The Grand Vista Hotel in Grand Junction, at the end of all things, was a little less than Grand. I don’t have any big time complaints, especially in light of some of the places I’ve stayed in the past, but it straddled the line between hotel and motel such that I had higher expectations AFTER I arrived. By the time I showered, packed, and checked out I was ready to get on the road. Aside from my slow burn of disappointment, today’s drive would take me into Utah and into the company of my friend Alex, who moved there almost a year ago. Alex was beside herself in excitement, eagerly awaiting our arrival.
We had breakfast at a lovely little mom ‘n pop place in Grand Junction and then headed out. I didn’t really have much in the way of expectations to the landscape in Utah and I crossed the state line with heightened curiosity. The drive through Utah was full of browns, reds, yellows, and if a town was nearby there was a strip of green signifying irrigation. We drove through canyons, down mountainsides, and across desert landscape dotted with mesas. It felt like the old west in the movies. Much of the day’s highways were laid parallel to railroad tracks; it was easy to imagine an old steam locomotive moving along, bringing eastern citizens westward in search of riches and a fresh start.
The drive to Salt Lake City was short in comparison to my recent experiences and we arrived in early afternoon. Alex was super excited to see us and eagerly welcomed us to her home. After a brief visit, we piled into her car and she showed us around town. We drove through downtown (briefly; I definitely want to spend more time there) and she took us up a steep neighborhood road to a stunning lookout spot that overlooked the entire city. It was like a painting; the mountains to the left, the city below, and the long expanse of landscape as far as the eye could see.
“Where to next?” Alex asked. I checked my phone for any notes I had and instead saw a message from my friend Kristi recommending a local beer. A short Google search later and we were en route to Park City, home of the brewery/pub for said beer. Unbeknownst to me, the GPS on my phone routed us to a small, one-gas-station town an hour out of our way. The drive was beautiful, but I was still angry at myself for not checking my map closer. Nobody else had any issues, though, and we made it to Park City without any further issues.
Park City is a big skiing town. Since it’s the middle of summer, it’s definitely not peak tourist season. Still, it was really busy. The downtown district is made up in a style like the Old West and there was plenty of boutiques open for trading. We had a wonderful meal at the Wasatch Brew Pub (complete with an AMAZING porter) and wandered Main Street until we were weary. On the way out of the town, we stopped by the Olympic Park used for the 2002 Winter Olympics. Although it was closed, it was a beautiful sight.
Another day filled with highway miles, tasty vittles, good company, and amazing sights. I’m tired, sure, but I’m also excited for everything tomorrow brings.
Rhys Martin was born in Tulsa, Oklahoma in 1981. In 2009, he sold everything he owned and left the country, living out of a backpack for ten months. He discovered a passion for photography while traveling throughout Southeast Asia and Europe.
After returning home, he looked at his home town and Oklahoma heritage with fresh eyes. When he began to explore his home state, Rhys turned his attention to historic Route 66. As he became familiar with the iconic highway, he began to truly appreciate Oklahoma’s place along the Mother Road. He has traveled all 2,400 miles of Route 66, from Chicago to Los Angeles. He has also driven many miles on rural Oklahoma highways to explore the fading Main Streets of our small towns. Rhys has a desire to find and share the unique qualities of the Sooner State with the rest of the world.
Cloudless Lens Photography has been featured in several publications including This Land, Route 66 Magazine, Nimrod Journal, Inbound Asia Magazine, The Oklahoman, and the Tulsa World. In 2018 he published his first book, Lost Restaurants of Tulsa.
Rhys loves to connect with people and share his experiences; ask him about enjoyable day trips from Tulsa, locations along Route 66, and good diners or burger joints along the way.
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