I like to drive, a lot. My car, which I nicknamed “Bluebird” is more than my travel companion, she’s often my vehicle to happiness, if not my source of it. John Steinbeck traveled with his poodle, Charley, so I guess my “Charley” is Bluebird.
In mid-December, while on one of my little Bluebird road trips, I found myself in Evanston, Wyoming because a winter storm with icy conditions had the Interstate shut down. That evening I was talking on the phone to a friend about my unplanned stop, and he mentioned that I was so close to Park City, Utah. He felt that it only made sense to go check it out. At least since August I’ve had many people suggest that I take a drive there for photography, writing, or even a winter job. Park City is a place that the “new” ski bums migrate to, as well as artists. Of course, Park City is also famous for hosting the Sundance Film Festival (www.sundance.org ) in late January.
After a hot shower and a good night’s rest, I woke up to below zero temperatures, no hot water because the pipes froze, and a very gracious front desk host with repeated apologies. No worries. I just let my car warm up for about an hour, and was off to the mountain ski town of Park City.
The Interstate had been reopened, the road was mostly ice-free, and the sky was clear. It was a bitter cold morning that reminded me a little of my childhood winters in Wisconsin. When I got to Park City at about 8 am, I headed to the historic downtown area. I found it to be quiet and easy to find free parking. The first block I walked on Main Street I found Java Cow Café & Bakery. Another Wisconsin connection – cows.
When I went into the café, I found only two customers, both reading newspapers while drinking their morning coffee. To the left was another room which was both an ice cream parlor and gift shop. It was cute and probably a great place to bring kids. The coffee shop itself had a wonderful bakery display which Luciana, the assistant manager, told me was filled with homemade items. It reminded of Blue Spoon Creamery Café in Prairie du Sac, Wisconsin with the selection of coffee, baked goods, sandwiches, and ice cream. Well, at Blue Spoon its frozen custard, something I did not find in Park City.
I decided to have what I call a “German Breakfast” which simply means a sweet and coffee. The pecan bars were large, the pastry looked buttery, and the price was surprisingly reasonable. Privately I toasted my breakfast “to Gregory” – my German father who really did eat cake for breakfast and his coffee would really be a “Java Cow” with more milk than coffee in his cup. I ate most of the pecan bar which was delicious, but I couldn’t finish it – it was just too big and rich.
Before leaving, I stepped up to the counter and asked the women working there about Park City. They both lived there year-round and loved it. They gave me recommendations for skiing, dining, shopping, and other things to do. When I told them a childhood friend would be visiting with his family in February, they suggested Deer Valley as the place to ski. They both agreed that one of the four Marriott hotels would be perfect for a family to stay.
The Main Street was filled with shops and restaurants and would’ve been more enjoyable to walk if it was later, when the shops were open, and about 20 degrees warmer. From there I headed to Deer Valley and found it quaint and very beautiful. It was one of Park City’s famous bluebird sky mornings – clear and bright. Resort shuttles were just beginning to pull up at the mountain and dropping off skiers.
My visit to Park City on a Bluebird Sky morning was a great way to start the day.
Jan, the owner of the Red Coyote Café in Virgin, Utah greeted me yesterday by asking how chilly it was on the other side of the park. I met her just a few times and although she didn’t remember my name, she remembered where I cruised in from for a cuppa. This impressed me because often I slide into coffee shops with my laptop, sit quietly, and simply observe the world around me unnoticed by anyone.
Something I like about the Red Coyote is that I can do either – slide in unnoticed or I can participate in conversations with the locals while having a cup of coffee, playing on the computer, and eating my breakfast. The best of both of my coffee shop cruising worlds.
The breakfast menu includes a basic breakfast plate, burritos, and some items that are more creative, like her southwestern version of Eggs Benedict. The sauce is homemade and I’ve been told by her guests that it’s delicious. I have yet to try it because I like the basic plate of two eggs, potatoes, and toast. As someone who ran a bed & breakfast/inn and dislikes making eggs, I can appreciate the perfect over easy eggs. Neither too runny nor too hard, it’s always made perfect for dipping my buttered toast in it. By the way, I love the bread – if not artisan, it tastes like it.
The ambiance is perfect for me – couches, tables and chairs inside, and a beautiful set up on the outdoor patio with a view of Utah’s red rocks. It has a Utah desert with a touch of country flavor to it. One of my favorite places to hide this past summer on Sunday mornings.
The outside of the Red Coyote displays the gorgeous artwork of Patti Lewis, a local mural artist. The mural depicts a scene id Utah desert and wildlife. Patti’s work can be seen on quite a few buildings inside and out around the Zion National Park area, as well as in Las Vegas. A sample of her portfolio and her husband, Jeff’s photography can be seen at www.lewisartservices.com.
What sold me on The Red Coyote was an experience I had this past summer. After camping at Coral Pink Sand Dunes, I took the back roads towards Colorado City, then headed to Zion National Park by way of Hurricane, Utah. Once I got to The Red Coyote, I planted myself on a cozy chair, turned on my computer, and got lost in the world of Facebook and email writing. After an hour or so I realized that the café filled up with people – singles, couples, and families. The chatter in the room reflected the clientele – international visitors heading to and from Zion National Park as well as a mix of locals who came for the Sunday afternoon music. That was inside the cafe. Outside there was a spectacular lightning display as a thunderstorm rolled through. Although the storm brought many of the weary and not-so-weary travelers into the café, I’m sure the ambiance, service, and music kept them there.
I was loving the experience – lost within a sea of people – something I often desire, especially when coffee shop cruising.
During the winter there is music on Saturday evenings and Sunday afternoons to keep the locals and off-season travelers entertained. The summer brings many tourists through the area, so the live music schedule extends into the week. With the later sunsets in the summer, it’s one of the best places in southern Utah to end the day after hiking in Zion National Park. I can’t wait to return next year!
It’s been about a year since I wrote on my coffee shop cruising blog. Yesterday I had a bug to go to my favorite in the area, take some photos, and write about it. Unfortunately it was closed yesterday, which pushed me to keep driving until I landed in Cedar City, Utah at The Grind Coffeehouse.
My drive there took just under three hours, which may seem a bit crazy for the normal person. I accept that I may not be normal, especially where coffee shop cruising comes in to play. I love it – being in them, people watching, spending time on Facebook, and sometimes talking to people. I’m not sure I’m a big fan of coffee, but I do enjoy holding a warm cup of coffee in my hand, smelling the aroma of it, and allowing my mind to wander to other places.
It’s a social thing for me whether I’m with people or not – a way for me to be where people are, without being with people. That is what I love about The Grind. I find it to be a great place to write in my journal, sit in the morning sun in or outside, and to watch people with friends and family enjoying their drinks.
Now that it’s fall the college students have returned and it seems to have a little beatnik flavor to it. This surprised me in Utah, but Cedar City is different. The community has an artsy flavor and reminds me of a very small Portland, Oregon – almost like a small neighborhood in Portland. It’s also similar to the downtown area of Fort Collins, Colorado. With the new and used bookstore next door to The Grind, it reminds me of Matter Bookstore and the Bean Cycle, where I spent a lot of time while in the Fort Collins area. Then of course, Portland and Fort Collins remind me of Madison, Wisconsin which is home for me. I guess that’s why I’ve driven hours to have a cuppa at The Grind – it has the ability to take me back home.
Yesterday I got a dose of home while in Cedar City. I enjoyed a spiced Chai Latte while I sat and watched people, remembering the coffee shops I’ve been to over the years. There was an elderly couple at the table next to me playing cribbage and sharing a salad. A few teenagers came in, got their smoothies and foo-foo whipped cream topped drinks and were talking about the day at school. There a few people with laptops busy on Facebook, one man on Skype, and a group of college students discussing the Make-A-Wish fundraiser they are working on for a class.
Usually “the grind” stirs up thoughts of work, anxiety, and stress. Yesterday The Grind put me at ease because it provided for me what I needed to settle my anxiety before heading home for the day. It calmed my restless soul enough that when I drove through the mountains and found snow, I took the time to pull over, touch it, and take some photos. A finely grounded day.