Day 22:

Cocktails in Salt Lake City

I woke up early today, not to the sound of an alarm clock, but to the sun shining into my tent. I cleaned up my campsite, rolled up my tent and sleeping bag, and said goodbye to the river next to me and the mountains above me.

All my clothes were dirty, wet, smelly, and stinking up my car, so I stopped at a laundromat in the town outside the park. It gave me an excuse to linger in a town surrounded by these majestic mountains. I had breakfast in a cafe next to the laundromat and planned my route to Salt Lake City. I headed out soon after, looking forward to the Utah landscape.

Driving through Utah, there were cows, farmland, and lush green grass, but what really hit me was the first snow-capped mountain I saw. It stretched high above the clouds. I kept waiting to get closer to this mountain range, and eventually I was driving directly alongside it, then straight through the range to get to Salt Lake City on the other side. As I started getting closer to the city, the two lane road opened up to 5, the mountains disappeared, and the traffic started pouring in from all sides. Huge semis barreled towards me, cars swerving in and out of lanes, and then there were traffic jams.

I was close to exit 307 for the motel. I was in the slow lane trying to be as careful as possible not to miss my exit. I saw a sign for exit 306 coming up, passed 306, and then saw a sign for exit 308. I did not see a sign for exit 307. Then at the last minute I spotted it on the other side of the freeway. I turned on my blinker, saw that I had a small window, and quickly screeched through four lanes of traffic onto a carpool lane to get off at my exit.

Then I noticed the flashing lights behind me. A cop saw the whole thing and pulled me over as soon as I got off the freeway. He got gruff with me at first, listing all the numerous violations I committed. I told him I was on a road trip and I wasn’t familiar with the roads and apologized. Best excuse I could come up with I guess. Then he saw some pills on my passenger seat and yelled “Hey what are those pills for?”

I told him I have epilepsy and am taking them for seizures. He didn’t say anything about them after that. He told me to wait on the side of the road, then walked back up and yelled loudly, “Not knowing the roads is no excuse!”

I replied loudly, “Yessir I understand!”

Then he let me go. That was the first time I’ve made that kind of mistake the whole trip, I was surprised I didn’t get ticket #3. I’ve driven into 10 major cities so far and each of them has their own weird rules for freeways and infrastructure. It was never easy. I’m so glad this is the last major city I have to drive through.

I was so frazzled by the whole situation that I just wanted to pass out in my motel room. Then I saw a note on Facebook an old coworker sent that suggested a few places in Salt Lake City. This guy was possibly the coolest person I’ve ever met. He was just effortlessly cool, like James Dean or something, so I knew he wouldn’t steer me wrong. The night did not disappoint. It was about 35 degrees, so I put on all my winter wear and rode my bike to “Bar X”. There was a big red flashing sign on the outside, and a cool loungy retro interior on the inside. It was a cocktail bar, so I ordered a Moscow Mule, the best one I’ve ever had. I sat down at the bar next to a fella wearing a vintage suit, the only suit at the bar. He was also from New York and passing through Salt Lake City on business. We started discussing the pros and cons of living in New York. He was 41, born and raised in New York, and saw the evolution the city went through between the early 80s and present day.


The New York cocktailist


“New York was a shithole in the 80s. Cars were burning, people getting mugged walking out of their apartments. You went to the suburbs to escape the city. Now you want to escape the suburbs to get to the city.”

I used  “The rent is too damn high” excuse as my reason for leaving. I actually wanted to experience a bit of the grittiness New York City used to be known for, but I didn’t find too much when I was there, not that that’s a bad thing. We talked until 2am, exchanged business cards, and parted ways. The title on his card said, “Cocktailist.” He made cocktail menus for clubs and events in New York in his spare time outside his finance job.

I rode back through the quiet, empty streets of Salt Lake City to try to get some sleep before the next long drive.