A Semi-Regular Mix of Written and Video Documentation of My Travels

UT Day 4 - Salt Lakes, Spiral Jetties, and Spikes of Gold

Today started with me doing something I did incredibly rarely on this road trip: getting more than 8 hours of sleep. The head cold I started coming down with last night was now in full effect so I thought the best way to nip it in the bud was to not get out of my nice warm bed anytime soon.

When I eventually did decide to brave the outside world, I did so with some reinforcements. I went back to Sugarhouse Coffee from yesterday, because it was good, close, and had something I remembered seeing on the menu called a Cuban Revolver which was an espresso drink with a little bit of vanilla and brown sugar and SIX shots of espresso. I figured if that couldn’t cut through my sinus fog I didn’t know what would. Luckily it did an admirable job, not bringing me up to normal but at least getting me to functional. I always remember a high school teacher saying she read somewhere that coffee was good to drink when you had a cold. I have no idea if that’s true, but I’m sure third hand information is the most reliable.

After taking of my foggy brain, I addressed my empty belly by getting a hearty brunch at SLC burger staple Proper Burger Co. It was also partnered with Proper Brewing Co. and while I felt a beer might be counterintuitive to my congested state, I couldn’t resist trying their house salted caramel porter with salt fresh from the big lake itself. It was rich and decadent, but somehow not overly sweet, a perfect dessert beer. Luckily starting with dessert couldn’t spoil my beer, because they did in fact make a right and proper burger, and at insanely low prices for the quality. I got a Hipster Burger which came with red onion jam, kale pesto, fresh herb cheese bread, garlic aioli, and spinach. It was a fantastic blend of flavors complimenting an already perfectly cooked, juicy burger, and best of all there was enough green in there that I could satisfactorily delude myself into thinking I had made a healthy choice. For all those creative toppings, oddly enough the star of the show may have been the most plain Jane, the bun. I don’t know what kind of bread they used but it was so light and satisfying, a little carby pillow for the proper burger.

Since between eating and sleeping, I had whittled away more than half the day, I figured I didn’t have enough time to go museum-ing so I decided to dedicate the rest of the day to seeing some of northern Utah’s outdoor wonders. My first stop of the day was Golden Spike National Historic Site. Located in Promontory Summit amidst rolling green hills, Golden Spike was the spot where the Central Pacific and Union Pacific railroad lines met and made the nation’s first trans-continental line in 1869. To commemorate this historic moment, the very last railroad spike was made of solid 14-carat gold and hammered in Central Pacific president and future college namesake Leland Stanford. The ceremony was basically a giant party celebrating this pretty momentous occasion of finally making it possible to travel coast to coast all in one go, and like a lot of railroad history it was very interestingly intertwined with various aspects of American History at the time. The actual hammering was delayed several weeks by labor disputes which captures a bit of class struggle so abundant then (and sadly always), and there’s no doubt that the first transcontinental line being so relatively far was more than a little influenced by the Civil War (almost all the businessmen involved were Northerners and I think their loyalties played into their decision to keep things in the upper latitudes). Unfortunately as other lines developed and became more convenient, the actual railroad fell victim to scrapping to contribute metals to the war effort in 1942, but the land was made into a historic site in ‘57 and everything else was preserved to look just as it might have when the line was first completed. The actual golden spike itself was taken back to California and is now housed in the Stanford Museum so luckily that was spared from the war salvage. The thing that struck me with real awe standing there looking out over the hills was the sheer skill and audacity needed to look at this unruly landscape and try to get trains through it through pure tyranny of will. It’s arrogant, incredible, impressive, and foolish all rolled into one, but somehow they did it, and who knows how many ways that affected the tide of history.

Just a little bit up the road was the actual site of the Golden Spike ceremony, complete with neat little visitor center. I enjoyed seeing the old timey photos from the big event and the actual monument to mark its occasion. I did not however feel like I had quite enough time to pay for a tour and to see the inside exhibits in the visitor center, so I just took a quick bathroom break and was back on my way.

When I got to my car, I remembered that I had also snagged some tasty looking banana bread from the Sugarhouse this morning because you can’t go to a place called Sugarhouse and not get some of the sweet stuff. I was powerless to withstand its siren banana call and promptly stuffed my face.


Up next came a piece of art I already know my pictures can’t possibly do justice to: the massive spectacular Spiral Jetty. This 1,500-foot-long, 15-foot-wide land sculpture was the brainchild of the artist Robert Smithson, and it is comprised of mud, salt crystals and over 7000 tons of basalt rocks arranged in a neat coil extending into the northeastern shore of Utah’s famous Great Salt Lake. The artist picked this particular location partly because of the reddish hue in the water from special bacteria that have evolved to live in such highly salty water and partly because of how rough and natural the landscape looks which helps make the neatly ordered spiral pop even more. I always think there’s something oddly captivating in seeing minimalism performed at such a gigantic scale, the simple bumping right up against the monumental. It was really jaw dropping, and I didn’t realize just how lucky I was to see it, because another part of the artist’s vision was the idea of entropy so sometimes the piece is totally exposed like when I saw it and sometimes it’s totally submerged in the salty water as it slowly but surely gets whittled down to nothing and returns back to nature.

Here’s an aerial photo someone else was able to take that really gives you the full grandeur:

Besides all the man made splendor, it was still just really cool to actually see the Great Salt Lake. They’re definitely not kidding when they talk about the salt content, and you can smell and taste it in the air. It even sort of messes with the reflection given off the water giving it a heavier cloudier hue. I’d grown up near oceans my whole life, but I’d never quite seen anything like it. From the jetty, I was able to walk along the shore a bit and dip my feet and hands in. It was so strange to the touch, and definitely a very quick way of finding out if you have any small cuts you didn’t know about. As far as I know, swimming is allowed, but I think that would be taking a bit of risk.

Just look at the god dang size of these salt crystals that get left behind when the tide rolls out!

As I was driving back from the Jetty, I passed through a large field with grazing cows. It’s funny to me how babies in every species still act like babies, as this little guy below was causing a right ruckus for his mum running around and exploring the road (and blocking it) with great enthusiasm and a hint of a mischief.


After all that nature, I drove back down SLC (just a little under 2 hours) and got a top off on coffee from a place called Publik Coffee Roasters. Located in an old warehouse, they made great coffee and also somehow managed to be both industrial and cozy at the same time which I didn’t know was possible.

Reawakened, I made my way to a place my barber had strongly recommended earlier in the week R & R BBQ. This little counter service barbecue joint is no frills, just friendly service, slow cooked meats, and hearty sides. I got a plate of 4 ribs with a biscuit and some potatoes that were lovably referred to as “garlic smashers with brown gravy”. The meat had an amazing sticky dry rub that was both savory and a little tangy, and it was all so tender it was basically falling off the bone. As good as the meat was, my one true love will always be mashed potatoes and they knocked these bad boys out of the park with just enough garlic for flavor and an immensely rich and satisfying gravy. If you haven’t gotten the vibe yet from today, I definitely took my cold as an excuse to fully engage in big comfort eating, but I’m not particularly upset by that decision.


After dinner, I moseyed on down to Legends Sports Pub for the night’s open mic. This was one of the newer open mics in town, housed in the back room of a pretty lively sports bar. Because it was new and a bit tucked away, it didn’t draw the hugest of audiences yet, but a lot of great local comics came out to help support this little fledgeling so it was still pretty well attended. It was great seeing such a nice cross section of comics I’d met earlier in the week and chatting before the mic, and the place had a really nice beer selection as well. I was particularly fond of the Polygamy Porter from Wasatch Brewery, which I’d been wanting to try ever since I saw a random guy in Maine wearing a t-shirt that said “I Tried Polygamy” and I learned it was referring to a beer and not his alternative lifestyle.

My favorite comic of the night was my fellow New Englander Brian Higgins. I’m not just being biased though, because I think of all the great comics he did the best job roping in the few non-comics in the audience with a mix of sharp writing and energetic delivery. He did some really funny extended bits about a furry convention at UCONN and the effort required to send a dick pics in the 1800s, but for whatever reason the line that struck me the most was the simple wisdom of “Eating a banana in private is a dollar wasted”.

Other highlights:

Dallas Briggs- I always carry a suicide note in my pocket so that I’ll look like a goddamn wizard if I ever get struck by lightning

A comic who’s name I unfortunately didn’t get: I’m Native American, and the big stereotype against us is that we’re alcoholics. But like, if genocide isn’t a good reason to drink, what is?

My own set went really well tonight, even though I was a bit on the fence over whether or not I was clearheaded enough to perform. I had a nice reminder that sometimes it’s better to let go of any pre-planning and just go with the flow of the room, because I wanted to do something that the comics I’d seen before hadn’t heard yet so I ended up doing an older bit I hadn’t done in months, but it happened to be loosely tied to a few themes other comedians had touched on so I think it landed harder than usual with the added relevance. Comedy’s an unusual thing where tight writing and planning are useful and important, but, more than most art forms I think, it’s a real possibility to overthink things, and so often the best moments come off the cuff or based on split second decisions (though having well-written things to fall back on if the ad libs fail is always for the best). I was really glad I decided to come out,

Favorite Random Sightings: “Get your meat on!” ; Utah’s Premier Vein Specialist (a very specific brag); “We’re Itching for a Stitching” (maybe bringing up to advertise clothes restoration isn’t the absolute best use of a rhyme)

Regional Observations: There are gigantic billboards on the highway that say “Cosmopolitan contains PORN” because certain groups within the state are trying to get Cosmo banned from grocery store shelves because of their lewd content. I don’t really see the argument myself, but it does make a pretty intense billboard, especially when you have no clue about local politics and it just seems totally out of the blue.

Albums Listened To: The Singles by the Clash; The Singles Collection by the Kinks; The Singles Collection by the Specials (not a bad day for British singles, eh?)

People’s Favorite Jokes: Nothing today, but here’s one from the ol’ internet

Since I changed the color of my favorite monastic robes they have been stiff and uncomfortable. I guess old habits dye hard.

Songs of the Day:

A great version of a great song

A rare video of the Kinks actually trying for a TV recording, and boy do they knock this one out of the park

Joseph PalanaComment