There is a lot I loved about the Colorado Plateau region in Nevada, Utah and Arizona. Living in a metropolitan area of 20 million people in Japan, the wide open spaces and lack of people were so refreshing! The awesome geology – driving between towns in the region you see incredible cliffs, ridges, canyons and peaks that back in the eastern half of the US would be celebrated parks, here they are just a mundane part of the scenery, most not even reaching state park status as they don’t stack up against the even more awesome (I can use the word here in its original meaning!) national parks. The church of Latter Day Saints (LDS) culture in many ways is good in that it makes for tidy infrastructure, big families, lower crime rate and a wholesome, safe atmosphere. It truly is “big sky” country and the lack of trees gives you views of clouds and sunsets and sunrises that are just so pleasant.
It was over 20 years since I have been back to the region, I started my teaching career in Nevada and it brought back memories of that time. I noticed a change in the demographics and more Latinos and others from outside the region are providing a bit of diversity, to what used to be a very homogeneous culture, although it is still almost 90% white. Utah and to a lesser extent Nevada and Arizona are growing rapidly and I can see why. The outdoor activities are numerous and I would love the explore the thousands of trails on foot and bike. The weather is also good, a dry climate with hot summers and cool winters.
The downside of the region is the isolation. One definitely needs a car to get around and I wonder about the intellectual and cultural outlets. Not being a member of the LDS church would also have its downsides and I wonder if my family would be accepted. The homes and buildings have a new, temporary feel to them and you don’t see many historic and distinct architecture.
We did do a bit of cultural and sightseeing activities besides the national parks. We saw the first stage of the Tour of Utah professional cycling race in nearby Cedar City, Utah. The racers did three laps around the city park and it was thrilling to see them come by at such fast speeds. The trailing support cars really brought home how fast the bicycles were travelling as I thought to myself the cars were going way too fast for residential streets. It is only a few moments of actually watching the riders, but the sponsors and city officials had a nice fan participation center in the park. I love cycling and want to continue developing my skills as it is a good way to save my knees. I want to be able to run in the next two decades and the years of long distance running (since middle school) means I must reduce the amount of kilometers I run. Cycling is a great way to do this.
We also visited the Saint George Temple and the visitor center in the old part of Saint George. Brigham Young himself selected the site of the church, and unfortunately for the workers, it was over an underground spring, so they had to haul millions of pounds of rocks and pound them into a base with huge timbers brought from Arizona before building the impressive temple. When workers suggested they find another spot, Young said that is where God told him to place it, so with the typical Mormon work ethic, they got it done. I admire the resilience and cooperation it must have taken to colonize the region. Near the temple was the Dixie State College campus, reminding us that Saint George was originally a Mormon settlement to produce cotton. The Mormons were persecuted by the US government and had to flee to Utah, and there is still a bit of anti-government/Libertarian feel to the place. I can see why they consistently vote Republican in elections.
I would definitely consider retiring/settling down in the area, although we would be away from our family and friends. I hope to see more of the great American west and the Rocky Mountain / Great Basin region in the future. The wilderness is so accessible and there is so much of it!