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By Merrill Ogden - | Jun 5, 2024

Those of you who are semi-regular readers of “Inside Sanpete” know that I’ve recently been on a road trip. Repeats of columns were run the last two weeks. I thought they were pretty good. But, now, I’m not so sure. I had a woman wag her finger at me a few days ago while giving me the command, “I expect new content this week.”

The road trip my wife and I took was a consolation prize trip in celebration of her retirement. Her original plan was a “girl trip” which was booked and planned with her cousin. That trip to Israel got postponed until next year. There has been this “little” hub-bub thing going on in Middle East that made the postponement seem like a good decision.

So, of all the places my wife could have chosen to have me accompany her to for a trip, guess where it turned out to be? Never mind – don’t guess. It will take too long. I’ll just “cut to the chase.”

We took a 3,000-mile trip up into Wyoming, South Dakota, North Dakota, Montana and Idaho. That would be six states, including Utah, in a week – a different motel room every night.

I guess for the sake of honesty and strict truthfulness, I should admit that we didn’t really put 3,000 miles on the odometer. Please refer to the title of the column for the strictly accurate mileage answer.

I didn’t check the mileage for the trip for several hours after we got home. Had I checked it as we approached home, I would have cruised Main Street a couple of times to round the number up.

Some people have wondered if my wife and I still like each other after a trip like that. They might be thinking about one of Mark Twain’s travel quotes: “I have found out that there ain’t no surer way to find out whether you like people or hate them than to travel with them.”

My wife and I have both similarities and differences – as do most partners in relationships. One example of a difference is that we are sometimes in front of different televisions at the same time, due to our viewing preferences. One example of a similarity is that traveling is something that we both enjoy.

We tend to sometimes spend money on travel that by all rights should be going into home improvement or other needful things. But, from our point of view, taking trips and seeing new territory is an investment in memories that appreciates in value over time.

So, when it comes to a road trip, we tolerate each other pretty well. Sometimes we say, since we’re both born under the zodiac sign of Gemini, that “the four of us get along quite well.”

You might be interested in a few mentions of episodes from the trip. (If you aren’t interested, this would be a good place to stop reading – provided you’ve gotten this far along.)

The first day of the trip, a Friday, we drove to Rawlins, Wyoming. We took a look at the fascinating, old, frontier prison, now a museum after closing down in 1981.

We met and spent some time with Tina, the historical director, who drives a purple “muscle car.” I learned that someone who did not spend time at this prison, unlike us, was Butch Cassidy. The only prison that held Butch was the Territorial Prison in Laramie, Wyoming. (stealing horses was his crime)

On Saturday, we took a look at Martin’s Cove. This is the site of the tragic handcart pioneer incident on the Mormon Trail in 1856. Both the Martin and the Willie groups were caught in bad snow and freezing temperatures in that 6,100-foot elevation area. Many died before a rescue party arrived from Salt Lake City.

Near the site, the LDS Church has a visitor’s center and museum on property purchased from the Sun Ranch. I gather that the actual “cove” is on Bureau of Land Management property. I get the idea that the LDS volunteers there focus almost entirely on the historical aspects of the handcart pioneers.

We met one rookie volunteer couple there who had just started their mission. The guy was a retired airline pilot and a banjo player. I remarked that there are a lot of jokes about banjo players. He was fully aware and quickly rattled off these three:

Q: What is perfect pitch?

A: The sound one banjo makes when it lands on another banjo when tossed (or pitched – if you need help with the joke) into a dumpster.

Q: If a banjo and an accordion are dropped from the top of the Empire State building, which one lands first?

A: It doesn’t matter.

Q: How does a bluegrass band know when the stage is level that they’re performing on?

A: The drool coming from the mouth of the banjo player is equal on both sides.

In South Dakota, the mountain carving of the Native American Crazy Horse is in progress. Many of us won’t live long enough to see its completion.

Mount Rushmore is impressive and worth seeing. However, I heard this comment more than once from people nearby, “I thought it would be bigger.” FYI: The heads on the carving are about 60 feet tall. (What rock group has 4 guys who don’t sing or play instruments? Answer: Mount Rushmore)

We visited the state capitol buildings in both Pierre, South Dakota, and Bismarck, North Dakota. I went into the Governor’s Office in both buildings (seriously). Neither Kristi Noem, nor Doug Burgum seemed to be available to visit with me – something about needing an appointment or some darned thing.

In Montana, west of Billings, we got caught in a full-blown snowy blizzard. Cars were sliding off the road and at least one semi-truck jack-knifed. It didn’t feel like a late May vacation for several hours there.

Idaho Falls was sunny and pretty with lots and lots of flags in the cemetery for Memorial Day. Lunch was really good at Smitty’s Pancake and Steakhouse. (Ask for Chloe to be your server) Coming down through Idaho, we felt like we were getting back into our own “neck of the woods.”

I haven’t quite got to point where “I need six months of vacation, twice a year” as someone once quipped. But, I kind of like what Susan Sontag said, “I haven’t been everywhere, but it’s on my list.”

It’s always fun to leave our Sanpete home for a while, but it’s always good to get back. — Merrill


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