The Sound of Mormons

Wyoming is big – like Montana big.  We drove across half of it in the dark and in the swirling snow.  The next morning as we made our way to Utah, we got to see just how big the state is.  We also got to see just how icy the roads were, but the scenery was really beautiful.

Coming into Salt Lake City, we had an awful lot of descending to do.  Now, I’m no expert on mountains, but we must have come down at least 80,000 feet!  Whenever we were on the brakes, our tireless car would shudder like it was about to vibrate apart.  I know it’s just warped brake rotors, but it is really unnerving when you’re on an 8% grade with a tractor-trailer (that’s “lorry” to you Brits) breathing down your neck.

Our first order of business in Salt Lake City was to get Stephanie some overdue, corporate birthday freebies.  From “The Corner Bakery,” there was an M&M cookie, and from Sports Authority, my ever-practical ladybug selected some tent stakes and a reusable icepack.

Then we caught up with our Couch Surfing host.  Once we finished ooh-ing and aah-ing over the mountains that loom above his house, he asked us what we’d like to do while in Salt Lake.  We figured some music and Mormons would do – we knew our host was a music aficionado like me, and I figured we had to see the Mormon Tabernacle while here.  When Stephanie mentioned our shuddering car brakes, our host made the mistake of offering to fix our brakes as a third option.  We laughed and decided to choose the first two options and he drove us into town to check out the Mormon Tabernacle.  This place can only be described as a complex.  We started in the visitor’s center which was all about the Old Testament, Jesus and his life.

I was really afraid my irreverent jokes would get us thrown out, but all the missionary girls there were as nice as could be.  They told us about a movie – The Joseph Smith Story – which chronicles the founding of The Mormon Church.  I figured a 15-20 minute crash course might actually be enlightening.  Turns out its 62 minutes long.  Oops.  Our host (wisely) found something else to do while Stephanie and I settled in with all of two other people in a theater that holds about 1000.

The movie was well-produced, but we didn’t find ourselves religiously moved by it (a fact which surprised no one).  I was all set for the hard-sell from the missionaries who greeted us after the film ended, but they were not heavy-handed at all.  Instead, they let us in a back door to take a quick look at the Tabernacle which had been closed for a rehearsal all afternoon.  It was beautiful inside and looked just like you see on TV.  Unfortunately, we didn’t get to hear a performance in the acoustical marvel of a building.

After dinner, I had the best desert of all.  I miss trading music with friends back home, but every now and then, we stay with someone who is as into music as I am.  Our host was an audiophile, so we plugged our laptops into his killer sound system, and spent a few hours trading tunes.  We had similar tastes, and he likes it L-O-U-D, so I was in heaven.  (Stephanie may have been a little further from heaven.)

Waking up early the next morning, Stephanie was worrying about the brakes again and we decided we had to find out if our host was serious.  (For those of you who don’t know, I am slightly less adept at working on cars than I am on, say, Martian spaceships, so I was a bit skeptical that he could make the repairs in the 90 minutes he claimed.)  He happily agreed to help us out though so I could put him to the test.  Once we picked up new rotors, the actual work time was almost exactly one and a half hours, and I even did the second one myself!  (Insert accolades here.)

Once on our way, we had another unexpected surprise.  Our route took us through the Bonneville Salt Flats where land speed records are set.  We walked on the salt for a bit at a rest stop, and it is some very, very hard stuff.  No wonder they use it as they do.  The actual measured track is seven miles long.  Rather than maintain seven miles of asphalt, nature maintains dozens of miles of salt which is surveyed and marked out before speed competitions.

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