Gary Gardner (grgardner) wrote,
Gary Gardner

Rolling Home...

It was downright chilly when I pulled out of the Color Country motel in Panguitch this morning – so much so that I pulled the hoodie out of the saddle bag.  There wasn’t a cloud in the sky and it was a beautiful morning.  The air had that crisp smell of freshness that you get in the mountains.  However, the small motel had no free breakfast, and so I pulled into a gas station and had a donut and a bottle of milk before heading up US-89 towards Salt Lake.
The road was quiet  -- just a few sportsmen pulling trailers or campers.  This area has a lot of fishermen, and camps, and I remember going through here many times as a kid with my Father in our camper and truck.   No doubt it’s why when I neared Circleville and the song “Drive” from Alan Jackson came on my I-pod that I had to pull over because I couldn’t see through the tears I was crying so hard.  I suppose the combination of being on the old road, my current emotional state, being alone and remembering happier times did me in.  I pulled over near what Dad always said was Butch Cassidy’s cabin and just sat there for a few minutes while the song played out.   You may remember I wrote about this song, and our old truck in a post here last year. It all came back again today.
I pulled back on the highway and continued northward and into the canyon of the Sevier River.  I have an affinity for tacky tourist traps, and one of the best was the old “Big Rock Candy Mountain” along US-89.  I wondered if it would still be there – and sure enough, around the bend there it was.  They’ve modernized it a bit, but it’s still here.  Us kids always begged Dad to stop, and we did – once.  I remember buying some polished rocks for my budding rock collection.  I was probably 10 or 11 at the time.
I kept rolling north along the old road – where I’d traveled many times before.  As is typical in the summer I ran into a couple of paving projects that required waiting for pilot cars and such, but I didn’t mind.    The road runs up the middle of Utah – through the little towns Brigham Young laid out in the 1840s, each with their single church, and a small block of stores – each 12 to 15 miles apart – each remarkably similar, and unchanged in the 25 years since I last drove the old road.

The highway merged with US-6 in Spanish Fork Canyon, along the mainline of the old Denver and Rio Grande Western Railroad, and a place I spend many hours watching trains.  Unfortunately I didn’t see any as I dropped down the canyon and into the valley of Utah Lake.  The road turned North along the foothills of the Wasatch, and through Spanish Fork where I stopped for a bite to eat at a hot-dog place that was once part of an old motel (with the cabins now made into very small apartments.)  Here again, a sign one was on the old road. 

I went through Provo where I attended college, and up through Orem and the other towns in Utah Valley.  This place has changed tremendously, and there were few signs of the old road anywhere.  The highway ended at the North end of the valley and became I-15, but I wanted to take the frontage road since it was the older road.  Sometimes finding the old road isn’t worth it – this was one of those times.  It was hot, dusty and full of cement trucks going from a sand pit.  I went around point of the mountain and saw the Salt Lake Valley – my hometown – for the first time on this trip.  The road dropped down into the valley and promptly ended.  I had forgotten that even in my youth the road became part of I-15, with it’s own “exit” just up the way.  I got lost in the maze of big-box stores in Draper and decided to just hit the freeway.  As I did so I remembered the exit for US-89, but it too was gone, so I had to go a bit up the freeway before exiting and heading over to State Street and picking up the old road.

I could drive State Street in my mind and not miss a beat.  Sure some things have changed, but a lot hasn’t.  I rolled up through Sandy and Midvale and Murray – past the old radio station I worked for that had it’s studios in an old drug store and us DJ’s sat right there at the old soda counter spinning records for all the world to see.  I turned right at 45th South and headed to where my Mom and Ron now live.  It’s not the house I grew up in, but it’s the closest thing to home in my hometown.  It sure felt good to get off the bike and cool off.  Mom wouldn’t hug me until I showered off the road grime, so I did and I got my hug.

It’s good to be home for a day and rest. 


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