April 12, 2010 GMT
Utah Be Ah Goonah

21/3/10 Moab, Utah

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The northern end of New Mexico is pretty. Colorado is stunning. Utah is something else entirely. It's a lesson in not thinking "the last place was amazing - next one's boundabe crap".

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Southern Colorado had perfect snowy peaks; and Utah has these and mind-gouging canyons, with rock formations that make a ghoulish fright-wit out of every Young Earth Creationist on the Very Old Planet. Even at this beginners-only end of Grand Canyon Country, you'd have to be a tit-eyed spazmo, a frog-brained hump, a beef-headed, bin-sniffing, wart-covered flab-licker not to get it. I did have a list of pertinent questions for believers in Noah's Flood (etc) to ask themselves, but I've whittled it down to one: Why don't you stab yourself?

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Mistakes it's possible to make about Utah, often generalized to the entire USA:
1. The beer is unmitigated cat-tinkle.
2. It's horribly expensive - like, $7 a pint.
3. It's near-impossible to get a drink in Utah anyway, because the nutjob Mormons (one rung down the nut-ladder from Scientologists) control everything.

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Let's, shall'n't we, deal with these objections one-by-one?

1. Utah beer, if brewed in the state itself, has to be 3.2% alcohol by weight, not volume. I have no idea what the necessary algorithm is to convert ABW to the more usual ABV, but after "a few" ABW 3.2-ers, you won't care. Anyway, you're in Utah - what choice do you have?

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2. No it's not. I cried myself to sleep every night for months when I heard that a bottle of beer in an American pub was $7. It's not. It's - on average, after six south-western states - about $4 a pint. In Durango, CO, I was paying $2 a pint for superb microbrew booze. Also, in 2 months in the US, I haven't been to a bar in the US that wasn't overflowing with exciting local brews. (Well, maybe once in N'Awlins - but it was, like, $1.50.)

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3. First day in Utah, I come across yet another microbrew pub - Eddie McStiff's, in Moab. Yes - bad name, for both the pub (crass) and the town (worryingly Old Testament), but who cares? Good booze, comfy bar-stools and smiley service. I may even become a Mormon and move here. Wait - no I won't. It's stupid.

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Dreadful beer - but look at the size of the can!*

Miller High Life is the "Champagne of Beers" in the same way that pig urine is the Blue Nun of farmyard urines.

If you happen to be on a motorcycle - and I do happen - entry to US National Parks appears to be priced at $5. At any of the three I've been to so far (Mesa Verde, CO; Canyonlands and Arches, UT) they'll be the five most awesome dollars you've ever spent. Flipping extraordinary stuff awaits your yearning peepers. That $5 ticket lasts a week as well. A Denny's "Egg Lover" breakfast, with coffee and tip, comes to $12. The eggs are lush, but the bacon's like a mouthful of autumn leaves. I suggest you skip it and spend the cash on a couple of park visits. (You can eat lizards and prairie dogs, prolly.)

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Well worth it on your birthday though - because it's free


Flagstaff, Arizona. 25.3.10

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After a chat with Ian from Scotland at Monument Valley, who pulls up behind me to question me closely and amusingly about my GB plates, I make it to Flagstaff on my birthday. It's not far off being my death day as well - I had no idea Flagstaff was several miles up in the air (because I didn't check), so, when I arrive 2 hours after dark I'm - I think - in the early stages of hypothermia. Uncontrollable shivering in the Econolodge reception area, inability to write my name on the check-in form and a sensation of being noticeably more stupid than usual are the main symptoms. I decide to stay in and do the birthday thing tomorrow - if Saint Gertrude (patron saint of the dead) is gracious enough to grant me a tomorrow. Check-in guy says "Don't worry - I'll inform your next of kin if you die", which cheers me up.

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Beaver Street Brewery in Flagstaff is like a mother's hug after an Xmas Eve ride down the A3, appropriately. Their R&R stout (6.4%) is literally unbelievable - the best beer I've tasted outside Belgium. I love Guinness, but this makes it taste like Kestrel Lite. It's like chocolate dissolved in sherry. BOOOIP! It's like being punched in the nads by Jesus.

*Disclaimer: 24oz in the US is 1.5 US pints. 1.5 US pints = 1.248 Imperial pints. So anyway, a 24 US oz can is still nearly 1.25 proper UK pints. And it (trans: they) was (trans: were) only $1.50 (ah, each). Conclusively, though, LOOK AT THE SIZE OF THE CAN! I look forward to the day I can convincingly order "a 40 and a blunt", now I know what a "24" looks like.

Posted by Simon Fitzpatrick at April 12, 2010 01:45 AM GMT

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