (of the U.S, not England!) followed, as the Southern states, other than Florida, failed to seduce us sufficiently into venturing in their direction. Maybe their racist past (and present), Christian fundamentalism and gun culture all have had something to do with it. Moreover, the scene from Easy Rider where the main protagonists get short shrift in a southern diner still haunts me, and the song by Folkestone band, the Transients, entitled They Don’t Like Hippies in Baton Rouge, only serves to exacerbate the anxiety.

But now, with mid-term elections looming and the divisions in America widening, we have chosen this moment to plunge ourselves into the belly of Trumpsylvania, though a Californian friend’s recent assertion that we were essentially visiting “blue cities in red states” is a comforting and far from innacurate one.

So what is the attraction of this particular itinerary that has stubbornly refused to disappear from our vacation radar?

The Blues Highway, essentially Highway 61, runs, for the most part alongside the mighty Mississippi, from New Orleans  to Chicago and traces the migration of many African Americans from the Deep South to the Northern cities following the Civil War and Reconstruction.

Equally, it charts (sic) the development of the major music genres for which we are so much indebted to the United States for, principally the blues and gospel (Mississippi delta, Memphis, St Louis and Chicago), but also jazz (New Orleans), cajun and zydeco (Lafayette), country (Nashville) and soul (Memphis again, and not forgetting Elvis!).

After an initial overnight stay in Newark, New Jersey (flights from the UK being so much cheaper), we fly to the “Big Easy” for four nights before hitting the road with single overnight stays in Lafayette, Vicksburg and Clarksdale. A three night residence in Memphis follows before we head east to Nashville for four nights, arriving on the eve of my birthday.

From “Music City” we cross country back to the main road for three nights in St Louis, followed by a night in Peoria before arriving in the “Windy City” for another four nights, when we are hoping to be joined for a couple of nights by friends from San Francisco. Two nights in New York City conclude the trip before we catch our return flight from Newark.

The trip has the added bonus of introducing us to seven new states – Louisiana, Mississippi, Tennessee, Missouri and Illinois with brief detours through Kentucky and Arkansas. The prospect of experiencing new cultures, historic tours and spectacular scenery is, of course, exciting, but it is the music that is the driving force of the trip. Clubs, bars, museums and street musicians will, therefore, be the major focus of the next three weeks.

And we must not forget the other star of the show – the road itself.

Little thrills the blood more than the thought of exploring this amazing country by car with the radio blaring out the music style that reflects the landscape you are travelling through at the time. I am sure it will reveal some entertaining adventures as this blog grows over the coming weeks.

So let’s get on with the show!

See y’all later!

 

 

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When we put together the original itinerary for this trip we decided, in the light of the array of other stunning sights on offer, none of which we had visited before, we would omit the Grand Canyon. After all, we had been twice before, the South Rim in 1995 and the North Rim nine years later.

On the later visit, we had fl0wn in a helicopter down to the canyon floor for a short boat ride on the Colorado River. This had been followed by a hair-raising jeep trip onto the Havasupai reservation for lunch and, inevitably, a tour round the open air jewelry stalls.

But as this vacation drew nearer, we came to our senses and realised that we would be insane not to go, especially as we were staying two nights in Flagstaff, Arizona, a mere eighty miles from the South Rim. Downtown Flagstaff and nearby Sedona would have to wait another day.

And, of course, we were proved right. Much as we were mesmerised by Bryce Canyon and humbled by Monument Valley, this mother is truly the daddy of them all.

We set off on yet another clear blue morning and 66 degrees. Once through downtown we branched north-west onto the I-180 West. We had, at least for now, seen the last of the buttes, mesas and crazy sandstone rock creations as we received a ponderosa pine guard of honour through the middle of the Kaibab National Forest. The San Francisco Peaks lay behind.

At Valle we met the I-64 coming north from Williams and followed the I-180 due north. Reba McEntire sang Consider Me Gone on 92.9 FM Kaff Country Radio. The Flintstones Bedrock Campground with Fred’s Diner and a huge sign exclaiming “Yabbadabbadoo” looked inviting but we were anxious to get to our destination.

We approached Grand Canyon Airport, from where Janet had got a flight to Vegas on our first visit, on a stretch of highway adopted by “Elmina Freeman I Love You Mike Freeman”, one of the more bizarre romantic gestures I have seen. Shortly before Tusayan, at what appeared to be a relatively new complex of  hotels and other lodging, restaurants and trading posts, we re-joined the forest.

Using our America the Beautiful national parks pass once again we entered the park, but before taking that first momentous look, we called in at the Grand Canyon Village for breakfast. Parking at the Canyon Lodge information Plaza, we were astonished to see how the facilities had been upgraded since our previous visit to the South Rim seventeen years before.

On that brisk October morning, when we had first gaped in astonishment at that massive crack in the earth, we had been deposited at Mather Point for just a few minutes before being herded back on our tour bus for the trip to Vegas. My only other recollection, and one from which I still bear the mental scars, is of the birds, grosbeaks I believe, stealing our breakfast of warm mini-donuts. This time our granola bars (a sign of the changing times?) were stashed safely in our rucksacks on this occasion.

So we knew what to expect.

Wrong.

Nothing can prepare you, however often you might visit, for this most inspiring and uplifting of spectacles. The expectation alone in walking the couple of hundred yards from the plaza to your first sighting at Mather Point was thrilling enough.

But then – that view!

We talked to a couple from Florida who were halfway through a three month road trip to celebrate the husband’s retirement. They were also visiting many of the same sights as us, as well as driving through the midwest and the south (well, they had to in able to get home).

It had been exactly a week since our last serious hiking – in the Arches National Park. All our walking of late had been in largely urban settings. So we were a little out of practice, if not of breath. But the trails along the rim were paved, though for anyone foolhardy enough to do so, and there were plenty, there were many opportunities for hanging over the canyon on jagged precipices.

Initially, we walked east, the less populous route, but after about a mile and a half we turned back and returned to Mather Point. From there we headed west along the Rim Trail to Yavapai Point where the displays in the Yavapai Observation Station explained how the canyon may have been formed.

Now, the guidebooks suggest that the latter extract of the trail takes about ten minutes. That may be true – if you are running for a bus with no heed for the scenery. But every few steps brings another jaw-dropping vista or overlook at which you find yourself drifting off in a reverie, only to be woken by a Japanese voice asking you to take a photograph of him and his girlfriend.

Attempting to pick out teasing glimpses of the bottle green Colorado River as it weaved its way around the canyon floor was a fascinating exercise in itself.

As evidence of just how quickly time had passed it was now 2.30 in the afternoon, time to drive the 23 miles east along the Desert View Drive, stopping at Grandview, Moran and Navajo Points to gaze at the timeless, ever-changing landscape of the canyon.

At Desert View, the park’s eastern boundary, we witnessed a group of hikers taking the last few steps of an ascent from the canyon itself. Now that is what we will do on our next trip. If we can negotiate the Navajo Loop Trail in Bryce Canyon in a hundred degrees, this would be perfectly manageable. Perhaps not the gruelling, and occasionally life threatening, Bright Angel Trail, but certainly one that takes us down into the canyon – and hopefully back up again!

In the Ancestran Pueblo-style Desert View Watchtower – which has an excellent gift shop on the ground floor and three circular chambers above decorated with authentic Hopi murals on the floors above – we talked to the proprietor who had lived in West Yorkshire. His experience had taught him that the British were much more polite than his fellow countrymen, an opinion which, on balance, we were, in all humility, inclined to agree with.

Armed with a bundle of souvenirs from the Watchtower gift shop, we had a coffee in the nearby snack bar. With the sun already hinting it was ready to call it a day, we dragged ourselves, reluctantly, from the park.

Rather than double back on ourselves, we took the I-64 East to Cameron where we picked up the I-89 South just as we passed 2,000 miles for the trip. The revised route allowed us the opportunity to call in at the Navajo run, but virtually deserted, Little Colorado River Gorge. It may have been the time of day but we saw more abandoned, or perhaps closed, jewelry / pottery stalls on this stretch of road than anywhere else in the Navajo Nation.

At Elden Pueblo a giant stars and stripes flag with an imprecation inscribed below of “Romney Save the USA”, lay limp at the roadside, a premonition perhaps, despite the previous evening’s presidential debate, of the ultimate fate of his challenge for the highest office.

The welcome sign for Flagstaff pronounced it the “World’s First International Dark Sky City”, a worthy accolade and one, I think, its residents should be proud of. It made me like Flagstaff even more and resolve to pay it a longer visit very soon.

Given that our room, or should I say suite, was so comfortable and spacious, and that we had to pack and prepare for our last. and longest, day on the road tomorrow, we decided to have room service.

One of the reasons we had originally chosen Sedona over the Grand Canyon for this day had been the short drive from Flagstaff. In the end, we had clocked up almost 200 miles.

But it had been worth every inch.

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I have already written in this diary about our frustration at being unable to find a decent alcoholic drink, especially wine, in Utah.

Imagine our relief, therefore, when we left Panguitch in the “elevated” state for Page in Arizona, our base for Lake Powell and Glen Canyon Dam, safe in the knowledge that we would be able to enjoy a bottle with dinner that evening. Although, I suspect, for different reasons, our guidebook declared that the only reason for driving US 89S was to reach Arizona.

Curiously, the first song playing on  97.7 FM The Wolf this morning was the last broadcast as we pulled into the motel the previous evening – Picture to Burn by Taylor Swift. As the cliffs loomed high on either side of the road, reception was lost, though we succeeded in finding 95.9 FM Classic Rock in time for Led Zeppelin to pound out Whole Lotta Love. 

Cruise America and El Monte RVs sailed past in the opposite direction in equal numbers, and I wondered what it might be like to live on the road full time rather than stay in even the cheapest motels. But I think Janet and I enjoy our creature comforts too much to go to such lengths.

We passed a PT Cruiser wedged in a ditch with the local sheriff”s car on the scene. Fishing resorts and ranches peeked through forestry as we drove through Glendale and Orderville. A billboard in the former proclaimed the Buffalo Bistro where the “crazy sausage” was the house speciality.

After filling the car with gas we left the main road to fulfill another of our Lake Panguitch guide’s recommendations – visiting Coral Pink Sand Dunes State Park. Motorised buggies were hurtling over the distant sand hills and, eyeing the largest peak in the distance, from which youngsters were sliding down on a variety of contraptions, we set off in pursuit to do the same.

However, after twenty minutes barefoot yomping, and little appreciable distance travelled, we abandoned our plan. The exertions in Bryce Canyon the day before had taken their toll.

We rejoined the highway and continued our journey to our intended lunch time stop in Kanab, Utah, the self-styled “Greatest Earth on Show”, a town with a strong Mormon tendency but which had a distinct western feel to it.

As the photograph below indicates, the lack of wine was beginning to have an alarming effect on my looks.

Kanab’s justifiable claim to fame is that it was once “Utah’s Little Hollywood”, providing the backdrop to many prominent movies. Plaques extolling such Hollywood greats as Ava Gardner, Howard Keel and Maureen O’Hara were positioned along the main street.

We were also pleasantly surprised to find a funky, western oriented cafe and upstairs art gallery open where we had an excellent andouille sausage with cajun (or was it creole?) sauce and Greek salad respectively. Although wine was on the menu we were saving ourselves for Arizona. Isn’t that a film? No, it’s Raising Arizona, Nicolas Cage and Holly Hunter I think.

It may have been Sunday but we also found a couple of attractive cowboy / Western stores – Gifts of the West and Denny’s Wigwam Western Wear (Denny must have been a big shot in town because he also owned a restaurant and craft shop) – to browse, and spend money, in.

The most amazing building, however, in this surprising town was the Kane County tourist information office with its beautiful murals celebrating its history adorning the exterior.

In view of my dishevelled state, it was understandable that Janet should find herself a cowboy.

Shortly after leaving Kanab a billboard screamed at us: “TARNATIONS! Did you visit Denny’s Wigwam and get your Levi’s from $29.95? NO? Turn round now”. We felt we had already invested enough of our money in the Kane County economy, so ignored the entreaty.

We skirted the vast Grand Staircase Escalante National Monument area where the jagged rocks resembled the longest bar of Toblerone in the world. Buttes and mesas abounded as we crossed into Arizona, celebrating its centennial as a US state, and arrived at the Travelodge in Page (another decent sized room for the price) where we were to spend the next two nights.

After I had booked a tour of Antelope Canyon for the following afternoon, and Janet had tested the pool, we had an excellent dinner in the Dam Bar and Grille –  with wine of course.

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Bryce Canyon had been one of the expected highlights of our trip and it did not disappoint. As I stated in an earlier post, it is neither my intention, nor in my gift in the time available, to attempt to describe the wondrous sights we have been witnessing. I hope the photographs, with a modicum of accompanying comment, will convey something of the splendour of each place.

The day began unpromisingly when we turned right out of the motel and started to drive down the US-89N, only to discover, thankfully after just a couple of miles, that we should have taken the US-89S. So less than ten minutes after we first left the motel we were passing it again on the road to Bryce.

Our impromptu guide from the Bear’s Paw Fishing Resort on the previous day had advised us not to ignore the modest delights of Red Canyon en route. In fact, we spent nearly two hours there, hiking among the relatively gentle rock formations.

Having avoided the roadside deer, that were infinitely better behaved than the sheep had been the day before, we arrived at the Bryce Canyon Visitor Center in time for lunch. We collected our park guide and trail maps and drove to Bryce Canyon Lodge. Although we would have been content with a sandwich (honestly), our only option was to eat in the formal dining room (where they sold wine!).

With some strenuous walking ahead of us, we probably ate more than was good for us – although, in retrospect, the large lunch may have given us exactly the energy we needed for the work ahead. My tasty bison burger did lay heavy for a time but dealt no lasting damage.

After a short detour to Sheep Point we moved onto Bryce Point, the furthest viewing spot in the park. From there we drove back to Inspiration Point, where we took in the astonishing views from three different elevations, the highest being a short but crippling hike (but worth it).

We decided to take the Rim Trail from here to Sunset Point, the most popular viewing spot in the park, and the one that adorns millions of postcards and posters worldwide, a two and a half mile round trip on foot. This stretch of the rim was scheduled to take around thirty minutes, but could have taken many hours as, every few yards, we stopped to discuss the resemblance of single and groups of rocks to other, more familiar, objects – “there’s a castle and that one looks like a monkey, and that series over there looks like a row of houses”.

On arriving at Sunset Point we looked longingly at those people walking along the floor of the canyon amongst the weird, wonderful 200 million year old  rock formations, called hoodoos, and resolved that, despite having hiked around four miles already, and still suffering slightly from a heavy lunch, we could not leave the park without doing it also.

The Navajo Loop Trail” was only 1.3 miles long, and although half of that was descending into the bottom of the canyon, the other half was climbing back up again! A little over half a mile is a trifle, you might think, but given the steepness and the extreme heat, it was a monumental (no pun intended) challenge.

The route also enabled us to encounter some of the park’s most famous sights, notably “Wall Street”, “Two Bridges” and “Thor’s Hammer”.

We had taken the clockwise route as recommended at the top of the trail, and although it may not have felt like it as we struggled up the last gruelling incline, we had made the right choice.

As we “high-fived” at the top of the trail, I pondered whether I had ever done anything else for which I had been more thankful, or of which I had been more proud of myself. It was a deeply rewarding experience. And Bryce Canyon had eclipsed Zion National Park from the top of my favourite places.

But of course we still had the return leg of the Rim Trail to do to get back to the car parked at Inspiration Point, around 1.2 miles with some tough uphill sections. At the risk of cramping up, we wasted no time, other than to refill our water bottles, in setting off on our last hike of a long, arduous but enjoyable day. Before leaving the park we rewarded ourselves by buying the largest ice creams we had ever eaten.

Even the annoyance of having to go down to reception twice to collect the cups and coffee that the maid had omitted to replace in the morning, could not detract from our satisfaction.

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After filling up with gas we hightailed outta Hurricane headin’ north to Cedar City on I-15. As we passed the small towns of Browse, Pintura, Snowfield, Kolobo Canyon and New Harmony signs warned “drowsy drivers” to “use next exit”. We  didn’t fit into that category at this point so politely ignored them.

We pulled off at exit 57 for Cedar City, self-styled “Festival City USA” (it does host an annual Shakespeare Festival as well as a music festival so I think it’s entitled), and spotted Starbuck’s where we had a breakfast of bagels and cream cheese and lattés. The incomparable Townes Van Zandt was singing “Pancho and Lefty” as we entered (though, sadly, not in person as he left us at a criminally young age fifteen years ago). On our exit Sting was crooning “every step you make I’ll be watching you”, which was a little more disconcerting.

We drove around Providence Plaza with its incongruous lighthouse (though I believe that there is a link with Rhode Island). I spied a smart looking bookstore entitled Deseret and immediately bounded in. However, it did not take long for me to decipher that this was not a bookstore in which I was likely to find any underground, or even secular, literature. The devotional muzak, clean cut, grinning staff and shelves of Mormon tracts hastened my exit and reminded me that we were still in the heart of Utah.

Turning off the I-15 we took the U-148 towards Panguitch. Despite the heat, the trees in the Dixie National Forest were beginning to show signs of Autumn’s approach.

We arrived at the Cedar Breaks National Monument, a kind of mini-Bryce Canyon, just in time to catch a talk by a park ranger from Akron, Ohio on what to do, or rather not to do, if we met a brown bear on one of the area’s trails. Essentially, it came down to the acronym SCRAP – we shouldn’t stare, call, run, approach or panic – now I think I could make a passable attempt at the first four but might just struggle with the last.

Anyway, should you come across a brown, or for that matter, grizzly bear on your morning commute or during your weekly shop, please bear in mind the advice I have kindly dispensed above. Hopefully, you’ll be as lucky as us and not meet any. But it’s as well to be prepared.

We decided to take the Chessman Ridge Trail, a two and a half mile loop at over 10,000 feet. The altitude caused us to catch our breath intermittently and my heart has never pounded so much – apart from that night with Jennifer Aniston in a motel room in Bakersfield.

Chipmunks nipped in and out of the bushes in front of us, though I was a little disappointed that we didn’t hear a single rendition of Ragtime Cowboy Joe. I’m referring here, of course, to the original band, not the modern team led by Alvin.

A party of local schoolchildren passed us in the opposite direction, and I couldn’t resist warning them to watch out for the bears. But kids are too streetwise these days to be freaked out by such news. I think they felt a little sorry for me. Ah well.

The most alarming moment, however, occurred with less than half of a mile of the trail left when both Janet and I realised that we couldn’t wait to get back to the visitor centre to take a leak. Whilst I resolved my particular issue in one of the many bushes on the side of the trail, Janet felt it necessary to pick a precarious spot on the side of a steep cliff upon which to relieve herself. For those readers of a delicate constitution I will not give any more details other than to say she somehow managed to maintain her balance and dignity (just). Nor do I have any photographic evidence.

Leaving Cedar Breaks we took U-143 towards Panguitch, a lovely road with cedars and pine trees turning yellow and orange almost before our eyes. However, before very long we encountered, as far as the eye could see, hundreds of sheep striding down the road in front of us.

They were clearly intent on crossing from a field on one side of the road to another, but not before they had gone for an afternoon stroll in the middle of the road first. There was no shepherd to be seen and they had little inclination to move out of the road other than in their own good time. Eventually, they dispersed, not least on account of a driver overtaking us and heading at speed for them. Perhaps he was a local and that this was the appropriate way to scatter them, but it seemed cruel and risky to us townies. At least we could now proceed slowly, avoiding the stragglers with ease.

As lunch had been no more than a granola bar at Cedar Breaks we were hungry by mid afternoon and grateful to come across a small restaurant at the Bear Paw Fishing Resort on the  man-made Panguitch Lake. If the hearty food was not welcome enough, the proprietor proceeded to slap a map of the region down on our table and point out a host of potential places to visit in addition to those we had already planned to see. The road trip was getting longer by the day.

What struck us most on approaching Panguitch were the wide roads and number of single storey houses and trailers. We found the New Western Motel easily enough and were pleased to discover that, rather than the single motel room we had expected, we had been placed in a newly refurbished suite with separate lounge and bedroom. Equally surprising was the fact that it was run by Indians – no, not the Navajo, Hopi or Zuni, so prevalent in the southwest, but Hindus.

A much anticipated visit to Bryce Canyon awaited us on the next day.

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This road diary is primarily about just that – the road. Although, in one sense, the purpose of the road is merely to link one natural wonder after another, it is that act of movement, through time and space, and the sights, sounds and adventures that inhabit them, that is the focus of these articles.

So I will not be exclaiming at length about the extraordinary parks and canyons that we are visiting. In fact, I don’t really have the words, or at least the time to find the right words, to describe some of the most beautiful spots on earth, let alone the United States.

Moreover, I hope that the photographs that will increasingly feature in these pieces will speak more eloquently than ever I can.

Hurricane, Utah, whose culinary delights I have already commented upon, was our base for Zion National Park, which we visited on our second full day. It is not as close as funkier Springdale, effectively the gateway to the park, but still convenient and much cheaper.

Our trip to Zion was prefaced by a sumptuous breakfast in Bear Bites, actually room 116 in the Travelodge, one in which it might have been difficult to swing a kitten, let alone a fully grown cat. Here we banqueted on toast, juice and coffee – we hadn’t the confidence to negotiate the waffle machine – with an assortment of non-English speaking residents.

One mature German couple sat down next to us with four slices of toast. The woman then produced a carrier bag containing a whole cucumber and half a green pepper – complete with seeds – which she cut up and scraped onto the toast.  No accounting for taste.

As we were packing the car, two surprisingly beardless, but not bandana-less, bikers were lovingly tending to their Harleys before setting off on the next leg of their own road trip.

In the short drive to Zion we passed Doggy Dudes Pet Care. Oh to have had a pooch in tow at that point.

On arrival at the entrance to Zion we purchased an annual pass for all US national parks for the phenomenally low price of $80 (total), representing a huge saving even by the end of this trip. Had I been a few years older it would have been $10! British visitor attractions please take note.

We parked at the visitor centre and took the shuttle to the furthermost point of the park, the Temple of Sinawava, and worked our way back, hiking several trails, including Riverside, Weeping Rock, the Lower Emerald Pool and the Pa’rus Trail in near hundred degree heat.

Zion is not dissimilar to Yosemite in that it contains awe inspiring cliffs and rocks, lush vegetation, and flowing rivers and waterfalls (though the latter were not much in evidence today). In fact, I preferred it to Yosemite, proclaiming it the loveliest place I had ever seen. I was to change that judgement more than once over the next week.

We called at Springdale on our return to the motel and found it an urbane and attractive town.  Were we to visit again this would be our base. We could not resist the Bumbleberry Inn where we rewarded ourselves for our strenuous walking all day with a slice of the “famous” (how is everything “famous” or even “world famous” in America?) bumbleberry pie. It might not truly be famous but it was delicious. Apparently, they grow on giggle bushes, which is pretty cute.

The gourmet evening was completed by a Domino’s pizza and wedges back in Hurricane – across the road from the infamous Barista’s – washed down by beer from the local gas station. Wine remained out of the question.

The road to Panguitch, Utah beckoned the next morning, where the story will continue.

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We had been warned that high quality dining options were severely limited in Hurricane, Utah. Moreover, it was likely to prove difficult to obtain an alcoholic drink – beer possibly, but certainly not wine.

And those warnings were sadly endorsed over the next few evenings.

It all began when we went out to dinner on our first night. Having consulted TripAdvisor and selected its number one restaurant, a pizzeria in a cinema complex around a mile away, we were feeling optimistic. Armed with the respective street numbers we set off in our search for the cinema.

We found this easily enough – but no sign of any pizza restaurant. We walked a little further and then around the whole area, all to no avail. It was only when we returned to the motel and read the fulsome TripAdvisor reviews a little more carefully, that we discovered that it was only a mobile street wagon that set up stall during daylight hours (and even then not on a Wednesday)!

We headed off back in the direction of the motel, only mildly disappointed because we had spotted an attractive looking restaurant called Barista’s on the way down. And by the time we had been sat at our table and started to read the hundreds of  alleged customer testimonials claiming that the pizza and ice cream, along with many other items on the menu, were the best on the planet, we had struck lucky in adversity.

I like to think that I am reasonably streetwise, and do not often get hoodwinked by confidence tricks (I’ve conveniently forgotten the guy on Fisherman’s Wharf in San Francisco who screwed ten bucks out for me for “cleaning” my boots), but this proved to be one of my dumbest moves.

The teenage waitress in shorts who clearly wanted to be anywhere else took our drink order. Conscious already that wine was out of the question, we asked what beer they had. With a huge sigh the girl said “St. Pauli” in a “take it or leave it” manner, so St. Pauli it had to be. Now, although I didn’t articulate it immediately, I was familiar with this German brew and suspected that it might be non-alcoholic. After the girl had yanked the bottles out of the fridge and slapped them down on the table, and we had taken our first sips (it was too unpleasant to gulp), we knew it.

The food, whilst not inedible, also fell way short of the absurd praise scrawled over every inch of wall space (the staff must have had great fun fabricating that piece of fiction). My miniscule portion of fish and chips was delivered in a cereal bowl and Janet’s enchiladas came with no accompaniment whatsoever – not a hint of beans, rice or sour cream. The “service” remained surly and peremptory. Indeed, I think it might have been the first time I had eaten in America without being asked continually during the meal by the server whether the food was acceptable.

To add insult to injury, on reading both TripAdvisor and Yelp reviews back in the motel, we read a lengthy litany of furious, even vicious comments about the food, beer and staff attitude. And yet it had looked so appealing from outside. The words book, judge and cover sprung to mind.

We consoled ourselves by purchasing  a six pack of beer in the local gas station, though even this was of low strength (Bud Light, Coors Light and the like).

This was not, however, why I got to sleep so easily that night. I can thank the account of Joseph Smith’s revelation in the Book Of Mormon for that.

Having exhausted the full extent of Hurricane’s gourmet offerings on that first evening, we played safe on the following night by buying in a Domino’s pizza, washed down again by insipid beer.

We were no more successful in hunting down a bottle of wine to have with our evening meal on the following two nights in Panguitch. Raids on assorted supermarkets and gas stations proved equally futile. Only the dining room in the lodge at Bryce Canyon proffered a wine list, but, of course, that was at lunchtime and we were about to embark upon a prodigious hiking expedition that afternoon.

Whilst our stay in Utah was, in all other respects, wonderful, with visits to Zion and Bryce Canyon National Parks, Cedar Breaks National Monument, Red Canyon and Pink Coral Sand Dunes Park, our first swing into Arizona meant one thing above all other. No, not Lake Powell or the Grand Canyon but an opportunity to partake of one of the most civilised pursuits available to humankind – consuming a glass of wine.

Having got that off my chest, it is time to return to the true hero of this diary – the road.

And the journey between Hurricane and Panguitch had some interesting moments.

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