2014 Roadtrip: Roosevelt, UT to Provo, UT

We left Roosevelt at 10:27 a.m on Saturday and arrived in Provo at 12:30 p.m.--119 miles. It was rainy and 48° (on April 26). We were driving through high desert and there was snow on the surrounding mountain tops and hills near Strawberry Reservoir. There it was 37° and hailing at 7446’ elevation.  Then at Daniels Pass (8020’) there was snow and it was accumulating on the ground. In Heber City turned on to Hwy189 from Hwy 40 for a scenic highway drive along snow covered (and cloudy) mountains. 

We had originally planned to go to an expensive resort called Zermatt in Midway, UT (www.zermattresort.com) near Provo. In Friday’s USA Today (April 25, 2014) there was an article called “It’s the USA’s happiest city, but is it worth visiting?” Jayne Clark. Click here to see the article or cut and paste this link into your browser: http://www.usatoday.com/story/travel/destinations/2014/04/24/what-makes-provo-the-happiest-town-in-the-usa/8093283/).   The article certainly made Provo sound like it was worth visiting. We wanted good food (the article talked about an authentic Korean restaurant) and so we decided to change our plans and head to Provo. After all we had just come from a resort--The Four Seasons Vail Resort--so we weren't in need of a vacation from our life's vacation. We were happy to go to Provo but it was ironic. On Sunday all of the sit-down restaurants were closed.  

We wanted to have dim sum in Provo for lunch on Saturday but the first Chinese restaurant we stopped in said that there was no restaurant in Provo with dim sum. We were told to go to Salt Lake City for that. As we were driving on University Ave. to find the Utah Valley Visitors Bureau Information Office, we spotted Thai Village, 410 N University Ave., Provo, UT 84601, tel. 801-691-0922, web: thaivillageprovo.com. It turned out that the Visitors Center office had moved 2 years before. The information office is now at 220 W Center Street, Suite 100, tel. 800-222-8824. The information office had and gave us biking maps and restaurant information that we requested (not always as good as the quality we got for Utah Valley).

After the information office we went to Thai Village for lunch (see above for the address and so on). The food wasn't particularly good but it was acceptable. We had 2 lunch specials for $6.95 that come with a small salad (iceberg lettuce and some sauce), spring roll, won-ton and steamed rice. Audre had the Pad Gra Pow with tofu made with broccoli, cabbage, carrots, celery, onions zucchini, bell pepper, baby corn and basil in a spicy sauce. Dimitri had the spicy noodles which were wide noodles (that he liked) with basil, eggs, onions, cabbage, broccoli, celery, carrots, mushrooms and zucchini in a spicy sauce. We wouldn't recommend it for authentic Thai food.

Then we went to check out the room at Springhill Suites by Marriott, 1580 N Freedom Blvd., Provo, UT 84604, tel. 801-373-0073 (http://www.marriott.com/hotels/hotel-information/travel/slcps-springhill-suites-provo/). After staying at the Towne Place Suites by Marriott in Vernal, UT we decided we liked having a suite room.

The room (421) faced north and had a terrific view of Mt Timpanogos. After the precipitation on Saturday, the mountains surrounding Provo on Sunday were all snow covered and really pretty. The room was modern and well designed. There was a tiny mini bar fridge (big enough for what we are carrying) and a coffee maker and microwave. This is probably enough space for us, although Audre likes having a kitchen area with a sink which this suite did not have.

The sofa was in a separate area (partitioned using a screen-type of thing) with the desk, but, even so, the TV (in the bedroom area on the other side of the partition) turned for viewing (and it was at a comfortable height). The bit of the divider between the bedroom and the desk/sofa area was a good design idea. There was a closet with a full length mirror. There was a separate room for the toilet and a room with the shower/sink area. There is enough storage for the amount of clothes that we were carrying. Towne Place Suites (being a mid priced, extended stay accommodation had better drawer space and storage space). There is a fitness area and an indoor pool but no Jacuzzi.

The weekend rate was $109 plus tax and the rate on Monday night was $139, including breakfast. On Sunday morning the breakfast area was packed. When we went at about 9 a.m. everyone else in the hotel was there too. There wasn't enough food or space for the people. On Monday morning there was very nice fresh fruit (banana, strawberries, orange slices and apples) as well as hot eggs, hot oatmeal and the rest of the fare that is advertised. It was quiet and there was plenty of room for the people there when we went.

The room was quiet but too hot for comfortable sleeping. When the air conditioning/heat was on, cool it blew straight onto the bed and froze Dimitri. So we tried to cool the room before going to bed and then turn off the  air conditioning/heat. The room stayed at 71° even though it got cold outside at night.  Other than that, we liked the room. The people at the front desk were friendly, professional and helpful.

On Saturday afternoon, Dimitri went to Great Clips across from Springhill Suites for a haircut ($10) and Audre used the gym at the hotel. Dimitri's excuse for not coming to the gym with Audre was that his gym clothes were in his big suitcase (which was left in the car and only needed for the long stay portions of our trip), not the medium-sized ones we were using on this road trip.

On Saturday night we went to the Korean restaurant mentioned in the USA Today article. The food was good at Sam Hawk, not great. We are hoping to have much better Korean food when we are in Korea in September and October of 2014. At Sam Hawk Audre had Myun-Noodle: Jjol Myun ($8.29) described as white chewy noodles with vegetables and an egg on top in a spicy sauce. It was good. Dimitri had Duk Mandu Guk ($8.99) described as beef broth with sliced rice cakes and dumplings. It was okay but the broth was too bland. We also had ginger tea ($1.99). We spent $25 with tip and we were happy enough.

On Sunday after the complimentary Springhill Suites breakfast we went out on a bike ride we chose from the Utah Valley Trails and Bikeways map (2013) that we had gotten for free from the information office. It was a perfect 17.5 mile ride to get us in biking shape for our après ski season activities. We were on a bike path (mostly by ourselves) along the Provo River and went all the way to Utah Lake. And, for our second bike ride of the season, it was flat. Very nice. Utah Lake is big and all of the snow covered mountains surrounding Provo were visible.
Dimitri on the banks of Utah Lake with mountain vistas in the background
Provo is in a picturesque spot and is a nice looking town. There are lots of good looking colonial brick buildings in the north. In the downtown area there are Gothic-looking buildings or what Dimitri calls Mormon-looking buildings. It is neat and tidy. When we rolled back into town we looked for a restaurant for lunch. Our first stop was Banana Leaf for Singapore noodles. It was across the street from the Thai restaurant where we had lunch on Saturday. It was closed. We stopped some young men on the street (one was in a tie and white shirt) to ask about restaurants. That's when we learned that there would be no sit-down restaurant open on Sunday. So much for our goal of good eating well in Provo.

We were on our way, biking, to a mall (where we thought there might be a food court) when Audre spotted Cafe 300 across the street ( 279 E 300 S, Provo, UT tel. 401-691-0218). It had lots of cars in front of it. We went. This was a new restaurant that decided to buck the custom and stay open on Sunday. It was a popular spot. Unfortunately the food was not very good. We had one Veggie Sandwich on Sourdough (terrible) $7.95 with side salad (good) and French fries (not good). We were told that their French toast was very popular and we decided to try some for dessert (to test it and decide whether we should return for breakfast). We had a ½ order of French toast stuffed with custard (odd but okay) $6.25 (whole order is $7.25-huh?) with some kind of syrup-like stuff and butter. We also had a coffee ($1.95). Our server was very good and friendly and nice. The other staff was too. Too bad we didn't like the food. 

That night the manager of our hotel suggested that there was an Olive Garden Restaurant really close to the hotel (chains evidently are open on Sundays). When Dimitri and Audre met in June 1989, one of the first restaurants Dimitri suggested was an Olive Garden close to his home in Manhattan Beach, CA. So 25 years later in Provo, UT we decided to try one again. It turned out to be good enough. Tessa, our server was nice, friendly, professional and likeable. There was a special on several entrées, including Eggplant Parmigiana, which Audre had decided she wanted. The special cost $10 and included a soup or salad. What a deal. Audre chose the salad and a huge bowl of salad was brought. It was good enough. Dimitri had the Pappardelle Pescatore ($16.99) that also came with soup or salad. He had the minestrone. He said it too was good enough. We also had 2 glasses of Malbec ($7.50 x 2). We asked if we could taste only one Zeppoli (Italian donut) and Tessa said that the kitchen would probably “drop” one for us. She brought us one with 2 sauces. It was okay but since neither Dimitri nor I made a significant dent in our entrées, we didn’t want any more than a taste of dessert. We spent $45.24 and we think that Olive Garden delivers on its promises.

The next morning we went across the street to Shirley's Bakery for breakfast but learned that it really doesn't have any breakfast as we like it. So we returned to the Springhill Suites for our complimentary breakfast. We left our car to be "detailed" for $60.75 across the street (at Provo Supersonic Car WAsh, 1625 N Freedom Blvd., Provo, UT, tel. (801) 373-1891).

After breakfast we planned to do another urban bike ride on the Murdock Canal Trail but it was snowing (on our newly detailed car) so we decided to postpone that. We never did get out to bike on Monday April 28th because it was blustery (both too cold at 49° and too windy) and we didn't go to the gym either.

We did what we call "desk work" and then went to the Banana Leaf for lunch (The Banana Leaf Restaurant, 409 N University Ave, Provo, UT 84601, tel.  (801) 205-7619)Audre had one Indonesian chili chicken lunch ($7.99) that was described as spicy chucks of tender chicken breast seasoned with the best Indonesian spices and vegetables; served with a delicious side of Singaporean fried rice, sambols and chutneys and papadam. It came with a naan too.  The only vegetable was onion and the dish was only marginally tasty. Dimitri had the Celyon Chicken Tikka Masala lunch described as a rich tasting orange-colored masala curry dish with roasted chicken chunks (tikka) marinated in spices, yogurt and coconut cream ($9.99). He liked the dish. We asked to taste the Wattalapam pudding and we given a small piece. We thought it was too sweet for us. Instead we ordered one mango Lassi ($3.99) which was too sweet and we didn’t finish it. We talked to a young woman who was part of the family who owns the restaurant. She was engaging. The restaurant was opened 3 years ago and at lunch looked as if it was doing well. We spent $23.45 plus tip and had enough leftovers for lunch for Tuesday on the road on our trip to Ely, NV. 

We also scoped out where we would have dinner on Monday night. We were told that Black Sheep Cafe (19 North University Ave., Provo, UT, tel. 801-607-2485 web: blacksheepcafe.com) was the best restaurant in town. We looked at the menu and there was nothing on it that we would have wanted to eat.

We walked on Center Street and found Osaka's (46 W Center St., Provo, UT, tel. 801-373-1060). We walked in and saw an Asian woman, asked if they served Chawan Mushi and she said "yes". We made a reservation after looking at the menu. We went and had a very, very good meal. We had the Chawan Mushi ($4.50) and it tasted good but it was a little curdled. We had Agedashi Tofu ($3.95) described as deep fried soybean curd with tempura sauce and liked it very much. Another appetizer/small plate we had was the Yasai tempura vegetables ($5.95). It was also good. A side dish we had was the Saba Shio Yaki ($3.25), grilled mackerel;and it was truly delicious. We had a side of Japanese seaweed salad ($3.25)--also good, rice--good ($1.25) and barley tea ($1.65)--that we liked. The only main course we ordered  was Yosenabe (assorted seafood and vegetables in a special broth). Dimitri liked it. For dessert we had the ginger ice cream that was good. The Asian woman owner came over and told us the restaurant had been in Provo for 23 years. Very interesting that Provo has been supporting such a good Japanese restaurant for so long. A fine ending for our planned gastronomic sojourn in Provo.

On Tuesday we went to go Ely, Nevada in the Great Basin (read desert) four hours away.