First rescue

If the worst happened and our house went up in flames, great plumes of smoke billowing from the windows, cats leaping out clutching their Felix Goody Bags, I’d be battling my way through the smoke to save the one thing I can’t replace. A crosstitch, a blooming crosstitch for goodness sake.

In my defence, I lost count of how many hours it took me, it was quite a while ago. But it was a massive faff and I had needle grooves in my fingers for years afterwards, there’s a lot of me in that crosstitch.

I picked up the pattern while I was in the USA, a windswept godforsakeness of high desert in the middle of Utah. It’s a place no-one goes these days, unless it’s to visit the site of an historic happening there 150 years ago on May 10 1869. This was the exact spot that the transcontinental railroad was completed and the tracks secured with a golden spike, 17 karat gold at that, a spike being one of those big nails that holds the track to the sleeper. Locomotives were brought to face each other symbolically of course, probably so someone could design a crosstitch sampler for some Limey to torture themselves on more than a century later.

It must have been the euphoria of the historic visit, or maybe the Utah altitude, but I thought it would be an interesting challenge to commemorate my visit. What was I thinking? Anyone else, anyone else sensible, would have taken a photo and left it at that.

Anyway, I did it and I was glad, but I have a responsibility to make sure nothing happens to it. That’s why I’ll have to rescue it in case of fire, flood, or act of God.

Coffee flavours the holiday

There’s a certain irony to keeping a coffee diary in the Mormon state of Utah. After all, the faithful do not drink coffee, nor any other stimulants such as tea or alcohol, though being a tolerant lot, they do serve it to others like us. Which may explain why the coffee there leaves something to be desired, it’s obvious that some of the coffee has never been tasted before serving.

I wouldn’t say we had the worst coffee ever over there. That crown is still firmly placed on the head of the appalling Espresso to Go by Ferrero, a plastic pouch with a mini straw, on sale in some  European garages next to the motor oil. I think I would have preferred the oil.

But still, we found good and bad on our ten-day trip. The best was definitely at the charming Windy Ridge Cafe in Park City, a good strong shot with thick crema. The worst, at Brigham City, I’ve already blogged about.

Still, the good and bad make a pretty picture and add to my growing collection in my caffeine-fuelled photo diary.

My Utah coffee diary


Bad coffee and a submerged sculpture

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Thank goodness we opted to take out our coffee, that way we didn’t offended the staff at Brigham City’s Bad Coffee Cafe (not its real name) by spitting it everywhere while gripping our throats making gagging and loud gurgling sounds. Instead, being British and polite, we parted with three dollars for two Styrofoam cups of brown liquid which we carried to the nearest drain and poured away.

After a few days of skiing the temperatures have rocketed again, so rather than ski in porridge-like snow, we opted to take in history and art, with liberal quantities of coffee to help us on our way.

Back in 1869 railways from the east and west met on a desolate piece of land more than 4000ft above sea level. There, at Promontory Summit, the rails were ceremonially joined with golden spikes, which were then whisked away for safe keeping before someone nicked them. The meeting of the tracks and the magnificent trains that rode them is commemorated with a re-enactment and replica engines at the national park, there’s cheering and merriment, with cake and sodapops. But not today. Today there was nothing, no engines, no crowds, nothing, just tumbleweed skittering across the miles of wilderness. Two hours driving for this. And they didn’t even have a cafe or a vending machine selling Twinkies.

After the coffee incident, this did not bode well for our next stop, the 1500ft-long Spiral Jetty, just 16 miles from Promontory at the edge of the Great Salt Lake. We’d come this far, we weren’t going back, even though the road turned from tarmac to gravel then to hard mud. Fortunately we have a car which will go anywhere, it’s a rental.

The miles just juddered by. Travelling at what seemed like 20mph, we were able to appreciate the features and attractions of each individual mile. For me mile 14 was the highlight, there was a slight kink in the road which temporarily changed the viewing aspect. For Noel it was mile 11 where we followed a cow who seemed to think he owned the road. How we laughed.

At the end we were rewarded with a fabulous view of the Great Salt Lake, some sticky-up timber and the stench of salty mud. Not a spiral in sight. Another couple who’d arrived before us said the sculpture was now submerged, but if we closed our eyes, we could see it in our imaginations. By this point, we were imagining a transporter which would take us back to Salt Lake City where the roads have multiple carriageways and the coffee is good. I pointed my camera in what seemed like the right direction and just hoped, trusting post-processing to reveal at least something spiral-shaped.

The day was saved by a stop-off at a park full of rockets and missiles, rather a bizarre sight in the middle of the desert, though I suppose it’s the best place to put them. For a jape we’d brought along a bag from a Pudsey butcher to photograph for his collection of Bags in Strange Places.  The there was a  therapeutic potter around Barnes and Noble, a massive bookstore with coffee shop. We both agreed, we’d find the whole thing massively funny when we got home. I’m sure we will!

It’s getting a little warm here

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Something’s gone wrong with the thermostat over here in Utah. The usual late season snows haven’t arrived, heck, they only just turned up for the early season in what has turned out to be a bad year for the resorts. Spring has sprung and it’s not good news for the skiers!

We nearly roasted on the slopes at Park City yesterday in temperatures of 20C and made sure we finished early so we weren’t splashing through puddles on the home run. With the forecast for more of the same today, except warmer, we decided to take a day off and do the tourist thing.

High on the hills above the University of Utah are two beautiful gems. First is the Red Butte Garden, the state’s botanical gardens full of daffodils and spring bulbs and, we were warned, the odd rattlesnake. Not like at home, then.

The Natural History Museum, just across from the gardens is just wonderful. The building itself is clad in copper and brimming with eco-friendly sustainable features including about a million solar panels. Utah does have an awful lot of natural history, mass dinosaur graveyards have yielded lots of full skeletons to dominate the displays. I was particularly impressed with the resident Mad Scientist who hosts children’s birthday parties. She gets to wear rainbow-coloured clothes and carry out wacky experiments with Jell-o. I wonder if they have any vacancies for that position?

Fortunately snow is on the way, so we’ll be back on the slopes tomorrow.

The things you hear on a chairlift……..

Chairlifts are always an opportunity to get five-minute histories, compare spectacular tales of skiing derring do and play 'guess the accent'.

I've travelled in the west and mid-west USA quite a bit and my northern English accent always confuses the locals. No, I say politely, I'm not Australian. So as Noel and I sat on a chair with a Utahn and the question of provenance came up – he hedged his bets.

"I thought there was an accent, but couldn't make out whether it was Brit or Aussie. They kinda sound alike," he said apologetically

At this point, the fourth person on the chair piped up

"They sound nothing LIKE Aussies!" And he should know, an Aussie and a cricket fan to boot. Oh dear, another chance to discuss the loss of the Ashes…….. Our American seat-fellow was tickled pink and couldn't wait to get home to tell his wife!

Another rather spaced-out Californian was awestruck.

"Gee, you come from ENG-land?" he drawled

"Isn't that an EYE-land?

"Don't you feel kinda, shut IN?!

Er, well, it's quite a large island – 60million of us………

"Oooo, I couldn't go THERE, so SMALL……."

The conversation petered away from there………….

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Red Nose Day at Snowbird

Red Nose Day
Originally uploaded by StripeyAnne.

Today was Red Nose Day in the UK. Kind of like the comedy version of Live Aid. People do silly things, usually wearing a red nose, to raise money for charity.

It's a little-known phenomenon here in the USA, so there was quite a bit of explaining to do, which was all taken in good part. We did manage to snake down a piste wearing the red noses, but were outdone on the silly stakes by a cowboy and a man dressed as a leopard. And they weren't even doing it for charity!

The real comedy was provided by Adam, who managed a spectacular fall, losing both skis, poles, his glasses, goggles and one glove. He gets the award for the best wipeout so far. But there's still a day left…..

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The Utah Seven ski Brighton

Mt Timpanogos
Originally uploaded by StripeyAnne.

Brighton, Utah, that is. With just a day off since last Friday, our ski legs have got shorter and our panda eyes bigger. The record temperatures continue and the promised powder just hasn't materialised. But, with views like this, what the heck?!

If you've never skied in the USA before, here's a few pointers:

1 – There's no such thing as a crowded piste. At times, we've had them all to ourselves.
2 – The Americans are VERY polite skiers. The queue (or rather line) system is logical and gets everyone through quickly. On the piste, you'll hear 'coming to your left/right' followed by a courteous 'thank you'
3 – There are no red runs. Really! It goes from blue to black to double black diamond
4 – There are trees!
5 – Spare bras are deposited on designated trees, along with beads and other items of underwear. I have NO idea why.
6 – The chair lifts are very slow and foot rests are rare – I think it's some king of tendon-stretching exercise…….

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