Jay Meehan: Latter-day reconnaissance
Park Record columnist
“That border crossing feeling makes a fool out of a man.” —Billy Joe Shaver
We crossed into the void somewhere between the Upper Cretaceous and lower Tertiary. Hopefully, history would remember us as a somewhat industrious bunch, but never mind. We left as if shot out of a cannon.
As the designated navigator, I had been allowed to concoct an Irish-influenced, caffeine-rich “road coke” so as to better visualize the reddish browns of the exposed Echo Canyon Conglomerate that would funnel us into Evanston. Think of the “Melange” from Frank Herbert’s novel “Dune.”
We were off to see Stan Taggart, the wizard of Pete’s Roc N Rye Saloon along the old Lincoln Highway on the outskirts of town. It’s been our very own “Think Tank” for as long as most of us can remember, and we would not be deterred from taking the pulse of the planet.
As an expedition, we weren’t necessarily out to contribute to the already gathered and collated geologic and geographic databases of the great American West. Nor would this be strictly a socio-cultural foray into our respective hearts of darkness. As, with our forbearers, grog and vision would play a large role.
We were, however, it being Pioneer Day weekend and all, planning to use up every last bit of behavioral license such a commemoration affords. We would completely make it up as we went along. Not that there wouldn’t be at least minimal structure to our general nosing around.
Did I mention that Pete’s Roc N Rye is the Costco of refueling stops? From spiritual to musical, from philosophical to cosmological, from cinematic to literary, from beer to booze, bulk orders of all persuasions are available to top-off any configuration of thirsty tanks.
Plus, there’s that legendary jukebox, of course. You want obscure bluegrass, blues, country, rock, folk, or hybrids thereof? The actual building blocks for what’s now termed “Americana” in their original 45-rpm vinyl attire? Well, let me tell you. This is the place!
It’s been a spell since I actually witnessed a decent competition of “floor darts” within those hallowed walls, however. Flipping “plumbers friends” for accuracy upon a court of linoleum tiles seems to have become a lost art. Whoda thunkit?
Over the decades of yore, Stan’s joint easily became the Wimbledon, the St. Andrews, dare say the “pitch” at Rugby School in England, of the admittedly arcane sport. Fashioned from whole cloth by a somewhat short and inebriated Stetson-bearing cowpoke from Utah, it enjoyed a heyday easily comparable to that of uneven-stilt dancing.
Suffice to say, time spent in Pete’s is never subtracted from one’s allotted time on Earth. It’s like Spring Training for even the most unimaginable pursuits.
Say, for instance, you were planning a return backdoor trip to Hebertown utilizing maximum mileage upon seldom-driven dirt byways with the most visual bang for your buck. When you’re going for a record, you can never have too many qualifiers tacked on to the end of an event description.
Well, there’s no better place to get into “game shape” for such an endeavor than Stan’s joint. Prior to embarking upon such a challenging undertaking, however, various forms of elbow bending are required in order to properly negotiate the sharper curves at the other end of the bar. Training is everything.
As testimony to our incessant workouts of the night before, not one of us nodded out the following day along the road from the Mirror Lake Highway through Soapstone Basin to the western slope of Wolf Creek Pass.
The same could be said of our subsequent route off of Wolf Creek, past Mill Hollow and its reservoir of holiday-motivated, freshly-stocked albino trout and on up to Lake Creek Summit. From there, of course, the descent options are wide and varied.
You got your Strawberry Creek, Cobble Creek, West Fork of the Duchesne, Center Creek and Lake Creek. It’s drainage rich up in them parts and a quite suitable locale to reflect upon the peril-filled reconnaissance mission you would soon put in your rearview mirror.
Descending Lake Creek into the Heber Valley with that glorious vision of Mount Timpanogos that, in the Lebowski sense, really ties the room together, and a heart full of patriotic pride for a job well done, we pulled out our satisfied smirks and carried on. Grace under pressure never felt so good.
Jay Meehan is a culture junkie and has been an observer, participant and chronicler of the Park City and Wasatch County social and political scenes for more than 40 years.
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