Into The Great Wide Open: Touring The American West (Part IV)…
Westwards and southwards of the Yellowstone Continental Divide lays the town of Idaho Falls on the banks of the Snake River. Arriving on a quiet Friday evening, the downtown had a nostalgic feel about it. One expected Frosty the Snowman to jump out of a rail car and walk along Main Street. There wasn’t any snow to speak of, but it had the feel of an all-American bastion on the frontier. With train tracks bisecting downtown, the train could chug by at any minute.
Where Friday evening was quiet, Saturday morning was bustling. With an open marketplace by the famous Idaho Falls River walk, people jovially walked, jogged and cycled the path. Park benches of all sizes, shapes and forms marked the trail along both sides of the river. From the bridges at either end, one couldn’t help to see the Art Deco & Mid-Century Modern white Mormon Temple peering out over the skyline. A distinguishing trademark, aside from the waterfalls, that prominently stood out.
After a meandering walk through the park and reading the many historical plaques along the trail, it was time to take to the road again. This time it was Interstate 15 heading south to Salt Lake City. Swinging out into the vein of briskly moving traffic, I settled in for what I thought would be an uneventful four-hour drive.
Cruising along I didn’t think much of it until the surrounding scenery with its cascade of colors started to draw me into a mystical feeling of contentment. The further south I drove, the more it took on a life of its own. As the miles clicked by, I couldn’t help but be awed by the looming mountains to the left and the unyielding, rolling ranch fields to the right. And as the sun slowly settled upon the western horizon, the gathering twilight brought forth painted silhouettes that only nature and the American West can bring forth.
Lost in thought while absorbing the vista that lay before me, the radio suddenly blared “You Got A Name” by Jim Croce. With magical melody and lyrics, it felt as if a burden had been lifted, as if a stark change had taken place. Something had happened, something unexplained, but something definitive, something tangible. It enraptured and enthralled simultaneously. It grasped and it took hold. A moment in time magnified and multiplied, a moment in time brought to life. It was strange, but at the same time welcoming. By the time I arrived Salt Lake City, the moment had withered away, but the feeling of peace did not. Nothing was like it was, and nothing would ever be the same again.
So began my Salt Lake City sojourn, my visit to the city whose motto is “Different by Nature.” With it’s marvelous State Capitol, sky-reaching Mormon Temple and its glorious city hall, Salt Lake is truly one of America’s hidden treasures (maybe not so hidden). Any road trip through the American West wouldn’t be complete without a stop in this breathtaking place. After two days of exploring its treasures, it left me with the same feeling of peace with which it welcomed me. It left me wanting more and wanting to return. A place to remember and a place to always go back to.
As I carried on eastwards across the mountains towards Colorado, I looked in my rear-view mirror and thought, “This isn’t the last I’ve seen of you.” Salt Lake has that effect.
Onward I drove, onward through the American West…
Note: Photos are by the author.
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