DAY 82: Salt Lake City, Utah
Miles traveled: 11,235
States visited: 25
Weather: 91, hot
I spent a couple days in Salt Lake City. I had imagined this city would be a lot like Albuquerque – a fun, hipster-friendly town stuck in the middle of a more conservative area. But that was not the case.
I just couldn’t find the cool part of town, because there isn’t one. I was advised to check out the 9th & 9th neighborhood, but it turns out this isn’t even a neighborhood – it’s just an intersection. It’s even smaller than Little Five Points in Atlanta and NODA in Charlotte.
And there’s not even much to do in 9th & 9th! There’s an independent movie theater (OK, they get points for that), a bike shop, a novelty clothing store, and a coffee shop that attracts just as many middle-aged ladies as hipsters.
It turns out the fun places in town are scattered about the city rather than centrally located, so it takes a bit of effort to locate them. I enjoyed my stay thanks to my couchsurfing host Adam, who was a terrific tour guide.
It was fascinating to see how powerful the reach of the Mormon church is here. I went for a stroll through the Mormon church grounds downtown. They usually try to convert visitors, but I slipped past their recruiters. Or maybe they just took a look at me and realized they’d be wasting their time.
Mormons aren’t allowed to smoke, drink alcohol, do drugs, or drink coffee(!), so Mormon teens can often be found at ice cream shops and local parks. Ice cream is their crack – that’s one thing I have in common with the Mormons.
When it comes to bars, Utah had these really arcane drinking laws that required patrons to buy a membership from any bar in which they wanted to consume alcohol. These laws were finally repealed, and Wednesday, July 1 was the first day that folks could visit bars without buying memberships. There was a massive bar crawl to celebrate. The party kids took buses from pub to pub all night long. We made a stop at one ultra-crowded bar, then hit the dollar movie theater.
Salt Lake City is tough to get a handle on, because there’s a really strong liberal population and a super-conservative Mormon population, and I’m not sure how they co-exist. I found myself shopping at a Mormon-owned thrift store, then feeling bad about it. I think I would be quite confused if I lived here.
Next up: Denver!