Zion National Park

Vegas 2023

Abby and I took a trip to Las Vegas over fall break to see U2. I’m not a fan of the spectacle of Vegas, so we opted for the spectacle of nature. We stayed at an Airbnb with goats in the yard, which kind of set the vibe for this wacky Vegas trip.


If anyone knows how to create spectacle, it’s U2. It was fun to see what they did with the canvas of the Sphere, with basically a giant, wrap around screen. It’s interesting that the stage itself was spartan (though the surface was also a video screen), letting the video screen do all the work.

Playing through the Achtung Baby album wouldn’t be my first choice, but much like Joshua Tree it’s amazing how there’s not a dud in the bunch. Lots of songs you wouldn’t expect, but they still sprinkled in some favorites. And the new single, “Atomic City,” is pretty great live.

Interesting crowd for the show—U2 and their fans are getting old, and it shows. Most of the crowd was seated, until the final six-song “encore” set starting with “Elevation.”

Zion National Park

I went to Zion as a kid on a family vacation, but I don’t remember much. Basically a really beautiful canyon, sharp turns, and lots of people. I think we hit it on the way somewhere else, so maybe we didn’t spend much time there.

This time around we only had a day, plus a nearly 3-hour drive one way. It’s hard to spend such a short time in Zion—the place is nuts. That’s what I kept saying, pointing out how ridiculous the scenery is. The fall colors were even poking through in places, especially to the east.

Some of the best views were on the drive to the east through the Zion-Mount Carmel tunnel. Zion Canyon itself is only open to the shuttle and we just did the Riverwalk (not the actual Narrows, just to the Narrows). Would have loved to do more, but we probably spent too much time looking for parking. Someday I’d love to rent an ebike and bike Zion Canyon (but maybe when it’s cooler—the regular temp was 90, though east of the tunnel and at the Riverwalk it was in the 70s).

Valley of Fire State Park

If Zion was nuts, Valley of Fire State Park matched it, mind-boggling view for mind-boggling view. The oppressive heat did put a damper on any hiking. 90 degrees in October is weird, but it is the desert.

Seven Magic Mountains

The unexpected surprise of the trip was the art installment Seven Magic Mountains by Ugo Rondinone. It’s basically towering painted rocks in the middle of nowhere. Seriously, there’s nothing there. You get off the freeway and follow the access road for five miles because that’s the closest exit. There’s a parking lot, a couple signs, and that’s it.

People love to mock art and say they could do that, but they don’t. Seven Magic Mountains is a perfect example of that attitude. In the midst of the desert, it’s just a wonderful splash of bright color. “Whimsy” is a word artist Travis Olson used to describe his fairy doors in West St. Paul, and I think it applies here. Totally worth a stop.


And speaking of surprise, we went to Koolsville Tattoos for flash tattoos. They have a very limited selection of tattoos you can get for $10 and $20. They’re super simple and take about 10 minutes. So there’s our Vegas moment.

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