We realized a few days before our arrival that we would be making it into Salt Lake City smack dab in the middle of gay pride weekend. Completely unsure about how a Utah pride festival would be, we booked a hotel right in downtown and had no expectations. At the very least, we were excited to stay in a hotel versus a motel for the first time in a while, with a room higher than ground level. We got into town at about 6pm, and by 7:30 we were out the door to make it to day 1 of the 2-day festival, and see Betty Who perform, as she was headlining Saturday night and Katie loves her.
Even though many of the booths had already closed for the day, we were completely floored by how HUGE the pride fair was. There must have been 100 stands with merchandise, tons of food and alcohol, and 4 concert stages right in front of city hall in a huge sectioned off festival display. Being from NYC, I have a strong affinity for the super enthusiastic, jam-packed pride fair that we have every year. It’s the one day of the year when we can feel like the majority versus the minority. Road-tripping through small-town America isn’t exactly the easiest (or sometimes safest) time to be out and proud, so it was a huge relief to feel at “home” for a couple of days.
The next day we got our free hotel breakfast (free HOT breakfast…double plus) and realized that the actual pride parade was RIGHT outside the door. We stood and watched for about an hour next to 3 adorable little girls with rainbow hair ties and lots of enthusiastic people dancing to parade float music and cheering. After getting sun burnt entirely on one side of my body, we walked over to the festival which ran from 11am-7pm on Sunday. Seeing it in the daytime was even more overwhelming than the night before. There was a line 3 blocks long just to get in, and there were hundreds and hundreds of people there. It took us hours just to get through all the booths to see everything, buy a few pins and necklaces, and donate to a few organizations. We sipped beer and ate spicy Tibetan beef dumplings under a big tent and continued to be surprised by the hugely supportive, awesomely involved community in such an unassuming place. Furthermore, this fair was hugely family-oriented and catered to children in a way that many other pride festivals don’t (they can be more loud and party-oriented). It just shows you that the world is really changing and that you cannot generalize the beliefs of any one area.
We poured back into our hotel around 8:30, excited to order room service for the first time on this trip. However, our dreams were crushed when we were informed by the front desk that room service is closed on Sundays, but that they could provide us with a list of restaurants in the area. Apparently, being closed on Sundays is not something that is only reserved for liquor stores. We learned (after calling around) that MANY places are closed on Sundays (or close very early). We actually began to feel like there may not be anywhere in the entire downtown area that was still open for delivery…until we found a Domino’s that was picking up the phone. We ordered our food and waited an hour and 15 minutes before calling to check on the status of the delivery.
“They aren’t picking up the phone…”
At this point, we were 100% sure that they had never submitted the order at all and that we would go to sleep hungry, which nearly sent me into a dizzying tailspin of panic. Just as we were about to retire to our sad bed of empty stomachs, we heard a tiny knock at the door and were greeted by a friendly teenager holding our box of buffalo wings. It was like a surprise Christmas morning. I almost hugged him.
Monday morning (after a two night stay in Salt Lake) we headed out of town to drive across the desert into Nevada, bound for Battle Mountain as a quick stopover before we continued onto Lake Tahoe. Realizing that we hadn’t really seen much of Salt Lake City short of the 12 or so blocks between our hotel and the festival, we gawked at the view of the salt deposits surrounding Great Salt Lake on our drive down route 80. We missed the viewing area exit and were disappointed that there was not another chance to stop and see the lake up close. Katie drove and I stared wide-eyed at the snow-white glittery salt flats on either side of the highway. It was a wild natural phenomenon, just as I thought that we wouldn’t see any more unique scenery. It would be another 1.5-2 hours before we came upon a roadside rest stop that gazed out over the endless salt flats. We shuffled out onto the salt alongside a handful of other curious drivers and snapped photos standing out on the endless sea of crunchy white landscape. A man, who was traveling alone, asked if I would mind taking a photo of him and I noticed that his shirt said NYPD Upper West Side Manhattan. I jokingly asked him if he was really from the upper west side, to which he said yes. As was I. Both of us flabbergasted, we laughed about the unlikelihood of coming across another person from the same neighborhood out in the middle of nowhere in a Utah desert, on a salt flat. He doesn’t live there anymore, and now drives a truck, stating:
“The city just became too much”
At this point, staring out into natural beauty, the city felt like a distant memory. I wished him well and he did the same, shaking his head and saying what a great story this would make.
After a quick stop in Elko, Nevada for some tasty margarita pizza and Cold Stone ice cream at a local bowling alley, we ended our journey in Battle Mountain after flying down the superhighway in record time alongside the semi-trucks, and entering a new time zone. Battle Mountain is definitely a sleepy little town and boasts some shady looking motels (not all of which were operational) but our choice of Big Chief Motel turned out to be great and moderately busy. Time for movies and (more) Chinese food pickup (it was this or burgers at the one little casino in town). I must note, in addition, that I have seen more casinos since entering Nevada than I have seen gas stations on our entire trip. They’re even inside gas stations, because who doesn’t need an XL slushie and a microwavable cheeseburger with their gambling.
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