Thursday, June 24, 2021


Bicknell is past Torrey and a field of grazing bison. It’s where a state-run liquor store is, where we--after days of searching--found wine for Emily’s mother years ago. The highly recommended restaurant next to the Aquarius Motel was shut down, so we had lunch at Sunglow Drive-In (where we dined in).

The Capitol Reef Inn & Cafe was as arty as ever, and “Closed for the Season,” and seemed to be having construction and renovation going on.

There were tourists, mostly Americans. This is a change from the past in Utah, when we’d see mostly Europeans and Asians.

I had to take a picture of the Aquarius Motel sign because people probably wouldn’t believe it. It’s named for the Aquarius Plateau.

The next day, as Emily put it, “We spent a lot of time this morning stumbling around.”

In our post-COVID-19 world, small towns are no longer ready to go at 6 AM. A local told us: “Tourists come here and expect to get coffee at eight o’clock in the morning.” The Wild Rabbit in Torry had a huge crowd of people waiting outside, and Austin’s Chuckwagon was crowded with Americano tourists, and no masks anywhere. We donned ours and grabbed some turnovers to go and a heap of napkins. This must be the “unprecedented tourism” we heard about in Kanab.

Finally, we got in the line at the drive-thru at Dark Sky Coffee, where they had decaf and bear claws.

We sent most of the day hiking at Capitol Reef, where there were NO HUMAN WASTE IN TRASH stickers on the trash bins (yeah, it must be a thing). The otherworldly landscape was inspiring. Literally. Emily got ideas for scenes for her novel. Good. It’s working.

We ate at the Sunglow Drive-In again. Neither of us wanted to try the World Famous Pickle & Pinto Bean Pie.

And at the Aquarius Motel, a peacock could be heard calling.

Next morning, Torrey was still all closed up at 6:40 AM. The parking lots of all the motels were all full. Deer browsed in a front yard.

On Highway 24 we soon saw Martian cliffs glowing in the light of the rising sun. A lone man on a bicycle rode across the fantastic landscape and morning haze slashed with low-slung shadows. There was a Cathedral Valley, and Luna Mesa. Suddenly, I had the “Welcome to Mars” song from Cory McAbee’s Stingray Sam going through my head.

At the junction with the 95, we just had to stop at one of our favorite towns, Hanksville. We took a lot of photos at the dazzling and always inspiring Carl’s Critter Garden. 

And we finally found a place to get breakfast, Duke’s Slickrock Grill, that’s also a shrine to John Wayne with its menu items named after his movies. San Juan de Hollywood is becoming the Patron Saint of Traveling Caucasians. His images is everywhere. He seems to be saying, “Don’t worry, pilgrim, I’ll protect you from these here natives.”

Our next stop was another favorite, Hog Spring Recreation Area. The river was low, so we got to walk the Hog Canyon Trail.

Emily summed it up: “Route 95 kicks butt.”

At Natural Bridges National Monument, we went all the way down the Sipapu Bridge Trail. Sipapu is a Hopi word for a hole in the bottom of a kiva, or pithouse, that symbolizes the portal from which their ancestors came into this world. It was a Journey to the Center of the Earth-type experience.

We met some Korean tourists on the trail.

The CDC’s announcement didn’t change things in the Navajo Nation. Masks are still required. The lockdown is still in effect.

When we checked into the Kokopelli Inn, we were told that the Twin Rocks Cafe was closed Sundays, so we went to Comb Ridge for dinner. They didn’t have Navajo tacos, but I tried the Baja Tostada, that was more “Latin inspired” than Mexicanoid, and Emily got the Whiskey Burger, that didn’t have any whiskey in it.

The restaurant and the tiny town of Bluff were crowded, even with the pandemic still going on. America seems willing to come back with a vengeance. White people are eager to go out and spend money. And this isn’t even summer yet.

We headed home the next day, taking the 261, the scenic route through Monument Valley.

There were some masked hitchhikers on the Rez, unidentified roadkill at the roadside, a solar farm, microwave towers, as the cinematic monuments melted into shark-toothed mountains. Everything was turning into something else. An endless process. We’re just seeing one frame of the movie . . .

Then, I got inspired. 

Suddenly, my brain was flooded with ideas for a sequel to High Aztech. I had thought about it before, but it was all without form and substance. Now I had workable ideas. I took some notes.

I really don’t need another project right now, and I don’t know how marketable it would be, but things are in flux, opportunities are opening up, better be ready.

Yeah, these places are just plain inspiring. These rocks have things to say. We better listen to them.

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