1. From Jackson our next destination was Moab in Utah, our base for visiting Arches and Canyonland National Parks. At about 500 miles, it was too stretched to try to do it in a day. We decided to break journey and stay a night in Salt Lake City, Utah.
2. Day 16, 2 June, we left Jackson, taking Highway 89 South towards Salt Lake City. At 250 miles away, we expected to reach it comfortably in early afternoon. The road took us through miles and miles of vast flat cattle grazing fields with mountain ranges far out to the left and right, sort of a continuation of the terrain in Grand Teton. At times, the road was so straight and long that it seemed that the engineer had just simply drew a straight line on the map with his ruler.
3. We broke for lunch at this very scenic spot next to a visitor centre. Information board told the story of how Brigham Young, the Mormon leader, led his 1000 over pioneer batch of largely male followers passed this point in 1860 to escape from persecution in the East and eventually settled down in present day Salt Lake City.
4. We chose a scenic spot, up a small hill near the visitor centre, to have our lunch. From there, we had an excellent view of the red hills opposite, on the other side of the railway track. While we had our lunch, a never ending train rolled by. It must be at least 1/2 mile long. Though under the hot sun, I enjoyed the half an hour of relaxing time, admiring the scenery and eating our packed lunch.
5. We arrived at Salt Lake City at about 3 pm. With the help of GPS, we checked ourselves into Homestead for US$100. As there were still a few hours before dark, we decided to drive into the city to see the city and to have dinner. After touring the city in our car, we parked the car near Temple Square and walked the nearby streets. Many street banners reminded us that it's the National Bike Month. It was obvious that cycling was strongly encouraged in Salt Lake City. One distinctive feature about Salt Lake City was the electric trams with the overhead cable that ran through the main streets.
6. Also, right in the heart of the city, down the slope from The Capitol (picture to the right), was a massive conference centre belonging to the Church of Jesus Christ of the Latter Saints (the Mormons). The influence of the Mormons was clearly very strong here. Internet check revealed that more than 60% of Salt Lake City's population were Mormons. As we walked past the beautiful compound of Temple Square, two well dressed ladies carrying bibles struck up a conversation with Weiping. They were more interested with the younger ones, as Li Hoon and I were not approached.
7. As we walked the streets we observed that quite a few of the shops were unoccupied; and this was supposed to be downtown. Also, for a weekday, the streets were unusually quiet. The economic downturn must be hurting. We also passed a construction site in what looked like a massive development. Signboards showed "Downtown Rising". Filling the additional space coming on stream would be a challenge.
8. Outside the State Visitor Bureau building were 2 colourfully painted bison. A few kids were enjoying themselves riding the bison. They were happy to pose for me.
9. We had a wonderful Vietnamese dinner of Pho before returning to the hotel.
10. The next day, we drove the next 250 miles to Moab. Beautiful rock formations with their rich colours greeted us as we approached Moab, giving us an idea of what to expect in the coming days in the nearby national parks. Just outside Moab we decided to check out Spring Ranch. After checking out the rooms of this vacation home, we accepted the unit for US$200 a night with mixed feeling. We liked it a lot but it exceeded our budget. In the end, we all agreed it was a good decision to stay here. Its a loft unit, with 2 bedrooms and spacious living and dining area cum kitchen.