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Clearly, my internet connectivity has been intermittent throughout the trip, but upon reaching Salt Lake City I was able to log-in to civilization for a day and a half. I received an interesting chain email that I had never seen before from my friend, Katie, in Texas reporting six random things in her life. It was fascinating to me that for as well as you can know some people, there are still surprises. I had no idea she had joined her church’s women’s choir. If this life detail hadn’t come up in our frequent phone conversations, what exactly were we talking about all those unlimited minutes? Come to think of it, we’ve had hour-long conversations about the most effective ways to clean the bathroom. Fascinating. Clearly, our conversations need to get more random, as that seems to be where the meat is about our goings on. So, this post is dedicated to Katie for her random and faith-based inspiration.

Six Random Things (I did) in Salt Lake City:

Deluxe serivce at Gateway Mall in SLC

Deluxe serivce at Gateway Mall in SLC

1. While hanging out with Edna, my sister’s ma-in-law, at Gateway shopping center, we got a personal door-to-door escort via golf cart from Chico’s two blocks down to Anthropologie. For a minute there I thought we were on Rodeo Drive, not in Salt Lake City (given this is one of the new, flashy parts of the city developed for the Winter Olympics in 2002).

2. At Anthropologie, while cruising the sale racks I ran into two girls from my hometown high school, Erin and Abby, who I haven’t really seen since graduation (yes, eight years ago). Randomly, I had a dream that night before about being at our Grant High School reunion.

How glamorous, er, "Julious"

Who parked my car down here?

3. Down in the parking lot below Mormon central (a.k.a. Temple Square) I spotted my own personal license plate on someone else’s car. Apparently, there is a network of LDS-only tunnels down there from the Temple to the other buildings. Word is they have their own Mormon golf carts to get around (maybe the one at the shopping center just couldn’t handle all the rules here and escaped to the civilian life).

4. I rode the glass elevators at the Salt Lake City Public Library, which is now officially my favorite modern library. While I hold a deep love of traditional, hard wood, dimly lit libraries that make me sneeze, this one is truly impressive. The elevators glide through the open mezzanine that separates the stacks and the balconies of study spaces, and contains one of the most creative installation pieces I have seen in years. A cluster of butterflies perched “reading” mini open books all suspended from the ceiling in the form of a head. I even pushed through my new-found fear of standing on suspended structures to venture down the primarily glass stairs for a closer look.

5. I used the fanciest outhouse ever at Edna’s cabin. We’re talking framed pictures hanging on a white painted interior, even a latch to hold up the white seat for you! Jim, Edna, Daisy (some kind of four-pound lap dog) and I traveled the eight miles from their home above the city to the mountain cabin in the Mill Creek National Forest to roast nitrate-free sausages over an open fire pit for dinner.

International Mormon missionaries and Jesus

International Mormon missionaries and Jesus (no pants allowed)

6. The most random thing of all: there are no male Mormon missionaries at Temple Square. Yes, not only did I notice there was a disproportionate number of hand made skirts walking around, but I asked about it. The nicest missionary, Sister Choi from South Korea, told me that they tried having both genders back “then” (1950s?) and people were intimidated by the “security personnel-looking” young Mormon men in their uniform suits. Thus, there are only male Elders there. I appreciated the PR spin, but it still smelled a little fishy. While I can’t identify with their lifestyle specifically, I did find it incredibly impressive to be in the presence of people so very devout and very focused on their way of life. The acoustics of the Tabernacle meeting hall is pretty darn insane too – you can hear a pin drop. Seriously, during the tour a Sister dropped a pin on the podium and you could hear it from the back row of the hand-painted simulation Oak pews.

6 1/2. Speaking of painted pews and transporting tons of granite via wagon over 40 years to build the Temple – Mormons are industrious! Hence, its nickname as the “Beehive State,” which I inquired about due to the honey hives icon for all the highways. I guess, a Jell-o jiggler isn’t as obvious on a road sign. I’m sure you already know Utah consumes the most green Jell-o in the country. Clearly, too many random things in Utah to stick to six, good thing I’ll be passing back through after my next stop in Colorado.

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26 was a defining and adventurous year for Julie Williams, a Portland, Ore.-based communications consultant.

This blog chronicles Julie's crossing of the quarter-life threshold and coming of age on her solo road trip across seven Western states from Aug.-Sept. 2008.

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