July 10: Utah-kin’ to Me?

After beating the heat of Grand Junction, we continued our westward journey, and if you think Mike stopped pointing out cool rocks, you’d be incorrect. We know, we know, you get it, the west has cool rocks, enjoy some pictures from the road below. What did make this stretch more interesting was that we were meeting with an alum in Manti, UT who provided some cool insights and view suggestions along the way, like the San Rafael Swell, which is admittedly hard to miss.

Don White ’74 is a retired exploration geologist, who spent his career traveling around the world doing field work to help find minerals and resources for different companies. He has since settled down in Manti with his wife, Loretta. They welcomed us with enthusiasm, Don nearly dancing as we pulled down the street, and a small “Ephs moooove it” sign on his mailbox. A refreshing lunch (complete with delicious watermelon juice) was prepared and we got to hear about Don’s travels, love of hiking and adventure, and deep appreciation for the breadth of his Williams education, particularly as it relates to the Geosciences department. The joy of making such a small touchpoint (we doubled the number of alums in the area) and the warmth we received was wonderful, a consistent theme. Don invites anyone passing by to say hello, so if you find yourself in the area, reach out and they’d be happy to connect with other alums! We said our “Until next time” and set our sights on Salt Lake City.

The heat has been wild out here. We got recommendations from Don about a road to take with scenic views that adds a little time to our trip but decided to take the slightly faster route because of the intense haze around everything. We thought it was fog while driving as the mountains were well hidden along the route. Other than that, it was pretty smooth sailing.

We made it to the Natural History Museum of Utah to meet with Linda Aaron ’85, who serves as the Youth Development Programs Manager. The museum exterior was beautiful, complete with foothills as a backdrop (Mike mistakenly labelled them mountains, but that is the Berkshire “mountain” experience talking). Linda chatted with us about her work with youth, told us about the rattlesnakes that tend to be around, the importance of her community networks of friends and family, coming to Williams from Salt Lake and gaining exposure to new people and lifestyles, and shared a bit about personal challenges she navigated a few years back. We will leave the details for when we share the interview as we think it best comes from her. Linda was humbled and grateful to share her story as someone who has been a bit out of the Williams loop recently. She also apparently has a dog that we unfortunately did not get to meet in person, but we got a photo and gosh is it a cute pup.

We wrapped up our time in Salt Lake with a guest appearance from one of Mike’s cousins and his family. We had a lovely dinner of tacos in a local park and Juan felt more relaxed than he had in a while, nearly falling asleep on a blanket while there. That was a cue that we should hit the road to West Wendover soon.

Every person we talked to today, including Mike’s cousin, asked, “Why West Wendover?” We mostly picked it as a nice midpoint between Salt Lake City and Reno/the West Coast. We didn’t really get what all the questioning was about since we mostly just get to campgrounds and clock out, but the lights and casinos made it very understandable why everyone questioned it. We did not gamble Nelly away, don’t worry. Just a couple hours to a land of bright lights over the Utah border – and strangely the only town in Nevada not in the Pacific Time Zone.


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