After 4 or so years of registering miles on my SkyMiles account (on DL
) I finally managed to accumulate enough for a US-domestic roundtrip. My initial intention was to use these miles to fly out of Chicago to the most rare, unusual or otherwise 'podunk' airport I could think of. This would have given me the opportunity to visit an airport that I would otherwise never fly to. My intention was to do the roundtrip in a single day (don't call me cheap, I could only get one day off work, and I did not want to travel on a weekend). After playing around at Delta's website I realized that I could fly to a number of never-heard-of airports like FCA
and EKO. However I soon realized that if I chose to fly to any of these locations, I would have been left with hardly any time to explore them. Some of these airports enjoy only a couple of flights a day and by the time I got there I would have had to re-board for the return. I thus decided that I was going to choose a destination that would allow me to get there early, spend a day in town, and get back to Chicago just in time for bed. Even though I had enough miles for a couple of international destinations too (YWG
and BDA to name two) I did not want to "waste" time going through immigration or connecting at MSP
. Then I realized that I always wanted to visit Salt Lake City. People that know me may laugh at this as I am well known for my -sometimes extremely- secular views, which often blind me against anything that is even remotely associated with one religion or another - in this case Utah and the Church of Latter-Day Saints (aka Mormons). However, I could not help but be curious about this place for which I had heard so many great things: It's clean, very safe, it offers great views of the surrounding mountains, it boasts some very interesting architecture and lots of (really) friendly people. After a little bit of extra search on Delta's website I realized that I could get to SLC
by 9am and then leave by 5pm, all for just $5 in taxes. Not bad at all for a day at the office.
The route from ORD
was, broadly speaking, similar to the one that Mormon Pioneers had taken from Nauvoo, Illinois, to what was to become Salt Lake City, back in the 1840s. Those people, persecuted for their beliefs (and polygamy) traveled through Iowa, Nebraska, and Wyoming to arrive at the unincorporated territory that was to become Utah. The path they followed has come to be known as the Mormon Trail.
I realize that the featured carrier may not excite many people here, but I chose to write this TR
for those that are interested in SLC
, Salt Lake City itself and for those that read all TR
EARLY BIRD - LITERALLY
The flight out of ORD
was brutally early of course. I got up at 3:45am, grabbed a cab in front of my building in Lakeview and headed northwest to the airport. I had of course checked-in the day before (I had to secure those window seats!) and given the lack of any luggage I proceeded to security, which was unusually long for so early in the day. There were only 2 guys inspecting boarding passes, despite the fact that there were 5(!) TSA
employees just sitting there and looking at the passengers. Once I got done, I grabbed some breakfast (how does sushi sound at 5am?) and took a seat at gate E10. Our bird was there already; a lovely CRJ-900 dressed in Delta's old livery (what I call "the Serbian flag" livery). I could not see the registration because it was dark and the jetways were obscuring my view. Boarding was very orderly (mainly due to the very light load, no more than 55%). Even though pretty much everyone got a couple of seats to themselves, I was unlucky to get a guy sitting next to me. That would normally not bother me too much, but he was one of those guys that, when seated, would adopt the "I'm giving birth" position and spread his legs as much as he could. I need not tell you about the armrest. Ach, well.
Our bid at the gate
The sky was getting an interesting color by the time we were ready to leave.
Abrelosojos has his trademark leather shoes, I have my trademark army shorts.
Our route to SLC
We took off just as the sun was coming up and we headed toward lake Michigan before turning around to head west. The crew were extremely friendly and attentive, which I see more and more lately on DL
flights. After we got our drinks and Biscoff cookies, I decided to read for a little bit and then I spent a good hour and a half sleeping. When I woke up we were flying over some very interesting landscape in Wyoming but I could not get any decent photos as the windows were very dirty indeed. On approach to SLC
we flew over the Great Salt Lake (we got a glimpse of Antilope Island) and landed right on time, exactly 3 and a half hours after pushback. After a very long taxiing to the terminal (I swear I thought we were taken to Provo) we anchored at gate C01. What caught my attention was that the ground crew at our gate was made of 20-30-something-old females. Never seen that before.
Our morning treats. Not much really. I'd rather have some octopus, right PlaneHunter?
Flying somewhere over Wyoming
Just before finals, over the Great Salt Lake
THE ELUSIVE BUS
My intention was to catch the UTA bus to downtown Salt Lake City (just $2.25 one-way, not bad, not bad). However, what I did not know was that hardly anyone uses the bus in SLC
. Once I got in the terminal I looked around for signs but there was nothing. I walked around convinced that sooner or later I will see a sign that showed where to go for the UTA bus. Being male I of course refused to ask for directions until it was absolutely necessary. Finally, after 20 mins of walking around, I decided to ask for directions at the Information desk. The guy on the desk had to think about it for a little bit and finally told me where to go. His directions involved a number of left and right turns, up and down stairs, and of course after 5 seconds I had lost him completely (I was of course too proud to ask him to repeat the directions again). I walked to the general direction he pointed but I ended up in an indoor parking lot. I thought, this can't be it so I walked back to the terminal. I was about to say 'screw it' and grab a taxi, but I was determined to figure this thing out. Once back in the terminal, I asked a security guy. He frowned and said that he had no idea where the buses leave from but he asked me to follow him. We walked up and down stairs, over skybridges and got nowhere, so after a while we ended up at the same Information desk I had been earlier. Upon seeing me again, the guy at the desk laughed and then repeated the instructions, this time in a more coherent way. The security guy then walked with me to the direction we were told and eventually we ended up in the same parking lot I had found myself in earlier. This time, after some more careful inspection I spotted a bus stop hiding behind a truck. I thanked the security guy for his willingness and effort to help me. It was my first taste of Utahn friendliness. However, the whole thing made me feel like such an amateur. It was kinda embarrassing but I swear there were no signs (zilch, nada, nichts). And, seriously, who puts a bus stop on the second floor of a parking lot, when there is plenty of room right outside the arrivals area (none of which seemed to be occupied by anything other than a couple of hotel shuttles)? Just like the rest of the city (see below) the area outside the arrivals was very quiet and almost devoid of any vehicles. It reminded me of your average German airport. I don't know how they do it.
The rather empty arrivals area
as seen from the highway
A glimpse of the mountains en route to town.
And some more of that
SALT LAKE CITY
The bus ride lasted just over 15 mins (there was hardly any traffic at all, even downtown) and I was dropped off a couple of blocks south of Temple Square. Despite being 10am, there wasn't a soul in the streets. It was like a nuclear disaster had just happened. Here is a collection of photos from the lovely downtown area of SLC
, which as you may expect is dominated by LDS-related buildings.
The LDS Church headquarters tower
A huge "U" sign on one of the hills overlooking the University of Utah campus
Energy Solutions Arena, home of the Utah Jazz
The State of Utah Capitol Building
A view of the airport from the Capitol Building hill
The Eagle Gate
Part of Salt Lake City's skyline. Key Bank Tower and Eagle Tower.
The TRAX tram
I know what you're thinking. While in SLC
, did anyone try to convert me? Of course. While in Temple Square shooting photos, I was approached by two foreign ladies (in their early 20s) who were there to do missionary work. After a friendly chat I explained that, since long, I have made my mind up regarding all things spiritual. I also told them that I was there only for few hours so I had to get going if I wanted to see all the things in my list. I wish I had more time for interaction and chat with the locals or "locals" but I had to push on.
Some more photos of downtown with my Nikon D3100:
The pointy white building above is of course the Salt Lake Temple, the most sacred of places for the Mormons. Only Mormons "in good standing" can go in there for specific ceremonies. The panoramic photo of the Temple (and the whole Temple square) was taken from the observatory at the top floor of the LDS Church HQs tower. I walked in there, asked how I could get to the observatory and a friendly lady working there took me up the secure elevator and gave me a private tour of the building. She also gave me a brief summary of SLC
's history while pointing at the various landmarks we could see from up there. What a treat! To my surprise, she did not try to talk religion with me, which I greatly appreciated. The Capitol building, despite its grandeur, was entirely empty of human activity as you can see from my photos of its interior above. It felt surreal to be (what appeared) the only person in there. I would expect something like that in a public area in DPRK but not in Utah. The only place I have seen something similar was in pre-1989 Bulgaria.
BACK AT THE AIRPORT
After a very enjoyable but exhausting day at Salt Lake City, I grabbed the bus (it was much easier finding the bus stop this time) and headed back to SLC
. I went through security in a breeze and decided to do some souvenir and food shopping. SLC
is a very enjoyable airport. Clean, fairly well organized, with great
views of the aircraft and the mountains behind them. Of course the only aircraft you can see belonged to DL
. I swear, not even ATL
looks so DL
-dominated. The only other carriers I saw while there were a couple of WN
aircraft and that was pretty much it.
The pre-security area was as empty and quiet as the rest of the city.
Our bird at gate D09 was hidden behind the jetway so yet again I could not see the registration or get a good photo. I could see from its tail however
that it was a "serbian-flag carrier" again, which disappointed me a bit. I really wanted to get on a CRJ-900 with the newer color-scheme. Too bad.
Our shy bird behind the jetway
Since I had about 90mins before boarding, I walked a bit more around the airport and shot some more photos:
A non-DL aircraft? Are you sure you've landed at the right airport cowboy?
Some shots from inside the airport:
Our route from SLC
back to ORD
A sneaky photo of the fuselage while boarding
A few photos from during take-off:
This time the flight was near-full but again the boarding was very orderly. One of the male flight attendants (the one who made the announcements) sounded like Ozzie Guillén, which combined with the bad sound quality made announcements hard to follow. He also behaved in a rather bossy way, instructing people what to do in a borderline-rude way, while always wearing a rather deep frown. When it was time to serve us drinks I asked for a Coke but I got Diet Coke. I hate Diet Coke. Too bad, I was not gonna argue with this guy. (I am portraying myself as a total wuss in this TR
, am I not?).
Pretzels and... Diet Coke.
Flaming Gorge in Wyoming
Some interesting landscape somewhere between Wyoming and Nebraska.
Dusk over Iowa.
This time the windows were much cleaner so I managed a few half-decent shots of the (very-vaguely defined) lake shore and the mountains, as well as the landscape over Wyoming and Nebraska. Once it got dark, I decided to focus on my book while trying to ignore the girl behind me who was singing out loud the latest Hannah Montana tunes. Landing at ORD
was very smooth and before you knew it I was on my way home.
I have found myself flying with DL
a lot lately and so far they have managed to stay always on time. Their crew seems to be a hit-or-miss but overall nothing you can complain about. Salt Lake City is a beautiful place and, given the opportunity, I would like to visit it again. Overall, I am very pleased with the way I spent my SkyMiles. Of course I could have saved them and accumulated more for (perhaps) a TATL trip, but who am I kidding. I am not that patient.
Thank you so much for reading. I would really appreciate your comments.
My next trip would be yet again on DL
, but this time it would involve a little-known destination (did I hear someone say 'podunk"?) and a route that is about to be terminated by the end of the year if not earlier.
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Intra-SoCal Commuter. What On Earth Is A DMC?
The Barajas Purgatory. Iberia Being Iberia
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Porter's New Terminal At YTZ
Athens Airways' (ZF) First TR On A.net
Tokyo and Hiroshima on the Airline of the Year
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Hawaii for the weekend...on Alaska ans NW