Monday, December 22, 2008

Checking in with Main Street

Even though we've wrapped our Travel Log Series for as far as Denver, Obamathon Man and his associate want to briefly look back on the morning we spent in Richfield, UT. On the outskirts of town there is a Home Depot, a Wal-Mart, and the same clump of hotels and truck stops you would usually find in any interstate town. The center of town lacks that normalized, chain-store look; there are old banks, fishing supply stores, and DVD rental stores whose signs still read "Video Rental". Walking down Main Street (it really is called Main Street) you could easily imagine the same buildings existing 50 years ago, before the interstate existed, or even 100 years ago, when the only way into town was by train. Time moves slower here, and whereas modernity is a way of life for city folk like myself, in Richfield it is more of an oddity. If there is a Middle America, Richfield is it.

We spent the night in a motel in the center of town. From the looks of it, the place used to be an old brick hotel that was bought out by a chain, modernized, with an 80s era addition built later in the back. Waking up in the morning, we were surprised to see the Salt Lake Tribune, which proclaimed that many parts of Salt Lake City were turning democratic. Could Utah be the next Colorado? Maybe, but whatever change was going on in SLC had yet to be felt here in Richfield. An interesting side note: the Tribune has an entire section dedicated to polygamy.

We had looked to the hotel's local attractions guide for a good place for breakfast. One of the guide's recommended Richfield restaurants was the Pizza Bowl, which unfortunately was misspelled as "Pizza Bowel". However, not being in the mood for a breakfast pizza and soured by the thought of bowels, we decided to just walk up the street until we saw a decent breakfast place. The first restaurant we saw was the Little Wonder Cafe, and as it turned out, the place could not have been given a better name.

It's a sweet little restaurant, well worn, and frequented by Richfield's finest. Decorative auburn leaves cover the windowsill, red vinyl booths are cracked with age. Listen in on the conversations: a man in a jean jacket and a wool cap tells of how the nearby mountains just got 18 inches of snow, a pudgy young man in an army jacket raves about his hot cocoa. Our waitress was short, redheaded, and looked like her best years had already passed right here in this restaurant. Listening to her talk, life seemed so simple, and I could better understand why people vote Republican. The food was remarkably cheap, and I ordered overeasy eggs and corned beef hash. My associate suggested I tell her about our journey, but I was reluctant, she was so nice and I didn't want to bring nasty thoughts like a democratic president into such an idyllic locale.

She came by with our food, and my associate blurted out that we were on our way to Washington to see Obama get sworn in. Far from the cold stare I had expected, she could not have been happier for us. She admitted that she couldn't make the journey herself because she was afraid of crowds, but she would want to go if she wasn't. I told her that we would wave to her on the t.v. cameras if she cared to tune in. And while she didn't admit to actually voting for Obama, she said she supports him. She assured us that we were young enough that we couldn't fully appreciate how historic this election was. Maybe so, but I'm not sure if anyone really does.

So it turned out the joke was on me. In my mind, Richfield was one of the last places to ever undergo what Barack Obama refered to as "change", and that this change would have to come in spite of the Richfields of America. And it turned out that Richfield - or at least part of it - was already on board. That citizens here could look past his middle name, his palling around with terrorists, and everything else about him, was as amazing to me as any part of his historic election.

The food was delicious and filling. We took the bill to the register and our waitress rang us up. I asked if I could take a picture and she obliged, though she warned me that she wasn't photogenic. I would disagree.

So we left Richfield happily, and with the knowledge that Obama's change might be a bit deeper than we had thought.


  1. How kool.....going through my home county,,,just 5 miles from the Little Wonder. Among us desert and mountain people a few liberals lurk. Please represent me there in D.C....proud to be an American again. May he have the courage to bring government back to the common folk. Thanks for making such a historic journey. May the wind be at your back.

  2. Hey Yeti, thanks for the warm wishes. I will be honored to represent you and all others from the Richfield area who want to be. It's a wonderful little town and I was fortunate to have visited. The surrounding countryside looks to have many hidden treasures, which you have done a good job of highlighting, and it's a shame I didn't have more time to look around. Maybe you'd have some advice for things to go see the next time I'm in town?

  3. Just let me know next time you come through...we have kool stuff in those hills. Good Luck on your journey and Merry Christmas to you and yours.