Saturday, July 24, 2010

Moab, Utah

According to Alias Smith and Jones: The Story of Two Pretty Good Bad Men, the cast and crew of the show filmed scenes for third season episodes in the Moab area for about three weeks during the summer of 1972. Coincidentally, I was in Moab from July 18 – 22, 2010, some of the same days that ASJ was there 38 years earlier (though I actually departed on July 23rd). It was a memorable experience being there the same time that ASJ had been in Moab! This blog entry describes the general area of Moab; future entries will discuss specific places where ASJ filmed scenes for episodes.

Moab is located in southeastern Utah, in the high desert and surrounded by red cliffs and canyons with the Colorado River running through. The downtown part of Moab extends along both sides of US 191 for about three miles and each side of the road is lined with art galleries, adventure tour companies, restaurants, shops, and places to stay for most of it. The Visitor Information Center is excellent—filled with informational brochures about the area and an extensive collection of books, including one I bought that contained pictures of Wanted posters of the numerous outlaws that operated in Utah.

At the north end of town, just before crossing the Colorado River Bridge, a right turn brings you onto Highway 128, which winds along the Colorado River. At this point, the river is not very wide and the road is considered a scenic byway because of the steep cliffs and canyons that the road cuts through, always with the river just a few yards away and no guardrails for protection. There are designated camping areas along the road. At Mile 14, you reach the Red Cliffs Lodge, which has a winery with daily wine tastings. Two of the wines it produces are called Kid Red and Outlaw Red (see photos above). I supposed it's only fitting that I liked Outlaw Red best, in appreciation of my two favorite outlaws! In addition, Red Cliffs Lodge has a museum dedicated to the many movies, TV shows, commercials, and music videos that have been filmed in the area (see photo above).

I was very curious as to whether or not ASJ would be represented in the museum. I was not disappointed! There is a poster-like display that includes some photos from the show and in the center, text that lists the actors who were filming in the area, an explanation of the premise of ASJ, and a list of places where the show filmed (see photo above). There are similar “posters” for all the movies and TV shows filmed around Moab. I didn’t know that the pilot for McGyver was made here! In addition, there are props, costumes, scripts, pictures of movie actors, displays about the locals who were involved in the films, TV shows, commercials, and music videos produced there and displays about various behind-the-scenes aspects of producing the movies. One of the displays is of three rifles that were used as props on ASJ, according to the informational caption (see photo above). One alcove is a tribute to John Wayne, who filmed several movies in the area. It is a great place!

If you stay on US 191 and cross the Colorado River Bridge, very soon after that you can make a left turn onto a road called, simply, Potash. Driving this sixteen mile road, which also wends its way along the Colorado River, takes you past ancient Indian petrogylphs high up the face of a cliff (see photo above)—fortunately, there is a sign saying, erroneously, “Indian Writing” to tell you where they are, and you can park at the side of the road—and then, a short ways beyond, another sign that directs you up a short hill to a parking area where you can view, again high up on a cliff, dinosaur tracks. There are also places from which you can see natural arches in the cliff walls and, when the road comes to an end, a potash plant. According to the display in the movie museum, ASJ also filmed around the potash plant. I do not know where exactly that might have been, but I’d like to think it used the train tracks and train from the plant in The Long Chase (see photo above).

At the end of Six Strangers at Apache Springs, Kid says, “What now?” Heyes replies, “Something restful. How about going down the Colorado River in a barrel?”

Well, Moab is known for its adventure travel opportunities: mountain biking, hiking, rock climbing, motorcycle and 4-wheel drive tours, river rafting. But it is also possible to take a more sedate jet boat cruise along the Colorado River and that is what I did. Many such trips are available and I did a late afternoon cruise that lasted 75 minutes; it was very pleasant and interesting to see the area from the river which, here, does not really have many rapids (see photo above). The boat trip was followed by a “cowboy dinner,” which meant all the food was cooked in Dutch ovens. When I inquired, I was told that around 9pm, the food is put into the Dutch ovens and left to cook there until the following evening when people return from the cruise. I thought the BBQ chicken, BBQ beef, BBQ spicy pork, beans, corn and desert were pretty good!

So if you want an active trip or prefer a more quiet and relaxing vacation, there is something for everyone in Moab. It was a great place to visit and the fact that ASJ had been there made it all the more fun.

Webpage for the Red Cliffs Lodge movie museum (scroll down partway to read the text):

Descriptions of the drives along Highway 128 and Potash Road (plus a third drive mentioned in a subsequent blog entry):