Westbound: The Last Leg

The fifth and final week of my cross-country road trip consisted of several quick stops. I first headed north from Grand Canyon National Park and made the two and a half hour drive to Zion National Park in Utah. The weather was chilly when I arrived in the park and periods of intermittent rain became more and more frequent. The desert terrain consisted of mountains and cliffs of red rock and sand. Tunnels that had been blasted through the rock allowed the roadway to weave through the park, adding to the excitement of the drive. There seemed to be more vegetation in this area compared to some of the desert regions of Nevada and Arizona I had previously driven through. Many trees and shrubs sprung up in the valleys and along the mountainsides displaying much richer greens than the drier outskirts had on display. As I drove through the park I noticed many small creeks rolling down the rock faces, slowly carving paths into the landscape. I stopped along the roadside in between the sporadic fits of rain and admired my surroundings. While the park did not have the same wow factor I had become accustomed to after just leaving the Grand Canyon, it was noticeably more lush and had a certain beauty all its own.

road
Cliffsides in Zion National Park
tunnel
Tunnels in Zion NP
curve
Winding roads in Zion NP
creek
One of many creeks in Zion NP
selfie entrance
Entrance to Zion National Park

After leaving Zion National Park I continued north through Utah and made a few quick stops in Provo, Salt Lake City, and Ogden. The mountains directly butt up against these towns and the access to the outdoors is at your fingertips. I explored downtown Provo for a short time before stopping by the campus of Brigham Young University. As I continued to drive north towards Salt Lake City I made a stop at Canyon Bicycle Store in Draper and picked up a replacement wheel and saddle to repair the damage inflicted on my bike the week prior. Once I got into Salt Lake City I stopped at a Planet Fitness for a quick shower before making my way downtown. I walked around the shopping district for a while before crossing the street to Temple Square. Temple Square is a 35 acre compound in downtown Salt Lake City and is owned by The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints. There are several large ornate buildings and temples standing among well landscaped walkways lined with flowers. The church’s world headquarters are located here and the giant office building along with the temple are the only two buildings not open to the public. I examined the interior of the buildings without having too much difficulty fending off the friendly advancements of the many Mormons stationed throughout the property who offered a quick tour or just some pleasant conversation. Ogden was similar to the other towns and my visit encompassed an uneventful tour through downtown. Utah left me with the same dried out feeling I had living in Denver, Colorado but these towns had a smaller feel to them. Another noticeable difference is the pronounced presence and hold the Mormons have on the region. Listening to and watching people around town gave me the impression there is a distinct division between the Mormons and non-Mormons of the area.

exit
Leaving Zion National Park
temple
Salt Lake Temple
flowers2
Temple Square
church
Assembly Hall
flowers
Flower lined walkways

With Utah in my rearview mirror I drove through Wyoming, Nebraska, and Illinois on my way to Grosse Pointe, Michigan. I stopped a couple of times only to sleep because I had driven through these states before and knew there was nothing I cared to stop for in them. After a couple of days I made it to my Aunt and Uncle’s house in Grosse Point. Grosse Pointe is an oasis on the outskirts of Detroit. The city sits along Lake St. Clair and I would describe it as the Mayberry of Michigan. A very pronounced line separates Grosse Pointe from the surrounding city of Detroit. Crossing over this town line leads you down tree lined streets, past well landscaped yards, along the shoreline dotted with beautiful homes, and through quant pockets of shops and restaurants. Growing up I spent many summers here and the comfortable, familiar surroundings created a much needed reprieve from the long drive. My Aunt and Uncle were gracious as always, dropping what they were doing in their very busy lives to make time to spend with me. We crammed a lot in over the course of a couple days. From wonderful breakfasts, bike rides around town, Starbucks runs, eating lunch in downtown Detroit, to dinner at the Detroit Athletic Club; it was difficult to return to the road and continue my drive.

snow
Snow storm in Wyoming
bike ride
Biking in Grosse Pointe

I spent the next day and a half driving towards the White Mountains in New Hampshire. My wife and I rented a home there for six weeks while she completed her last clinical rotation for school. I arrived just in time to meet her for dinner at the Saalt Pub in Gorham, New Hampshire. We ordered the calamari, a Caesar salad, and a chicken dish of some kind and all of the food was absolutely spectacular. I spent the remainder of the weekend in the White Mountains before building up enough stamina to make the last hour and a half drive to my home in Portland, Maine. It felt good to finally make it home and a part of me longed for some down time to recuperate from the long journey, yet another part of me pulled and tugged wondering where I would head to next.

trip
Done!
light
Back home

 

It’s your life. Demand adventure.

– Jon

Westbound: Portland, Oregon

 

Downtown Portland

 

I had such very high expectations for Portland, Oregon that I guess down was the only way it could go. And down it went! I live in Portland, Maine and I wanted so much to fall in love with the city that shares a name with the one I now call home.

I noticed immediately on the drive in how much larger of a city Portland, Oregon is compared to Portland, Maine. There was a lot of urban sprawl and suburbs surrounding the heart of the city. I made my way downtown and found a spot offering all day parking. I decided to bike rather than walk in order to cover the city more efficiently. I immediately gravitated towards an area where I saw a line of food trucks. After carefully reviewing the many offerings, I pulled the trigger on a lamb gyro from a Greek food truck. It was absolutely fantastic and easily landed in the list of top three gyros I have ever had.

 

Food trucks

 

I pedaled along the tree lined streets, often making more headway than the cars alongside me. The sidewalks were filled with pedestrians and vehicles shared the roadways with trolleys. To my surprise, I found the majority of the people in the area to be very guarded and unfriendly, which is the opposite of what I had heard about the city. There was a palpable sense that people were almost forcing the weird, hipster-like atmosphere; unlike Seattle where it felt original. The city has a certain dirty feel to it and there is a homeless epidemic of mass proportions, unlike anything I have seen anywhere else. The smell of marijuana would constantly find me as I traveled through town and many of the homeless people looked like they were barely hanging on by a thread, making it apparent that homelessness is not the only epidemic here. I made my way to the famous Voodoo Doughnuts and eagerly waited in the long line in order to compare this famous establishment to the iconic doughnut shop in the other Portland, Holy Donut. Once again, in Portland, Oregon fashion, I was disappointed. I tried the Oreo, peanut butter, chocolate frosted doughnut suggested to me by the cashier. Like all the other doughnuts there, it was a concoction of ill conceived madness. I bit into the doughnut and had an overwhelming rush of sugar overtake my mouth. Flavors were almost indistinguishable from the unbearable sweetness. Holy Donut in comparison has simple, well thought out choices with a flavor profile you can easily distinguish from the well balanced sweetness.

 

Downtown

 

Downtown train

 

Keepin’ it weird

 

Homeless gathering

 

Making his bed

 

VooDoo Doughnuts

 

Oreo, chocolate, peanut butter doughnut
Downtown

 

Downtown

 

Bike lane

 

Portland art

 


As I drove out of the city I noticed there were some very nice suburbs, while others appeared just okay. Character and charm could be found if one looked hard enough, but the remainder was a bit cookie cutter and commercialized. The surroundings were green and gave the sense of an outdoorsy town but somehow at the same time seemed a little bland and boring. The view of the skyline did not provide much of note except for one lonely, snow covered mountain off in the distance. This mountain towered above the surrounding landscape and provided a mesmerizing view of something greater just beyond the city.

It’s your life. Demand adventure.

– Jon