Interview: Duncan D’s Road Trip Through America, Part 1

Utah Salt Flats

Traveller: Duncan is an old friend from high school who’s always game for an adventure or a party. When he told me he was going on a six week road trip through the United States and Canada with his best friend Rob, I knew he’d have some good stories when he returned. Lucky for me, I was right, and we grabbed some beers and discussed Denver’s marijuana industry, free booze in Reno, and why Salt Lake City is so creepy for Part 1 of his road trip interview.

Melanie: So what was the purpose of your road trip, where were you guys going?

Duncan: We were going to pick up my cousin Jeff in San Francisco where he was doing his masters because his visa was ending. 

The Official Route

The Official Route

M: You travelled to San Francisco through, what I think most people would consider pretty boing states [Iowa and Nebraska], now’s your chance to change some opinions.

D: No, they would be correct.

M: Did you at least have any decent food while you were driving through there or do anything fun?

D: It was mostly fast food but we had a pretty good Mexican dinner in Des Moines, Iowa! Des Moines is actually a super nice city – it has a lot of old buildings and is really clean. It’s not what we expected at all. It also has the world’s largest truck stop. And from there we moved on to Omaha, Nebraska and Omaha has a lot of nice old architecture and brick buildings and was also very clean. We also went on a pub-crawl there because there wasn’t a whole lot to do and we met a lot of locals. I’m sure there’s a lot more to do there if you’re interested in things like history. We also went to a really cool cigar bar while we were there and they let you smoke inside! We also had a road trip bucket list item, which was for me to match with a girl on Tinder in every city we went to and get her to send us a picture of her boobs and Omaha was the only place that it happened in.

M: Omaha actually sounds like a pretty good time between the drinking, cigar smoking, and naked boobs. Was Rob a good travel partner?

D: Rob is great, he’s my best friend. He can’t drive which sucks but he took good notes about where we were and read maps. He was very helpful.

M: What sort of accommodations did you stay in while you were on the road?

D: We stayed in a lot of motels, a hostel, a bed and bagel, a casino, and we camped. And we also knew people and had family in some of the places we went so we were able to stay with them.

M: Where did you head after Omaha?

D: We stopped in Denver, Colorado and spent an extra day because there’s legal marijuana. We had just had a couple long days of driving and wanted to relax.

M: Would you say the marijuana scene is really touristy there or is it more of a casual local thing?

D: It’s definitely really casual. We went into one dispensary and there’s a waiting area in front where you show them your ID. Then you can head to the back room and the one girl that helped us out was so friendly and knowledgeable. We also got the tastiest marijuana chocolate, like it won an award in 2014 for ‘best edible’. And when you buy your stuff they put it in very obvious packaging along with receipts for each item with your name on them. That was if you get pulled over you could prove it belongs to you and that you’re carrying exactly what’s on the receipts.

M: Would you say law enforcement is really serious about marijuana in Denver?

B: I honestly didn’t detect any police presence related to it. People are also really respectful there – if they’re at a park, they’ll go off on their own and they won’t smoke it around kids, stuff like that. But the staff at the dispensary were so great, they were extremely knowledgeable about every strain they had and were able to recommend the right dosage because they measure everything out in milligrams.

M: What else did you guys get up to in Colorado?

D: We went and saw a baseball game, which was a lot of fun. They also have a pedestrian mall, 16th Street Mall, which a nice area to walk around in. We went to a restaurant called Yard House, which was pretty good and had over 100 beers on tap. Overall, Denver was excellent.

M: Where did you head after Denver?

D: We got to drive through the Rockies, which was gorgeous. It’s cool because when you get further into Utah the topography really evolves. On the border of Colorado and Utah called the Colorado National Monument which is an area with these beautiful canyons and you can drive through there [on Rim Rock Drive]. It was the first sort of ‘nature thing’ we did on our trip. And then we got to Moab, Utah.

M: What’s there to do in Moab?

D: Well we stayed at Tammy Jackson’s Beds and Bagels, which was great. Tammy Jackson is so nice! We also didn’t realize it was Memorial Day weekend until we arrived.

“Polygamy Porter” in Moab

M: How did you guys celebrate? I feel like Memorial Day weekend is pretty big in the states.

D: I bought a $3 bathing suit from Wal-Mart that looked like the American flag and I wore it on our hike in Arches National Park. Moab is great, there’s a lot of cool rocks and scenery. It’s definitely good for things like off-roading in Jeeps. Everyone has a Jeep there. We were only there for one day and then we moved on to Salt Lake City.



M: Did you like Salt Lake City?

D: No, it was creepy.

M: Really?!

D: We checked into our hotel and we went to the front desk and said to them like ‘hey, we’re going to go check out the temple district and walk around but we’d like to end the day drinking beer and eating food, where should we go?’ and the girl at the front desk was like ‘I don’t go out, I have no recommendations’ and she asked her co-worker if he had any suggestions and he also had nothing. And it’s not like we were staying somewhere out of the way, this was a hotel downtown.

M: That is weird. So you guys made your own Salt Lake itinerary then?

D: Yeah. We walked to the Temple District, which is where the Mormons first built their temples there. There’s a lot of interesting historical stuff and gorgeous architecture in Salt Lake. But it was the Monday evening of Memorial Day weekend and we were downtown and no one was outside. Like we maybe saw 60 people in the entire city. No one was out celebrating or walking around enjoying their day off. Nothing.

Salt Lake City Temple District

Salt Lake City Temple District

M: Did you guys have any fun at all in Salt Lake City?

D: I mean, there was just no one there. They have these huge streetcars that run every five minutes and there was nobody on them. There also weren’t any cars on the road. But we ended up finding a perfectly good bar on Monday night and I’m pretty sure there were more people inside there than we had seen outside all evening. Utah also has weird liquor laws about importing beer that has over 5% alcohol so all of their beer is around 4%. They also had a really nice pedestrian mall, it just sucks it was in Salt Lake City.

M: It actually sounds pretty unsettling.

D: Definitely unsettling. When we were walking back to our hotel from the bar we saw this plaque beside a flickering light that said we were at a pioneer burial ground on top of a Native American burial ground. Just some real creepy shit.

M: Was there a strong Mormon or religious presence there?

D: Well we didn’t really see that many people so it’s hard to say. Like there were Mormons giving tours in the Temple District, and I asked a girl working at the hotel if she was a Mormon and she was. But when we were driving out of Salt Lake City, the clouds and the sun made it look sort of… biblical? Beautiful to look at but not a whole lot going on.

M: How was the rest of Utah?

D: A lot of amazing scenery there. I’d really love to go back and go skiing in northern Utah or go off-roading in the southern part of Utah. After we left Salt Lake we went through these salt flats, and because it had just rained there was this really thin layer of water across them, which was cool. We actually felt very lucky to see that.

Salt Flats

M: Where’d you head after Utah? I hope it was someone fun.

D: We went to Reno! It’s sort of the only place to stop between Salt Lake and San Francisco. We didn’t even leave the casino we stayed at [the Pepper Mill] because it had everything. We gambled a bit, played some slots and black jack, but in Nevada it’s legal for the casino to give you free booze. It was great. And prior to arriving in Reno, we had been practicing our Australian accents in the car, so we pretended to be Australian the entire time we were there. But staying at a casino is super cheap because they want you to spend all your money gambling, so it was perfect for us. And we got to relax by the pool, which was really nice after spending so much time on the road. Gambling in Nevada is huge though, like name a city in Nevada other than Reno or Las Vegas.

M: Honestly, I can’t.

D: Exactly. But don’t worry, we head back to Nevada after a crazy time in California.

Part 2 coming soon!

All photos property of Duncan D.


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