Utah Vacation: Salt Lake City Edition

As I mentioned in my last post I just got back from a trip to Utah. I’m going to spend my next few posts talking about that trip, so buckle in and get ready for the ride. We started out in Salt Lake City, drove down to Bryce Canyon, then over to Zion National Park, and then back up to Salt Lake City. Most people who hit southern Utah tend to fly into Las Vegas, which I don’t blame them for. First it’s closer, and second it’s cheaper. I however got into my head that I wanted to see Salt Lake City for some reason. Plus, I’ve already been to Vegas more than once and will be going back next summer for a conference so didn’t really care to go there again. Also, most people bundle that version of the trip with the Grand Canyon, which I have also already been to. So Salt Lake City it was.

We got in on a Saturday evening, checked into our hotel, and then found a restaurant within walking distance of our hotel. We wound up going to Red Rock Brewery where we both enjoyed the food, my husband enjoyed the beer, and I enjoyed being able to order a locally brewed cream soda. It also happened to be prom night in Salt Lake City so there were a lot of large tables filled with high school kids in prom attire. Apparently big, fluffy dresses are in this year, at least in Utah.

We serendipitously happened to be in Salt Lake City on a Sunday, which meant that we were able to go see a live performance of the Mormon Tabernacle Choir, which I recommend if you happen to be Salt Lake City on a Sunday morning or a Thursday evening (they have open rehearsals on Thursday nights). I don’t agree with much of the Mormon doctrine, but they do have a fantastic choir. They do a live broadcast of something they call Music and the Spoken Word, which is what we attended. I was going to throw in a YouTube video of the performance we attended since they also put them up on a YouTube channel, but for some reason there are 3 weeks of performances missing and the one we attended is one of them 😦  You will have to settle for these still images instead.

Mormon Tabernacle Choir
Mormon Tabernacle Choir
Close up of the Mormon Tabernacle Choir
Close up of the Mormon Tabernacle Choir

When you leave the performance they have Mormon missionaries waiting to show you around Temple Square and of course share something about the Mormon faith with you. They have missionaries there from all over the world who can speak in many different languages. Even if you don’t agree with the idea of it, their evangelism efforts are rather impressive. I wasn’t entirely clear on the process of picking up a missionary. There are missionaries standing in a big circle rotating around in front of a microphone telling you to find a missionary to get a tour. At first I thought we had to wait for one of the people in the circle, but the circle just kept going around. Then I realized we could ask any of the other ones that were milling about, but I tried that twice and they kind of walked away. Obviously they weren’t very good at their mission. We finally sidled ourselves up next to some group of Canadians and joined their already in progress group. Though while we were waiting for our guide to get a portable mic since we were such a large group some other missionary who is good at her job tried to offer us a tour.

The tour itself wasn’t very exciting in my opinion. I was expecting more history than I actually got. After the official tour was over we wandered around the square a little bit on our own and looked at the miniature replica of the Temple. I liked that they had that since you actually aren’t allowed to tour inside the Temple itself. It gives you a good idea of what the Temple looks like on the inside. Though I do have to say that I was honestly less impressed with the outside of the Temple there than I am every time I see the Mormon Temple that seems to jump out of nowhere as you go around a curve on the DC beltway. It always seems surreal to me every time I drive by it.

Mormon Temple in Salt Lake City
Mormon Temple in Salt Lake City

After we were all Mormoned out, we decided to try and look at some of the stuff from the Salt Lake Olympics. Much of what is left to actually look at is not really in Salt Lake City though. We did swing by the stadium where they held the opening and closing ceremonies and saw the torch. The little museum there was closed on Sundays though.


Olympic Torch from the Salt Lake City Games
Olympic Torch from the Salt Lake City Games

We decided to drive up to Park City to take a look at the Olympic stuff that was there instead. After we got out there we walked around the town a bit, had lunch, and then went to the museum. Not that I would ever be invited to attend, but I really would never want to be in Park City when Sundance is going on. I have no idea where all the people fit or even where they actually show all the films. There’s just not that much there. The traffic must be insane, but as I said nothing I will ever have to worry about.

View of the bobsled track from the Salt Lake City Olympic games
View of the bobsled track from the Salt Lake City Olympic games

Our final destination of the day was a trip to The Great Salt Lake. It was too cold to actually get into the lake, but I did stick my hand in. My takeaway from the Great Salt Lake is, a. It is very salty. You have to walk across a bunch of crusty salty dirt to get to the water. b. It smells bad. c. It is much shallower than I thought at least around the edges. A guy walked out with his dog into the water for a really long way and never got deeper than his waist. d. I’m glad I live somewhere I can get to an actual beach easily and don’t have to swim in that for my summer fun.

The Great Salt Lake
The Great Salt Lake

Sunday night we decided to give another local brewpub, Squatters,  a try at the recommendation of our friend Kevin. Do not listen to Kevin. Nothing about that experience was better than Red Rock Brewery. The food wasn’t as good. Oh and did you actually want to try any of their beer on tap?  Too bad because they were out of half of it. Same for their house made root beer. Paul did get an IPA in a bottle, but wasn’t really impressed with it.

That brings this exciting installment of what did Danielle do on her Utah vacation to a close. Stay tuned for future episodes coming to this blog soon.

Operation Visit All 50 States: Mission Accomplished

Sorry this blog has been quiet for a little while, but it was with good reason. I spent the last week on vacation in Utah, which incidentally was the last state I needed to visit before I could officially say that I had been in all 50 states. And now mission accomplished!

I visited or lived in a number of states before I started this goal, but eventually made it a real pursuit. I’ve lived in 8 states (Ohio, Georgia, Massachusetts, Texas, North Carolina, Illinois, Florida, and Maryland) so I obviously have been to those states. Moving also lent itself to travels to surrounding states where I was living. My mother has also been to all 50 states (my dad is only missing North Dakota, ha, ha Dad). When we were living in Massachusetts and getting ready to move to Texas she took my sister and me on a day trip to Vermont since none of us had ever been there and it only made sense to go to Vermont while we were still within driving distance.

I also picked up a number of states on various road trips. The major road trip that got me all those upper midwestern states that people don’t tend to get to was a trip my mom took my sister and me on when we were 12 and 13. We were not so enthused at the time, but now I appreciate it. If I ever have the time to take 3 weeks and travel across the country and back it won’t be until after I’m retired. My mom grew up in Montana, South Dakota, and Washington so she wanted to take us to the places where she lived. We also hit many other states I had never been to along the way including Wyoming, Idaho, and a small detour into Nebraska just so we could say we had been there.

Eventually I got down to a handful of states that I had never been to and started taking conscious trips to add them to my collection. North Dakota was a big get. It is hard and expensive to get there and there is absolutely no reason to go there. Anything you think might be in North Dakota is actually in South Dakota. As I mentioned it is the one state my father is missing and will probably never get just for that reason. My husband and I went to a wedding St. Paul, Minnesota a number of years ago and took the opportunity to drive the 3.5 hours to Fargo, North Dakota, stay the night, and then drive back. There wasn’t really anything to do there. We did go the Roger Maris museum (he was from Fargo), which turns out to be some memorabilia in glass cases along a wall in the local shopping mall. We also discovered that the bar located in our Best Western hotel was definitely one of the big places to hang out in town on weekend nights.

In my continued effort to collect my final states, my now husband and I went on a trip to New Mexico for my 30th birthday. It is incidentally where we got engaged. Three years ago we took a trip to Alaska. I always thought that would probably be the final state I got because it would the most difficult, expensive, and grandest trip to take. (People always thought Hawaii would also be one of the states I was missing as an adult, but I actually picked that up as a child. My father’s company had some business thing there so we went on a family vacation there at the same time). We wound up going to Alaska much earlier than I planned though. Last May we took a long weekend trip to Oklahoma City and spent one of the afternoons we were there driving up to Witchita, Kansas for lunch and then driving back.

After that trip Utah was my only remaining state, which as I mentioned I added this past week. There will be much more to come on the specifics of that trip over a series of posts throughout this week, so you can stay tuned for that. Just because I’ve been to all 50 states now doesn’t mean I will stop exploring our great country. There are some places I’ll never go back to (sorry North Dakota) or probably won’t go back to unless I happen to driving through again (sorry Iowa), but there are many other states with places and things I would like to do and see that I haven’t yet. I of course wouldn’t mind going back to Hawaii and visiting some of the other islands (we only went to Oahu). I have several friends from the Upper Peninsula in Michigan who swear by its beauty. It’s somewhere I wouldn’t mind checking out. I obviously have only been to not very exciting parts of Kansas in an effort to knock that state out in combination with Oklahoma. I hear that Kansas City is worth seeing or at least going to in order to eat the bbq. Though now that I say that I guess it’s actually Kansas City, Missouri that’s the Kansas City people actually talk about. Despite having been to Missouri I haven’t ever been to St. Louis other than a layover in the airport. I have a cousin that lives there as well as friends that split their time between there and Virginia so that’s totally a trip we should take at some point. These are just a handful of reasons that I’ll continue to keep traveling, but for now I am happy to say that fulfilled my goal of visiting all 50 states.

WTMD’s First Thursdays Concert featuring The Lone Bellow (and more)

Every summer WTMD, Baltimore’s NPR music station out of Towson University, sponsors free concerts in the park by Baltimore’s Washington Monument on the first Thursday of each month. Last night was the first one of the 2013 season. It was also the first one I have ever been to. Thursday nights are my regular night to work the late shift on the reference desk at the library, so I have been unable to go in the past. Most years the bands are more local and less well known bands that I have never heard of, so I haven’t bothered taking off work to go. However, when I heard the lineup for last night’s concert I made sure that I could get out of work to go.

The concert last night featured Bobby Long (who I like), The Great American Canyon Band (who I don’t really know), and The Lone Bellow (who I love). The music was great and the weather was perfect. I can’t say much for the rest of the set up though. I understand that the popularity of these concerts has grown over the years and WTMD definitely upped their game with the bands that were playing last night and having never been before I can’t really say how the crowd compared to other years but I suspect it might be slightly larger than in the past. At any rate it was really too many people in my opinion and the biggest problem was the speaker set up. They only had a couple of speakers up at the front by the stage, so if you weren’t in the front section of the park you couldn’t really hear the music and even when up front it was hard to hear the bands when they were just talking and not playing music.

My other problem I admit is just my own. If you have been reading this blog at all in the past you know I am very into music, and as I mentioned I was very excited to see this concert so that is what I was there for. I gather most people were not there for that reason. They were there to enjoy a nice night hanging out with friends with some live music in the background. Most of them were not paying much attention to the bands and I heard a number of people asking who was playing because they really liked the band when The Lone Bellow were on. So I guess good for The Lone Bellow in perhaps picking up some new fans, but bad for someone who was already a fan and was a having a hard time watching everyone not really pay attention to the bands on stage. Seriously the biggest cheer of the night came from a crowd up people trying to get a beach ball out of a tree when it got stuck up there.

Anyway, as I said the music itself (or what I got to hear of it) was great. I got there earlier than most of my friends and grabbed a little spot off to the side but up near the front and listened to Bobby Long. I enjoyed his short set and wouldn’t mind seeing him play again in a different sort of venue. After his set ended I found out that one of my friends had already staked out a spot elsewhere in the park, so I found her and then the rest of our friends showed up. Unfortunately, this spot was near the back of the park, which would have been completely fine with me if one could have heard the music at all from there. Sadly you couldn’t really. There was the faintest sound of music so that you could kind of tell someone was on stage, but that was about it. They really needed to set speakers up on the back side of the square as well.

Aside from hearing something about The Great American Canyon band on NPR music at some point and learning that they are a Baltimore based band, I didn’t really know anything about them or their music. As I mentioned at that point I couldn’t hear anything coming from the stage where we sitting so I still don’t.

When The Lone Bellow came on I told my friends I was moving up closer to the stage. I came to see The Lone Bellow and I wasn’t going to stay sitting there where I couldn’t actually hear them. Everyone decided to come with me so we made our way much closer to the front and became the annoying people I hate at a concert who decide to shove their way up front when the band comes on in front of all the people who were there early to stake out their spots. I hate those people and had I been able to hear from where I was I never would have been one of them. So sorry people around me. I’m usually not that rude at concerts.

The Lone Bellow was fantastic though. They put on a great show. As they said they only have one album out right now and they had to play for 90 minutes so they played everything off the album and then filled with some covers, a couple new songs, and were just having fun. The new songs were great and I was highly amused that this folk rock band played covers of Brian McKnight’s One and Mariah Carey’s Always Be My Baby. I love when bands get silly with their cover songs and go cross genre. They had the crowd up and dancing with their own music by the end with their upbeat rhythms. I can’t wait to see them again in July at The Newport Folk Festival. I briefly contemplated going to see them and Brandi Carlile at Wolf Trap the Wednesday before we leave on that trip, but I’m also seeing Dawes in concert that Tuesday night and thought it might be a little excessive. Though having now seen both of those acts live I can tell you that will be one amazing concert.

Here’s a couple of photos from the concert last night. That would be Baltimore’s Washington Monument in the background of the stage, and I might add the original Washington Monument. We always feel compelled to throw that in there to make sure people know we have that over DC. There’s also a couple of videos from last night, which I did not take, of The Lone Bellow singing their first single and current hit You Never Need Nobody, which I wrote about on this blog once before and Bleeding Out, which is one of my favorite songs from the album.

Early Contenders for Pop Song of Summer 2013

Every summer it seems we have a pop song that becomes the song of the summer. Last year it was undisputedly Carly Rae Jepsen’s Call Me Maybe. There are a couple of things that make a song a good contender for pop song of the summer. It has to be upbeat and something you would want to listen to while driving around with your windows down. The song also has to have staying power. This means that it both has to be good enough for people to want to listen to it over and over again but not something that grabs you at first only for you to get sick of hearing it.

It’s still very early in the season, but there are a couple of songs on my radar that I think might just be contenders for the title of Pop Song of Summer 2013.

1. Can’t Hold Us by Macklemore & Ryan Lewis

I’m a little bit late to jump on the Macklemore & Ryan Lewis bandwagon. I just couldn’t make myself get fully behind Thrift Shop. The song has a fantastic beat, but I could never get over the dumb lyrics. In addition, there is something about the first 20 seconds or so of that song before the horns kick in that really irks me. Thus, if I caught it from the beginning I would immediately change the channel. Same Love is a wonderful song that adore both for it’s music, lyrics, and message but sadly I suspect for just that reason it will never be a pop radio hit. Can’t Hold Us however is an almost perfect candidate. The song has a great beat. It’s catchy, and it makes you want to get up and dance. Most importantly it has a chorus you can easily sing along with, which is key for this song as most people aren’t going to be singing along with the rap verses.

2. I Love It by Icona Pop

Icona Pop has put out a great pop song in I Love It. Again we’re talking about a song with a great beat that makes you kind of want to jump up and down and dance around. It also has a slight edge over Can’t Hold Us in that the whole song is something everyone can sing along with and it’s also the perfect song to not only sing along but shout the lyrics out. I can totally picture a car full of teenage girls driving around with the windows down shouting out this song. I do fear that this song doesn’t have staying power though as there’s something about it that might make people tire of it well before the summer is over.

3. Next to Me by Emeli Sandé

While Next to Me, may not be my personal choice for Pop Song of Summer 2013 the world may have other ideas. I do think it’s a great song, it’s just not bouncy enough for it to be my personal summer anthem. Amazingly no one put me in charge of deciding though, and this song cannot be ignored. Scottish singer Emeli Sandé seemingly burst on the U.S. scene with Next to Me a few months ago. I listen to a lot of non-commercial radio and it is rare that a song breaks out on non-commercial radio and commercial pop radio simultaneously as this song did. A lot of times there is never any crossover, but if there is I’ve usually heard the song on non-commercial radio for months before it appears on commercial radio. This song I started hearing in both places at almost the exact same time, which means that it has huge appeal. Also, although the U.S. is just starting to familiarize themselves with Emeli Sandé, she is already a huge star in the U.K. Just this week Our Version of Events, the album this song is from, bested The Beatles long held record for most consecutive weeks (63 weeks at this point) in the Top 10 on the U.K. charts for a debut album. All of this combined makes me think Next to Me isn’t going anywhere any time soon and may just wind up being our Pop Song of Summer 2013.