When I was a kid I took a long summer-time trip with my older sister and her fiance, a graduate student in economics. They needed a chaperone, and I was convenient.
We toured all over southern Utah so that my brother-in-law-to-be could do research and conduct interviews for his study of Utah highways. While he was in long, boring meetings, my sister and I played tennis and played like southern Utah tourists, checking out buildings and historic sites.If I had not taken that landmark tour, I probably would not have seen nearly as much of Utah as I did. After my marriage, when Marti and I had lived in Massachusetts for a couple of years, she found out to her horror that although I had grown up in Utah, I had never been to the largest open pit copper mine in the world. So when we visited Utah the next summer, she made me go.
It was true. I had a void in my past the size of a copper mine. I've wondered ever since how many other people are similarly guilty.
Do they grow up thinking all the interesting things to see are out of state? In Massachusetts we have seen virtually all of the important and historical sites, both because we were interested as newcomers to the state and because we had a steady influx of Utah friends and relatives who wanted to see them. So we have even visited many of them several times.
But we have noticed in conversations with New England natives that many of them are also guilty of short-changing the interesting places in their own backyards. This summer, after we had visited the fabled mansions in Newport, R.I., just a short drive from Boston, for the 12th or 13th time, we discovered that our friends down the street had NEVER been to Newport.
We love Newport and consider it one of the more interesting and idyllic places in New England. So it seemed almost unbelievable.
In fact, there are a number of Massachusetts natives who have never been to Plymouth to see the rock or climb on the Mayflower. Some have never been to Lexington and Concord to stand on the site where "the shot heard 'round the world" was fired. Some have never been to Bunker Hill or "Old Ironsides" or even driven from an outlying town or suburb into Boston.
That's right. They have not even seen Boston! And because the highways are continuing to fill up and the expressways are well known for breakdowns and other disasters, lots of people avoid going into town. They're afraid they won't get back.
But we are probably all the same. We grow up taking for granted our own backyard and usually do not even see anything memorable about it until after we have left.
So I wonder how many native Utahns have never been to Bryce Canyon or Zion national parks? Or Glen Canyon? Or Capitol Reef National Park? Or Arches? Or Flaming Gorge? Or Timpanogos Cave? Or any number of other interesting, scenic wonders throughout Utah?
I wonder how many Utahns have traveled the length and breadth of the state, which is undoubtedly one of the things those advertising execs were thinking when they dreamed up that incredibly obnoxious slogan, "Utah, a Pretty, Great State."
I know people are interested in recreation, and so most have probably been to Lake Powell. Maybe they even have a house boat there. But have they sought out the historic sites, and realized that Utah should and could be enjoyed on a cultural and historical basis alone?
Are there some people who have never been to Temple Square? Or the Cathedral of the Madeleine? The Museum of Church History and Art? How about the Great Salt Lake? (Or the pumps in the desert?)
Are there actually some people who avoid going into downtown Salt Lake City? I strongly suspect that the answer is yes to all of those. It is human nature.
So I'm making an argument to see Utah first. And if it's too late for that, at least see it second. It's an integral part of our education and culture to really know and understand the place where we grew up.
It's a great state to visit - and pretty, too.