Monday, July 16 , 2018, 5:22 pm | Fair 75º


Tim Durnin: History Lessons Bridge Travels from Seattle to Salt Lake City

Utah in particular inspires an appreciation of its culture and influence

My family is on an extended road trip. This week took us east from Seattle across Washington. We were passing through Moses Lake and were intrigued by a sizable international airport serving a population of 16,000.

After a little research, we discovered that while the Grant County International Airport boasts one of the longest runways in the United States, commercial air service was suspended in 2010. Just a year before, Air Japan abandoned the location as a training facility.

In one final blow, its role as an alternate landing site for the shuttle will end this week. The airport will remain in limited service as a public airport, but it is unlikely to return to its former glory. It seems destined to become a monument to the Cold War-era paradigm.

We spent a night in Post Falls, Idaho, where my mother lives and took the northern, scenic route to Missoula, Mont. This path wanders through Sandpoint, Idaho, my brother’s home, and follows the Clark Fork River across Big Horn Sheep country. Every turn in the road offered a new postcard.

We arrived in Missoula midafternoon to spend a day and night with my sister Mary’s family. Missoula is a college town nestled in a valley of five converging mountain ranges. It is a warm, inviting place, ideal for families.

We strolled along some of the miles of river walks and ended up at the community’s showcase carousel. It is a testament to craftsmanship and communal effort.

Horses, dragons and gargoyles, handcarved by locals, turn in perpetual, artistic display. Children reach for a brass ring among a cacophony of singing organ pipes and joyous laughter. It is a special place.

With obligations pressing us on, we departed Missoula much sooner than we would have liked. Salt Lake City, Utah, beckoned.

My older sister, Cassie, moved to Salt Lake City not too long ago. Her and her husband’s home is perched above Temple Square with panoramic views in all directions. The Salt Lake Valley is stunning.

Our first trek into the city took us to the state Capitol. Our tour started in a room emblazoned with a quote from President Grover Cleveland: “Sensible and responsible women do not want to vote.” I didn’t know and wouldn’t have suspected that Utah was the first state to extend women the right to vote.

Utah’s capital is a spectacular display of granite work and artistry. Paintings and fine sculpture accent vast granite columns and the interior rotunda. It is awe inspiring.

I found the culture of the place even more inspiring. There is a quiet respect and profound acknowledgment that this is the people’s place. We were unabashedly welcomed and never encountered one uniformed officer, even when stepping into the lobby of the governor’s office. We experienced government as it should be.

It would be impossible not to recognize the influence of the Latter-day Saints in Salt Lake City. Temple Square is the closest one can come to a Vatican-like setting in this country. It is beautiful if not a bit sterile. However, I must confess a lack of appreciation and understanding as an outsider.

The LDS church’s presence is ubiquitous and impressive. From blue laws to banking, tourism to urban planning, the church’s influence touches everything.

We took a hike to Ensign Peak, which provides a breathtaking view of the entire city. In 1847, Brigham Young climbed this hill and laid out plans for Salt Lake City using mirrors and semaphore. It boasts being the first city in the United States planned on a grid pattern.

Looking down on the now expansive development from the peak, it is clear this is an inspired historical monument. I have discovered a new and profound appreciation for Young’s contributions to Utah.

Our stay in Salt Lake City ended with a long, lingering dinner with what I can best describe as a group of expatriates — folks from other worlds whose circumstance landed them in Utah. It was a fitting departure from this land so estranged from our own, and yet, so terribly inviting.

— Tim Durnin is a father, husband and serves as chief operating officer for Surgical Eye Expeditions (SEE) International. He can be reached at .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address) for comments, discussion, criticism, suggestions and story ideas.

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