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Sunday, September 18, 2011

Shakespeare and Red Rocks

Another road trip  (still here in America) with another old friend. This time to Cedar City, Utah with Jane, another fun former coworker. She's the one I'd call from a restaurant table and say, "Hey, I'm about to order Sunday brunch. Come and join me." And she would. Once, another friend and I were waiting inside the theater for "An Inconvenient Truth" to start and realized we should've invited Jane because of her extreme interest in global warming. We called her, said she had ten minutes, and she showed up just as the lights dimmed. But now she lives in Las Vegas, so I have to plan ahead a bit more when I want to see her. So we picked Cedar City, halfway in between us (approximately). And believe it or not, Cedar City, Utah is known regionally for its excellent Shakespeare festival.

 Over a long weekend, we saw three plays, one of them Shakespeare.

Our first was "The Music Man," at 2:00 on Friday afternoon. We planned to meet at noon at the Comfort Suites Hotel, check in and put on nicer clothes, then go for a leisurely lunch before the play. All the road construction I drove through on my road trip to Phoenix and Tucson was still there, and they'd added more farther south, so I calculated I'd be 40 minutes late. I called Jane to let her know and she sounded breezy and unconcerned and said she was on her way and had plenty of time. At 12:50 I was changing my clothes at the Comfort Suites in Cedar City, but saw no sign of Jane. I called her and she said she'd stopped in St. George to have her air conditioner checked and she'd be along soon and don't worry, she still had plenty of time. I said, "Jane, it's after 1:00. The play is at 2:00." Jane said, "What!!??"

The border between Utah and Nevada is a ripple in the cosmos. Everything is different on either side, mostly in terms of the seven deadly sins--they're all legal in Nevada and illegal (or at least highly regulated) in Utah. Plus, Utah has added more, like smoking. We're up to about 11 or 12 deadly sins now. Another thing different on either side of the border is the time zone, and it's been awhile since Jane lived in Utah and she was blissfully dawdling along in Pacific Time where it is one hour earlier than at the Shakespeare festival.

I went to a fast food taco place to grab a burrito to carry with me over to the festival grounds. I noticed a two-for-one special, so I bought one for Jane, too, figuring she wouldn't have time to stop for lunch. I went to the festival box office and picked up all our tickets. Then I found a picnic table outside and ate my burrito. I was tracking Jane's progress by cell phone and knew she was getting closer. Ten minutes before "The Music Man" started, I was in front of the theater waving my arms at Jane down at the corner by the parking lot. She breezed up with at least three minutes to spare and I handed her a foil-wrapped burrito, which she hid inside her purse to save for intermission.

We really enjoyed the play. This one turned out to be our favorite. Over the next two days, we also saw "Noises Off" and "Romeo and Juliet." We were both a bit bored by acts one and three of "Noises Off," but laughed throughout Act 2. We both enjoyed "Romeo and Juliet," except for the sad ending. We both thought the lead actors were a bit bland for their roles. The actor who played Mercutio had more charisma and looked better in his stretchy velvet pants than Romeo. Which is not to say that all the young men didn't look good in their stretchy velvet pants.

Half of the fun of "Romeo and Juliet" was watching it in the Elizabethan Theater, sitting almost outdoors on a beautiful summer evening. I have no pictures of the inside of this theater because of the young usher who really wants to be a policeman and was zealously ensuring that nobody took any pictures even before the play began.

When we reached our seats in the balcony, our neighbors were buzzing about this usher. He had just jumped out behind the woman sitting next to me and yelled at her for taking a picture of the empty stage and the audience. They pointed him out, now standing in front of the stage. He was scanning the audience and occasionally darting to different rows and yelling at other unsuspecting patrons. I'm thinking now Jane and I should have approached him at intermission and asked if he'd take our picture.

Next day, we headed out to look for petroglyphs at a place north of town called Parowan Gap. I'd pulled directions from the internet, and directed Jane in circles all over the edges of Cedar City while I misinterpreted the directions. So we stopped for an early lunch at Lefty's Hideaway, a great Mexican restaurant.

Jane and Lefty. She's totally left Utah behind and is now much more on the Vegas side of the cosmic divide.

We chatted with the waitress about Parowan Gap and she gave us another set of directions. Then Jane took charge and drove us straight to the petroglyphs.

They are thought to have been made by Fremont and Paiute people in their yearly travels through the gap. This site is different from most petroglyph sites in that it includes few human or animal figures. These petroglyphs seem to be all about counting, with lots of geometric figures composed of tic marks or dots or series of lines.

This one is called the Zipper. Its shape seems to match the shape of...

...the Parowan Gap, which is a narrow slot through the Red Hills. (You could see the matching shape better if only I had taken this photo from the other side of the road.)

The theory is that the tic marks on the Zipper are a diagram of the sun's position every day at sunset. At the solstice and on some other days, the sun shines through the Gap and illuminates various petroglyphs. Of course, we're all just speculating now, so long after the artists and astronomers have come and gone. You can click here and here and here to read more about the petroglyphs and the solar calendar theory. The mystery is part of why I love petroglyphs so much. 

 How did they get up there? I love petroglyphs, and this site is beautiful.

Hey! This one looks like Hello Kitty!

We saw a few later additions, mostly from the late 1800's, and the one at lower left from 1939. A woman walked past Jane, intent on finding this "very old" cross. When Jane commented that the other petroglyphs were much older, she became angry and wanted to argue. At which point Jane just sort of said, "uh huh" and got away from her. Not sure what that was all about.

Sunday morning we got an earlier start and headed up into the mountains to Cedar Breaks National Monument. This is the perfect place to get a little taste of red rock if you don't have time to go all the way over to Bryce Canyon National Park. 

 It's a beautiful sandstone bowl eroded out of the landscape.

You can see Cedar City off in the distance at the top of the picture. Well, sort of. It's not that big of a town.

 Jane mentioned a fear of heights when we decided to hike the rim trail. But then she kept walking right up to the cliff edge to get pictures!

 The wildflowers were fabulous everywhere they had dirt to grow in. Here are some Columbine along the trail.

 See that white promontory on the left? That's Spectra Point, where we stopped for lunch.

 A beautiful little stand of bristlecone pines grows on and around Spectra Point. The world's oldest living organism is a bristlecone pine over 2,000 years old  (not here, over in Nevada on the other side of the cosmic divide).

The oldest bristlecone in Cedar Breaks is around 1,600 years old. So that's still old enough to cast quite an aura, tree-wise. We sat in the shade of this one for lunch.

During lunch, we discussed at length whether or not to continue on to the Ramparts Overlook. The discussion consisted mostly of me worrying about being too out-of-shape to make it all the way out and back. But neither of us wanted to leave this beautiful place on such a beautiful day, so we kept walking.

 What fear of heights? Here's Jane photographing the Ramparts.

 And here are the Ramparts.

On the way back, the light had shifted to a warm afternoon glow, and everything looked different than it had when we passed an hour or two earlier. Sunlight and sandstone can produce a million different colors.

Also on the way back, I realized that we were already halfway from Cedar City to Mt. Carmel Junction. This was important because when I drove home from Arizona a few weeks ago, I was looking for Maynard Dixon's house somewhere in the vicinity of Mt. Carmel. He painted wonderful southwest landscapes in the 1930's. I'd caught a glimpse of a sign saying his house was there, and intended to visit on the way home, but missed the sign as I drove by. But Jane--just like my friend Tami down in Tucson-- has a smart phone. We'd planned to both head home Monday morning. But when I asked Jane if she had to be back at work on Monday, she said no and was immediately interested in whatever entertainment I might propose. So right along the Cedar Breaks rim trail, she pulled out her smart phone, hooked up to the internet, and found out the location and tour information for Maynard Dixon's house. And we scheduled ourselves for an extra half day of vacation on Monday morning.

I did make it safely back to the trailhead, happy and thirsty. We tried to buy diet Coke at the visitor center, but all they had was bottled water, so we had to be healthy. At least it was cold! 

Back in the car, we completed the scenic rim drive, stopping at all the overlooks...

 ...and by the side of the road for this field of wildflowers.

Monday morning required an earlier start, which we accomplished. We ate the quick free breakfast at the hotel, checked out and hit the road. I drove across the mountains east to Mt. Carmel and slowed down while we both looked for some sign of Maynard Dixon's house.

I drove past it again. Yes, now I can see the bright red sign. But it's small and not all that visible from the highway.

But we stopped at a little hotel in town and the owner gave us more exact directions and we found the place. The Thunderbird Foundation maintains the property and offers artists' retreats and other activities there. We paid for our $10 self-guided tour at an enormous, brand-new log house nearby. There was a small art gallery, too, but maybe it was just getting started, because it had only a few offerings, and disappointingly little by or about Dixon. The Dixon property is a short walk and another world away. Dixon and his third wife, Edith Hamlin, bought the property in 1938.

They completed this small log house in 1939 and then spent summers here, no doubt to escape the heat of Tucson, where they spent the rest of the year.

 The house is lovely inside, and seems authentic to its time, with the exception of the kitchen that's undergone some 1970's type updates. The print above the fireplace is one of  Dixon's.

Several prints hang in the house and studio, but they are very cheap, poor quality. Which I guess is good when you let random tourists like us wander through unaccompanied.

The property is peaceful and lovely. I almost wanted to sign up for an artist's retreat myself. But I think they're looking for actual artists for that. You can click here to read more about Dixon and see photos of some of his compelling paintings.

Edith completed this studio in 1947, after Maynard had passed away.

It was inspired by the Anasazi culture and by Frank Lloyd Wright's Taliesin West, which I visited in Phoenix with my cousin Chris. It's much smaller than Taliesin West, but I thought it was prettier and more comfortable and welcoming. Edith, also a renowned artist, painted here and hosted many other artists to work here. Ansel Adams spent time in this studio.

Here's the view from the studio. Clearly a good spot for artists to find their muses.

We stopped for lunch at a local sandwich shop/ crafts store in Orderville. Orderville sprang to life in 1875 as an experiment by the Mormon church in communal living. Everybody worked as they were able, and everybody took only what they needed from the common pool of goods. Communism, right? The teenage waitress who took our sandwich order overheard me use the c-word and spun around to deny that her ancestors were communists. She was really upset. I tried to explain myself. "Not communism as it played out in the Soviet Union. More like the pure ideal of it that Karl Marx wrote about. People working to produce things for the common good. Only taking what they need." But she would have none of it. We discussed it for a few minutes, but she became more upset. She described Orderville and its United Order in almost the same words I'd used to describe Communism, but she did not like the c-word. I envisioned her spitting in our food back in the kitchen (although she did not really seem the type to do something mean like that). I also did not want to insult such a sweet young girl, so I said I must be wrong. Jane persisted for a few more volleys, then she backed off, too. The sandwiches were quite good and did not seem tampered with. And I felt bad so I made an extra effort to be really friendly to the waitress. 

On that quirky note, we headed back to the Interstate and Jane's car, then ended our vacation and went our separate ways, each to our own side of the cosmic ripple that is the Utah/ Nevada border.


  1. Okay, Honey, really gorgeous photos, but I really want you in a hat and covered up out in the sun. That gorgeous skin of yours should not be uncovered unless you are in the shade!!! Utah is a beautiful place, but strange. Bryce Canyon knocked my socks off but it looks like a place for aliens. In fact, a lot of Utah has kind of an alien flavor, don't you think? Just kind of a weird place. But then so is California, where I live! Wonderful photos and your words make me feel like I've taken a vacation. "From each according to their abilities, and to each according to their needs". Uncle Karl had some good points.

  2. I am pea green with envy. I have always wanted to visit Bryce Canyon. Once again, I traveled vicariously thanks to your pictures. I'm off to Grand Cayman and Cuba next week. Hope to have pictures. ACW

  3. Actually, we didn't visit Bryce, only the much smaller Cedar Breaks National Monument. I was just making a joke about how if you don't have time to go all the way to Bryce, you can stop at little Cedar Breaks on the way. Hmmm....maybe it wasn't that funny a joke! But I will be going to Bryce in October, as well as Zion, Monument Valley, Arches, and Canyonlands!

    @Linda-I almost always have sunscreen and a big floppy hat. I think I just slipped up because we weren't at the petroglyphs that long!

    @AC-Cuba!!! And you're jealous of my travels in Utah?

  4. I really can't wait to hear about Cuba! When my grandson was very young, maybe 4, I asked him what he wanted to be when he grew up. He responded that he wanted to be a "traveler". It sounds like you have made that goal pretty much a reality! Marvelous!

  5. Well the catch is, Americans can legally travel to Cuba, we just cannot spend any money there. Quite the conundrum. Hope the Cuban peopele are as generous as the travel guides say ;)