A boy and his dog, part 5: Rawlins to Salt Lake City

This entry is part 5 of 7 in the series A boy and his dog

(Continued from yesterday.)

Weird thing in the morning: when Alex and I woke up in Rawlins, Wyoming, fifteen years ago today, her food bowl was teeming with ants.

I had set her food bowl on the floor each night as we checked into the hotel, then packed it back up each morning (after a good, quiet night’s sleep — that first night in Bloomington had been a fluke, thank goodness) with no problems. Not to mention the three and a half years she’d had her food bowl on the floor at home in Pittsburgh. We never saw even one ant crawling on her food; now we saw about a thousand. (In the fifteen years since, the problem has never recurred.)

I dumped out the bowl, cleaned it, and apologized to Alex. Then we hit the road again, headed this time for Salt Lake City, Utah.

If the drive into Rawlins was the longest leg of our trip so far, the drive out of Rawlins was the shortest, at least as the crow flies. But we had come to the continental divide — yay! — and my poor little Toyota, jam-packed with belongings, had a hard time with some of the endless Rocky-Mountain climbs. Parts of that leg were extremely slow going.

Still, when we finally began descending into the Salt Lake City region the sun was still high in the sky. We had plenty of the day left. This suited me just fine. I may have been in a hurry to get across the country, but I made a point not to be in too great a hurry. I’d known people who’d driven across the country in three days. That wasn’t for me (or Alex). I wanted to spend some quality alone-time while on this trip. My plan each morning on the road was to do some calisthenics, then take my shower. I’d next have some green figs, yogurt, and coffee, very black, while reading the paper in leisurely fashion, jot some thoughts in my journal, and finally take a stroll around the local environs before rolling out of town. In the evenings I would soak in the tub after a long day’s drive, do some more calisthenics to work up a good appetite for dinner, spend an hour or so with my journal describing the day’s events, and then catch up on the classics late into the night. One classic in particular: Moby-Dick, which I had brought along expecting to read it from start to finish during my six days on the road.

Despite my earnest efforts, however, I found Moby-Dick to be impenetrable — each chapter began by telling some of Ishmael’s story, and then lost the thread as Melville indulged himself in rambling philosophical tangents. The TV was so much more accessible. The “local environs” were almost all windswept, uninviting landscapes of pavement and weeds with a noisy highway nearby and very little else. I filled a grand total of one half of a page of my “journal,” my loquaciousness on this blog notwithstanding. As for calisthenics, you can guess how many times I actually did those. (Hint: guess lower.)

Weird thing in the afternoon: immediately upon arrival in Salt Lake City, I felt out of place, unwelcome. I had come with no particular preconceptions about the city or about its predominantly Mormon population, at least none that I was aware of. The few people I met there were all friendly as can be. The little shopping district containing my motel and the restaurant where I ate dinner (while Alex waited in the car and watched me through the window) were clean and attractive. But there was a strange vibe, as if arch-conservatism could be in the air somehow, and I, a New York Jew, was not of the body. I don’t mean to malign the fine people of Salt Lake City; the oppressive Stepford conformity vibe could only have been in my own head. Still, it was very strange. I hadn’t felt that way at any other stop on my trip, or indeed ever before; but I did feel it again, and just as immediately, when years later I visited wealthy Dana Point, California, in conservative Orange County, where the overwhelming sensation that came from simply walking down the street was of not being white enough.

(…to be continued…)

Series NavigationA boy and his dog, part 4: Omaha to RawlinsA boy and his dog, part 6: Salt Lake City to Winnemucca

2 thoughts on “A boy and his dog, part 5: Rawlins to Salt Lake City”

  1. I have the feeling I would make better progress on it if I tried again now. It’s happened to me a few times over the years that I encounter a book or movie or poem or something that I’m unable to appreciate, but can when I return to it years later with some more life experience under my belt.

    Not to mention that I myself have developed the same tendency as Melville to digress into rambling self-indulgent tangents with alarming frequency.

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