All I want is sleep. I parked the endlessly rolling tires on Wednesday and it’s taken some adjustment to realize my bed isn’t temporary and that the earth isn’t humming underneath. I wake up around 5:30, thinking of my new resolution to get up each day at 7:30, then snuggle in a little deeper, saying a silent thanks to the powers that be that I have two more hours before the phone alarm screams through the silence. I’ve plugged it in across the room, so I’ll be forced to actually get out of bed to shut it off. I know the only thing that will soothe the shock, the jolting awake, will be a similar jolt of gourmet caffeine from the ever-ready press pot, easing the transition from horizontal to vertical reality.
My friend Chris says that night-time is for creativity; that it doesn’t really come off during the day. Kind of like day drinking, I’d suggested. Exactly, he agreed. I think of my late night on Tuesday and the frenzied surge of ideas and jottings before I finally surrendered to slumber, at 2:23 a.m.
I wonder if he was talking about Utah.
Because Utah does its damnedest to prevent both day and night drinking, or carousing of any kind. A misguided municipal attempt to foster creativity? Doubtful. I spend an awful lot of time in Utah for someone who hits their stride after dark. Not that I keep passing through looking for live music, or theater, or unlimited pool but in the course of a road trip and a long day’s drive, it’d be nice to have somewhere to go past 9 o’clock. Tuesday night at 10:14 p.m., I was at the Bon Bon Inn in Kanab, Utah, propped up against every pillow from both queen beds and half-heartedly changing channels with the low-tech remote. There was nothing on TV, and nowhere to go. I was restless and wide awake, my thoughts racing like the worn out tires I’d replaced earlier in the day.
A few hours ago, I’d walked around town and found a restaurant open past 8. The Rockin V Café was a pleasant surprise, an oasis amongst fast-food restaurants and Native American roadside curio stands offering turquoise, blankets and beef jerky. The menu offered organic and hormone-free fare, risotto and quinoa and deep-dish enchilada with squash, purple onions, zucchini and pepper jack cheese, all served with bohemian flare amidst paintings, sculptures and photographs.
I even found a full-strength margarita, with Triple Sec, before they closed up for the night.
After dinner I stopped by the Movie Museum, free and still open, commemorating Clint Eastwood, John Wayne and the numerous western legends who’d passed through town to film numerous legendary western films. More movies than Utah towns with liquor have been made in Kanab: The Outlaw Josey Wales and Gunsmoke both unfold against the looming red rock and the harsh desert air. I took a self-portrait with a silhouetted gunfighter and turned the flash off. The blue backdrop of the old west façade looked eerie and ominous, like it must have looked in those tense moments preceding a real gunfight.
Nightlife and alcohol weren’t that important, really; after so much time climbing, camping and generally passing through Utah over the past 15 years, I’d grown used to endangered normality. It was more about principle and free choice. The fact that a strong beer or a stiff drink are so damn hard to find, is what makes them so beguiling.
There’s just something about Utah that makes you want to break the law.
And find a strong cup of coffee.
Tuesday’s drive had been long and hot and scarce, with worthy caffeine stops as significant as historical markers. They were most definitely Points of Interest, reasons to veer off the road and follow the signs: .2 miles to Indian Writing; .4 miles to Dinosaur Tracks. .7 miles to sustenance in a cup and the will to drive another 8 hours before dark. In Greater Utah, a decent coffee shop rivals Bryce or Zion as a major tourist destination.
I’d counted 11 “Espresso” signs between Loa, Utah and the somewhat more amenity-ridden Kanab, all taunting me in dark windowsills behind locked doors. I began to think they were props for newer western facades, that these cafes weren’t actually real and that the espresso signs were set out to make the towns look legit. I stopped for a hot, mid-day hike at Calf Creek campground, down a meandering desert trail to a cascading waterfall which roared down from a great sandstone wall. I waded to the center of the lagoon and looked up at yet another natural wonder splashing across the Utah skyline, one of the many reasons that keep me coming back to this oddly foreign land.
Three hours later, beat down from the sun and in need of a cool, non-alcoholic beverage, I made my way back to the highway and headed up the road. In just 20 minutes, the Kiwi Koffeehouse appeared around the bend, another oasis in the desert, beckoning toward the pullout for a cool iced latte in the 91-degree afternoon heat.
It was only a mirage. Closed on Tuesdays, the sign said. Thou shalt not drink coffee on Tuesdays.
Today is Thursday. The phone screams across my loft, as I knew it would, the alarm rudely interrupting my sound early morning sleep. I roll over towards the wall as I always do, adjusting to the light and letting the alarm do its thing before I decide to get out of bed and push Dismiss. I remember that I’m home and the bed is my own. There’s no bag to pack, no check-out time and downstairs, there’s a full bag of KGBlend on the counter and fresh half-and-half in the refrigerator. I find the courage to stand up