Saturday, March 21, 2009

The Bonneville Salt Flats - are flat.

A friend of mine from Seattle flew down to see Salt Lake City with me, and I convinced her to drive to the Bonnevile Salt Flats, near the border of Nevada. We drove for what seemed like forever, through beautiful scenery.

While in Salt Lake City, you can see the most amazing mountains right out of your window, as we got closer to Nevada the land was extremely flat.

And then out of no where, the ground was white. I'm not sure we even noticed where it changed over. And then there was this sign:This is the site of testing of high speed race cars. It is an extremely large flat salt pan, which forms where water pools. The water that doesn't sink into the ground remains on the surface until it evaporates, leaving behind the salt.

We ran out onto the salt, which gave the eeriest feeling of being out on a lake, as if we jumped too hard, we might fall through. We then tasted the salt. It was salty. Then we turned around a drove back.

Salt Lake City

View Salt Lake City March 2009 in a larger map

The last time I traveled to Utah, I was rafting in Moab, which was amazing. Since I was traveling to Salt Lake for work, I had high hopes it would be beautiful, but not having too much time to be outside, the expectations were a bit lower.

First stop, Temple Square. This is an area in the heart of Salt Lake City, that is owned by the Church of Later Day Saints, commonly known as the Mormon church:

The Temple is of limits to visitors, Mormon or not, and only "Spiritually prepared" people can go in. It was very beautiful.

We walking into the North Visitors' center, and were rushed into a tour that was just departing. The tours are lead by missionaries from all over the world, and they had badges with flags from where they had come from (ours were from Canada, US, and Brazil). Apparently, according to wikipedia:

The visitors' centers and grounds are staffed by sister missionaries, and senior missionary couples exclusively; no single male missionaries are called to serve on Temple Square.
I can only really describe the visitor center as the Epcot center for the church of LDS. The tour lead us through carpeted rooms with stories of the church, with soundtracks and lcds with videos about the church. Very frequently one of the sisters would start her discussion with "I'm grateful to the church because", so it wasn't exactly the museum experience I was looking for.

While everyone was extremely friendly, there was a more of a sense of persuasion rather than description. I thought we were visiting a museum, but I think it is more for recruitment. We were bombarded with cards to evaluate the presentations, and to give out our mailing information, to receive materials. I also didn't get a sense that the sisters, who were no doubt in their early twenties, knew much more than their scripted descriptions.

I asked very plain questions, so as to not seem too aggressive (which is sometimes difficult for me), and straightforward answers were not forthcoming. For example, why there were no women Apostles or Prophets? This is a question I assumed, incorrectly, that this young woman might have contemplated. She had no answer, and changed the subject. I assumed that a tour guide at a facility like this would be able to answer questions such as that in a more confident and compelling way.

The rest of Temple square was very clean, and well maintained, with some ornate fountains and other buildings.