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Honor Flight in Utah

September 24, 2013

Utah – Thursday, September 12

After a good night’s sleep I stopped by the gas station/cafe/souvenir shop/grocery store to have a big omelet and hash brown breakfast before heading into the Utah desert. In my opinion, Great Basin National Park should be right up there with Yellowstone and Glacier and the other big ones. But, the park doesn’t have a fancy lodge or many amenities since it’s off the beaten path, and perhaps that’s part of what makes this a hidden gem. The motel sort of looks like a couple overly long mobile homes, but we stayed there last time we were at the park, and it has everything one needs! I was really happy to be able to visit the park again.

I crossed into Utah and started driving across the desert. They’ve had a lot of rain though, and there had been some flooding, and it looked strange to see so much standing water in the desert. After about 100 miles, I came to the town of Delta, where Tula and I got out for a little walking. Then I drove on to Fillmore and did another couple miles of walking. The town of Fillmore was the capital of Utah when it was a territory, and was named after President Millard Fillmore, and I must say this is the first reference I’ve run across for that former president! Even the library is called the President Millard Fillmore library.

My goal for this evening was the town of Richfield, but I stopped to do some walking in the little historic town of Cove Fort first. This turned out to be a large former Mormon fort, and there were missionaries to give tours of the fort, and it was an interesting stop. It was a big fort (a big family lived in it) and there were often visitors, so there were a lot of rooms in the fort. Visitors passing through could pay 50 cents to share a bed with someone (often a total stranger!) and the kitchen was always a busy place. The Mormons baked bread in 5 pound bread pans and they had a nice kitchen garden. They were very thrifty and recycled as much as they could – for example, when the blue and white striped mattress fabric wore out, it was ripped into strips to be woven into rugs; and when the rugs started to wear out they were burned and the ashes were mixed with water to make lye for soap. They also stained some of their hand-built furniture to look like cherry wood – starting with a coat of ox blood, and followed with a coat of buttermilk to reduce the smell of the ox blood. The Mormons also spun their own wool from the sheep. The resulting yarn had to be wound into skeins, and they had a yarn spinner, also called a weasel, to help with the task. The yarn had to be wound around the spinner 30 times, and instead of counting to 30, the spinner made a popping noise when enough yarn had been wound for a skein. This is also thought to be the origin of the child’s nursery rhyme Pop Goes the Weasel (although I don’t know how the mulberry bush and monkey fit in!).

As I was driving through Utah, I noticed all the street signs had a beehive shape on them, and Utah is called the Beehive State. I thought they must make a lot of honey in Utah, but my guide at the fort told me the symbol stands for industry and working together – not a bad motto for a state!

Then I drove on to the town of Richfield where I was going to stop by an informational meeting about establishing an Honor Flight hub in Utah to help transport veterans to Washington DC to see their memorials. I wanted to make a donation to the Honor Flight – I like this organization, especially after seeing the impact that the Mobile Vietnam Memorial had on the people back in Oregon. I hadn’t really planned on staying for the actual meeting, but I got to talking with Dan, Erica and Kay, who were organizing the event, and decided to stay. Dan has led numerous trips to Washington DC with the veterans, and he talked about the logistics of working with large groups of older veterans, and about the sights they see and how meaningful the trips are for the vets. There was also a slide presentation. The trips that he offers are 3 and 4 day trips including flying – they try not to tire everyone out too much. The trips are always completely free for veterans, and if they need a guardian/companion to accompany them, the guardian has to pay their own way. They have an ambitious goal of raising enough money by October to get some matching funds, and hope to take the first trip out later in October. Right now WWII vets get first priority on the trips, then the Korean veterans and then the Vietnam veterans. I was happy to get there in time to make a donation to them, and to hear more about the trips.

The meeting took a while, and the sun set while I was inside. But there was still a little light, and I was lucky to find a bike trail right by the parking lot and the community baseball/soccer fields (all of which were being used), and Tula and I set off for a couple more miles of walking before it was totally dark.

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