I'm home from my belated holiday visit to the Utah family. Had a very nice time, including 11 of us for a big dinner last night, followed by a mass visit to my mom at her nursing home. The only photos I took were of people that none of you know. They mean a lot to me, but I won't bore you with them.
My rental car was a Hyundai Elantra, pictured above. It was completely average in just about every possible way: color, looks, size, comfort, performance, etc. But it performed the required task (getting me to SLC and back without problems and without inflicting suffering on me) just fine. The only glitch was that the windshield washer lines froze up and wouldn't function when I needed them to, returning to life only after I got back to warmer Nevada. The Elantra managed a respectable 33.4 mpg for the trip, not at all bad for a car of its size (i.e., not a micro-speck). Above all, it was not, repeat NOT, a Smart Car. The Fox rental car company did its usual fine job of providing me with no nasty surprises, extra charges, long waits, or lousy service. (My experiences with rental car companies has been so uniformly awful that an absence of bad things happening is my highest prasie.)
The car's best feature was XM/Sirius radio, which I didn't even know I had until I was on my way. For much of the route between Vegas and Salt Lake, it's sparsely populated territory, with the only radio choices being country music, preachers, and Rush Limbaugh. Even with those, you have to search for new stations frequently because the mountains keep changing what reception you get. Satellite radio fixes all of that: 200+ channels to pick from, all crystal-clear all the time. I had brought along a bunch of CDs in anticipation of the usual dearth of externally supplied entertainment, but ended up not playing them. Instead, I bounced among opera, other classical music, a Broadway music channel, NPR, oldies, and Howard Stern. If I spent more time in the car than I do, I would definitely invest in this system. Now I'm going to feel deprived whenever I rent a car that doesn't have it.
On my way home, I stopped in Beaver at the Cache Valley Cheese factory outlet. My mother grew up in Cache Valley (northern Utah), and one of her brothers spent his career working for the cheese factory--so in addition to the general reputation for excellence that Cache Valley Cheese has in Utah, there has always been a sense in the family that nothing else could ever be quite as good. When I was little, summers almost always meant a cross-country drive to see family in the West, with a large supply of Cache Valley cheese brought back home. Today I continued that tradition, sort of: I bought 9 1/2 pounds of cheese, divided among six different varieties. That included--to my great delight--the "Smoki" version, which I remember absolutely loving when I was a kid, but which I haven't tasted in at least 35 years. I'm curious to see if I'll like it as much as I remember I used to.
I have a couple of days of catching up to do in terms of reading, correspondence, errands, cleaning up, etc., after which things should revert to regular rhythms around here.