Escaping Winter: Part 1

The start of January and a new year signaled that it was time for us to continue our new tradition of escaping the Washington winter for a spell. After last year’s grand adventure in Australia, we decided to stay stateside this year and planned a road trip that would have us in Tucson to visit my grandmother at the same time as my sister, her husband, and their baby.

Our trip began with real winter. While we were lucky enough to avoid snowfall the entire time we were on the road, the temperatures in the first few nights were well below freezing. While we had great camping gear with us, including a propane heater and some amazing vintage Eddie Bauer down sleeping bags that Andrew’s parents let us borrow, I vetoed camping until we reached a more amenable clime.

Our first destination was Pendleton, a small city in eastern Oregon that is known for the Pendleton Woolen Mill. The drive east over the Cascade Mountains was lovely and uneventful, and after a nice relaxing evening in a warm motel room we hit the Pendleton Woolen Mill to check it out. Unfortunately for us they were not giving tours that day, but we had a great time checking out their wares in the factory outlet store and of course I wasn’t about to walk out of there without a Pendleton blanket!

Next we drove southeast into Idaho. On our way into Idaho as we drove down out of a mountain pass, we saw a man jogging and pulling a kind of rickshaw behind him. Rather than loading the rickshaw with people, he had what I assume to be his life’s possessions piled up. It appeared as if this man was adventuring around the state (or country?) on his own two feet. It was an inspiring sight, but the frigid temperatures made me grateful for the Tacoma’s blasting heater!

Driving through Idaho was fun, what with speed limits of 80 MPH and pronghorn antelopes bouncing along the highway. We decided to make a stop at a random little town to let the dog out, and we found a nice spot overlooking a river. As we walked around and let Zephyr roam, a lady in a small white car pulled up with her dog and got out. She was dressed in a t-shirt and sandals, which contrasted ridiculously with my Nanook of the North style parka. The temperature was below freezing, but it quickly became apparent that locals are not fazed by such weather. This woman introduced herself as Hedayat, and she originally hails from Turkey. Hedayat was incredibly sweet, and obviously lonely. She said it was the one-year anniversary of her husband’s death and that she has no other family, and proceeded to break into tears. I gave Hedayat a long hug, and we started talking about our dogs, which seemed to brighten her mood a little. I hope all the Hedayats out there can bask in the unconditional love of a pet, and find occasional comfort in the embrace of a stranger.

That night we stayed in Twin Falls. It’s a small city with a beautiful waterfall, and a bridge that is known as the only one you can legally BASE jump off year-round. We were hopeful there’d be some jumpers, but it was cold and mid-week and no jumpers were to be found. After another night in a motel we took Zephyr on a little hike to see Shoshone Falls. The area was covered it snow, and it was a fun adventure for Zephyr who absolutely loves to romp and roll in snow and lick icicles. The falls were gorgeous, although we quickly learned that they are much grander in the spring once the snowmelt joins the rush.

Back on the road, we headed for Salt Lake City. I’ve been a few times, but this was to be Andrew’s first visit. I am always so amazed at how clean and tidy downtown SLC is, especially when I compare it to other major cities I’ve been in. In my travels I’d say it’s second only to Hong Kong, a city where a stranger picked up a piece of candy that fell out of Andrew’s mouth and put it in her pocket for future disposal! In SLC we stayed at the fancy (for us) Hotel Monaco, a dog-friendly boutique hotel. We were even treated to a happy hour with free wine, hot toddies, and guacamole. That night we ate a delicious dinner at the Copper Onion, and then I luxuriated in the hotel bathtub, marveling once again at how easily hot water comes out of the tap in modern civilization!

The next morning we awoke early to take in a show of the Mormon Tabernacle Choir. The show is broadcast live on radio, and is the oldest continuous radio broadcast in the country with a start date it 1929. It was an interesting experience, and I can easily appreciate how talented and composed the 360 members are, although the style of music is much more subdued than I would normally seek out. When it comes to religious music, give me a Southern Baptist style gospel choir any day! But then again, Salt Lake City wouldn’t be Salt Lake City without the heavy influence of the Mormon Church. Walking around the Temple Square is a bit like being at Disneyland, especially in the winter. They had an almost life-sized nativity scene, complete with camels and donkeys. Missionaries stand at every corner, ready to answer your questions and, of course, ask their own: “are you familiar with the book of Mormon?” I had to cram my tongue in my cheek to avoid making jokes about the Broadway musical we saw earlier in the year, and we politely excused ourselves whenever the conversation tilted towards religion.

Our next destination in Utah was Moab, and as we headed southeast through the mountains we passed people participating in various winter sports. The ice-covered lakes were absolutely covered with little huts and people ice fishing, which is something I’ve always wanted to try. But I was much more impressed with the people who were kite boarding in the snow! This was a genius combination of snowboarding and kite boarding, which I’ve only before seen on open water. It looked like a complete blast, and I think I’ll add that to my list of crazy things I’d like to try someday. I guess I should get a little better at regular snowboarding before I get too carried away (literally)!

Stay tuned…in my next post we continue the adventure down into Arizona!


One thought on “Escaping Winter: Part 1

  1. Hi Micha,
    A great blog post. I feel your adventures. We moved to Michigan this summer. Brian’s working at Cayman Chemical in Ann Arbor. The boys love it and wish we would’ve left California long ago. I’m probably having the hardest time since I lost my writing space. We’re renting a small house until next summer and then we’ll move onto something that fits us…we keep bumping into each other here. You and Andrew have such great adventures. Thanks for sharing the pictures of your travels. Such beautiful places!
    Take care! (my email is – I pared down to this one and my writer email

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