The last AP World History Reading in Salt Lake City

After years of traveling to Salt Lake City to score AP essays, the AP Reading for AP World History is changing sites to Kansas City next year. Salt Lake is an odd, odd city, with wide, empty streets and lots of questionable architecture. However, there are several things that I will miss about the city and its surroundings.

AWESOME NATURAL SCENERY

Salt Lake is right by the Wasatch Mountains and there are incredible places to visit in the mountains and canyons nearby. Even more impressive are the National Parks a few hours to the south, and Jim and I had visited Arches and Bryce over the previous two years. Somehow, though, we had never made it to nearby Ensign Peak, which overlooks the city and is fairly close to the convention center that hosts the reading. We decided to fill in that gap one evening after scoring essays.

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At one mile up and back, the Ensign Peak trail is more of a stroll than a hike, although there is a fair amount of walking uphill. After sitting for eight hours scoring essays, it turns out that any sort of exertion is pretty traumatic. Our escalation up a mighty 374 feet of elevation gain was rewarded by an amazing view of the city.

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And a member of the cast of Duck Dynasty was up there!

The trailhead was almost three miles from the hotel, and in order to get there before sunset (and to conserve energy for the uphill walk), we Ubered. Our very useful Uber driver gave us some tips on the drive as to what to see in the area if we had some additional free time. He mentioned the ziplines at Sundance Resort, a resort that claims to have the longest total zipline course in the US. Jim has a fear of heights, and I had never been ziplining, so of course that is where we decided to go when the AP Reading ended.

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A decision made in spite of these Google autocomplete results.

After we were released from the reading on Saturday, we rented a car to head into the mountains. Car rentals seem to go smoothly only 25% of the time in Salt Lake (or “according to shedule” as some might say), and we experienced the apparently normal scramble to get a car, making it to Sundance Resort just in time for their last zipline slot of the day. After two hours of rushing, there was a fairly lengthy ride on the ski lift to the ziplining area.

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Not pictured – the phone that some earlier zipliner had left in the zipline backpack. To find the phone, this person called it 50,000 times while we were riding up. I would have answered the phone, but I figured the phone owner would rather wait 20 minutes than risk me dropping the phone into the wilderness of Utah, something that I was nevertheless tempted to do after several dozen calls.

Once we got to the top, we walked over to the practice line.

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Someone from Duck Dynasty was up there, too!

Jim and I both “passed” the practice course test, which consisted of ziplining down a 15 foot practice line. Zipliners were basically evaluated on whether or not they could let up on the handlebar, which triggers the brake, preventing the zipliner from crashing into the landing area and causing severe back trauma. You read that correctly; simply by ceasing to exert effort and letting go of the handlebar, a zipliner would brake and consequently “pass” the test. This was right in my wheelhouse.

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Behold the awesomeness of an official zipliner.

Having mastered this grueling test, we headed to the first “real” zipline.

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I’ll admit that I felt some anxiety before this first trip on the zipline, but I soon found that ziplining felt a lot like riding a roller coaster down a big hill and not at all as if I were dangling from a thread over a 50 foot drop. No, the problem wasn’t the heights or the speed; the problem was trying to figure out how to brake without looking like a complete moron. I didn’t figure that out, and instead exhibited the braking style of a five-year-old trying to drive a go-cart for the first time. But I suppose it could have been worse.

There was time for redemption, though, because next up was the 3800 foot long “Outlaw” line.

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See the two parking lots at the bottom? We would end up just past the second lot.

Jim and I agreed to “race” down the course, simultaneously descending by pulling down on the handlebars on the count of three. Jim cheated, and began creeping down the line with the infamous “start-stop” braking pattern. The lesson, as always…

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…Never zipline with a cast member of Duck Dynasty.

To catch up, I pulled the handlebar and went down the line FAST. The promotional material for Sundance claims that zipliners can reach speeds over 60 mph. I’m going to choose to believe them, and I blame the thrill of the high velocity for what happened next: a perfect braking job that brought me to almost a complete stop… 100 yards short of the landing platform.

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This picture made possible by poor braking technique.

THE WEATHER

It simply doesn’t rain in Salt Lake, which is why College Board provided each reader with an umbrella (or was it a parasol?). While the East Coast was getting pounded with rain and experiencing high humidity, here was the forecast in Salt Lake.

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My house in Virginia doesn’t have 23% humidity when the AC is on full blast.

One day, the temperature rose to 95 degrees, but with the low humidity it actually felt like 87. If that kind of “actual temperature/feels like” dynamic had occurred in Richmond in June, it would have been taken as a sign of the coming apocalypse.

THE HOTELS

This year, Jim and I stayed in the “Executive Suite” at the Grand America, with two full rooms and daily “turn down” service.

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This is the room with the spare TV.

The drawback to staying at the Grand America is that the management is strongly anti-stairs. There are literally no stairwells that could be use to ascend to our room, and we were reprimanded for using a stairwell to go down to the first floor. That meant that we had to use the elevator to get to our room on the SECOND FLOOR. As an able-bodied person, using an elevator to go up one floor usually led to this kind of interaction:

  • Me: *presses elevator button for the 2nd floor*
  • Everyone else in the elevator: *visibly being judgy and stuff*
  • Me: “But there are no stairs…” as a single tear rolls down my cheek

THE BAYOU

Finding a restaurant in Salt Lake that both offers a wide selection of beer and serves good food is a real challenge. Add to that the requirement that the restaurant be within walking distance of our hotel and the pickings are slim. A few years ago, we overcame the odds and found…

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The Bayou, which combined Cajun goodness with a fantastic beer selection.

In the eight days were in Salt Lake this year, we ended up at the Bayou three times. Not only do they have an app that updates their broad beer selection in real time, they serve a combination of gumbo and jambalaya known as “Gumbolaya.” Needless to say, we each consumed three Gumbolayas over the course of the week.

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Farewell Gumbolaya; Jim may never fill the void in his heart left by your absence.

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