Salt Lake City and Antelope Island

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Our five days in the Salt Lake City area were full of non-stop fun, such as having our car serviced, doing laundry, going grocery shopping, returning Alan’s faulty ground pad and replacing it with a Therm-A-Rest, and dealing with gnawed-through electrical wires on our car.  Between all of the errands we were running now that we were in the first urban area we’d seen in quite some time, we also made time to visit Temple Square – checking out the Mormon Tabernacle, a Mormon history museum, and the outside of the Temple.  The highlight was visiting the family search center to do some research on my family’s history.  My father is knee-deep in researching our family’s history, but he hasn’t done that much research to date on one of my great-grandparents, who happened to be Mormon.  I had a great time working with a volunteer at the center to learn more about my great-grandparents and to pull old census records.  Even better, I learned that there are family search centers all over (check out familysearch.org for one near you), including one that is not all that far from my parents’ church.  Hopefully this will help my dad in his quest to continue compiling our family’s history.

The Mormon Temple

The Mormon Temple in Salt Lake City

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In addition to checking out the city and surrounding areas, we also took a trip up to Park City, watched ski jumpers train at the Olympic Park, and camped on an island in the Great Salt Lake.

Antelope Island (we did see antelope!) is a largely undeveloped state park in the middle of the salty sea of northern Utah.  The sunsets were gorgeous and were reason to celebrate as it was the only time the temperature in the park was close to appealing.  I’m not sure if it’s always this hot in SLC in the summer, but the temperatures were pushing 100 just about every day.  Van and I did get our feet wet, but the smell and feeling of the slimey sand beneath our feet was less than attractive.  As much as I was tempted to float in water five times saltier than the ocean, I took a pass.  On the positive side, we only had to suffer through one night of our closest neighbors in the campground setting up an outdoor movie theater complete with spotlights for a midnight showing of a film that we thankfully couldn’t hear over the sounds of their 1970’s-era generator that had definitely seen better days, which powered the whole set-up.  But it was all worth it for the absolute best sunsets of our trip thus far.  Each night was a spectacle of deep oranges and reds shining across an almost perfectly still sea that appears to merge with, more than reflect, the land around it.

Alvin, Simon and Theodore Just Cost Us $400+

Stacey has been writing all of the posts up until this point, but since we have just experienced our second fun bout with car issues, I decided it was time to write a post of my own.  I have been contemplating doing a post on the demise of our Eurovan, but haven’t been able to bring myself to do it because I still haven’t totally gotten over it.  But, since we just had a wacky experience with our Audi, it pushed me over the edge and I figured I’d write about the Audi and maybe in doing so I would find the closure I needed to be willing to write about the Eurovan.  So below is my post about the Audi fun we just experienced, and if you are lucky, perhaps I will muster the willpower to write about the Eurovan because I have a hunch a lot of people would like to know the details of what happened to it.

So here goes my first post.

We were enjoying a lovely morning at Antelope Island State Park dipping our toes in the Great Salt Lake when what should occur, but a check engine light decided to rear its ugly head on our car dashboard and remind us for a brief moment of our fun times spent dealing with our dead van in Memphis, TN.  My initial thought, given the trauma of the van death, was this is what I get for buying two German cars after having had a wonderful decade-plus of worry-free life with a Honda.  My second thought was, well, at least this time the car is actually still running unlike the van and, because we have a warranty, if it is anything major it won’t hurt as bad.

Having to deal with car issues is never fun.  Having to deal with car issues when that car is essentially your house is even less fun.  But, the good news is that the light went off in the Salt Lake area and there are three Audi dealerships within about 60 miles of one another.  As we were planning on leaving Utah the next day for Idaho, we decided to scrap the rest of our plans for the day to get to the nearest dealership and hope to get the problem resolved pronto.

We soon learned that notwithstanding the fact that the Salt Lake area has three dealerships, things apparently run a little bit differently in Utah than what we have become accustomed to in DC and other faster paced areas.  I say this because the first dealership we went to (in Layton, UT) explained that they wouldn’t be able to look at our car until Tuesday (the issue happened on a Friday) because they only had one tech working and they don’t work their people long, they actually give them real vacations.  And because this week was the week of Utah’s Pioneer Day holiday, more people were off, and so on.  So, I called another dealership 60 miles south in Provo and pleaded with them to see us given our circumstances.  Luckily they agreed to try to squeeze us in in the afternoon even though I was given significant assurances that they were also swamped.

For background, three days before the check engine issue I actually had the car’s oil changed, which was an ordeal in its own right.  For the oil change I tried to go to the dealership in Salt Lake City and was told they were so booked they and couldn’t schedule a service until August (we were there in late July).  I ended up in the dealership in Layton and had to wring the guy to get him to do the oil change.   This is why we went back to the Layton dealership first to address the check engine light, but then skipped over the Salt Lake dealership to plead with the Provo dealership to see us.  Had the Provo dealership not seen us on that Friday, we would have been essentially stranded in Salt Lake for another 3-4 days because the Provo dealership closes their service department both Saturday and Sunday.  Like I said, things are different in Utah.

As we are driving south on I-15 for about 60 miles to Provo, it becomes obvious that this is not some minor computer glitch or something innocuous, but something real.  The car is definitely down on power.  It is driving, but if I floor it at 60 or so, the needle might go to 61 and that’s it.  The good news is that the car makes it, and the Provo dealership actually does get to see the car.

Flash forward about 2-3 hours: Van is being a great sport given the circumstances, and Stacey and I are enjoying the free A/C and WIFI at the Audi service lounge (it was 100+ degrees each day we were in Salt Lake and since we were camping and hadn’t had a solid WIFI spot for a bit, that did make things a little better) when the inevitable diagnosis came back.  The good news: we know what is wrong with your car and can fix it today.  The bad news: it isn’t covered under warranty.  Why?  Because the problem was a broken wire in a part of the turbocharger in the engine (which explains the loss of power) and that break in the wire didn’t come from a defect but from a small creature gnawing at it.  Sorry folks, but Audi ain’t on the hook for that one.

We both knew it was immediately true without looking at the car because about five days before the light came on we had been camping in Bryce Canyon, UT (which Stacey will fill you in on in the future) where there were an abundance of chipmunks.  I actually witnessed them running underneath the car and jumping into the undercarriage under the bumper.  When I saw them doing this I warned Stacey that we needed to be careful and I actually started the car and drove around to try to get them out.  My fear: they would find a way into the cabin through the air vents and eat food inside the car, etc. (we had actually had this happen to us in Montana several years ago while camping with a very brilliant field mouse).  Oops, apparently we had bigger things to worry about.  Notwithstanding our diligence, they obviously got in the engine bay and had a field day.

Time to refigure that cost of camping at Bryce.  We thought it was $15/night but in actuality we forgot to figure in the chipmunk tax, which actually brought the total to closer to $150/night.  Most expensive campsite we’ve ever stayed in.

Beautiful Views at Bryce, But They Come With a Price

Beautiful Views at Bryce, But They Come With a Price

Notwithstanding the oddity of that revelation, the good news is that we were able to get the car back in perfect working order the same day with assurances the chipmunks had done no other damage.  We were able to head off to Idaho the next morning without any real setbacks besides a bit of a hit to the wallet.

FYI: For those of you that live in Colorado and fly in and out of Denver International Airport, the Audi tech told me there is a serious problem with this type of stuff happening at DIA because there are tons of rabbits there.  So, next time you think about parking in the econo spots outside, you might want to figure the rabbit tax into the equation and it might not look like such a great deal.

FYI 2: We are confident chipmunks did not kill our van.