Saturday, 16 August 2008

1997 May - PopMart Salt Lake City Part 1, Road Trip and Tickets

1st May saw us heading north on Interstate 15. Soon we had left San Diego and were in a hilly desert full of Joshua trees. We stopped for lunch at Barstow, approximately 100 miles north east of Los Angeles. It seemed a God-forsaken place in the amidst a stark desert in the middle of nowhere, the kind of place I wouldn't want to live in.

We drove on through the wide open spaces of California's desertland, roads as straight as the Romans would have built, seemingly going on forever. For someone like me from a small, green island this was a totally new experience, with its seemingly endless horizons and unyielding landscape . The sky was pure blue and you could see the shimmer of the heat haze as the sun shone relentlessly, it was not a place you would want to break down in.

You could drive for miles and see no hint of humanity, which I thought was great! Nature still rules in the desert. Well, that is until you drive over into Nevada and see Las Vegas shimmering like a strange, colourful anomaly in the brown desert, but that is only a small blip of human encroachment in this big country, we by-passed the city and continued heading north.

As we drove into the north western corner of Arizona the landscape changed, now there were lots of red hills and mesas. We passed through the impressive Virgin River Gorge (photo to the right) which took us into Utah. The peaks of the Wasatch Mountains rose to our right, they would continue until we reached Salt Lake City. The landscape now was less desert like and south western Utah proved to have a varied countryside.

We pulled off the I15 at Cedar City, we'd driver over 400 miles and decided to have a stopover here. We looked for accommodation but nowhere had enough vacancies to take us in. One hotel though was very helpful and found out there were vacancies at the Swiss cottage best Western in the town of Parowan twenty miles north. So we got back onto the I15 and drove the short distance north - Parowan turned out to be a small, sleepy town. The hotel was expecting us and we soon settled into our rooms.

We were really hungry so Sharon and I set off in the car looking for some food. Parowan was a nice little place but it seemed to be "shut" we could find nowhere to buy something to eat. So we drove to the nearby town of Paragonah, but no luck there either! Back in Parowan we eventually found a garage that sold pizza and snacks that you could heat up in a microwave. So we bought our stuff, heated it and rushed back to the hotel before it got cold. It turned out to be quite nice, especially as we washing it down with southern Comfort!

Next day it was another early start, before we set off I stood for a while on the open corridor looking out over Parowan, horses were grazing in a field close by, it was so quiet, peaceful, I really liked this little town. Also for the first time since being in the US it felt cool, that was nice to feel.

The landscape was more alpine now. It was a pleasant journey, Utah I realised was a very beautiful state. As we passed Provo it looked really lovely surrounded by jagged snow-capped mountains. We closed in on Salt Lake City, which was flanked by huge mountains.

We found our hotel, the Olympus, easily and were soon phoning ticket brokers searching for U2 tickets! One had four good tickets which cost $150 (expensive in those days - how times have changed!). We went for it and walked the short distance to the broker's office. When we got there Sharon started panicking about getting the tickets and if they would be genuine. I couldn't believe it! We'd driven over 750 miles, agreed to buy them after the phone call and now she wasn't wanting to buy the tickets! The rest of us wanted to go ahead and in the end Sharon was happy to as well, sometimes you have to take risks in life. We felt elated to have tickets for the show in our hands.

Salt Lake City was a very clean, neat and organised city. Less frenetic than many other US cities and it felt very safe. Even our hotel was really quiet. We had an early night as after all our driving we were tired and we went to bed excited at the thought of seeing another U2 show the next day.

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