About Salt Lake City
From "How America Can Bike And Grow Rich, The NBG Manifesto"

The incidence of driveways and intersections and cars increased as we approached the greater Salt Lake City area. We braced for the worst. And then a funny thing happened. As we got closer and closer to the center of the city, the traffic started to lessen.

While there were no bike lanes, the streets made wide enough by the early pioneers so a wagon train could turn around on them, just seemed to have less cars. Even though it was a work day of the week, we did not encounter one traffic jam any where. While there were a few people walking on the sidewalks here and there, we saw even fewer bikes being ridden.

Scott called out as we rode, “Things haven’t changed from when when Pam, and I rode through here in 2006.”

“How’s that?” I asked as I looked down from my high perch.

“We thought we were in a ghost town then too. There’s no traffic. I mean I’m not complaining but something’s gotta give here.”

“Yeah, I remember you telling me about that back then. What 180,000 people and where are they all at?” I remarked as I kept a close eye on the car slowing down ahead. “Kinda reminds me of Eugene, Oregon. What they got 140 or so thousand and cars aren’t bad there either. But in Eugene, you see a lot more people on bikes. Here, I don’t get it.”

“Well we’re almost to the Salt Lake Temple, so it doesn’t get any more Salt Lake City that that,” Scott said.

“What do you mean?” I asked.

“That’s the center of town. It’s where the famous Mormon temple is.”

Scott was referring to the focal point of what is called Temple Square, a ten acre park like area in the middle of the city. It was there that the church building was that Brigham Young asked be built when he settled this area with 147 others in 1847. Even though Young would never see it finished, since it took 40 years to complete, its historical significance reminds visitors of the Mormon’s importance to the settlement of these lands. While it is closed to the general public, the Mormon faithful hold it in such high esteem, that only certain of its members are allowed to worship there.

An impressive building, its walls are made of granite that are as much as eight feet wide. Atop of all this are six spires that reach 210 feet into the sky. It sat in and amongst the gardens and various sculptural monuments that we could see everywhere once we reached this holy area.

Adjacent to the imposing church edifice stood a dome like structure that somehow looked out of place. It looked like it could easily have housed a public swimming pool or for that matter a small blimp. Instead, as I was surprised to learn, it was the home of the world famous Mormom Tabernacle Choir. Local legend has it that the design for this building also came to Brigham Young back in 1863 when construction on it began.

By the time we reached Temple Square, the gently rolling hills we had been pedaling gave way to flat riding turf. As we ambled along on Salt Lake’s generously sized roads, we were warned of what what was ahead of of us in the days that would follow. Massive snow capped peaks flanked the eastern edge of the city.

Called the Wasatch Mountain Range, they rose to as high as 11,489 feet. Even though we were were riding through, an ancient lake bed called Lake Bonneville that was already 4,226 feet above sea level, the peak filled skyline that served as a backdrop to the view ahead, reminded us that we had work to do.

Another reminder of the authority nature placed over these lands, was the Great Salt Lake. Covering as little as 950 square miles in 1963, it once expanded to as much as 3,300 square miles in 1987. Even though we didn’t ride by it because it was north of the city, it was this fluctuation in size that once had a say in the future of transportation in America.

To get around the Great Salt Lake’s ever changing salt flats and marshlands, in 1869, the transcontinental railroad bypassed Salt Lake City when the Union Pacific and the Central Pacific met. It was for this reason that the legendary Golden Spike was driven 66 miles to the north, in Promontory, Utah.

Even though Brigham Young and his followers felt the railroads should have incurred the additional expense to get around this problem, Salt Lake City did manage to end up in the national transportation, however. When the Union Pacific was unable to pay cash to the Mormons for labor for some track it had asked them to lay in error, it compensated them with stock. And it was this stock that Salt Lake City used a year later to lay the 40 miles of track that would connect it with Ogden, Utah and the transcontinental railroad. It was this development that would earn it the nickname, the Crossroads of the West.

From Temple Square, about five blocks away was our destination. Salt Lake City Hall. A spectacular sandstone building, four stories tall, Romanesque arches held its tall windows in place The pyramid shaped spires that framed its roof line, made it look like one of the castles from old Europe. A clock tower climbed high above all this to 256 feet. When we found that this impressive structure has been designed to rival Salt Lake Temple as the city’s architectural centerpiece when it was completed in 1894, it all began to make sense.

Located on the site of the original Mormon camp of 1847, it was set back a few hundred feet from the road. Trees, and a big fountain that sent water gushing probably ten feet high, graced the wide sidewalks that led all throughout the well manicured grounds.

The centerpiece of Washington Square another ten acre city block, the gargoyles that had been carved into this important building seemed to compliment the statues that appeared everywhere in the small park that surrounded it. Made up of over one hundred rooms, soon we learned that the Mayor’s office was on this City Hall’s third floor. Though we did not go inside, as Mayor Rocky came down to greet us as has been customary with our Mayors' Rides, one of his staffers also told us that there was a life sized portrait of Brigham Young in the city council chambers.

Salt Lake City Hall was grand for a reason as it had been built to serve as the center of government for both the city and the county and until 1915, it had served as the state capital. Added to the National Register of Historical Places in 1970, it was exhaustively renovated from 1973 to 1989 and stands out as a proud building here in the 21st Century.

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