Tag Archives: Utah

Superbowl Campground

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When we planned our trip to The Needles District of Canyonlands National Park, The Lady of the House and I decided to camp the night before our visit. At that time of year (early April) The Needles (Squaw Flat) campground in the southern section of the park is on a first come-first served basis, and we didn’t know if we could get there early enough in the day to snag a campsite. We looked at the Free Campsites website in hopes of finding something totally free close to the park entrance, but the free spots we found were father away then we wanted to be.

We ended up figuring things out on the fly due to a four day delay imposed on us when my van’s water pump had to be replaced. While I drove, The Lady pulled out the informational brochures she’d picked up in Canyonlands during her visit the previous summer.

There were three campgrounds on Bureau of Land Management (BLM) land outside the boundaries of the National Park. The camping fee at each was $5 a night. That wasn’t quite as good as free, but pretty dang close.

We were aiming for Creek Pasture Campground.  It was the closest campground to Highway 211 (the road that would take us into the National Park), and it seemed to be big enough to offer us hope of finding an available site.

We thought the trip to the campground would take us about five hours. We left Winslow, AZ early enough that we thought we’d get to the campground before dark. We had visions of cooking dinner, eating it leisurely, watching the sun set. I’m not sure what happened. We did stop to hand a can of Fix-a-Flat to a couple having tire trouble in the Navajo Nation, but that couldn’t have set us back more than 10 minutes. We stopped for one gas and bathroom break, but that took 20 minutes, tops. I also pulled over to take a photo of the Utah sign when we crossed the state line, but The Lady didn’t want to fight the wind, so she stayed in the van. Could my photo op have cost us more than three minutes?

After we got into Utah, the sky turned overcast. It was dusk when we passed through Blanding, and dark when we went through Monticello. I was glad the GPS lady was there to tell us when to make the turn onto Highway 211; otherwise I might have missed it in the night.

At some point after we turned onto the 211, the rain started. Suddenly I was driving on a twisty, turny, curvy mountain road in the dark and the rain. I really should be more scared than I am, I remember telling The Lady.

I saw the sign for Superbowl campground, but figured it would be full on a Saturday night. We hoped the larger Creek Pasture Campground would have a place for us.

Maybe the rain has sent people home already, I hoped aloud.

We found Creek Pasture Campground, and I drove slowly down the entrance road, then through the campground. Every campsite seemed to be taken. We saw one that appeared empty, but when I jumped out of the van to investigate, I found a tent pitched behind some vegetation. Another site appeared deserted, save for the registrations slip clipped to the pole. The departure date was the next day, and I suspected the campers had been chased off by the rain, but I had no proof. We didn’t want to risk being on someone’s site if they returned, so we decided to backtrack and check out Superbowl.

We turned onto the main road into the campground and followed it to its first offshoot. We turned down that road. Immediately to our right was a campsite. There was no car parked there, no tent pitched in the bushes, no registrations slip on the pole—in fact, no pole. I pulled the van right in, and we let relief wash over us. We had a legal place to stay for the night.

The rain continued, so we didn’t get out of the van to cook dinner. We just ate snacks and laughed a lot, as if we were at a slumber party. I fell asleep and didn’t hear another sound, but The Lady said it rained all night.

Sunday dawned clear and sunny. As much as I hate driving in the dark, I love arriving in the dark and waking up to the surprise of beautiful scenery. I hadn’t had that pleasure since boondocking at Indian Bread Rocks in Arizona more than a year before, but we really lucked out at Superbowl Campground. I couldn’t stop oohing and aahing when I stepped from the van.

Of course, my photos don’t do justice to how our surrounding really looked. The rocks were red and huge and the formations so very Utah. Even the walk to the pit toilet was wonderful in such a beautiful location.

There was a sign on the information board saying the campground had been under renovation. That probably explained the brand-spanking-new fire ring and picnic table on our site. The renovations maybe also explained why the campground seemed bigger than 17 sites. Maybe it had been expanded as well as renovated.

There was only one pit toilet serving the entire campground, so there was a bit of a wait to use it, but it was decently clean on Sunday morning. There was toilet paper available, which is always a plus. The campground didn’t have a camp host, but someone was servicing that restroom.

The Lady and I took a brisk walk around Superbowl so I could try to get some good photos. As we walked around, we saw other campers cooking breakfast, packing up, and generally starting their days. Lots of campers looked young and athletic. I saw helmets in the bed of a truck, making me think the campers on that site were a group of rock climbers. I know practically nothing about rock climbing, but even I could see it would be exhilarating to climb any of the surrounding formations.

All in all, Superbowl campground was peaceful and surrounded by beauty. I was not upset to drop into the iron ranger the envelope with our $5 camping fee enclosed.

I took the photos in this post.

 

A Little Hike

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Ivy and Jay had gone on a birthday camping trip with Ivy’s parents, and I’d stayed behind with their housemates.

I like the housemates. They were nice people who talked with me when we ran into each other during the day and invited me to group meals. I felt include.

On the 4th of July, the most outgoing of the female housemates told me the whole crew was going to the nearby national park. Did I want to go along? They were just going to take a little hike.

I wasn’t much of a hiker. I’m still not. I love nature, but I’m fine with plopping down in one spot and observing from there. Besides, I was in the middle of the head cold I’d picked up during my excruciating bus journey from Texas to Utah. My head was full of snot, my throat hurt, and my energy level was low. But a little hike sounded fun.  A little hike would probably do me good.

I got myself ready. Bottle of water. Long cotton pants. Long sleeve cotton shirt. Big straw hat. I was prepared.

We piled into a vehicle and headed to the national park. I don’t remember how far away we were or how long it took to get there. When we arrived, the driver parked, and we all piled out.

The landscape was beautiful in that Southern Utah desert way. The vegetation was sparse. The land was dry. The rocks were red and yellow and orange. It was so different from the lush green I’d grown up in. The stark beauty of this desert astounded me.

A trail started from the parking area. It was paved with asphalt and led visitors to a viewing area. We set off on the trail.

I don’t know how long the trail was, but surely less than a mile. The area to be viewed from the viewing area was, of course, spectacular. The housemates took turns posing on the rocks, and I took photos of everyone. Then we headed back to the car. What a great hike, I thought. That was perfect. What a relief. Now I could rest.

But wait! The housemates weren’t getting back in the car. We weren’t leaving. The perfect little hike we’d just taken wasn’t enough for them. They wanted more! I groaned to myself, but decided to put on a happy face and be a team player.

We walked off into the desert. The sun was hot. My throat hurt. The water in my bottle was lukewarm at best. I was tired. I was not enjoying myself.

The hike stretched on and on. It was no longer little as far as I was concerned. The little hike had turned into a long ordeal.

I hadn’t been paying much attention to where we were going. I didn’t really know how to find my way   around in a natural area with no street signs (and no streets, for that matter), so I left navigation up to the people who knew what they were doing. I don’t know if we were on a marked trail or just trudging through the desert, but I started hearing bits of conversation that included words such as Which way? and Where? We were lost. The very nice housemates had gotten sick little me lost in the wilderness. At that moment, I hated the whole bunch of them.

In reality, I’m sure they were just a little turned around. We probably weren’t really lost. We were probably in no danger. But my throat hurt and I couldn’t breathe through my nose and I did not want to go on any more. I was over this adventure.

Then the most outgoing of the women said cheerfully, At least none of us are miserable.

I raised my hand so she’d have no doubt who was speaking. I am, I said. I’m miserable.

It was official. I’d gone on record. I was miserable.

We didn’t wander through the desert much longer before someone got us on the right track. We headed back to the vehicle. I’d never been so happy to see my transportation out of a place.

On the way back to the tiny town where the housemates lived, we stopped for pizza and ice cream. Pizza and ice cream and lots of big glasses of ice water can cure a variety of woes, and I felt the hatred in my heart dissipate. I felt friendly toward the housemates again.

Back at home, everyone dispersed to take naps.

Before I headed off to lie down, the most outgoing woman said to me, We’ll be going to the rodeo tonight. We probably won’t stay long. Do you want to come with us?

I thought about my throbbing throat, the sadness I’d feel seeing the rodeo’s cruelty to animals, and what won’t stay long might mean to people who thought we’d just gone on a little hike. Within a few short seconds, I’d made my decision and politely declined.

A few hours later, I heard everyone in the house getting ready to go to the rodeo, then I heard the vehicle pull away. I was glad I’d decided not to go. My sick, dehydrated body was still trying to recover from that little hike.

Greyhound Story #4 (Utah)

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At the end of June of my 29th year, I rode a Greyhound bus from Texas to Utah. I was going to the tiny town where my friend Ivy and her partner Jay lived. I wanted to be there for Ivy’s birthday on July 2. My friend Sheff dropped me off at the crowded bus station, and I was on my way.

When I planned the trip, I didn’t realize I’d be traveling with crowds of people trying to get somewhere in time for 4th of July festivities. I was only thinking about Ivy’s birthday on the 2nd, but hordes of people were thinking about Independence Day. Every bus was packed, every seat filled when the bus rolled. Every bus was running late too.

It was well past the time to make my connection when the bus I was on pulled into the station in Denver. Still, I hoped that bus had been delayed too, and I’d be able to get on it.

First I had to claim my luggage, a large backpack. I found it among the other suitcases and duffle bags, but when I grabbed it, I saw the brand new self-inflating pad to go under my sleeping bag was gone. It had been firmly attached to my pack, but now it was nowhere to be seen. I shuffled through the unclaimed baggage. Nothing. I asked a totally unconcerned and uninterested worker about it. He didn’t even suggest I fill out a lost-item form. It was simply gone, and I’d have to deal with the loss. (To this day, I think the pad was securely attached to the backpack and was actively stolen by a Greyhound employee.)

When I made it into the terminal, I found my connecting bus was long gone. I also found the information desk and the ticket counter were closed for the night, so I had no way of finding out what bus I’d need to get on in the morning or what time it would leave.

I sat down at a table in the snack bar area, exhausted by hours on the ‘Hound. I contemplated my options. I didn’t know anyone in Denver. I’d never been to Denver. I didn’t know if there were any cheap motels near the bus station. I didn’t really want to spend money on a motel anyway. Although I had a credit card and money in the bank, I was on a tight budget because as an AmeriCorps volunteer, I only received a small biweekly stipend. I didn’t want to waste a chunk of change on a motel room I’d only spend a few hours in. Besides, I didn’t know when I’d need to be back at the station to catch my bus to Utah. I wanted to speak to the person at the information desk or a ticket agent as soon as one of them started the work day. I reached my decision. I was going to spend the night at the bus station.

I got up from the table and heaved my pack onto my back. I went to the restroom where I washed my face with Dr. Bronner’s peppermint soap, brushed my teeth, and attended to other calls of nature.

When I’d gone into the restroom, the large waiting area had still been busy with the bustle of people, but when I came out, it was officially Late At Night and the space had mostly cleared out. I had no idea if I’d be allowed to spend the night in the station. Would the security guard think I was homeless? Would I be kicked out? If I was, where would I go?

I went back to a snack bar table and sat down. I wondered if anyone would try to steal my pack if I slept. I wondered if I could stay awake all night. I sat there for a while, read my book, but soon I was struggling to keep my eyes open. I was going to have to sleep, even if I only managed a short nap.

How to protect my backpack? I lifted it up onto the table in front of me and wrapped my arms around it. Then I lay my head on it. It made a lumpy, uncomfortable pillow, but I managed to catnap throughout the night. Mostly I was awake.

By the time I was able to ask questions of a Greyhound employee, travelers who knew where they needed to be were already lined up in front of numbered doors. When I explained my situation to the Greyhound representative, there was no apology for the late buses causing me to miss my connection. A new ticket was issued and I was directed to a door with a long line of people in front of it. When I asked if there’d be room for me on that bus, the worker shrugged. She mentioned the possibility of another bus headed in my direction but remained vague.

Once my new ticket was printed, I queued up at the back of the line. Other people filled in behind me. A bus arrived and passengers began boarding. The bus was full long before it was my turn to get on. Passengers started to grumble. I thought maybe a riot would ensue. Finally, a Greyhound worker confirmed another bus was on its way.

Once on the bus, I finally allowed myself to relax a little. I was exhausted and emotional. As we passed through the Colorado Rockies, I cried and cried at their beauty. When I saw the giant red rocks of Utah, I wondered if we had somehow left Earth and landed on Mars.

I finally arrived at my destination and was relieved to see Jay there to pick me up. We still had an hour’s drive before we arrived in a town so tiny it only had a public library (opened four days a week) and a movie theater (opened only on weekend nights). My friends shared a house in the town with their friends who were about to become my new friends.

By the time we pulled up to the house, I was exhibiting symptoms of the cold that would plague me for my entire visit, but I was grateful to eat a real meal, then stretch out on a bed and get some real sleep.

Toilet Paper Hero of Hoover Dam

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IMG_3567I first learned  of the Toilet Paper Hero of Hoover Damn while reading a back issue of Sunset magazine.

I was delighted to learn the statue won the Reader’s Choice Award for the West’s Most Outrageous Roadside Attraction, beating out The Mystery Spot in Santa Cruz, CA; the 22 foot-in-diameter donut atop the Randy’s Donuts building in Inglewood, CA; Spuds Drive-In Theater (complete with a “two-ton tater sitting in the bed of a candy-apple 1946 Chevy truck”) in Driggs, ID; the International UFO Museum in Roswell, NM; and the Hole n’ the Rock in Moab, UT.

At the time I read the the short blurb about the Toilet Paper Hero, I had toilet paper on my mind.

I was a camp host in a National Forest, and one of my duties was the upkeep of restrooms.

If, when you think of restrooms, your brain conjures images of flush toilets and sinks with running water and soap and paper towels nearby, you are not thinking of my campground restroom experience. The campground I was hosting had pit (also called “vault”) toilets. Nowhere in my campground nor in any other public campground on the mountain was there running water. The toilets I maintained didn’t flush, and there were no sinks, no soap, no paper towels.

In my five months as a camp host, I cleaned human feces off restroom floors and walls, chased a family of mice from a restroom, and dealt with a lot of toilet paper. I immediately knew that the Toilet Paper Hero was my kind of working class champion.

I was excited to see the Toilet Paper Hero was associated with the Hoover Dam. I’d been to the Hoover Dam, and I knew it was close to Las Vegas, NV. Since I was planning to visit friends in Vegas when I left California, I decided I’d make a pilgrimage to the home of the Toilet Paper Hero in Boulder City, NV.

I left Vegas by 7am on Saturday morning. I’d planned my route in advance, but had not been able to find an exact street address for the statue, nothing that was easily plugged into Google Maps. All I knew was that I had to take US 93, then turn onto Nevada Way and drive into downtown, looking for the corner of Nevada Way and Ash/Wyoming Streets. (Directions courtesy of http://www.roadsideamerica.com/story/23150.)

I almost chickened out. I came to a fork in the road where I had to decide if I was going to go into the unknown (AKA downtown Boulder City) or just bypass the town and head toward the Hoover Dam and onward to Arizona. Since I wasn’t 100% sure of my directions, I was a little nervous. What if I got lost? What if I made a fool of myself?

Oh, come on! I chastised myself. You can do this! It’s the Toilet Paper Hero, for goodness sake. You’ve been looking forward to this for months.

So I did it. I found the Hero and made his acquaintance and took some photos.

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This is the informational plaque which stands next to the Hero.

The statue was created by artist Steven Liguori. According to http://www.roadsideamerica.com/story/23150,

In 2007, Boulder City commissioned local artist Steven Liguori to immortalize “Alabam,” one of the unsung workers who helped to build nearby Hoover Dam.

Steven had earlier sculpted a heroic-size statue of a high scaler, one of the Dam’s most glamorous and exciting workers. But he felt that the unseen people of Hoover Dam deserved to be honored, too. When Boulder City launched a project for public art, Steven submitted his proposal for a statue of Alabam. The city, to its credit, accepted it.

Steven sculpted Alabam as he looked in old photos from the 1930s. The eight-foot-tall bronze statue — mixed with copper salvaged from the Dam’s electrical grid — shows Alabam wearing a fedora, overalls, and thick gloves, with a broom slung over his shoulder like a combat rifle, and a large bandolier of toilet paper rolls strapped across his chest. The man definitely had a sense of style.

IMG_3554Alabam was unveiled on a Boulder City street corner on June 29, 2007.

The same website says,

Alabam was a specialist. His job was to clean the outhouses of the vast construction site: sweeping refuse, tossing lime into holes, and restocking the always-diminishing supply of toilet paper.

Not much is known about Alabam. He was among the older workers. “Maybe his name was John or Bill, but there were lots of Johns and Bills at the Dam,” said Steven. “He was probably from Alabama, so they called him ‘Alabam’.”

IMG_3553In a job site filled with draftsmen and construction designers, Alabam referred to himself as “the sanitary engineer.”

“Alabam’s role might not seem important, but it was,” said Steven. Workers would start the day with a big breakfast at the mess hall, then pack a big lunch to take to the construction site. “But once you got to the Dam, you were stuck there all day.” The outhouses got used — a lot.

“Can you imagine cleaning latrines for 7,000 men in 120 degree heat?” Steven asked. “Can you imagine the smell? Oh my god!”

I really love that this statue is a based on a real person with a real personality, a man who had the sense of humor and the sense of his own worth to call himself “the sanitary engineer.” It would be a cool piece of art if it were a fictional representation of all the men who cleaned outhouses at the building site of the Hoover Dam. However I like it so much more knowing it is based on an individual, a real person who, like me and my co-workers, lived and breathed and sweated and was dirty at the end of the work day.

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I’m glad I overcame my silly little fear of the unknown and stopped by to visit with Alabam.

IMG_3572All photos in this post were taken by me.