09-14-11-pittdickey.jpgOnce upon a time I foolishly believed that I was smarter than Gayle, my GPS. I am not. Never, ever turn off your GPS when in Utah. Not only will you get lost, but you will make your GPS mad. She Who Must be Obeyed will then send you to the land of cannibals. It was early August, our biennial collection of cousins had broken camp in Yellowstone and scattered like dust in the wind to go back to what passes for reality. My wife and I headed to Jackson Hole, Wyoming for an evening of western culture. The town square of Jackson features four arches consisting solely of interwoven elk antlers that tower about thirty feet in the air. It gives the town a certain boney feel with a touch of weirdness that leads you to believe that the movie Cowboys and Aliens was based on actual events.

Jackson is full of art galleries, tee shirt emporiums and French tourists. We had supper at the Cadillac Grill which introduced me to elk meat loaf. Elk meat loaf sounds better than it tastes. On our way back to the Grand Teton Lodge after dinner I almost ran into a herd of elk standing in the middle of the road doing elkish things. Elk are large robust critters. They would spoil your day if they entered your car through its windshield. I was happy that they didn’t know that I had eaten their cousin Earl for supper. It could have made them cranky. I am not sure how elk feel about being eaten, but it is probably not on the top of their list of priorities.

The next day we set out for the beautiful town of Vernal, Utah which is famous for its life size statue of a Tyrannosaurus Rex wearing a cowboy hat and carrying a lasso. It’s a long way from the Grand Tetons to Vernal. It’s even longer if you miss a turn and drive 50 miles in the wrong direction. For reasons known only to the Gods of Stupidity I had turned off Gayle the GPS, mistakenly believing I could follow a highway. When I fi nally concluded I was making really good time in the wrong direction, I turned Gayle back on. She was bitter and decided to punish me for forsaking her. She admonished me to “turn around as soon as possible.” Chastened, I did so and vowed to follow her every whim and instruction.

At this point Gayle decided to display her cruel side. She directed us to turn onto a small paved road that led off the main road. She knew the name of the road so, like Flounder in Animal House, I screwed up. I trusted her. The farther we drove, the narrower the road became. The canyon walls crowded closer to the road. Piles of antlers danced in my head. When the going gets weird, the weird go to Utah. After about five miles, the pavement turned to dirt. Oh, great, thought I. The walls of the canyon became steeper still and shadows darkened the road. The Utah sky shrank to a rock bound narrow slit high above us. My level of unease grew like the national debt, but I had to trust Gayle. She was a GPS and must know some back road across the mountains that would save us many miles. I had not considered the possibility that Hell hath no fury like a GPS scorned.

After about two miles of increasingly diffi cult dirt road I felt like we were in the semi-classic horror movie, The Hills Have Eyes, which features a bunch of cannibal mutants hanging out in the desert chowing down on hapless strangers. There was not enough room to turn around so I kept going. Rounding a curve, I saw a sign pointing to the Bates Resort across a rickety bridge. The dirt road opened up in a beautiful box canyon with a large green lawn with ten little tourist cabins scattered around the perimeter. It was unrelenting peaceful perfection. It was totally out of place. The cliff walls went straight up all around it. We were a pastoral verdant island in a wilderness of stone. What was this place?

I asked the nice grandmotherly lady swinging a child if there were a way back to the road other than how we came in. She sweetly said she didn’t know but I could inquire at the main house. I knocked on the door and was invited in by two children and Frankie the dog. Frankie was torn between loving me or having me for lunch. The owner lady kindly advised that the only way out was the way we came. I thanked her and headed back to the car.

The place was beautiful. The isolation was complete. I noticed on their bulletin board that the croquet match was that afternoon and the human sacrifi ce would be Thursday night before supper. I shivered and headed back to civilization.

Moral: Don’t irritate your GPS or you could be lunch.

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