Schu Strings: SLC Travel Guide

So you're going to Salt Lake City. Since it seems pretty likely Arizona will oust Vermont on Day One, you might want to have some backup plans in store for Friday. Well, the Johnny Schu online Salt Lake travel guide is here to help.

For starters, let's get to know the hosts a bit. Salt Lake is the capital of Utah. The capital building is very nice, and actually situated quite close to Huntsman Center, which is located on the gorgeous University of Utah campus.

Utah is known as the Beehive State. In honor of this nomenclature, there are beehives on the tops of numerous buildings. Why Utah calls itself the Beehive State, I am uncertain. Perhaps it was a prophecy that had something to do with the impending arrival of the African Killer Bee. I know not.

The state bird is the seagull. Yes, the seagull. There's a sort of myth surrounding the whole seagull thing. Some believe that when Brigham Young saw seagulls he thought he was close to the ocean, and that's the reason the Mormon pioneers ultimately settled in Utah. Not even close. The seagull has a special place in the hearts of Utahans because they consumed a bunch of grasshoppers that were destroying crops during the early settlement days.

There are many seagulls in Salt Lake City. As for tourist attractions, there's more than you might think. That whole Greatest Snow on Earth thing. Utah. Yup, read it on a license plate somewhere, so it must be true. Ski resorts are aplenty, so if that's you're thing, Friday might be the day. There are numerous ski shops in the city that rent clothing, and resorts like Brighton are within an hour by car.

I skied Brighton during a recent Utah swing in January. It was the first time I had ever skied, and somehow managed not to break any bones. Man, I was so thirsty for Mountain Dew when I was done.

If you're into the museum thing, there are a couple options in either direction. Heading south about 20 minutes near Draper, there's the dinosaur museum. It's fairly new and pretty cool. Utah is considered a hotbed for dinosaur fossil discovery. Paleontology has changed a great deal since I dug dinosaurs (dug in the groovy sense, not the scientific sense) in the early 70s. The Tyrannosaurus Rex and Brachiosaurus skeletal models are quite large.

Personally, being a fan of the 70s, I enjoyed a small piece of Americana just outside the dinosaur museum. For those who watched Wide World of Sports, or the motorcycle documentary On Any Sunday, there was this annual event where people would bring their motorcycles and try to race them up a steep hill. Inevitably, the bikes would stall, and wacky tumbling pratfalls would be the order of the day.

Well, if you look closely, you can still see the vertical indentation where that event occurred. It's sort of like going to the drive-in. It's a slice of our history we may never recover. The land is now part of a ritzy housing development. Within yards of that site is some of the world's best paragliding. That's where folks jump off a hill and let the wind get beneath their fabricated wings. Michael Martin Murphy actually wrote that hideous song. It was a marginal country hit in the mid-80s prior to becoming one of the worst ballads in the history of modern music, thanks for Bette Midler. To the best of my knowledge, neither Murphy nor Midler are from Utah.

If military jets are your thing, I would highly recommend the Hill Air Force Base Museum in Ogden. Admission is free. The museum houses two hangars of aircraft spanning a good seven or eight decades, and probably a half dozen countries. Ogden is maybe 45 minutes north.

If you want to stay close to Salt Lake City, it's hard to argue a visit to Temple Square. The church organ is the highlight, but the Temple itself is a very impressive work of architectural endurance. Stop by the convention center across the street. The main arena facility seats 21,000.

For a little history you might consider the "This is the Place" memorial. Resting just below the Wasatch Mountain range, the This is the Place memorial is the site where Brigham Young rose up from near death, looked out the window of his wagon, and proclaimed, "This is the Place. Drive on." Then slumped back into a semi-coma. It represents the end of a harrowing journey for the pioneers, who had to endure some grueling mountain terrain before ultimately settling near the Great Salt Lake, now the hub of Mormonism.

There's also a reference to the tragic Donner Party trek, which drifted aimlessly onto the Bonneville Salt Flats a good century before folks were trying to break the sound barrier on ground. Unfortunate for the Donner Party, which instead set the standard for cannibalism long before those Alive guys and Lucio Fulci made it a fashionable thing.

But it's also a great source of comic possibilities. For instance, after visiting the "This is the Place" monument, normal parts of the American landscape took on a new light. We'd pass a post office and my friend would say, "This is the place where you mail letters. Drive on."

Or the convenience store: "This is the place where you buy snacks. Drive on."

Imagine the hours of potential hilarity. Or sheer annoyance. Sometimes I know not the difference. Grand times indeed.

Due to the Olympics, Salt Lake also has a light rail system. Apparently, residents actually use the damn thing. Speaking of the Olympics, if you're in the market for souvenirs, look no further. The Olympics might be over a year old for the rest of the world, but in the form of marketing trinkets, it will live into eternity in SLC.

Salt Lake City has a million people, so like most big cities, there's big city stuff to do. "This is the Place where you can buy adult beverages. Drive on." But drive responsibly. Yeah, you can drink in SLC.

Hopefully, this little guide will help in your opening round tournament stopover. I'm certain there's more, but "This is the Place where my typing will stop for now. Drive on."

And "This is the Place where Arizona advances to the Sweet 16. And where Mickey Mouse awaits. Drive on."

Arizona is 3-2 lifetime in Salt Lake City NCAA tournament games.

2000: 1-1
UA 71, Jackson State 47
Wisconsin 66, Arizona 58

1993: 0-1
Santa Clara 64, Arizona 61

1991: 2-0
UA 93, St. Francis 80
UA 76, BYU 61

2003 NCAA Bracket

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