Teri Orr: The meditation of many miles, part one
The car is happy again. I know this. I have neglected her for months with only the smallest of excursions — to the market and post office and gas station. Three years old and she had only 20,000 miles on her. Which screams failure to me — not great trade-in value. When I left Park City on a Thursday, the car was clean and road ready. When I returned and drove through the car wash the following Thursday — there was red dust everywhere. And it came off all the outside surfaces but in the wheel wells and running boards and the carpeted floor in the backseat — there is still red dust. I hope it lasts all winter.
I started in Blanding for three days of exploring secret, steep, rocky paths within the Bears Ears (former) National Monument area with a Hopi guide arranged by the sister of my heart. That story is part two. I left there and took Charles Hall Ferry across Lake Powell to Bullfrog and climbed (in the car this time) up the Burr Trail, inside the boundaries of the twin declassified monument — Grand Staircase Escalante. I was headed to Boulder. My happy place for almost 20 years.
The Boulder Mountain Lodge, owned by Dave Mock, is a model of tranquility and civility. It includes an 11-acre bird refuge where I have seen the most elegant and sassy creatures exchange conversations and flight plans for so many years. The cattails and willows sway with the sunflowers and hollyhocks. It is a kind of sophisticated rustic without pretense. And the famed Hell’s Backbone Grill restaurant grew there about 20 years ago. Two women determined to create a respite with recipes from the best of the southwest. It was pretty much farm to table from the start because they sit in the most remote town in the lower 48 states with about 180 people. Garfield county with 5,000 square miles is home to about 5,000 people. Lots of open space in the red dust of the red state. Lots of ranchers … and these two female restaurateurs.
There is no confusion when you drive off the pavement of Highway 12 onto the gravel driveway that you have entered a blue zone. There are signs — Black Lives Matter and Biden and Harris and for their Congressional district Kael Weston — a name that was new to me. The staff reflect the signs — they are a rainbow of interesting kind humans.
On my first night dining there was a kerfuffle on the patio. It had to do with issues of white privilege and supremacy. Service was refused. The whole restaurant was engaged in the unappetizing debate of prejudice. The unwelcome patrons stayed at their table for almost two hours with no food or drink until they were finally encouraged to leave. It was tense and uncharacteristic of the refuge but not the times.
Night Two was idyllic. First, I stumbled into a farm meeting about how to wind things down for the season — a kinda tie up the horses and lock up the liquor conversation with the small tight-knit family of employees. Then, dinner with my friends who have created this magical place. I had a southwestern beef chili stew and a side of perfect fall weather. And the surprise to each of us — the arrival of the daughter I did not give birth to and her husband — who had run away for a night from their home in Kanab and ended up at the restaurant as I was sitting on the porch.
My final evening took a switch when I was invited to be part of a small 10-person dinner with congressional candidate — representing District 2 — Kael Weston. A Utah blue guy that is so exciting and principled that I want to vote for him. Twice. But I can’t at all since he doesn’t represent Summit County. Weston was born of pioneer stock from Milford. He graduated from the University of Utah in political science in ’96. Then received a master’s from Cambridge, was a Fulbright scholar in Amsterdam — and worked on his PhD at the London School of Economics. He spent seven years in Iraq and Afghanistan in “one of the most dangerous assignments of any State Department officer worldwide” — according to his commander, Robert Ford. He never carried a weapon he said — just a notebook. But here’s where it gets especially interesting for me. Yes — he was on the ground at the Battle of Fallujah but he also wrote for Tina Brown at the Daily Beast, and New York Times and just in December — he published a book, “The Mirror Test,” which the NYT selected as an Editor’s Choice and Military Times chose as Best Book of the Year. And I have since discovered he did a “Fresh Air” segment with my NPR hero, Terry Gross. Be still my heart.
And all those things would have been enough to make him — at 48 — a pretty interesting dinner companion but because I am convinced Park City is cosmic velcro in the universe, there was the “just dessert.” When he learned I lived here he confessed he used to volunteer … at KPCW. He said it was in the days of the basement at the Marsac and he was living in Cottonwood Canyon. He would drive the dirt road (Guardsman) over to deejay in the late-night slot. When I asked him why he did that — he said simply “because it was the only place where I could listen to the BBC.”
Weston had his assistant Tyler with him — who also served in Afghanistan but didn’t know Kael there. When Tyler learned about my role presenting talent for years, he asked me who was the hardest to book and what was my favorite night. I confessed — it was one in the same — Edward Snowden. Then we chewed on the politics of intelligence and should Snowden be returned to the States and stand trial.
When I left that dinner table, comforted with delicious conversations, I wandered to my room under the protected dark skies. I didn’t know all the names of what I was seeing but the stars filled me with awe. When I woke up at 4 a.m. — I did as I had been encouraged earlier — I wrapped up and went outside on the grass, next to the pond and looked up at the Orionids meteor showers. There were shooting stars — everywhere.
I knew I had also just met one at dinner.
If you know anyone in the giant second district who hasn’t yet voted — encourage them to give Weston a lookover. He wants to keep serving his country. It would be honorable for us to find a place for him at all the tables. And regardless of this election outcome — I am gonna encourage Kael to come up and see how KPCW has changed but the BBC is still right here for the listening — each Sunday in the Park…
Teri Orr is a former editor of The Park Record. She is the founder of the Park City Institute, which provides programming for the George S. and Dolores Doré Eccles Center for the Performing Arts.
Correction: An earlier version of this article misstated the name of the Charles Hall Ferry.
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