I (Want to) Know What You Did This Summer


I didn't take any fancy or enlightening vacations this summer. My wife and I had four weddings to attend in a five-week stretch, plus our daughter's first birthday extravaganza. That was enough fanfare for one season.

So let me live vicariously through you guys. Where did you jet off to this summer? Do you recommend it? What cool stuff did you learn?

While we wait for globe-trotting readers to fill up the comments with interesting stories, here's a look back at a brief vacation I did take and blog about—a 2007 trip to Utah.

Things I Learned in Utah

June 26, 2007

I started this post three weeks ago, on the way back from a whirlwind weekend in Park City, Utah. If you're looking for stuff to do in the Beehive State, a better source of suggestions came from readers in response to my initial entry, "When in Utah..." For now, let me offer a few tidbits picked up on my journey, live on tape delay.

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If you're reading this near the Wyoming-South Dakota border, I'm 37,000 feet above your head. My left foot is tapping furiously to Rick Allen's contagious and odds-defying drumbeat from Def Leppard's "Let's Get Rocked." This is one of 1,600 songs made available to me through Delta's in-flight entertainment system.*

This foot tapping was not a problem until the in-flight beverage service placed a Coke precariously close to my trusty iBook. I'm very worried about a spill and the subsequent stickiness.

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This rendition of "Let's Get Rocked" is from Rock of Ages, a Def Leppard anthology I didn't know existed. My last Def Leppard CD was Adrenalize, off which "Let's Get Rocked" was the first single. They played this number at A Concert for Life, the 1992 Freddie Mercury tribute "“ a strange choice for an AIDS benefit unless you think "rocked" means "educated on the finer points of HIV transmission."

I know I possessed this album from 1992 to 1997, but don't remember bringing it to college. Ten years is a long time to not own something, and so I've ascribed Adrenalize a possibly unwarranted sense of nostalgia.

Adding to the list of entities about which I'm overly nostalgic: the state of Utah. I was only there for parts of three days, and only left an hour ago. Most of the weekend was dominated by scripted activities: rehearsal dinner, wedding ceremony, cocktail hour, reception, passing out completely winded seconds after returning to our hotel, brunch. These were all a great deal of fun, but not fodder for an article on a trivia website. We did manage to squeeze in some sightseeing between family obligations, so let me show you what I saw.

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Utah's state bird is the sea gull. As the legend goes, these birds saved Mormon pioneers from the horrors of crop-eating crickets in 1848. There is some debate over this story's legitimacy, but it's a far cooler reason to anoint a state bird than my own state of New Jersey's reasoning. In 1935, the Eastern Goldfinch earned this status because, as the NJ Senate resolution puts it, "Forty-four of the States have already designated State birds."

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Utah has some interesting alcohol laws. According to FortOgden.com, "if a restaurant derives more than 30% of its profit from alcoholic beverage sales, it can lose its (liquor) license." Real beer can only be purchased at state-owned liquor stores "“ and is marked up 75% (a six-pack can cost $10). More widely available is "near beer," with 3.2% alcohol by volume. This drives a lot of traffic to Wyoming, where prices are normal. (By the way, that is not my hand holding the Polygamy Porter. I found that image on Allan Willis' blog, "Are You My Wife?")

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A luge is tiny. As Jerry Seinfeld joked, "The luge is the only sport I've ever seen that you could have people competing in it against their will, and it would be exactly the same." One of many lessons learned at Utah Olympic Park, a shrine to the Games of the Nineteenth Winter Olympiad.

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Ski jumping is just as cool without snow. I spent much of my free time watching the Australian Ski Team doing flips into a swimming pool during practice. I submit that this variation on ski jumping be incorporated in the Beijing Games.

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Dumb & Dumber was actually filmed in Park City, not Aspen. Though we now know the beer here does not, in fact, flow like wine. The Aspen scenes were a combination of Park City, Utah, and Breckenridge, Colorado.

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Fellow mental_floss writer David Israel is a great novelist. During my trip, I read Behind Everyman "“ and you should, too. Worthy of all the great press it received. Polish this off before the movie comes out.

Thanks again for all your recommendations and advice. We did get to see the Mormon Temple, the Great Salt Lake, Saltair and Karl Malone Toyota. But I'll have to make it out that way again.

*This might sound like paid product placement; I assure you it is not. I would much rather be watching the Yankees-Red Sox game, but the satellite TV portion of the in-flight entertainment package is not working right now. Nevertheless, Delta landed sky miles ahead of my expectations. Before last week, I did not know they were still in business, let alone streaming Def Leppard's greatest hits..