Tuesday, 7 October 2008

Ogden – Wood Cross (October 6)

Day 22

Into my fourth week with a complimentary breakfast that would have graced any children's sleepover : waffle maker, fruit loops and iced pastries. A rest day, but checked out anyway as I couldn't get the TV or wi fi to work. Downtown is a shambles; there are no decent shops and I had to go two miles out of town for an electrical store in a mall. Something needs to be done to prize fat Americans out of their fat cars. I found an adaptor, yet I could have bought a new razor for the $10.99 it set me back. The weather had improved and I was back in shorts and T shirt, and - except for the incongruously snow-capped mountains right on its doorstep – Ogden is Anytown USA. There are plenty of people on sidewalks here, although mostly they are Latinos or old men with beards. Next stop – a laundromat (with its own toilet like everywhere else) and a man gave me a loan of his detergent. In the library (where I heard a man ask for a book on how to get a divorce) there were squawking caged birds. Sat in a park with a sandwich, mooched about the town, trying to find a diversion. Disconcerted by the scale of the mountains, making me feel insignificant and puny, although I guess locals barely notice them. In a quandary in supermarkets, as there are so many sweets and biscuits to rifle through, they're mostly in large packets and whatever I buy will be consumed that night. Today's choice was a 13 oz box of Whoppers, a poor man's Malteser.

And so to South Ogden, five miles uphill, to Denny's, a chain cafe, where I met and played Scrabble with Lori, and were later joined by her husband, Barry. They are Mormons and this explains why Lori could not play a game with me yesterday. On Sundays she doesn't spend any money, play any games or do anything physical and attends her temple for three hours. Lori grew up in Chicago as a Jew and was deeply moved by the Mormon faith when she visited Salt Lake City several years ago. Barry was brought up in the Church and married another follower when he was 18 and she was 16. They had a family, then divorced, then remarried, then divorced again. I learned a lot about the origins of their beliefs, from the hieroglyphic tablets their founder, Joseph Smith (not Lorenzo Snow) found in the woods back east in the 1820s (now mysteriously vanished), to the present day prophet, Thomas S Monson. They don't drink products with tannin, such as tea and coffee (coke is OK), take any drugs including alcohol or tobacco. They give 10% of their income to the church and the only polygamists left have been banished from the flock and reside in southern Utah.

Then we worshiped the holy game of Scrabble, in which we had two close games and Lori won the decider. In this last game I had two words successfully challenged, one of which was TWIZ. For food Lori had a very British looking meatloaf, mashed potatoes and lashings of gravy. I was back on the burgers, this time with curly fries. The South Ogden Denny's is open 24 7 and serves breakfast, lunch and dinner any time you want it. We stayed in there for five hours and they didn't seem to mind one bit. It was nearly 10 pm and 10 degrees by the time we said our goodbyes.

I had expected to find a motel in this area, but according to the staff, the nearest one was the Days Inn I'd just come from. Admittedly it was five miles downhill, but it was going back on myself and I'd have to go uphill again tomorrow. So, I ploughed on towards Salt Lake City, about 30 miles south, thinking there would be big neon signs advertising accommodation along Highway 89 soon enough. Think again. Motels come in bunches and then nothing for many miles. It was a wasteland around here and badly lit, so there was me in the shoulder, blinded by the lights of oncoming vehicles, worrying that I'd collide with a brick or a branch. It was pretty amazing when the city lights opened out, a bit like LA in films like ET.

After 15 miles I was aware of flashing lights behind me. It was a cop. “Could you explain to me what you are doing riding a bicycle on the freeway? he asked slowly and deliberately. Highway 89 had bled into Interstate 15 without me realising it. He took my passport and returned to his car for a few minutes. When he came back he knew when and from what airport I was leaving the country and said that although my crime was a jailable offence, that he would let me go. He gave me directions to the nearby suburb of Bountiful, which was supposed to live up to its name in the motel stakes. Of course I got lost and although I eventually happened upon a hotel, it was a little out of my price range at $85 + tax. I was directed to another suburb, Wood Cross, three miles away, where a Motel 6 charged $50 + tax. It wasn't very nice, but as it was midnight by now, I'd ridden 48 miles and this was supposed to be a rest day. The lady at the desk waived the fee for the wi fi password (thank you accent) and I checked my emails. There was a sign on the door that read “For your protection when in room exchange deadbolt and security latch.” This may have exacerbated the restless night that followed.

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