Amy Roberts: The Great American Tour
When you live in Park City, it’s inevitable you will spend time playing tour guide, or host, or local expert on some level. You will make recommendations, offer advice, give directions and participate in some activity considered “touristy.” In some way, we are all marketing this town. This isn’t foreign to me. But marketing life in America? That was different.
I’ve spent the last month with a dear friend of mine who has only ever lived and traveled in sub-Sahara Africa. Jami is a safari guide, now living in Tanzania. We met in Botswana a few years ago and have kept in touch, making an effort to see each other when I’m on that side of the world. At some point during my last safari with him, we decided to travel to Antarctica together, and that’s where we spent most of March. He was able to extend his travels and join me in Park City this past week for his first trip to America, which was equally entertaining for both of us.
I started his vacation here in my typical “Park City sales” mode. Our itinerary included skiing, sledding, snowshoeing, apres ski drinks on Main Street, a massage at Align Spa, bobsledding at the Utah Olympic Park, dinner at the Viking Yurt, looking for moose and other wildlife along the way. Considering Jami’s equatorial roots, these are all things I assumed he’d marvel at. Instead, he wanted to go to a Walmart. And a gun store. And drink a Big Gulp filled with soda. He wanted to experience life in America, in the way American life has been portrayed to him.
So, we did it all; all these things. I showed him the best of Park City, and arguably the more questionable side of America.
He also wanted to eat all the foods. We’re both vegan, but where he lives in Tanzania, plant-based options are often limited to what you grow. The nearest market can be hours away, and it’s unlikely you’ll find more than one brand of any given item. He was on a mission to gorge himself on every possible vegan food available in the United States.
We started simple — veggie burgers and different meat-alternative options. This quickly escalated into a dozen different vegan cheeses, and gave way to a variety of fried foods, which turned into a cart full of chips, candies, cookies and doughnuts that claimed to come from some type of vegetable. After seven full days of our “no carb left behind” tour, I’m pretty sure my friend’s only souvenir from the States is Type 2 diabetes. Which is ironically the most sensical part of our month together.
When Jami and I met, we immediately bonded over the unique realization that things that happen to us don’t happen to normal people. We share an absurd reality. Buy even knowing this, nothing could have prepared us for the month we just experienced. Every time we said, “It can’t get crazier,” the universe was like, “Hold my beer and watch this.”
It started with him taking the scenic route to Antarctica, which included an unexpected flight to Istanbul from Arusha. Sometimes the airlines hear “Turkey” instead of “Chile.” Then we got left on an iceberg in Antarctica and spent a solid hour hoping global warming was taking a break as we awaited rescue. A number of eye-popping situations developed after this, none of which are suitable for print. From there we spent a few days in Patagonia, where I randomly ran into an old college boyfriend in Torres del Paine. We came back to Park City where we doubled down on the bizarre to include rescuing a dog we saw on the highway and crashing what we were certain was a meth lab when we took it home.
As I drove him to the airport on Monday, I was a little sad, knowing it might be a year or even more before we see one another again. He nodded in agreement and then confirmed what I have always known, “The universe brought us together. And it purposefully put us on opposite ends of the planet for the benefit of all the other inhabitants.”
Amy Roberts is a freelance writer, longtime Park City resident and the proud owner of two rescued Dalmatians, Stanley and Willis. Follow her on Twitter @amycroberts.
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Columnist Tom Clyde has been unable to nab a ski reservation so far, so instead he’s catching up on all the important animal-related news going on in the world.