The Place

John Miller and the Scion

Linda Burton posting from Salt Lake City, Utah – “I’m pointing to Salt Lake City,” said John Miller, standing beside the map on the back of the Scion, “because this is the place.” John was referring to his home, and the home of Mark Miller Toyota, but it’s a phrase I’ve run into a lot here. This is the Place Heritage Park marks the approximate spot where Brigham Young and the Mormon pioneers stopped in 1847 and declared journey’s end. Ruth’s Diner is past the Park out Emigrant Canyon Road, the second oldest restaurant in the city, where you can get a “This-is-Almost-the-Place” burger. Rice-Eccles Stadium is THE place where athletes from all over the world gathered for the 2002 Winter Olympics. It seems there are a lot of good reasons to come to Salt Lake City. And a lot of good reasons to stay.

Ed Stocking and Bill Niemann

John is the fourth generation of the Miller family to be in the automobile business. They started with Pontiac/Cadillac in 1953, then added Subaru; Mark Miller Toyota was opened in 1990. I stopped by to show off the Scion, and tell them about the Journey Across America; I was welcomed by sales consultant Ed Stocking, General Manager Bill Niemann, and John Miller, who has the role of sales manager now. John was appreciative of the Journey’s quest; “Some time ago I took a year and traveled the country myself,” he said. “I do technical rock climbing. But I came back here. In my mind, this is the best place to be.” John went on to talk about the mountains here, and the fabulous snow. And the community, and how his family is involved, particularly in its support of United Way and community centers. I had a nice visit, at a nice place.

I had lunch on the patio at Ruth’s Diner, sitting under the cottonwood trees, staring wide-eyed at what was brought to me just after the menu. It was a mile-high biscuit, equivalent to about eight normal-sized biscuits, I calculated. And it was really good. I asked about the recipe and got a smile, “We made Guy Fieri close his eyes when our cook did the biscuits,” I was told. That was the day the “Diners, Drive-ins and Dives” TV personality came by to check out Ruth’s diner food. Ruth is a legend; a feisty independent woman who started selling hamburgers downtown in 1930; then, not liking all the city restrictions, set an old trolley car roadside in Emigrant Canyon in 1948, built an apartment alongside, and continued flipping burgers, cussing and smoking cigarettes all the while. She was successful; bought out by a customer in 1977, she continued to live on the property till she died at 94. The restaurant is spiffed up and modern with an extensive menu now (Fieri liked the upscale Mac and Cheese best), but the trolley car is still there. I had a nice lunch, at a nice place.

This Is The Place Heritage Park was on my right as I drove from Emigrant Canyon back to downtown. A monument there marks the approximate location where the Mormon pioneers first entered the Salt Lake Valley after a 1,300-mile trek from Illinois in 1847. From the wind-swept hill, you can see clear across the magnificent valley towards the Great Salt Lake. I understand why Brigham Young decided this was Journey’s End, time to stop, this is the place. The Park is a living history museum with something for every season – Beehive, Baby Animal, Heritage, Harvest, Holiday; ponies and trains, historic homes and pioneer trades, Brother Brigham’s Ball and Candlelight Christmas, a nice place to be, again and again.

The splendid Rice-Eccles Stadium is home field of the Pac 12 Utah Utes, and site of the opening and closing ceremonies of the 2002 Winter Olympics. It commands the hillside at an elevation of 4,567 feet, 330 feet above the city. I stopped to get a photo, imagining the pomp and circumstance of a ceremony that’s been going on since ancient times, the parade of athletes from around the world, come to compete, come for the honor and the glory, the fire within symbolized by the lighting of the torch. This is the place.