Got a late start out of Vegas, stopped for gas in Mesquite. Made another stop in St. George, Utah, which is named after a fellow named Smith (St. Ozzie didn’t have the same ring to it) and not an actual saint.
The Virgin River flows alongside I-15, and in the distance from St. George, a snow-peaked mountain is visible to the northwest. Former Padres left-hander Bruce Hurst was born and attended high school in this town, which lies downwind from where extensive nuclear testing was conducted by the U.S. government in the ’50s.
Hurst signed with the Padres as a free agent in December 1988. He led the National League with 10 complete games in 1989; his four shutouts a year later tied with the Dodgers’ Mike Morgan for the league lead.
Hurst’s most similar player according to Baseball-Reference is Johnny Podres, who is best known for beating the Yankees twice in the 1955 World Series as a 22-year-old pitching for the Dodgers. Podres later came out of retirement to spend one forgettable season in San Diego, going 5-6 with a 4.31 ERA for the expansion Padres in 1969, before retiring again for good.
In five seasons with the Padres, Hurst went 55-38 with a 3.27 ERA and then headed to Colorado in July 1993 (after making a single rehab start at Triple-A Las Vegas) as part of the Fire Sale that brought Andy Ashby to San Diego. Ashby later begat Adam Eaton, who begat Adrian Gonzalez, who is now a very rich man.
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Just north of St. George, if you hang a right onto SR-9, you end up in a town called Springdale, which lies at the southern end of Zion National Park. From there, take a free shuttle to the park, pay $25 for admission, then take another free shuttle to trailheads within the park.
We hiked (and that is perhaps too strong a verb) part of Kayenta Trail to Lower Emerald Pool. Views of towering red rock walls, cool waterfalls, a chipmunk with full cheeks preparing to feed her baby, and a group of German tourists wearing Harley-Davidson gear. (I don’t ride, but I know enough to be baffled by Germans riding Harleys.)
Stopped at Zion Lodge after our hike for the best ice cream ever. It probably isn’t the best ice cream ever, but after working up a little sweat (not quite an Ashbyesque lather, speaking of chipmunk cheeks), who cares?
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Drove east through the park, passing through the 1.1-mile-long Zion-Mount Carmel tunnel. Built from 1927 to 1930 at a cost of $1.896 million, the tunnel was dedicated on July 4, 1930. You may have to wait for oncoming traffic to clear before entering. It will be dark and you will climb 800 feet in elevation. Best not to think about the mountain that surrounds you. Focus instead on the fact that someone had to build the thing.
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Kanab is sometimes called “Little Hollywood” because it served as a movie location back in the day — Gunsmoke, Planet of the Apes, The Outlaw Josey Wales, The Lone Ranger, and so forth. It lies about an hour east of Springdale along US-89, not far from the Arizona border.
The microbrew in Utah is undrinkable, but friendly folks and the best caramel pecan cheesecake ever make up for a lot. And it really is the best caramel pecan cheesecake ever.
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The Padres are playing terrible baseball, and I haven’t been able to watch much of it. I am always a bit shocked at what you out-of-market fans have to deal with on a regular basis. Being in San Diego most of the year, I forget that the Padres exist only as a figment of our collective imagination and that if we stop talking about them, they might disappear altogether.
Granted, disappearing seems like a decent option right now, but things won’t always be like this. (They could get worse… now there’s a happy thought.) Road trips bring perspective. This is neither good nor bad, but as you find yourself overwhelmed by vistas that defy description and obliterate scale (exactly how far is “forever”?), you also begin to understand Rickie Lee Jones’ ramblings on The Orb’s 1990 single “Little Fluffy Clouds”:
They went on forever – They – When I w- We lived in Arizona, and the skies always had little fluffy clouds in ‘em, and, uh… they were long… and clear and… there were lots of stars at night. And, uh, when it would rain, it would all turn – it- They were beautiful, the most beautiful skies as a matter of fact. Um, the sunsets were purple and red and yellow and on fire, and the clouds would catch the colours everywhere. That’s uh, neat ’cause I used to look at them all the time, when I was little. You don’t see that. You might still see them in the desert.
It’s hard to articulate what you see when you can’t comprehend it. I get that. And when I struggle to figure out why the Padres are so awful this year… well, I give up trying to articulate it and babble instead about my meanderings around the southwest.
Then somehow Bruce Hurst gets involved. And that’s when it’s time to stop.