Kirby: It took me awhile to love Utah

(Francisco Kjolseth | The Salt Lake Tribune) Robert Kirby didn't always love Utah.

Sonny and I just returned from a 24-hour road trip. The idea was to get off the Wasatch Front and see how many miles we could cover in that time without leaving the state.

It was highly informative. Neither of us is a Utah native. The trip reminded us of our initial loathing of coming to Zion.

Sonny came here in the 1980s because — well, not to put too fine a point on it — he thought he had met the woman of his dreams. And you have to follow those feelings.

But, as statistics prove, finding the mate of one’s dream can be way harder than it first seems. He did end up finding the love of his life here, but it took awhile.

I arrived in Utah about 15 years earlier, and entirely against my will. It took a stern father, military orders to Fort Douglas, and 20 feet of rope to get me here in an all-night ride from Southern California.

In 1970, nobody in the state hated Utah more than me. Had I been given the key to its utter destruction at any point during that first year, this place would still be a smoking radioactive hole today.

I ran away twice, making it to the Point of the Mountain the first time and Parowan the second. I don’t count a third attempt, which was aborted when it started to rain before I even got to the freeway.

On our fast road trip, Sonny and I pointed out spots of recognition in our long-ago loathing of this place. For example, the corner where the Utah Highway Patrol snapped me up in Parowan has barely changed.

Later, Sonny pointed to the precise location in Spanish Fork Canyon where, driving an old truck filled with everything he owned from New Mexico, he had his first thought, “This @$#^@ place already pisses me off.”

We agreed that it was Mormons who made us hate Utah. Sonny wasn’t one (and still isn’t), while I was one (and still am).

But we are both military brats, and neither of us was ready for a place where a correlation of faith was the first rung on the social ladder. Sonny found his way to cope with being outside of the predominant church, and I found my own way of coping within it.

The road trip was a blessing. As we traveled, various sights brought fond memories of a combined 90-plus years of living here.

Sunrises at Tavaputs, river runs, fossil hunts, large explosions, slot canyons, the night sky in the middle of the desert, lightning storms in the mountains, and skimming cliff tops in a helicopter.

We passed places where various disasters had befallen us (mostly because of us), but they were now things to laugh about.

It would be idiotic to believe that Utah is the only place that can provide those experiences, but much can be made of whom you were with when you experienced them.

All of my family and my closest friends live here now. So do my fondest memories. I couldn’t live anywhere else now and be happy without both of them close at hand.

Sometimes you just have to get away in order to figure out where you belong.

Robert Kirby is The Tribune’s humor columnist. Follow Kirby on Facebook.

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