Probing America: High Tech on Back Roads
Day Fifteen Little America, Wyoming, to Twin Falls, Idaho
July 9, 1992
Whether or not one would like to live in, or simply visit a small town is an interesting question. For the better part of today it would have been difficult to gather data, there being next to no towns of any size on our route. For those of you following our return to god's country, we left the truck stop at Little America and within five miles turned west on highway 30. This got us to the little town of Kemmerer, totally nondescript now, but in 1902 the site where J.C. Penny opened his first store. The mother store, as it is referred to in the tourist information, probably catered mainly to the influx of coal miners. J.C. did well from the beginning and look what happened. Kemmerer is the most improbable place in the western U.S. to start anything, except a coal mine, so the story is full of hope and encouragement for some of us.
After a long mountain trip beginning at Bear Lake, Utah, and driving through a magnificent 39 mile canyon, we arrived at Logan, Utah. Utah State University has a tidy Mormonesque campus there, and then there is the temple. It has no visible identification. Just some discrete "Please don't smoke signs". One of the troops thought it might be a hospital, but the other knew better.
Logan Utah Temple
It rests, no it reigns, atop a steep hill in the town. The building is made of pink stone, capped with two wooden domes. It is probably 10-15 stories high, not what one would expect to find in a town of 20,000 plus. Finally finding the front door of a new annex, we, dressed in shorts and T shirts, stepped through an elaborate entrance maze, to be greeted by a blond haired man dressed in a white suit wearing a white tie. He smiled, and we knew we were as misplaced as the pope in a synagogue. One of us smiled, and could only utter, "What is it?"
"A temple", he said.
We made it through the maze of exit doors quickly, and approached a gardener who was tending a flower bed. We made some inane inquiry regarding the temple. He smiled and asked if there was something not understandable to us about LDS? He stretched LDS into Latter Day Saints and we said we had a general understanding of the church but little more than that. He told us "they" were all preparing for the better life later on, but for now he was tending the gardens of this magnificent temple. Our talk was cordial and we exchanged information on plants. Then he talked about himself and his religion.
He had spent a couple years in Hillsboro, a Portland suburb, and somewhat embarrassingly referred it to as his old stomping grounds. We asked about the full parking lots around the temple and the people dressed up and carrying suit cases. He told us there were a number of weddings scheduled for today.
"The couples have been called. They are mature, 22 to 25, and know what they desire, and have been approved. This is all preliminary, you know. Life here is just a preparation for the real life here after. That is the glorious time." He had a nearly wild eyed look as he related the LDS mission creed.
We said there is a new LDS temple between Wilsonville and Lake Oswego, Oregon, and he said he knew of it and is saving his sheckles (that's right) to visit it. The gardener went on at some length about LDS, and we tried to divert his attention to describing his flower bed design. Strange, in the end we agreed we were a bit more attune to the Mormon missionary cause, and we thought he was more accepting of visiting outsiders. Reflecting on the interaction tonight, here in rural Twin Falls, we realized we had been conned. He got us!
The virtuous feeling of Logan was lost quickly at what passed for lunch at a horror of a truck stop in Snowville, Utah. It made Little American seem nearly elegant. The rest of the day was spent getting to Twin Falls, Idaho, on I-84. We would definitely like to report that all those politicians that say the country's infrastructure, in this case roads, is falling apart might be on to something. We have observed more than what one would think of rolling and bumping roads. What, we ask, will Clinton, Bush, or Perot do about this.
We thought you might be interested in the Probe correspondents and how their lives have changed the 15 days we have been on the road and corresponding with them. Here are the facts as we know them. Jane, our Chicago correspondent, has traveled to Tucson and has successfully completed her doctoral prelims and is officially an ABD. Pat has traveled from Indiana to Bryn Mawr to participate in a women in administration seminar. After initially having some e-mail difficulties in a new location, she reports the seminar to be a success. Bryan, our New Zealand correspondent, had flu for a week but he and his wife Ann are now following the Loughary/Ripley Wagon Train, as he calls it, in their worn out AAA Atlas and post frequently. They also want to lead the Chenoa Fourth parade next year. Bob and Barbara in Colorado previously lived in Montana and gave us expert information as we traveled that area, and we called them when we were within 100 miles of Denver. Becky and John Robertson wrote from Sydney, Australia, and kept us alert to the activities of their three children. And last but not least, our Eugene correspondents: Suzie had a family health emergency; Sally reported going into the office on the Fourth holiday to feed the bird, but we really know she wanted to hear from us; Donna reported her own image of fields and fields of corn as she remembered her own I-80 experience. It seems from your e-mail that for most of you we triggered past travel experiences, or poignant descriptions of how you, too, react to family and school reunions. We have all your "letters" and will reread them after we are home.