Saturday, May 16th (Day Six)
Saturday was booked solid with fun plans. Perhaps too booked, as it ended up taking quite a toll on me. By the time Saturday's festivities came to an end, I had one of the worst headaches I have had in a very long time. I not only took some acetaminophen (quite rare for me), but I even took an early evening nap purely to escape the headache's incessant throbbing. There were many ups and downs on the way to this headache, of course. The first real plan of the day was to hit one of our favorite Utah lunch spots, The Bagelry, which easily has the best bagels, the best cream cheeses, and consequentially, the best bagel sandwiches I've ever tasted. The last time we were in Utah, Melanie and I noticed that The Bagelry located by the first apartment we lived in after we got married had closed down, and so we decided to hit the original (or, at least, original to us) Bagelry location, located near the University and very near to apartments that either Melanie or I had lived in at some time while we were students at the U. When we arrived at this older Bagelry location, however, we discovered to our great dismay that this Bagelry too had closed down. We have since looked into it, and apparently The Bagelry no longer exists. This was one of the truly devastating moments of our vacation. Of all the Utah eateries we miss, this is one of the most irreplaceable. While you can find bagel sandwiches in any town, nothing has proved similar enough to The Bagelry to placate our cravings. Our hearts mourned. But, seeing as how our tummies still growled, we headed down the street to another Utah favorite, Cafe Rio, which over the last several years has exploded all over the Salt Lake Valley. Though we have hit Cafe Rio more than almost any other Utah establishment during our visits of the last few years, I am glad we went again. I had the barbecued pork burrito, enchilada style, smothered in mild green sauce and melted cheese. This was my first Cafe Rio love, but something I haven't ordered in at least a couple of years. It was a joyous and delectable reunion. It filled a gaping hole in my heart after the travesty of The Bagelry.
After lunch, Melanie and I took the kids to the downtown Salt Lake City Library, which has been nationally recognized for its architectural design. (It is something like a glass coliseum.) We thought Eddie in particular would be thrilled by the glass elevator and the expansive children's book area, which features “caves” and loft-like play areas in the walls. Peter ended up liking it quite a bit too, as there was plenty of room for him to crawl around and to climb on things. After exploring the interior of the library, we took to the roof and descended the outdoor stairs back to the ground level, taking in the beautiful backdrop of SLC's east side. Edison was sad when we told him we were leaving, so the visit must have been a success. (This was evidenced again after we returned to Tallahassee and, upon announcing that we were going to the library one morning, Edison asked if it was the one with the elevators. He was crestfallen when we told him “no.”)
It was then time to head to the birthday party of my little sister, Khrystine, who had turned 21 the day after we arrived in Salt Lake City. She had invited most people for whom she had any positive feelings, and so the party became quite crowded. I got to visit with my oldest sister (she's nearly 40!), whom I haven't seen in about a year and a half, and I downed a couple of pieces of pizza and some soft drinks despite the fact that I wasn't really hungry. After a short while, the crowd took its toll on me and the headache set in. The kids were getting overwhelmed too, and so we decided it was time to leave. In typical fashion, I neglected to take any photos while large groups of family members were joined together. Sheesh!
Sunday, May 17th
My niece, Gina, had a baby, Hunter, 11 days after Peter was born. Sunday was designated as the day to celebrate Hunter’s birthday, which meant heading to yet another house chock full of family members. Fortunately, this party was only for family members, seeing as how one-year-old Hunter has yet to make a ton of non-familial friends, and it took place at a house that had a bit more room to navigate. It made for a much calmer experience, even if it was a more hectic situation than we’re used to facing on a day-to-day basis. I got a few photos this time around, but it was difficult to get anything of superb quality. Here's a few of the better ones, nonetheless.
An aunt, a niece, and first cousins once removed (according to this Wikipedia flowchart).
Monday, May 18th
Monday was our final full day in Utah. We still needed to do a couple of the main things on our Utah to-do list, and so in the early afternoon, we headed to The Living Planet Aquarium. The Living Planet is a modest-sized aquarium, easily put to shame by aquariums of the kind you would find in Atlanta but costing between one-fourth and one-third of the admission price. (My student ticket was $7, versus the $26 ticket I would have to purchase to get into the Georgia Aquarium.) Though a humble aquarium, it was better suited for our young children, who can only appreciate so much. This is especially true for Edison, who grows antsy if standing in one place for more than a few minutes. As Melanie’s mother (who accompanied us) pointed out as we left the aquarium, it was the perfect size for Eddie. Had it required more of his time or energy, it would have been too much. He—and we—had had enough by the time we left the building.
While the Living Planet does not have anything more exotic than smaller-sized sharks—no dolphins or penguins, for example—there were some highlights. In fact, the sharks were among Eddie's favorites. He spent a while staring into the shark tank and waiting patiently for them to circulate back past the glass whenever they'd disappear from sight, which was a majority of the time. Eddie also enjoyed climbing through the little rock tunnels set up just for kids his size in a kind of play area near the end of the museum. Finally, being a huge fan of kittens in general, Edison was quite excited by the catfish with its long whiskers. I myself enjoyed petting the southern stingrays at the touch pool, was fascinated by the Technicolor-inspired and aptly named purple lobster, and tingled gleefully when I placed my fingertips on two metal nubs that were designed to emulate the shock of a small electric eel. Actually, the latter was more interesting than entertaining. I couldn’t get myself to touch the nubs for more than a fraction of a second. Melanie said if you held on, the shock turned to numbness rather quickly. While I am at the low-end for electricity tolerance, Melanie’s mom is apparently immune to electricity. She was the first to touch the metal nubs and was convinced they weren’t working. After Melanie and I assured her it was, she tried again and again, ever claiming not to feel the slightest bit of anything. I’m not sure if we should be amused by this or just worried.
A final museum story: at the end of the museum, just outside the gift shop which one must unavoidably pass through in order to vacate the premises, there is a small theater showing documentary-like underwater footage. Edison insisted on entering the “movie theater,” and once we had seated ourselves inside, he asked if we were going to get popcorn. As Melanie pointed out, I guess he's been a bit spoiled.
That night, Melanie and I took Eddie and Peter to their first baseball game. On the way, we hit our final Utah restaurant, Hires Big H, a classic diner-style burger joint that still features carside service. We didn't think Edison or Peter would appreciate carside service quite yet, and so we chose to eat in the dining room. We ordered frosty mugs of root beer, a large order of cheese-fries, and I had a bacon Roquefort cheeseburger. The food at Hires Big H is nothing I would call “sensational,” but it's good and the atmosphere is fun and family-friendly. We had a good time.
I'm not sure what Eddie's initial thoughts about going to the baseball game were. At first, he asked if we were going to be playing baseball ourselves, and he was a bit disappointed that we weren't. Once we were in the ballpark and seated in our seats, he seemed to warm up to the experience, although we weren't close enough to home plate for him to be captivated by the actual ball-playing itself. I thought, if he could see it, he might enjoy watching the ball get tossed around. Instead, he liked the jumbo screen that occasionally displayed the goings-on of the game, he liked finding familiar logos (such as that for Best Buy) on the wall advertisements surrounding the field, and he liked the “train” that drove around the perimeter of the ballpark, giving rides to those who were seated in the grass area. But the most exciting thing for Edison was simply the applause. Whenever the crowd clapped, hooted, or hollered, Edison would look at us excitedly and begin clapping himself. The reason for the applause was irrelevant; Eddie was more than happy to join in the celebration, no questions asked.
Sadly, I couldn't snap any photos at the game. Normal folk (i.e. non-journalists) are forbidden from bringing cameras into the ballpark … which is really lame, given that almost everybody (except us) now has a camera built into their non-forbidden cell phone.
Tuesday, May 19th (Day Nine)
The vacation comes to a close. By 11:30 a.m., we are heading to the airport. Fortunately we have a few minutes to play around in the morning. We enjoy a final visit to Grandma and Grandpa's backyard, where Edison and Peter enjoy swinging on the swings and jumping (with some help) on the trampoline.
And that's that. The plane ride back to Tallahassee was a bit more challenging than the ride out, but it felt shorter, which was nice. I assume it's at least partially because the longer of our two flights came first. This seems to help immensely. Even still, I'm glad we're yet again done with plane travel for another year or so. Here's to Utah 2010....